BioWare’s PAX East Panel: Ignoring the Elephant in the Room

BE WARNED THERE ARE SPOILERS FOR MASS EFFECT 1-3 IN THIS POST

The cosplayers were the initial stars of the show at BioWare’s afternoon panel — Shepards, Hawkes, and Samaras attracted gawkers and candid photographers as the rest of the crowd filed into the massive exhibition hall.

Once everyone was situated, BioWare community coordinator Chris Priestly worked the crowd, asking for a show of hands on questions like “Quarian or Geth” (even split), “Femshep or Broshep” (guess…), and “which is your favorite Mass Effect game?” When Mass Effect 2 garnered the highest proportion of hands, Priestly’s “so, do you guys want to spend the rest of the time talking about Mass Effect 2?” quip drew big laughs.

This exchange was followed by a trailer for the forthcoming Resurgence multiplayer DLC, which elicited a frankly embarrassing amount of oohing and aahing from the crowd, and no doubt accomplished its intended purpose, which was to get things started off on a positive note.

Sunny positivity was quickly forgotten when Producer Mike Gamble stepped into the firing line and attempted to address the burgeoning controversy surrounding the game’s disappointing ending and the ending DLC, just announced today. Vocal fans attempted to reassure the panel members, calling out things like “we still love you,” but you could tell that everyone was waiting for solid answers.

These were not forthcoming. Gamble’s spiel was an object lesson in carefully managed PR messaging, delivering very little in the way of actual information. Game Front’s Ross Lincoln has more details about all the evasion.

What followed next was nothing short of a charade — Priestly posted a series of carefully curated “questions from the community,” which enabled Gamble to address only those issues that BioWare was comfortable discussing. Would the new extended cut provide “new endings?” “No new endings”, Gamble replied, “but we want to provide closure.” Why wasn’t that content on the disc? Here followed the most risible non-answer: “The dev team stands behind the core product. We’re very proud of it…we couldn’t include it [the DLC content] in the game because we didn’t know about the demand for it.” Let me get this straight, BioWare: your fans’ desire for closure came as a surprise?

Proceedings then moved on to the controversy over the way Tali’s face was depicted in Mass Effect 3. In this case, at least, the panelists had convincing answers. Writer Patrick Weekes explained that the devs wanted to portray Tali’s unmasked visage “in a tasteful way that didn’t throw it into the game engine.” They were defiant in the face of fan complaints about the use of a stock photo: “We often use source art for many things within our game…we poured through thousands and thousands of pieces of source art we’ve done it throughout.”

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1 Comment on BioWare’s PAX East Panel: Ignoring the Elephant in the Room

S.J.M

On April 7, 2012 at 10:08 am

I followed this whole charade on the Bioware Social networks running thread, it was quite clear that all this Pax Panel has done is kick the hornets nest a few more times. The level of anger and outrage coming from a large percentage of users was something to behold, with most assuming (and you cant blame them) that these questions and people asking questions was nothing more then Bioware plants I think bioware has scored the mother of all own-goals with this debacle, PAX was the best chance they had to put this to bed, say that they have listened to the fans and will address the fans concerns and quite with this artistic integrity malarky that has suddenly found its way into the games developing industry.

Looking at these questions asked/answered, and just how Bioware made use of its Pax panel, Im left wondering who exactly have they been listening to, over the past 3/4 weeks? Its clear to me that its not the fans voice they are listening to.