Did a Mass Effect 3 Writer Slam The Ending?

A new controversy related to the ending of Mass Effect 3 is bubbling up. No, we’re not referring to the baffling reaction from industry professionals about BioWare’s surprising apparent acquiescence to demands for improvements. Comments attributed to a BioWare writer suggest that while Casey Hudson and lead writer Mac Walters were perfectly OK with the conclusion that angered the entirety of the Mass Effect community, their satisfaction was neither shared by, nor solicited from, the rest of the Mass Effect 3 writing staff.

BioWare writer Patrick Weekes worked extensively on Mass Effect 3, among other things having contributed to the final fate of shuttle pilot Steve Cortez, and to Tali’s goodbye speech (which, if you’re human, will result in real tears). He is also a frequent contributor to the Penny Arcade forums, posting under the name Takyris. Last week, Takyris, or someone with access to his Penny Arcade account, started posting very specific, very critical comments there, culminating in a lengthy exposition in which he seemed to confirm what many have long suspected, that the ending we all hated so much was the result of a process breakdown near the end of development.

“No other writer did, either, except for our lead,” the post said. “This was entirely the work of our lead and Casey himself, sitting in a room and going through draft after draft. And honestly, it kind of shows.”

If this report is true, it might be defendable as the lead writer’s and the game‘s director’s prerogative, that they had a right to make the conclusion to their shared vision highly personal. But according to Takyris, it was a complete departure from the writing process up to that point. “Every other mission in the game had to be held up to the rest of the writing team, and the writing team then picked it apart and made suggestions and pointed out the parts that made no sense. This mission? Casey and our lead deciding that they didn’t need to be peer-reviewe.d(sic) And again, it shows.”

We obviously are not happy with the ending of the game, and these comments seem to suggest many theories we’ve had about how it came about. But true or false, these are thoughts no employee should ever reveal, at least if they want to keep their job. Fittingly, when asked by his employers, Weekes claimed it was an imitation that he did not write. For now, BioWare has accepted this account. The post quoted above has now also been deleted, but other conversation threads remain, including one that appears to confirm the comments were posted from the Takyris account.

More damning, Ian Miles Cheong has managed to preserve a visual record of further comments from Takyris in which which he expresses serious concerns about the effect his comments may have had. Among them, “based on important people looking perplexed Thursday and Friday, I suspect this is going to get political, which means I reeeeeally need to be saying absolutely nothing in public.” Shortly thereafter, Takyris adds “I also really appreciate people respecting me trying to walk the line of talking without getting myself fired.”

Again, Weekes is still publicly denying he is the author of these posts. I certainly hope he isn’t fired for them, regardless of authorship. But I have to admit, if true they are welcome confirmation that the disconnect between fans and developers isn’t as widespread as originally thought.

Until this is confirmed with 100% certainty, take it with a grain of salt. In the meantime, here is the full post in which he neatly describes the problems with the creation of the end of Mass Effect 3, via Gameranx.

I have nothing to do with the ending beyond a) having argued successfully a long time ago that we needed a chance to say goodbye to our squad, b) having argued successfully that Cortez shouldn’t automatically die in that shuttle crash, and c) having written Tali’s goodbye bit, as well as a couple of the holo-goodbyes for people I wrote (Mordin, Kasumi, Jack, etc).

No other writer did, either, except for our lead. This was entirely the work of our lead and Casey himself, sitting in a room and going through draft after draft.

And honestly, it kind of shows.

Every other mission in the game had to be held up to the rest of the writing team, and the writing team then picked it apart and made suggestions and pointed out the parts that made no sense. This mission? Casey and our lead deciding that they didn’t need to be peer-reviewe.d

And again, it shows.

If you’d asked me the themes of Mass Effect 3, I’d break them down as:

Galactic Alliances

Friends

Organics versus Synthetics

In my personal opinion, the first two got a perfunctory nod. We did get a goodbye to our friends, but it was in a scene that was divorced from the gameplay — a deliberate “nothing happens here” area with one turret thrown in for no reason I really understand, except possibly to obfuscate the “nothing happens here”-ness. The best missions in our game are the ones in which the gameplay and the narrative reinforce each other. The end of the Genophage campaign exemplifies that for me — every line of dialog is showing you both sides of the krogan, be they horrible brutes or proud warriors; the art shows both their bombed-out wasteland and the beautiful world they once had and could have again; the combat shows the terror of the Reapers as well as a blatant reminder of the rachni, which threatened the galaxy and had to be stopped by the krogan last time. Every line of code in that mission is on target with the overall message.

The endgame doesn’t have that. I wanted to see banshees attacking you, and then have asari gunships zoom in and blow them away. I wanted to see a wave of rachni ravagers come around a corner only to be met by a wall of krogan roaring a battle cry. Here’s the horror the Reapers inflicted upon each race, and here’s the army that you, Commander Shepard, made out of every race in the galaxy to fight them.

I personally thought that the Illusive Man conversation was about twice as long as it needed to be — something that I’ve been told in my peer reviews of my missions and made edits on, but again, this is a conversation no writer but the lead ever saw until it was already recorded. I did love Anderson’s goodbye.

For me, Anderson’s goodbye is where it ended. The stuff with the Catalyst just… You have to understand. Casey is really smart and really analytical. And the problem is that when he’s not checked, he will assume that other people are like him, and will really appreciate an almost completely unemotional intellectual ending. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it.

And then, just to be a dick… what was SUPPOSED to happen was that, say you picked “Destroy the Reapers”. When you did that, the system was SUPPOSED to look at your score, and then you’d show a cutscene of Earth that was either:

a) Very high score: Earth obviously damaged, but woo victory

b) Medium score: Earth takes a bunch of damage from the Crucible activation. Like dropping a bomb on an already war-ravaged city. Uh, well, maybe not LIKE that as much as, uh, THAT.

c) Low score: Earth is a cinderblock, all life on it completely wiped out

I have NO IDEA why these different cutscenes aren’t in there. As far as I know, they were never cut. Maybe they were cut for budget reasons at the last minute. I don’t know. But holy crap, yeah, I can see how incredibly disappointing it’d be to hear of all the different ending possibilities and have it break down to “which color is stuff glowing?” Or maybe they ARE in, but they’re too subtle to really see obvious differences, and again, that’s… yeah.

Okay, that’s a lot to have written for something that’s gonna go away in an hour.

I still teared up at the ending myself, but really, I was tearing up for the quick flashbacks to old friends and the death of Anderson. I wasn’t tearing up over making a choice that, as it turned out, didn’t have enough cutscene differentiation on it.

And to be clear, I don’t even really wish Shepard had gotten a ride-off-into-sunset ending. I was honestly okay with Shepard sacrificing himself. I just expected it to be for something with more obvious differentiation, and a stronger tie to the core themes — all three of them.

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27 Comments on Did a Mass Effect 3 Writer Slam The Ending?

Kyle

On March 21, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Here’s how we know if this is real. Either BioWare makes a statement on it, which will never happen; or if we see some of the ideas he mentioned in the DLC. If they show up in the DLC then this guy was really posting the whole time.

Clinton

On March 21, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Why does shepherd have to die? Why can’t we have different endings where shep can live or die? I mean come on, I know some people think it works and it does, but with a property like Mass Effect you would think that multiple outcomes could have a few that would include Shep living. It is more depressing that everyone is ok with that and just saying “hey i am ok with killing a character I worked really hard on for 200 + hours no matter what and I can do nothing to keep it from happening.”

Is it so much to ask for at least one ending where Shepherd can get the girl or guy in the end?

crtiqiue

On March 21, 2012 at 9:16 pm

seriously people, can you please put SOMETHING to note a probable spoiler if you read this article ?. I’m not even joking to be honest. I’m playing mass effect 1-3. Currently I’m on 2. Have yet to play the third one, but trying to dodge mass effect 3 spoilers is like trying to dodge land mines in a land mine deignated land. The least you could do is put “SPOILER” at the start of the article. Now I know romancing Tali is gone to .

Guest

On March 21, 2012 at 9:38 pm

I’m very sad and surprised they didn’t do the asari gun ships/rachni soldiers/krogan battle cries in the “final battle”. Especially when they have done it in Dragon Age Origins.

I’m gonna take this guy’s word for it b/c that end scene was a clear disconnect from everything we’ve played til

Ross Lincoln

On March 21, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Sorry, Critique. We didn’t intend to spoil anything, though the Mass Effect 3 Ending was in the headline. Next time I’ll add a spoiler warning tho.

Hi

On March 21, 2012 at 9:45 pm

A title like “Did Mass Effect writer slam the ending?” and instead of stopping there, you proceed to read it and complain about spoilers.

What happened to using the brain for a bit?

crtiqiue

On March 21, 2012 at 10:06 pm

@ Hi
When someone reads the title “Slam the ending or FUBAR an ending”, he/she shouldn’t assume the writer is gonna spell out events FROM THE ENDING, especially when such an ending is so controversial and probably quite memorable to the people who actually did go through the game fully that it does not actually need to be written in the first place. Doing that is like writing about how the princess is found in the last castle in Super mario bros – A month after the game is released-..sigh..

You know how many articles have actually been written so far about the ending of ME3? I’d say 95 percent of these didn’t even mention a character name.

What happend to using a bit of common sense?

Jim

On March 21, 2012 at 10:06 pm

I don’t know if this is the real dude or not, but his points are pretty legit and I had heard the whole Casey lockout story way before the game was released – back when the script leaks happened.
As for the ending, it’s a joke now, and an internet meme to boot. For a game that had such a draw due to its replay value – suddenly having no replay value at all. Very unsavory.

RedGreenBlue

On March 21, 2012 at 10:25 pm

A smart company would realize that this writer obviously ‘gets it’, is empathic with the large number of vocal customers who are unhappy with the ending they saw, and thus give him a lead role in crafting whatever DLC is supposed to fix this mess. Instead, BioWare will probably either fire or marginalize him from the decision-making process.

Mario Adi

On March 21, 2012 at 11:15 pm

It will be different if they created Mas Effect’s game play only as FPS. We don’t care about ending as long as we can shoot enemy as much as we can. But they made “choose your adventure”style in the first place, that’s why we demand multiple endings because they created Mass effect that way.

bjorka

On March 21, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Yeah, i can say that no emotional scene exists in the final mission. It’s really different from mass effect 2 or dragon age origin ending. Seemed like the final mission is so disconnected from the rest of the game.

If it’s true that the bad ending was because casey and the lead going solo, then i think this was EA’s mistakes. I bet EA forced them to do that for some obvious reason like release date and budget cut. The budget cut seems more realistic though, remember that EA just one sidedly turned off many online game servers to cut expenses

recentio

On March 22, 2012 at 12:18 am

This is a troll fake.

random

On March 22, 2012 at 12:32 am

1, sell game with crappy ending
2, wait for people to hate the ending
3, offer a new ending X ammount of $
4, hope they dont like this ennding either so you can sell them another one

BigZ7337

On March 22, 2012 at 1:45 am

Wow, if that isn’t an actual Bioware writer, that person (who somehow hacked his account) is incredibly creative and knowledgeable. I agree with everything he says, and I think that the feeling of the ending could have been different if each three endings had three different outcomes dependent on your EMS.

Nulltron

On March 22, 2012 at 3:42 am

You mean that this writer, no matter how small his part was in the whole process, did not have any problem with the ridiculously imbecilic “Destroy us or control us” idea of the ending? Only that the cutscenes are not there? So, the writers and producers and everyone was actually on the same wavelength. Only a little white noise here and there. Bioware is finished. Excellent.

I have been trying very hard to avoid letting what I say about this game ooze out of the limits of what the discussion is about, namely a video game, but the whole thing has deep societal implications. Maybe it is guns, even if they are in the hands of graphic characters. Whatever it is, to feel so powerful and so a slave of an utterly inhumane, unintelligent idea is a big warning sign. There is no merit in keeping the discussion of the psychology of ME3 to the confines of game studios and their customers.

Darkcerb

On March 22, 2012 at 5:16 am

All this talk about artistic freedom is laughably hypocritical and this is why.

You can talk about the artists right to their “art” all you like but it just doesn’t gel when you have teams of artists.

Anyone with a brain could of told them the ending we got as we just had the one, color swapped was a terrible, illogical and vague mess so chock full of questions and so lacking closure that no one who played through all three games would walk away satisfied.

Of course someone on the writing team would have had that thought, people who love these characters and worlds more then we ever could would be just as cheesed off as we are.

What I want to know is how the ending got through as it did, this casey fellows promises are now plastered across the internet so thoroughly that few other human beings have eaten there own words as much as they have.

BWchief117

On March 22, 2012 at 8:41 am

Wow, Gamefront is now my gaming news site of choice! God the writers at IGN are such pretentious snobs; I’m glad some writers don’t skew everything to their whims on the internet!

Tali (@Locolobo_2)

On March 22, 2012 at 8:52 am

I sincerely hope this guy (Weekes) doesn’t get fired… He’s obviously more in tune with what the fanbase wants or needs (as far as story) more than the lead writer (Mac Walters) and Casey Hudson. I feel bad for this guy. If they really are making improvements to the ending, I hope (for Bioware’s sake) they actually use the ENTIRE writing team… I mean, if this is true…
And that’s right, the ending DID NOT have very much emotion attached to it… I wanted to cry at the end… I knew that I should be… But I didn’t… The only thing that made me emotional at all was the music, and partly the flashbacks to crew… But even this didn’t do much because of the overall emotionless feeling of it… And yeah, when the turret part of the ending came up randomly out of no where and for no apparent reason, I was like, WTF? What’s this here for? At that point, it FELT like a video game rather than the ME story I was trying to get…. The Tali goodbye was pretty sad though… I teared up a bit… As well as with the Liara goodbye… They were both awesomely emotional. And I loved that Liara’s goodbye had some old ME1 music attached to it. Made me feel proud to be a ME fan.

Nulltron

On March 22, 2012 at 10:18 am

@Tali

Please forgive me for asking this but are you playing through ME3 again or continuing building the Shepard legend as the game suggests? I am just curious. If you are, how are you feeling about the experience?

SXO

On March 22, 2012 at 11:37 am

It’s obvious it really was him. He wasn’t exactly new to that site, he’s been a poster there for some time. Suddenly his account got hacked? Sorry, no, convenient excuse to avoid being fired, which is totally understandable.

kh2

On March 22, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Honestly why shepard has to die!? why not like ME2 and ME1 continue the game with the alive one!?

Cephsus

On March 22, 2012 at 6:17 pm

That would explain so much why the entire game had your emotion going wild, and the last 10 min was a big WTF- crap about some casper ghost and a deus ex color explosion.

Oh man.

John

On March 23, 2012 at 5:42 am

@Cephsus

I prefer the term, “magic space baby”, but otherwise I’m in complete agreement. : )

Aviditie

On March 23, 2012 at 8:06 am

Oh I call it “Reaper Child”

Diamond

On March 23, 2012 at 2:34 pm

I Don’t care of Shepard lives or dies…but to make us create these awesome relationships with all these NPCs ingame…spanning for 3 games…then to give us and ending which has NO update on their status…or what happened to them…..that really riles me up….

This was an amazing game….just needs proper closure goddammit…..

Rekonnor

On March 23, 2012 at 3:50 pm

“Why does shepherd have to die?”

exactly, a sentence starting “why does “the hero” have to” does not make sence at all in a game like mass effect. shep managed to make the impossible possible. over and over again, sheps destiny is only written by him-/herself. so, you know what? i don’t need a rainbow-colored unicorn in my ending shep takes a ride on, but yeah, why shouldn’t be possible to get my damn blue babies with liara or to live happily ever after with tali on rannoch? it should be at least possible

Rekonnor

On March 23, 2012 at 3:54 pm

and, btw, dr chakwas still owns me that brandy i said we will drink AFTER i kicked the reapers out of our dimension