Game Front 1-on-1: Mass Effect Alternate Ending Writer Arkis
Game Front 1-on-1 is a continuing series featuring interviews with and personality profiles on a variety of people in the vast and diverse community of gaming, including creative fans, passionate players, amateur developers and everyone in between.
WARNING: There are spoilers from Mass Effect 3 herein. Read at your own risk. For background, Game Front recommends:
Anthony Vani was eating breakfast like any other day, when he had a brainstorm.
The Toronto native and freelance artist just finished playing Mass Effect 3 and had spent some time reading and experiencing the fallout surrounding the game’s infamous ending sequences back when it first launched. The Retake Mass Effect movement was just starting up, players everywhere were venting their frustrations, and the Internet was awash in debate and complaint about the way the series had ended.
Inspiration struck Vani, who goes by the handle Arkis on DeviantArt.com, and he started writing. An hour and a half later, he had an alternate ending script to the game that offered a number of changes that he had wanted to see in the game’s original ending. (The script can be read in its entirety here). The script takes a different approach to the encounter with the Catalyst than BioWare’s original endings — in Vani’s script, Shepard has the ability to refuse the Catalyst’s choices. Rather than choosing one of the three options, Shepard can opt to let the preparation he’s done up until that point speak for itself. The agency of the moment, then, becomes not about the player acting, but the player’s willingness not to act. Like Luke Skywalker confronting the Emperor in Return of the Jedi, Shepard is forced to watch his friends fight and die, trusting in them as they have trusted in him.
“What I wanted to do with it was, I did want to have that option where at this point you just have to bank on everything you’ve done up to that point,” Vani said during an interview with Game Front. “In the end, it’s not about Shepard — it’s about all the work you’ve done through the last three games.
“It was just a way to just bring the war assets in. I really wanted to see a biotic artillery strike. As soon as I saw Jack and I recruited that squad, I was like, that’s gonna be so awesome — if I’m running through a battle and suddenly a massive ball of biotic energy just blows everything up around me, and I can be like, it’s because I got those students out.”
Vani said the “vanilla” ending as shipped with Mass Effect 3 didn’t feel complete when he finished it the first time, and he thought he had some idea where BioWare was trying to go with the introduction of the “Star Child” character at the end of the game. In the beginning, he thought that the situation just needed more context — but as he read more and more opinions on the ending on the Internet, he started to see how many people disliked the Star Child. So he started to think about a situation in which Shepard could refuse the Star Child, and then he started writing.
After completing the ending script, Vani posted it to his Deviant Art account page. The response was immediate. Players discussing the game in the forums latched on to Vani’s script, and it was shared across the BioWare Social Forums as well as on places such as Reddit. Many people shared it, unsolicited and unprompted by Vani, with BioWare personnel via Twitter.
It’s not guaranteed that BioWare saw Vani’s script, nor that the developer took it seriously if it did. Game Front has asked BioWare for multiple interviews regarding Mass Effect 3, but all have been refused. But something interesting happened with the release of the game’s “Extended Cut” ending DLC pack last month. It looked as though BioWare borrowed elements from Vani’s script, and possibly directly referenced it.
“Art itself is about the artist. If you’re making art for you, it’s all about you, and while feedback from other people can be valuable, it doesn’t always matter, because it’s your piece and you can do what you want with it.” – Arkis