No Choice, No Change: BioWare’s Extended Edition Interview Disappoints

Defying expectations, BioWare honcho Casey Hudson and Mass Effect 3 lead writer Mac Walters sat down to a no holds-barred interview timed to coincide with today’s surprise announcement that the Mass Effect 3 Extended Edition goes live this coming Tuesday. Subjected to a stinging barrage of hard-edged questions about the controversial ending of that game and the decision to amend it, they acquitted themselves handily, and managed to ease numerous concerns about the Extended Edition’s quality.

At least that’s what I’d like to have written. What actually happened is that Walters and Hudson sat down with BioWare Community Manager Jessica Merizan, fielding a series of softball questions that sidestepped the more contentious aspects of the controversy. Interestingly, despite the obvious safety of being interviewed about a contentious subject by one of your own employees, the interview yielded some surprising information about the mindset of the men responsible for the most divisive story ending in video game history, and some clues about what to expect.

In short, it’s probably best to keep our expectations low.

The most striking element of the interview is that at several points, Hudson and Walters indicate that they simply failed to conceive of the possibility that people would react poorly to their ending. “I think that when we ended Mass Effect 3,” Walters said in response to a question about the origins of the controversy, “we knew it was going to be the end of Shepard’s story, and in our minds and imaginations, the characters are still going to be together, the characters that Shepard had brought together (assuming you’d kept them alive), and maybe it didn’t come across enough, that those characters still had a future, that they had a hope going forward.”

Hudson expressed similar confusion. “In some cases,” he said, “people feared the worst, that no matter what decisions you make, the entire galaxy is destroyed, everyone starves to death. Which of course wasn’t our intention, it wasn’t the way we saw it, and it wasn’t the intended message of how the Mass Effect universe would end.” (Emphasis mine.) He further added that “the endings left a lot to the player’s imagination.”

Yes, the irony of professional storytellers asking the audience to rely on their own imaginations to fill in the gaps they didn’t bother to cover, and then being somewhat surprised when they weren’t able to do it, is indeed funny. But it suggests something broken during the last days of production. Comments attributed to another Mass Effect 3 writer alleged that Hudson and Walters went so far as to shut out everyone else on the writing staff just as they began to work on the ending. We’ll never know why they did this – though there is an interesting correlation between the alleged timing of Hudson’s and Walter’s action, and the beginning of Electronic Arts’ current stock plunge – but it’s indisputable that those other writers might have pointed out contradictions, or called attention to story issues that people who aren’t living inside Hudson’s and Walters’ minds might have noticed.

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39 Comments on No Choice, No Change: BioWare’s Extended Edition Interview Disappoints

Matchoo

On June 22, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Great article (as I have come to expect from this site), but you did miss one thing. There are 4 choices at the end, not 3. The first choice is to do like the illusive man wanted and control the reapers. The second would be like sovereign was talking about and merge organics and synthetic. The third is to do what the catalyst was hinting against and that is to destroy the reapers. The fourth one that I’m not sure many people have found is to stand around doing nothing, and after a certain amount of time you will get a message that the citadel had been destroyed and you have to load a saved game. This, in my opinion, is the best choice. Sure me and the rest of advanced civilization died, but I didn’t have to pick one of the god-child’s endings.

As for the extended cut, part of me is glad that is is finally coming out but part of me worries that they haven’t had enough time to get it right. I guess we will find out on Tuesday.

Ares

On June 22, 2012 at 7:28 pm

As much as I hope this works out. A little part of me believes it will fail. As Hudson and Walters just don’t have a clue it seems to how bad a mess they made. Most important part of the game and they choked when it mattered most.

I’m happy to use my imagination for parts of a story that are vague but not the ending. Rather be able to sit back after the end is come and gone and go wow that was great. Not WTF is this, did this happen or did that happen.

R.J.

On June 22, 2012 at 7:51 pm

The article basically sums up what I thought upon listening to the “interview.” They don’t get the problems, or don’t want to get them. It’s more about stroking their egos than anything else. The very fact that they have to go back and add on like this means that they failed as storytellers. I didn’t pay a bunch of money in order to play imagination time. I paid for a competent story, and didn’t get that. Then, after months of waiting it seems I still won’t get what I paid for.

R.J.

On June 22, 2012 at 7:54 pm

This whole ME3 business is why I started and continue to visit this site. Funny how a site that doesn’t get ad money from EA is willing to actually call them out. Forbes was also willing to call them out for poor business practice, and they also don’t get money from EA. Yet sites that do get money from the publishers largely supported Bioware. Funny how that works.

gasmaskangel

On June 22, 2012 at 8:24 pm

The thing thats most hilarious to me is how they’re surprised people (myself included) saw then ending as the start of a galactic dark age for the galaxy, and a fundamental end to the setting we as players came to love in any recognizable form. After the ending I was 100% certain that humanity would be extinct in a few centuries, at least on earth and any colony not built up enough to sustain expansion. The same goes for every other major world in the series.

That was how I interpreted each of the choices playing out, with the armada that came to earth either faced with hundreds of years of unsustainable travel back to their home world, or bitterly fighting over what few recourses are left on earth.

I’m actually kind of offended when I base this conclusion only off of what was shown to me in the game and then the developers (who actually have said they wanted people to speculate on the ending) that I’m speculating wrong.

Van

On June 22, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Watching the new “ending” on youtube… ME3 and Origin was completly purged from my system and it is not getting reinstalled.

LTenhet

On June 22, 2012 at 11:12 pm

I’ll just wait until someone I know plays it, then I may watch the ending on Youtube. Or I may not, Bioware has disappointed me as of late.

R.J.

On June 23, 2012 at 12:46 am

I tend to believe that Hudson and Walters kept the other writers out of the ending. When you look at how it is only affected by the arbitrary EMS score, and how it doesn’t fit with the series, or even just ME3, it’s pretty clear that something was different in the process. The rest of the series was submitted for peer review, yet this was not, and look how it turned out. A note for next time, Bioware: Stick with what works. It’s a whole lot better for somebody in your office to tell you something stinks than to release it and have fans refuse to buy your games.

Nevarion

On June 23, 2012 at 12:55 am

This issue will have impact on professional credibility of least two certain persons. Egos are the prime value to be lived and upheld. Obviously professional service orientation and market obedience is not.

lee

On June 23, 2012 at 5:33 am

I heard Casey hudson say that they cannot make a new ending because they did not know how to. Coming from a guy who actually has written books I say bull. You know how I changed the endings to one of my stories, here’s my secrect. I use my imangination. I know it sounds crazy but I think if they tried that then they might just be able to pull this off.

Mr Glassback

On June 23, 2012 at 7:23 am

I was angry at the e, incomprehensible ending but I didn’t really want a new one because the damage was already done for me.
However, the reaction from fans, gaming media and Bioware themselves has been nothing short of fascinating and has kept me intrigued as to what happens next.
I will now have to download this EC ending just to see how they explain those things about the end that not only made sense in their heads, but were so obvious that they can’t conceive how we fans didn’t get it.
Either we are all a bit dense or they are patronising us again.

Pilou

On June 23, 2012 at 9:38 am

Good article. Sums up my feelings after listening to the interview pretty well. I am seriously hoping that the EC is not as bad as one could fear. Well only 4 days to go and we can bury this thing for good or bad.

Otavio

On June 23, 2012 at 9:45 am

Where do I sign?
You said it all. I actually ask myself why did they made it? Why give us more of the same crap knowing that this is not what most of us wanted?

Lily

On June 23, 2012 at 12:06 pm

The reason that some people still aren’t happy about the Extended Cut is because the Extended Cut is not giving them exactly what *they* want. A large part of the “Retake” movement believes that, for a game that sold over one and a half million copies in the first month and received numerous high scores from fans and professional critics alike, only about sixty thousand people’s opinion matter. The fact that millions of people found Mass Effect 3 to be a satisfying and epic conclusion to the series only motivated them to force their opinions anywhere they could, such as trolling the Facebook pages, creating multiple accounts to spam BioWare polls, and attempting to hi-jack a children’s charity to use as a soapbox.

Detractors of the ending are merely upset that BioWare cares about the people that enjoyed the ending and that there are far, far more people who loved it than didn’t.

Neldoreth

On June 23, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I agree. There’s a difference between a story encouraging the player to think and reflect and a story that demands it in order to fill plotholes and other storytelling flaws.

I think this is born of the desire to be artsy (which is not wrong) and a misconception (which is wrong). This misconception is the belief that if the work makes you think then it means that it doesn’t spell everything out for the player and thus it’s deeper. The problem is that there are different types of “thinking about the work”, and not all of them are positive. Speculation from everyone is not good if it’s the result of bad storytelling.

ET

On June 23, 2012 at 4:05 pm

I just wanted to thank you for writing an articulate and piercing critique of the real issues that were present in the end of this story. This article was a refreshing break from the cascade of fumbling apologists in the game “journalism” business.

robarcool

On June 23, 2012 at 6:14 pm

I fully agree with this article. The ‘interview’ was nothing but a farce in my opinion and they just are too arrogant to realize that they failed to give as many choices as people expected. Judging from the ‘interview’, I believe that the EC will probably expand upon the parts like how joker leaves the fight, but it will not address the most important issue: Why my choices do not matter in the end.

R.J.

On June 23, 2012 at 6:52 pm

If there is one thing that interview shows, it’s that Bioware only ever wanted to listen to themselves. They’ll claim they listened because they did this for free, and call those that don’t like it whiners because they didn’t like getting more of the same.

blahblah

On June 23, 2012 at 8:05 pm

I’m really hoping the EC will blow me away but I’m very uncertain. I think this article articulates every fear I have going into it haha. I really wish they would have considered using the Indoctrination Theory…

magnetite

On June 23, 2012 at 8:07 pm

If the Extended Cut still doesn’t fix things, I don’t know what to say. I mean I’m pretty excited about it, but I don’t know what people were expecting? I’d just be happy with some cutscenes showing off all the choices that I made throughout the series. I’d hate to say it, but some people are really spoiled. These guys at Bioware spent two months or so making you some content (for free, mind you), and people still complained.

Chris

On June 23, 2012 at 8:27 pm

TBH im only expecting the following

1. A series of cutscenes to occur during the earth mission that consist primarly of space battles and the various fleets you have assisting each other or dying horribly

2. why the bloody hell joker was booking it

3. what happened to the fleet when their one way home was popped by shepard

beyond that i dont expect much

Jim P

On June 23, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Yet again, Gamefront has delivered an outstanding article on the ME3 ending outrage. I wish you guys had better news to report, but it’s obvious that you do too. Anyhow, This site never disappoints. Kudos to you and the entire team.

applepie_Svk

On June 24, 2012 at 2:09 am

Nice one dude, nice one….
But for other words I wasn´t payed for ME3 to see ending which is supposed to be an open ending – because that is crap… I don´t like the words like which told Hudson about: I would like to see all these speculations of what happened … It´s sound so cheap – like YEAH fanbase WE SCREWED IT BECAUSE ME AND WALLTERS DIDN´T FIND A SOLUTION TO END THAT PROPERLY SO WE WROTE SOMETHING WITH A STARCHILD … AND EVERYTHING NEXT IS UP TO YOU TO IMAGINE … I was not paying for my own mind until ME3 showed _ LoL

Hunter X

On June 24, 2012 at 5:08 am

Let’s take a look at the Extended Cut announcement page briefly:

-”And it shows greater detail in the successes or failures based on how players achieved their endings.”
-”reveals greater detail on the impact of player decisions”
-”multiple playthroughs with a variety of different decisions will be required to experience the variety of possibilities offered by the new content.”
-Image of Joker on the Normandy, explaining why they were escaping from Earth (presumably the other plotholes will be covered if this is)
-Tali speaking with a Geth post-war (closure for the character, and most likely the other characters too)

Even from that selection, we can see the problems of player choice, the plotholes in the ending, and closure for the characters have been covered (being the three main complaints regarding the ending)(. I would say this is a little more than “cosmetic at best” :)

Ikari

On June 24, 2012 at 6:09 am

So basically, they’ll just continue to pee on the customer’s heads, not giving the slightest damn about what they want. With that braindead ending, which was apparently created by two guys on a bad drug trip, locking everyone else out, they’ve managed to drive their Mass Effect series against the wall, clearly their best series – a truly Epic Fail.
They apparently still don’t care the least about it though. I can already see the ending: in the extended version, we’ll just get explosions in yet another colour, and perhaps some more totally random cut scenes that make no sense whatsoever.

This is not their first collosal screw-up either. Before, they had another Epic Fail with The Old Republic. Normally, as a Star Wars title, an almost guaranteed hit due to its background, but they managed to screw up badly there as well, and as a result, the number of their subscribers who are leaving in droves is about to reach half a million people.

Their screw ups, ruining one series after another and then peeing on customer’s heads, is not without consequences. Their stock market value does crash and burn, having already lost 50% since November (that’s a massive $2 billion burned!), with no end in sight. Investors are getting ever more wary of their arrogant business practices and sheer incompetence. If they don’t want to ruin their company (which will inevitably happen, if they go on like this), it would be high noon to stop treating customers like neccessary evil, and also to exclude incompetent creeps like Walters and Hudson from any further development process (best give them the boot), so they can’t wreak more havoc than they already did.

Will

On June 24, 2012 at 8:11 am

I spent more than 300 hours playing the series in so many different ways just to see how my decisions would effect the ending. I wasted too much of my life playing this game for Bioware and EA to crap on their fans. This will be the last Bioware game that i Legally purchase.

I will not play multiplayer, i refuse to open origin ever again, and I will wait for the Youtube comparison video of this new “extended cut”.

I hope everyone in Bioware that worked on the ME3 ending loses their jobs over this BS.

Batman1301

On June 24, 2012 at 9:18 am

I was one of the people who discovered this site when the ending controversy started and have been coming since for my gaming news. The article is great and the people of Gamefront actually get what the problem with the ending was. I don’t think Hudson and Walters ever understood or would ever acknowledge they did due to ego. Well that ego has turned me away from EA and Bioware at this point. I don’t think the EC will fix anything and will still leave that bad taste in your mouth when ME3 ends. I will probably play it to experience it for myself, but then end up deleting ME3 for good and saying goodbye to my once favorite game trilogy, just like I am saying goodbye to Bioware. Had I been told 6 months ago that this is where ME3 would have led me, I would have never believed it.

tufi

On June 24, 2012 at 11:06 am

I wan’t expecting them to “fix” the ending in a way that would satisfy me in the first place so I’m not gonna be disappointed.
My opinion of Mass Effect 3 since the ending –> Meh! Whatever…

Nulltron

On June 24, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Great! Bioware has come up with a finer shade of stupidity. Presently, the path to stupidity is illuminated.

Now, all can keep off of it. For Good!

Jeklor

On June 24, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Regardless of the outcome, BW’s rep has been damaged. Not only in the manner with which they handled the ending controversy, but with the inept, illogical, and downright amateur way they concluded an otherwise great series.

Aedelric

On June 24, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Good article, covers much of what I am thinking about the whole fiasco.

Bioware can do very little to save face, indoctrination theory is the only path that can resolve issues of continuity and holes created by shoddy writing. But even if they do follow that path other players will be disappointed by the fact the ending was all a lie.

At the end of the day, any players pleased by the ending will leave just as many displeased. Bioware is in a no win situation due to very bad planning and execution of the ending for a truly great franchise. Two years ago Bioware could do no wrong, now with a disastrous sequel to Dragon Age, Mass Effect 3 ending fiasco and SWTOR failing to meet expectations people view the company with very different eyes, they lost that customer faith. Lets hope they can find their stride and once again produce quality games that people used to expect.

Mmudsy

On June 24, 2012 at 9:33 pm

That’s why everyone who hated or at least had some problems with ME3s ending should read this:

http://koobismo.deviantart.com

Its a fanmade ending to Mass Effect 3 made by a professional game designer. It’s brilliant. Just look at the last episode (26) and you’ll understand.

R.J.

On June 24, 2012 at 11:33 pm

@Jeklor

You’re right. Even if the EC ends up being good (which is doubtful based on the “interview”), Bioware’s reputation is severely tarnished. With both this game and Dragon Age 2, those that didn’t like what they saw were accused by Bioware of being impossible to satisfy, even in light of the glaring flaws. Any criticism was treated as if it was a personal attack. The company refused to actually address its customers and only issued PR statements. For the first month after ME3 came out, all they would say is, “But the critics liked it!” Who am I kidding? They still do that.

There was a time when I believed that Bioware actually cared, but EA’s claws are in them too deep, now. That’s why I’m a huge fan of CD Projekt Red, now. I already loved their games, but they actually act like the customer matters.

Kidd

On June 25, 2012 at 11:13 am

Agreed with this article entirely. I don’t know what to make out of the EC but thank the lord that Dawnguard also comes out tomorrow for xbox :D – talk about an ideal distraction.

RickF7666

On June 25, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I’m not certain what to think about Casey Hudson as he oversaw the development of the entire Mass Effect series. Mass Effect 1 was really good and Mass Effect 2 slightly less so, and there are good parts in Mass Effect 3. As for Mac Walters, he appears to be directly responsible for all the worst parts of Mass Effect 3. So as far as I’m concerned I’m willing to give Casey the benefit of the doubt but Mac needs to go.

Spoilers:

On a side note, has anyone else noticed that the only point to the Thessia mission appears to put the play into the mind set that it is okay to lose the game? What I mean is, how do you normally know you lost a game? Your character dies. With the ending to Mass Effect 3 there is no way not to have Shepard die. Okay there is that one Red ending, but you don’t know for certain that the person taking the breath is in fact Shepard. As for Thessia you don’t actually accomplish anything. Someone on a forum suggested that Thessia was there to show that Shepard can’t always win, sort of taking him/her down a notch.

I think that the biggest failing of Mass Effect 3 is that the writer forgot why people play games. They play to “WIN” and ME3 is a game you can not win. I have enough Fail in my real life, I don’t need to play a game to Fail there too.

keylime73

On June 25, 2012 at 1:34 pm

They ran out of time and had to reach the ship date for EA, surely. (Personally I wonder if the transition from Unreal 2.5 to Unreal 3 ate up a lot more time than they bargained for, and that this played a role; that you can’t import Shepards from ME1 to ME3 might suggest that they had some trouble getting their own previously-used assets into the “new” engine”,)

Whatever the case may be, here’s one nobody has “speculated” much about : what about DLC that we don’t know about because the ending backlash was so big? BiowEAr was in no position to sell SP DLCs to enraged consumers, so they’ve sat on them. And since these DLCs couldn’t possibly come after the ending and so must be plot-lines and missions that come before it, and were likely stripped from the full game as Javik obviously was, they will probably reveal that the ending (Starbrat, I’m looking at you) was largely incomprehensible because BiowEAr intended us to “speculate” happily and then be happy to fork out the extra dough for a DLC to fully understand the ending. But it didn’t go quite as planned.

I pondered that maybe Bioware would fold some of this DLC into the EC as a freebie. But it looks to me like now they’re just gambling on the EC of epilogue material winning the fanbase back; and they will still roll out this “clarifying” DLC later. That BW has said that there is “no new combat” in the EC makes me think that is indeed the case, and we will see a pre-ending Starbrat-explaining mission on the EA store in the future, which they may pretend is brand new content made just for the fans, but has actually been around since before release.

Ross Lincoln

On June 25, 2012 at 5:51 pm

RickF7666 – “I think that the biggest failing of Mass Effect 3 is that the writer forgot why people play games. They play to “WIN” and ME3 is a game you can not win. I have enough Fail in my real life, I don’t need to play a game to Fail there too.”

I don’t think that there isn’t an entertaining way to have failure be the outcome. Hell, it would be a wonderful experiment to tell a story in a game in which the only outcome was to fail. That of course isn’t what happened in mass Effect. Plus, also, the lack of real choice. Everything leads to the same choke point despite their promise of a wide variety of outcomes. Had they honored their promise, we would have seen different points at which the game could end. Hell, a death during the final assault should have triggered a cut scene showing the reapers winning.

While I’m complaining, there should have been at least one ‘golden ending’, with shep coming through alive and able to enjoy the fruits of his/her victory. There should also have been one ending in which shep s everything up and still survives to see her/his failures play out. But nope, we got lots of speculation from everyone. So I speculate that Hudson was ordered by EA to wrap it up because the money is not being allocated, so he did.

Spence

On June 28, 2012 at 8:11 am

Having played it, I must say that if these had been the original endings, there would be nowhere near as many complaints. Sure, the StarChild is still a problem, but everything is explained much better. There’s nowhere near as many plotholes, a much bigger sense of accomplishment, and more with your team.

Unfortunately, I think people are so deflated by the original ending, this can’t muster too much excitement in anyone. My initial thought was “Wow, that was much better!” but I still feel no need to replay the game. The damage is done, no matter what they do to try and fix it. And that’s a shame.

Squeeze one out

On July 5, 2012 at 10:49 am

Matchoo
“The fourth (ending) that I’m not sure many people have found is to stand around doing nothing, and after a certain amount of time you will get a message that the citadel had been destroyed and you have to load a saved game.”

I have never seen or heard of a single instance of this ending occurring, and I cannot find one source to back you up on this. If you’ve seen it for yourself, please (if you have the technology) upload it to Youtube and link us to it.