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Fanning the Flames

Fanning the Flames

Fri 30 Mar 2012 6:30am GMT / 2:30am EDT / 11:30pm PDT

Fan outrage erupts over Mass Effect 3 - but why do game creators seem willing to encourage the vocal cranks?

EA BioWare

BioWare develops high quality console, PC and online role-playing games, focused on rich stories, unforgettable...

bioware.com

The advent of the Internet generation has done something deeply unpleasant and disturbing to the word "fan". It used to be that someone who described themselves as a fan of something meant simply that they really enjoyed it. You might be a fan of an author, and eagerly anticipate buying the hardback copy of their next book; a fan of a director or actor, and keen to see their next work in the cinema. You could be a fan of a genre, or perhaps of a game developer, or perhaps of a series of books, films or games, and essentially what you meant in describing yourself as such was "I like this. It speaks to me on some level, I enjoy it, and I'm willing to spend money on it and advocate it."

What it didn't mean - at least not very often, not outside of the psychopathic weirdness of Stephen King's Misery and its ilk - was "I like this, and thus it belongs to me. I own it, and I deserve a say in its future and its direction." Of course, if a band you loved made an album you hated, you'd lament their new direction, but the kind of people who'd write ranting letters to the band telling them they felt betrayed and demanding a return to the Good Old Days were quite rightly regarded as a bit peculiar and somewhat sociopathic.

The angry letter-scrawlers in their bedrooms are no longer isolated - they're connected to fellow sociopaths around the world, convinced of their absolute entitlement and the worthiness of their cause

You can see where this is going, of course. Bioware's trilogy-closing Mass Effect 3 has been met with what gets described as "fan outrage", which is an unfortunate phrase that has entered our vernacular in the past few years. The ending, apparently, is all wrong - and rather than going "oh, great series but I didn't like the ending," vocal fans have taken to howling at the company over the Internet, demanding that they change the ending to the story. Bioware, which has been pretty steadfast in its reactions to fan outrage over other issues in recent years, has made apologetic murmuring noises and talked about "clarifying" the ending.

Step back for a second, and consider what's happening here. A group of people, self-professed "fans", are demanding that the creators of a series which they claim to love should change that series because they don't like the ending which the creators decided upon. Imagine how you'd feel if this was a group of people petitioning JK Rowling with angry demands for a different ending to the Harry Potter series, or furiously insisting that Christopher Nolan reshoot the ending of The Dark Knight Rises. You'd probably think it was pathetic, and ridiculous. You'd be reminded of those weird obsessives in darkened rooms scribbling self-important nastygrams to their "favourite" bands.

So why are games different? Why do we - and by "we" I mean the media, the game companies, and sometimes even gamers in general - seem to have so much time for "fan outrage"?

Part of the problem is that games are a young medium, and they've grown up alongside the Internet - which, for all that it's one of the greatest and most empowering things that humanity has ever created, has also brought with it a deeply unpleasant wave of self-important entitlement. It has created a world where everyone can have a voice, but unfortunately has also created a culture where everyone thinks their voice deserves to be listened to. The angry letter-scrawlers in their bedrooms are no longer isolated - they're connected to fellow sociopaths around the world, convinced of their absolute entitlement and the worthiness of their cause. Games have come of age at the same time that this wave crashed over our culture, and as a result, we don't have the aloofness that other media has built up over decades.

Another part of the problem, though, is that we've encouraged this. Game companies are excited, delighted, by the idea of having loyal fans. It's understandable - lots of people working in games today started out as fans (this is true of most creative sectors, of course) and have a desire to encourage others like themselves. Moreover, the vocal, ardent fan can become your evangelist, your advocate, spreading the good word about your game and building your fan base, your sales, your profitability - that's the idea, at least.

As such, game companies have engaged with their fans, closely and directly - which sounds great, right? It sounds positive and healthy, because that's how we've trained ourselves to see it. Game companies run their own forums for their games. They nurture their communities. In Bioware's case, and god knows they're probably regretting this now, they openly talked about how important fan feedback is to them, about how Mass Effect was a series driven by its fans. It's become a creed, a mantra. The fans are important. We love our fans. We listen to our fans.

Another part of the problem is that we've encouraged this. Game companies are excited, delighted, by the idea of having loyal fans.

Tell people that often enough, and they start to believe you - and on the Internet, there are a whole lot of people who don't need much of a push to believe that they're important and must be listened to. So when Bioware actually goes and does creative things which a group of "fans" disagree with, the reaction is powerful and vicious. Gay romances and options to focus on narrative rather than action both took beatings from vocal fans, culminating in the horrific hounding of a female writer working at Bioware - and both of those things are optional. The ending of Mass Effect 3, however, is the end of Bioware's story, and it's not optional. There are alternate versions of the ending, but the core narrative structure is the ending to a story arc the company started telling years ago. It's Bioware's story to tell and Bioware's story to end - and needless to say, that has ignited passions, fanned angry flames and set keyboards around the world clicking furiously.

Of course some people don't like the ending. They're entitled to dislike it. They're entitled to fling the game out of their windows in a rage, as long as they make sure they don't hit any innocent bystanders with it (and pick up the litter afterwards - those things aren't biodegradable). But it's not their ending to rewrite, or to demand changes to, and this is what has changed in our culture - and, sadly, what game companies have encouraged and nurtured. Real fans don't have to like everything a studio, a writer or a musician makes - they just have to enjoy their work enough to anticipate the next piece, and to want to share the joy with others. These new "fans", the entitled fanatics, know better than the author or the artist. They want things done their way. They've bought the game! They've posted on the forum! They must be listened to!

Other mediums handle this with a little more grace. Sure, there are forums for popular films, Facebook pages for bands, Twitter accounts for authors - but they create a little distance between themselves and their audiences. They're willing to engage with their fans, to reach out to them, but never, ever, ever to bring them inside the creative process, or to hint that they have an influence. A perfect example is author Neil Gaiman's wonderfully phrased put-down to a fan who expressed anger that his favourite fantasy author was working on other projects rather than finishing the next book in an ongoing series; "George RR Martin is not your bitch." I encourage everyone to read it, and consider how it applies to the games business, and where we've gone wrong.

This isn't a popular position to take, I'm sure. We've become so used to the endless mantra of "The fans are important! We work for our fans! It's all about the fans!" that we've forgotten how to question it - and worse, we've forgotten that creativity isn't about the audience, first and foremost, it's about the creator. It's about a talented person, or a group of talented people, making something amazing - and that act, when it's really making magic, is usually the most selfish thing imaginable, because they make something which they and they alone think is amazing, to satisfy their own creative urges. When the door is unlocked and the light streams in, and the fans get to see what's been made - then, of course, people want their new baby to be loved, but the process that happens before that is behind a closed door for a reason. It's not about the fans. Or at least, it shouldn't be.

We've forgotten that creativity isn't about the audience, first and foremost, it's about the creator

Yet we're pushing ourselves more and more in that direction, which is a little worrying. Consider Kickstarter, a funding process which - for all that it's an amazing way to get cool things made outside the existing system - actually gives people the ability to say "hey, you're working for me, I paid for this". With the existing model, you produce a game, sell it to someone, and that's it - your transaction and your relationship is over (even if entitled fans don't quite get that, and game companies have been happy to let them believe otherwise). Kickstarter turns this on its head. It'll be interesting to see what tone is taken with creatives like Tim Schafer or Brian Fargo when their respective projects start making decisions that some of their vocal fans - who are now vocal "investors" - disagree with, and how they'll deal with that.

This isn't a situation that'll change overnight, not least because immense inertia defines the role of "fans" in our industry - but it's important for game creators to realise that things don't have to be this way. Engagement with fans doesn't have to mean letting the lunatics run the asylum, or even giving them the impression that they've been given the keys to the office. Real fans - the people who love your work and love your creativity - want you to put your head down and make the next amazing thing. By listening to the vocal minority, letting them influence decisions or drive product design, the people you're really betraying may well be those who really love your work - and the most betrayed of all could be your own creative talent.

26 Comments

Sam Brown
Programmer

235 164 0.7


Long before everyone was distributing games direct to players over the internet, we were sending games down a closed network to hundreds of thousands of terminals across the country. The terminals in pubs, clubs and arcades that smartphones have pretty much eradicated over the last few years. And back up that network came a steady stream of information about player habits and experiences. And if the whole or a part of one of our games was obviously proving less fun than it should have been, then we changed the game and sent it back down the network

hone the games, to make them as perfect for the player as we could.

And ME3 is

Is it wrong to compare a closed network to the Internet? Maybe. Is it any wronger than comparing a three-game interactive experience with a book or a film?

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Sam Brown on 30th March 2012 11:01am

Posted:2 years ago

#1
I agree, if they want to change the ending because it's not entertaining enough - they can!
In my opinion the ending was awesome, but the way they got you there was not.
My bigges problem was that they encouraged you to fill the 'galactic readiness' bar on the understanding that it would have an effect on the outcome of the story.
What happens to Shepherd is canon, i'm fine with that, it's a fitting end to a good character but where was the representation of all the missions I had completed?
Where was my krogan-Turian alliance and my geth-quarian alliance? none of it came into play in any noticeable form, you got bottlenecked into the same place as everyone else with the only difference being a 'third option'.

I would maybe like to see a mini-game appear, something along the lines of a strategy game where you get given fleets and ground forces to move around based on what you achieved in the main game.

But fans shouldn't get as upset as they did... nothing is ever perfect!

Posted:2 years ago

#2

James Prendergast
Research Chemist

735 432 0.6
I have to say that i see no difference between "now" and "then". Sure, there were always very vociferous people who battled against any change their favourite band/artist/developer/director made but that was before the internet, before forums dedicated to specific products and producers. In the same way that email has a lower barrier to entry in terms of effort to send than traditional letters do (and thus we've observed a corresponding increase in people communicating in that way compared to physical mail), it's also easier to go on a message board and write just exactly what you think and feel - no matter how good/bad your grammar is.

Combine with that the large numbers of people connected to the internet and also the current large numbers of people (especially young people) who are unemployed and spend a lot of the time trying to fill that void with something and you're bound to see everyone who wants to stick their oar in on a subject doing so. Not forgetting that gaming, as a pastime, is far more prevalent today than even five to ten years ago and you'll get a relative increase in participants, both quiet and loud in that respect too.

I guess in a tl;dr scenario: Percentage-wise there's probably never been a difference, it's just that now it's easier and less time-consuming for a large number of people to do so.

I also dislike the trend to portray a "fan" or person who consumes something as a passive and demure part of the selling process. Fans are people and, as such, will agree, disagree or even be upset by turns of events. To suggest that a real fan would blurt "oh, great series but I didn't like the ending," as if it meant that little to them (I mean, really, it's as unemotional and disconnected a sentence as i've ever seen) is pure fantasy.

I also don't think that the majority of fans who are complaining about the ending are asking for it to be fixed. What percentage of the overall total sell-through is the facebook petition? I don't know numbers (ME2 sold over 5 million though, right?) but if we assume 2 million copies sold and I saw a number of around 70,000 people signed up to the petition a few days ago... it gives 3.5%. You're focusing on a tiny minority of the player base and yet the media and developers are behaving as if this is some vast travesty on the social contract between producers and consumers.

Get over it. People are going to complain, they're going to be disatisfied with what you put out. People will also be happy (they likely won't post about it either) and the vast majorit, unless you majorly screwed up, will be somewhere in between. This is part of doing business. If it affects you that much, from such a minority then maybe you should think about going elsewhere.

Posted:2 years ago

#3

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

559 608 1.1
As a consumer i think i am entitled to my opinion about a product i purchase. I am entitled to compare it with previous products of the same manufacturer and i am also entitled to compare the actual product with advertising made prior to it's release for sale.

It is entirely up to the manufacturer to either listen to my views, and the views of other customers, or to ignore them. As a consumer it entirely up to me to purchase another product from the same manufacturer.

I would never tell any creative how to make their game or what story to tell. But if i don't enjoy their game or story, i simply won't buy it, or (should i have been "tricked" into buying it) i won't buy another.

I think the comparisson with Neil Gaiman's statement is wrong here. The fan letter he answered had more to do with the time frame GRR Martin spends between books.

And Neil Gaiman is of course correct - creatives do not work for the customer/fan. However without customers and fans, they might not work at all.

I think it's a fine balance to try and bring across creativity and vision in a way that customers enjoy them.

In my opinion, if you have a large AAA production and you are dependant on millions of people buying your product and enjoying it so much that they want to buy sequels, then it is important to create something that they enjoy. There are a lot of people and a lot of livelyhoods involved that all depend on the game selling well and being received well.

Doing a game a specific way, fully believing in it to a fault, not looking at what people actually want to play, can result in disaster.

I think smaller, indie, studios have much more scope to not listen to the public and create something without any external pressure.

I don't think AAA developers have that luxury, which is probably why BioWare appears to be listening to complaints and is working towards appeasing fans.

Posted:2 years ago

#4

Farhang Namdar
Lead Game Designer

75 47 0.6
people should be glad they get to play games like mass effect in the first place. You don't like the ending? Too bad... This is the ending they chose and who knows it might age better than any Disney like ending they would come up with to please the fans. Internet gave the mass, who unfortunately doesn't have the slightest clue what is good for them or what is good at all, a voice. Why would developers or anyone pay attention to that. The designers took their time to create something amazing for you, so you shut your face and enjoy it.

Posted:2 years ago

#5

Angus Syme
Senior Artist

22 21 1.0
So everyone says - but games like Bioware are billing themselves as 'film-like'. Offering you an epic sweeping interactive story that rivals anything you'd see in the cinema.

Most cinema relies on test screens where the audience comments, critiques and influences the final release. Is this a bad thing? In a few cases sure - but in loads of others it's made a better finished product. Games on the whole only tend to test gameplay and bugs - not stuff like 'is the ending appallingly bad' or 'does the story make any sense'.

As a developer - most of the time we ship before we'd like to - and patch accordingly. I don't really see much of a difference between that and what Bioware are doing. Fans hated what they got, they're 'addressing it' as a sign that its something people feel strongly about. That's good business IMO - saying 'oh fans are insane entitled brats who should just shut up and buy the games' is going to leave a company with precious few of the consumers they're chasing.

Posted:2 years ago

#6

Morville O'Driscoll
Blogger & Critic

1,536 1,339 0.9
A few random thoughts:

One of the original writers of the Mass Effect series resigned in February. Whether this affected the story is unknown, I think, though there's a presumption it has. So, whilst, yes, ME3 was a creative piece of work, it's possibly fair to say it's also a creative mish-mash of a work. Too many cooks, and all that.

A lot of the complaints about the ME3 ending relate to the fact that it makes no sense. Whilst bad endings (canon or not) irk players and viewers alike, endings that make no sense rankle even worse. It shows a lack of fore-thought, and a creative malaise that seems to imply that the player is too stupid or too indifferent to notice the plot holes. In ME3, this can be summed up by the meme "Yo dawg, i heard you don't want synthetics to kill organics so i made synthetics to kill organics so organics can't make synthetics to kill organics". Yes, that is essentially the ending. No, it doesn't make sense. That's the point of the complaints.

Another thing that annoys is when the universe is fine, and then the creator does something just plain stupid, because they see a problem. Maybe the ending of ME3 has this? A good analogy would be George Lucas's introduction of Midi-chlorians. The SW universe existed perfectly well on the basis of the Force just exists, but then Science! had to be introduced. This makes the universe worse. The fact that George Lucas couldn't see this doesn't make him silly or stupid, it just makes his creative vision flawed.

Finally, there's issues with the game itself. It's hurried, poorly represents the decisions you've made, and the Readiness meter is just tacky. They could easily have implemented the Readiness system in cutscenes and dialogues (not unlike ME2's reinforcement of the Normandy prior to the final mission). They didn't. Whether this is due to time-constraints or a creative vision, it doesn't matter - it's still a let-down.

Edit to add:

And let's not forget that fans have done a massive job in the industry - the multiple iterations of Streetfighter show this. Capcom listen to complaints, to feedback, to little things and big things. It could be argued they are just a fan-service company now, but the fact is that all creative output relates to feedback in one way or another. Had ME3 been a book, the ending would've been decimated by an editor. Would that have made it easier to stomach? A valid complaint is a valid complaint, whether it be from a fan or a professional.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 30th March 2012 12:03pm

Posted:2 years ago

#7
I generally read GI.biz with my morning coffe, break or lunch for a little light reading and informative information. I also avoid commenting on open forums due to its dangerous nature.

Unfortunately, so many things in this article just don't sit right with me that I had to reply. I'll try to keep this short;

How else do we become a fan if not 'self professed'? I have never had a creative director or an entertainment company call me up and tell me I'm now a fan of their new 'piece of work'. I choose if I am a fan or not, and not by their definition of fan.

Developers/Publishers not only want fans, but need them. They want them to be loyal to their brand, their IP, their characters and stories. They want them to be emotionally connected, love them and to be their biggest evangelists. With this they will also get the opposite of emotions should those fans not like something they are emotionally connected to. Unfortunately you can't have the love, without the potential for hate, you can't have the evangelism without the potential for them to be objectors and you certainly can't give them a public forum and expect them only to sing your praises.
These new "fans", the entitled fanatics, know better than the author or the artist. They want things done their way. They've bought the game! They've posted on the forum! They must be listened to!
If you give them the mediums to communicate to you and ask them to, then you have an obligation to listen to them. That doesn't mean you have to do as they ask/demand. But listen and communicate back, good or bad. Plus, they are not new, these 'type' of fans have always been there!



Add to this the fact that they have paid good money for this experience and expect them to express their opinions, however emotionally charged they may be.

What if the 'vocal minority' actually represented the none vocal majority?
Who really knows what the non vocal fans really think? It's easy to believe they're all happy.

I would be very wary if I ran a small development company who didn't have the financial muscle to throw large sums of money at their products to buy success of alienating my 'self professed fans'.


Finally, on the point of our industry and fans. If we don't want fans and all the bring, and merely want needy consumers, then we best be in the business of selling something people need, not just want. I consume water, food and energy sources because I need them, not because I am a fan, and I'll swap supplier at the blink of an eye if I get a better/cheaper offer. I have zero loyalty to these companies!
A perfect example is author Neil Gaiman's wonderfully phrased put-down to a fan who expressed anger that his favourite fantasy author was working on other projects rather than finishing the next book in an ongoing series;
That was a perfect example of how not to read the full email received off a fan who asked 4 questions in 2, and answer only the last 2 questions in each set. Again, some very valid points, but I would hardly say the fan expressed anger, he merely asked several questions.

Disclaimer: My posts are the opinion of a vocal crank and internet sociopath, and in no way represent that of my company. :o)

Posted:2 years ago

#8
There are a couple of points I'd like to reiterate quickly. Firstly, this article is about the vocal minority - the group of soi disant "true fans" who have come to dominate online discourse about certain games, and what I think is the worrying and damaging tendency of games companies to pander to these people. It's not about engaging with fans in a broader sense. I think test screenings / focus groups are useful (although only in a limited context, as countless examples prove). I think looking at telemetry from your game to show you what players actually did and how you could improve the experience is insanely valuable. I don't think either of those things are comparable to the ranting of a bunch of increasingly noisy people who think they know better than the game designers and creators whose work they claim (dubiously) to love so much.

I also think there's a problem with how people are defining the word "fan". There are a lot of authors, musicians and game creators that I'm a big fan of, but I don't want or expect them to listen to *me*; I want them to keep doing what they're doing, and would love some day to get a chance to sit down with them and talk about how and why they do it, not to lecture them on how they *should* do it. That, to me, is the essence of being a fan of someone's work. With games, because you have a mechanics-based system too, polite feedback also has an important place (the Streetfighter example is a good one). Anything beyond that just smacks of entitlement and ego.

Posted:2 years ago

#9

Morville O'Driscoll
Blogger & Critic

1,536 1,339 0.9
Fair fair.

But, I say again - what if the fans are just doing the job that an editor would do? Pointing out the flaws, and saying "This is not good enough" or "This is nonsensical"? Entitlement to an ending that makes sense is entitlement, yes. But that doesn't mean the criticism levelled at the ending - if it's fair and accurate - is worth less. At which point, you come full circle to "I want them to listen to *me*".

Possibly the only middle-ground (in this instance anyway) is if editors were hired to read-through the storyline? And by this I mean, professional book-editors.

Edit:

Also, conflating issues:

Story-wise, the ending sucks, because it kinda makes no sense. Related but seperate to this is, mechanically the Readiness meter is a poor system. But, you could not change (improve?) the Readiness aspect without creating dialogues and cut-scenes, which impact upon the storyline, which is entirely creative. (I don't know where I'm going with this, btw, just thinking out loud. :) )

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 30th March 2012 12:40pm

Posted:2 years ago

#10

Paolo Giunti
Localisation Project Manager

42 8 0.2
"Internet gave the mass, who unfortunately doesn't have the slightest clue what is good for them or what is good at all, a voice. Why would developers or anyone pay attention to that."

Aside from a vibe of arrogance i get from your post (sorry Farhang, but it really comes off that way), i can't help but find the whole idea extremely shortsighted.
Anything a designer, writer, artist or other creative mind makes, comes with a purpose. This might be to convey the author's opinions, feelings and impressions but sometimes, and this is the case of Mass Effect, the "creation" is intended for others to use have fun with it.
So, if you're doing something for someone, then their opinion does matter.

Besides, I've seen often enough studios being pushed to compromise their creative integrity to the producer/publisher for the sake of meeting deadlines. How is that any better than compromising to appeal your audience?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paolo Giunti on 30th March 2012 5:46pm

Posted:2 years ago

#11

James Prendergast
Research Chemist

735 432 0.6
I'm not even going to address Farhang's comment as i see that as destructive and lacking in respect as those extreme "fans" who demand everything and think they own the game.

@ Morville, I think to add to those points there's also Bioware completely messing up their representation of key characters and factions in the end of the game (and to some extent the beginning too). Shepard, the Reapers, previously established lore that they themselves put in the game... It's the Han Solo effect: When you go establish something as being fact, don't switch around and try and shift that into something else because people are going to call you out on it.

Just as much as "future science" had no real place in Star Wars, "space magic" has no place in Star Trek (and also Mass Effect) - they don't mesh with the rest of the setting at all.

I also dislike those people who are dismissing the complaints and critiques as "people who don't like sad endings". It's funny, because I think HL2:Ep2 has one of the best sad endings ever done in a game and I've never seen anyone criticising that for being poor or badly done. Instead people are still clamouring for more 5+ years later...

With games, because you have a mechanics-based system too, polite feedback also has an important place. Anything beyond that just smacks of entitlement and ego.

What about story, characters etc, Rob? Honestly, I don't expect you to listen to *me* but I don't think me saying anything against or for anything you write is a bad thing. Honestly, I think creators get so used to hearing good things from their fans that it is *their* egos that are in danger of displacing their rationalising centres in their brains. I've never heard of anyone coming out against support and you'd certainly never get this much press (or press backlash, as has in some articles been the case) from that scenario either but when the tables turn then you get a wailing and gnashing of teeth that's as unattractive and childish as the minority of those people that are being complained about.

We're all human beings and we all have ego and all have entitlement - it's in our genetics. However, we need to be able to see that we do have the ability and right to converse with those who create content as much as the people who create content have the right to ignore or disregard that conversation. Content creators are not unfathomable and untouchable god-like beings, they're just as fallible and relatable as anyone else. To think otherwise is to unfairly elevate* their contribution to our society.

At the end of the day, what is the article about? That some people take things too far? Is that really a story? What happens if you're not a fan of their work, are your complaints now more legitimate? I'm not seeing the issue here and I'm not understanding what the big fuss is about, to be honest.

*Egotise wasn't the word i was looking for :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Prendergast on 30th March 2012 12:56pm

Posted:2 years ago

#12

Daniel Growns
IT Engineer

4 0 0.0
Creative control is all well and good... until you decide it's a product and you want to sell it. As soon as you turn it into a product, a consumer has every damn right to voice their concerns and request changes until their eyes bleed.

Posted:2 years ago

#13

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

559 608 1.1
@Farhang: wow that is probably the most narrow minded and arrogant view i have seen from a creative in a long time.

@Rob: Of course the vocal minority is not necessarily what any creative product should be balanced around. Though, in the case of ME3, i'd argue that it's not (only) a vocal minority, but a rather large chunk of their users who have expressed doubts about some of the games choices. Sure, there are probably a lot of players not entirely happy with it, who would not really care if no change was ever made. But then again, i'd guess many of them might think twice before buying another BioWare product. If BioWare on the other hand do listen to many of their fans and create some new content that addresses some concerns, it would show a lot of good will, which can (and probably will) translate into future sales.

As a designer i would love to make the exact game that's in my head. A game that is purely made according to my likes and dislikes. But as a professional i am also acutely aware that i work in a business that makes money. And as such i need to balance my creative ideas with the likes and dislikes of those who potentially buy games i work on. This does NOT mean i have to give in to every demand of gamers and have to make another run of the mill game. But it does mean i have to consider what the gaming habits and likes are these days if i want to make a successful title, and so continue to make games and work in a profession i enjoy.

If i just wanted to bring out what's in my head i could easily be a pennyless artist creating things that nobody wants to buy and hope that some day, someone will discover just how much of a genius i am and buy all my work for a massive sum.

In the meantime i try to be as creative as i can, in the real world, and i get great satisfaction from bringing a smile on someones face when they play something they really enjoy, which i helped create in some form. I personally see myself as an entertainer, who gets paid to provide people with a form of escaping reality, a way of bringing fun and enjoyment to their lives. And if i succeed in that, in any shape or form, i take a lot of pleasure from it.

Posted:2 years ago

#14

Sam Brown
Programmer

235 164 0.7
This is going to sound far too contrived for the current situation to be true, but I swear to you it is.

One of the games we did was based on A Certain Cult TV Game Show With An Eccentric Host, and we noticed on the initial release that people tended to play the game until they got to the endgame, then they'd stop after reaching it one or two times (we could tell this from the entries in the high score table). We eventually reasoned that it was because the ending was too hard, so we made it seem easier. The new version showed that players tried the endgame many more times before giving up.

To me, the pay-to-play games we do are analogous to games that are more and more reliant on the long tail - be it subscriber, freemium or DLC. If the ending to a game makes people not want to play it any more, then item or DLC sales will suffer. One thing we personally have to be experts on is player retention, and the way to do that is, to put it bluntly, pander to the players more than the other guys do.

Someone (I think it was Ben Elton) once described Tim Burton's Batman as basically an advert for all the merchandise that came after it. Are games now to become basically adverts for the DLC that follows them?

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Sam Brown on 30th March 2012 1:58pm

Posted:2 years ago

#15

Robert Mac-Donald
Game Designer

58 45 0.8
From what I have been reading, players complained that Bioware promised something and delivered something else, and this is the reason for the outrage.

Mostly to do with the fact that when you reached the ending, none of your previous actions mattered and there was a lot of unanswered lore.

Spoiler: And I forgot to add that all endings apparently were the same, just with different colors. In related news: http://www.destructoid.com/rebake-mass-effect-bioware-trolled-with-cupcakes-224813.phtml

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Robert Mac-Donald on 30th March 2012 4:59pm

Posted:2 years ago

#16

Andrew Clayton
QA Weapons Tester

150 7 0.0
We can argue all day about whether or not the opinion of the "vocal minority" is the opinion of a minority, but that's not really the point. One of the major marketing angles for all of the Mass Effect games was the fact that a player's choices would have serious consequences throughout the entire series, not just a single game. If you made an important decision in Mass Effect, it would affect the way the ME2 and ME3 play out.

But those choices did not significantly affect the ending of the game. In fact, the end seemed to almost completely ignore the choices you made. "Galactic Readiness" aside, there was no real ending. I understand bittersweet endings, games can pull them off extremely well when they're done right. There are many games where the ending wasn't really what I wanted (Gears 3), but gamers aren't creating this sort of uproar then. The audience feels betrayed because what they said would happen, their actions affecting the final outcome of the series, did not happen.

Posted:2 years ago

#17

Massimo Guarini
Founding Director and CEO

26 18 0.7
Rob Fahey, you nailed it. 110%.

You have the right approach examining our industry issues from other perspectives, comparing it often to other media.

Excellent article, as usual.

Posted:2 years ago

#18

Paolo Giunti
Localisation Project Manager

42 8 0.2
@Robert

Yup, exactly. That's actually one of the two points the complaints are about.
The other, as Morville already highlighted, is that the ending makes little sense and feels inconsistent with the rest of the story.

The fact that some people posted comments along the lines of "I wish there would be a happy alternative", generated the misconception of the outrage being because of a sad ending. Those who believe that's the case, just didn't look close enough.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paolo Giunti on 30th March 2012 5:05pm

Posted:2 years ago

#19

Liam Farrell

66 13 0.2
Why do i get the feeling the fallout from this will be games, in the future, will have a stock ending, with a longer "with 30% extra character resolution!" as DLC.
One one hand, it shows the ME fanbase got into the whole storyarch. Normally no one cares about crummy endings because in game, it's the journy, not the arrival. And game characters are so forgettable. However players got to know and give a damn about the ME cast.
On the other, no extra ending will fix the fan rage. It's happened, you cannot un-see it. That's the ending the developers came up with. I have albums with songs I'm not wild about. Bit I'm not entitled to complain to Florence and the machine

Posted:2 years ago

#20

Emily Rose
Freelance Artist

80 34 0.4
So many people in these comments (and it seems the writer of the article) have not played the games in question.

According to Mass effect lore, the ending would have wiped out every system that had a mass effect relay (ie every system with any of the mass effect species). You even see the explosions from the galaxy map.

The writer from the first 2 games was gone and it's painfully obvious. Massive plot holes (characters with you in the last mission turn up on unrelated planets in the ending) and none of the last two games worth of progress matters at all.

This happened before with Neon Genesis Evangelion, and it was better in the long run.

You just don't make such a thoughtless ending to such an important game and expect no negative feedback.

Posted:2 years ago

#21

Pete Thompson
Owner / Admin

175 99 0.6
I've been a fan of the Mass Effect series from the start, I've enjoyed all three games and have 1000gs on each of the first two and 1050gs on ME3, In ME2 I imported my ME1 save, In ME3 I imported my ME2 save, I had well over 5000 assets (100% on all regions) and i got the so called green ending, I'd read that Shepard would no longer be part of the series, but that's more or less expected if you want to keep a series fresh and interesting so I knew Shepard would bite the bullet at some point, even so I loved the entire game and the ending didn't disappoint me at all. Bring on the DLC :-)

Posted:2 years ago

#22

Morville O'Driscoll
Blogger & Critic

1,536 1,339 0.9
@ Tim

Exactly. You can argue about creative input and the creative purity of something all day long, but the fact is, it makes no sense. This shouldn't even be a "thing"; should fans be allowed to question the creative impulse of BioWare? Yes. Of course. Should they expect to control the artistic vision? Debatable (I'd personally say no). Are they entitled to an ending that makes sense? Yes. Absolutely. Everyone is entitled to that, otherwise you would get videogames that are the equivalent of Plan 9 From Outer Space, with creators laughing manically as they ignore input from the consumer and follow their vision.

Posted:2 years ago

#23

Liam Farrell

66 13 0.2
I'd forgotten all about the Evangelion ending fallout (there were death threats, weren't there?) but They had the excuse of the money running out/being embezzled.

Posted:2 years ago

#24
Regarding the example of Evangelion as a creative product that had its ending changed... Evangelion was a very different set of circumstances - there are various versions of the story, but the most credible one I've heard (from people who worked at the studio at the time) is that the studio had been delivering episodes later and later, partially due to time/budget constraints, but also partially because the subject matter was getting less and less suitable for broadcast in a mid-evening "family" timeslot. The network eventually flipped out after the 24th episode, demanded to see storyboards and WIP for the final two episodes, and flipped out again - forcing the studio to rework the episodes in a very short space of time. The result was an ending that was partially born out of desperation and huge constraints, and partially borne out of a desire to say "screw you" to the network. (And yes, there were death threats, and there have been various reworkings of the ending since then, but certainly not as a consequence of the feedback the studio got from its more "vocal fans" - the ones who scrawled graffiti death threats on the front of their office building, for example...)

Posted:2 years ago

#25

Antony Johnston
Writer & Narrative Designer

112 18 0.2
All other debate aside...

"Imagine how you'd feel if this was a group of people petitioning JK Rowling with angry demands for a different ending to the Harry Potter series"

You do know this actually happened, right, Rob? To the point where some fans even rewrote the ending and tried to sell their version on Amazon.

(And you guys should try hanging out in comics fandom one day, then you'd know what real "fan entitlement" sounds like ;)

Posted:2 years ago

#26

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