You may recall that we discussed Mass Effect 3 a while back. We talked about the ending and about how it was unsatisfactory to a *HUGE* number of folks and why.

Well, if you read that one, you can read this one. More than that, there won’t be any spoilers for the game (apart from that the ending was unsatisfactory) in the forthcoming essay and, as such, it won’t be behind a cut.

Well, Bioware is giving us some free “Clarification” DLC. This is DLC that, in theory, will address our concerns and, as Casey Hudson put it, “make things right between us”. Which brings us to one of the main theories behind the coming clarification of the ending. This theory is “Indoctrination”. In a nutshell, there were a number of people who saw the ending of Mass Effect 3 and said something to the effect of “that can’t be the ending, seriously.” The theory is that the ending that we were shown was, in fact, a false finish. The general idea is that our character would find out that the last little bit, whatever it was, was a result of “indoctrination” (that is to say: the bad guys in this universe are *SO* bad that they can make you feel, think, and remember things that ain’t exactly so). This theory says that the ending that you saw (or *THINK* you saw) was actually (take a deep breath) “ALL JUST A DREAM”. And, instead of the ending you think you saw, you’ll get to spend 10 minutes with the ending that *ACTUALLY* happened.

I do not know if this ending is true. The theory behind it *SEEMS* somewhat sound… it argues that certain environment textures in some of the nightmare sequences in the game are similar (if not identical) to textures when you were supposedly finishing the game (and that there are plenty of hints working up to this all throughout the game)… but there is as much evidence for this as evidence that it’s just the fanfolk grasping at straws before being forced to swallow the finish to the game that they’d been hoping wasn’t the “real” ending.

In any case, we get to find out come this coming Tuesday on June 26th. Keep your fingers crossed and hope that we get the ending we need, even if we don’t get the ending we deserve.


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to


  1. Okay, setting aside the irony of me saying this, what’s up with rewriting a story because some people got their panties in a bind over it?

    Sometimes writers screw up. You write something that’s disappointing and you move on. Or you fishin’ show the ending to a LOT of test audiences and you go from there.

    On the DVD extras for the movie Dodgeball, the producer talked about (by the way Spoilers coming) the fact that in the original make of the movie they lose the big final tournament. Vahn takes a dodgeball to the forehead while he’s getting last second coaching advice and that’s it. Ben Stiller wins, good guys lose, credits roll. To the writer’s disappointment, that ending did not do well with test audiences so they decided to give it a happy ending after all. You do some research if you care what people think and then you revise ~before~ you ship your final product.

    But you know what sticks in my craw? Press. PRESSpress… press. NPFishingR is talking about the Mass Effect 3 ending. They had “experts” on game culture come on and spend about 10 minutes dissecting the nature of gaming, story driven gaming and the “Impact” on the industry this backlash has caused.

    Proving once again no bad deed goes unrewarded.

    • I want to say that this is unprecedented.

      People *LOVED* Mass Effect, though. They *LOVED* Mass Effect 2. Mass Effect 3 has some *AWESOME* scenes in it, I understand. Amazing moments involving Grunt, Mordin, and Edi (among others). The disappointing ending is, apparently, disappointing to the point where the “gamers will complain about anything” axiom doesn’t cover it. On top of that, every single one of these people has a facebook profile and used it to complain about the ending.

      I also suspect that there is something much closer to gender parity when it comes to Bioware games than, say, games like (to use a recent example of a disappointing game) Rage. I don’t want to go too much into how that may have changed things but I suspect that it did.

    • Literally? it was an incoherent crap ending.

      It’d be like, oh, slogging through a door-stopper of a fantasy novel, get to the climax, and have rocks fall killing everyone.

      You’re stuck thinking “What? I wasted all this time, money, energy on this? Did you even try? What the hell?”

      People thought it sucked out loud. A LOT of people thought it sucked out loud. Bioware tried the audacious refuge of “You just totally don’t get our art, man” and got slapped out of hand because NOBODY liked it.

      It was the sort of ending you get my hiring a writer who didn’t bother reading the first two books of a trilogy, or for that matter 90% of the last book, and wrote the ending after skimming a wikipedia entry for the wrong books.

      And then an intern had to cut and paste the right names in.

      I’ve ignored gamers whining about bad games, about bad endings, about “oh my god, how dare they cater to ‘not-me’ and waste valueable time doing ‘stuff I don’t like’ (even when I agreed with them) — but this was an order of magnitude worse.

      In fact, the only other gaming idiocy I can even compare this to is….the NGE. In which Sony Online Entertainment released a new expansion to a 6 year old MMORPG and the NEXT DAY (after the pre-orders had shipped and their remaining faithful fans — not as many as they wanted — had purchased the expansion) utterly changed the game.

      Players went to bed with their brand new expansions, all ready to wake up and play — as an analogy — Rome: Total War and when they woke up, started up their game, they found they were playing Call of Duty: Roman Legion Edition.

      Good or bad, it wasn’t the game they’d been shelling out 15 bucks a month for for 5 years.

      • Good or bad, it wasn’t the game they’d been shelling out 15 bucks a month for for 5 years.

        Yeah, this is a good point. When people beat the game, they said that this was not what they had been promised. I mean, if you got Duke Nukem Forever and learned quite quickly that it sucked, you didn’t feel betrayed or lied to.

        Mass Effect 3’s ending had many people screaming that they had been betrayed and/or lied to.

        • honestly, i find the prospect of experiencing the source of their rage far more intriguing than actually playing mass effect 3. (the 60 dollar pricetag has a lot to do with the latter bit, though)

          • Amazon has it listed for $45.50, you can get it new from its affiliates for $40, and used for just over $23.

            Just sayin’.

          • hmmm…good point. if i can find it cheap enough i may have to pick it up sooner rather than wait for an ea sale.

          • well, i found a new copy for a reasonable price; am i going to be forced to install this crybaby dlc or should i be able to skate that so i can experience the butthurt generator in its fullness? 🙂

          • The, ahem, *CLARIFICATION* DLC will be going out tomorrow. I guess you could always decline to log into XBox Live if on the 360 but I think you have to be connected to Origin to play on the PC.

          • For what it is worth, I have only now confirmed that the DLC is one that must be picked to be downloaded like DLC that you would otherwise pay for (for the low low price of free). It does not download automatically.

        • Well, it’s kinda hard to put into context if you haven’t played it.

          First, it’s the third game in a trilogy — and it’s Star Wars type trilogy (original) in that each game had a resolution, but the final conflict was still there — it was more of “temporary victory and hope we might not die in the long run” sort of thing.

          And they were GOOD games — solid storytelling, good music, the first was a great game but the second was pretty much “let’s take everything that made Mass Effect 1 good, turn that up to 11, get rid of any irritations, and basically just make this puppy remarkable”.

          Each game was something between 20 to 40 hours to complete, and many people (myself included, and I’m not a fan of shooters and rarely replay games!) played each multiple times, start to end.

          So you fight and slog your way through two great games (20 to 40 hours per game) and then through the third, and at this point — the culmination of a LOT of good, solid gameplay wherein you were constantly given meaingful (in the context of a video game, at least) choices you fight to the end, wherein victory and defeat is all down to you.

          Culmination of an epic, galaxy-wide war, right? And then you’re faced with not victory or defeat, but TweedleDee and TweedleDum. And told to pick between them. There’s some handwaving to tie Dee and Dum to the plot, but basically they’ve been just DROPPED there on your head.

          “Forget the previous 60 to 120 hours of gameplay. Forget every choice you made, every battle you fought, forget the effort you put into it. Heck, forget the story. Here, now, at the climax — Dee or Dum? Which looks like the better guy?”

          That’s the point. It was good, solid, epic — fit right into the other two — until the end. After you had technically won, even. You sat there, the culmination of three games, to the stupidest damn endgame mechanic ever devised by man. Which didn’t fit into the plot, the universe, the characters, or ANYTHING that had occured before.

          It’s like you jumped into another game, written by morons for morons.

          All I can think of is that some higher-up at Bioware was smoking WAY too much weed and decided it’d be “awesome and stuff” in a very stoned high-school way and just insisted that’s how it should end.

          Book wise, I guess it’d be like getting through Lord of the Rings and right as Frodo stands before the fires of Mount Doom, he gets teleported to Sauron who explains he’s gotten to the end, he’s won, and gets a choice: Sauron will kill himself and Frodo can take the Ring and rule the world with an iron-fist as King of Mordor, OR Frodo can be turned into a girl and rule as Sauron’s dark Queen.

          Oh, and Sauron’s like totally hot and stuff now. In a broody sort of way.

          You’d throw the book at the wall, which is effectively what the players did. They were just in a position to tell Bioware it was crap and convince them to, you know, tell the stoner who wrote that to eff off and write a real ending.

          • There are a number of theories behind why the ending was so poor.

            1) EA now owns the IP. So they’re torching the franchise and running.

            2) When Bioware asked for more time, EA said something to the effect of “you must put it out in this particular quarter!” and the ending was the part of the game they couldn’t really finish and they had to put it out on the schedule so that EA could get a decent quarter.

            3) The lead writer is brilliant to the point of where he doesn’t understand mere mortals like us. He thought the ending was awesome.

            2 makes the most sense to me but there’s a twisted logic behind 1 (and 3 has been corroborated).

            It’s probably a mix of 2 and 3.

          • From all I’ve read on the subject, it seems to be 4) The lead writer THINKS he’s brilliant to the point where he doesn’t understand mere mortals like us and thinks the ending was awesome.

            This was probably a result of 5) They had no idea how to actually end the storyline in a satisfactory way, and decided to throw a curveball that seemed cool to them and might have been hailed as brilliant if done by Arthur C. Clarke.

          • They had an ability to end the game in a satisfactory way, really. Have the Crucible *NOT* introduce a new character in the last few minutes of the game and have, say, EDI run a diagnostic and explain that she’s figured out that it can do any number of things… including providing detailed schematics of the Reapers along with a heretofore unknown weak point that would allow the Reapers to be killed much quicker with much less firepower by much nimbler ships… and have a cutscene show several Reapers get blowed up. Follow this with a scene where you and your love interest share a smooch and talk about how it won’t be easy in the future, but at least We Saved The Universe.

            You know.


          • Well this is a big part of my question:

            How did they not see this outrage coming? Did they not do a single thing to test what audiences would do with it? Were they SO paranoid about the ending leaking that they didn’t show it to any of the Beta testers?

            IN short, how do you blunder this badly and not know you were about to blunder this badly? Like.. at all…?

          • Dude, I couldn’t get my face to import.

            I still can’t believe that they shipped a game where you couldn’t import your face.

          • Also.. why is this national news? Why are they getting hours of free advertising for effectivelly little more than pissing off their customers?

            It’s so tiring to me. I play nice. I try to be a positive voice on the internet. When I rant I do so with character and thought and I try to avoid pissing people for the joy of pissing them off. I play by the rules.

            And you don’t get noticed.

            But what does? Drama. DRAMAdrama. It’s almost like I need to start finding some 1 star reviews so I can go a Twitter rant fest and become the next viral “look at this freak” event because while it’s bad press it’s still VIRAL press and that’s worth more than a good reputation these days.

          • Well, the response to the game was unprecedented. Never before had a bunch of people disappointed with a game done anything but say “I HATE GAMES!” and then line up like cattle to buy the sequel. What did people do here? They raised $80,000 for Child’s Play. They sent 402 cupcakes (blue, green, and red) to Bioware (and when Bioware sent the cupcakes to a local charity, people pointed out that Bioware took a fourth option). They bombarded the twitter accounts of Bioware employees. They started a facebook movement. The folks who had been banned on the Bioware boards got together and started a new site dedicated to discussing how crappy the ending was and it’s still going strong.

            Bioware’s hand was, maybe, forced to do something to change (or, perhaps merely “clarify”) the ending.

            Nothing like this had ever happened before.

  2. I am not a huge bioware fan (team Obsidian here) but is #3 that far fetched? Nuance is not the most popular commodity in AAA game development or for the audience it serves.

    • The audience for AAA games tends to like either straight up “happy ending” endings or, if you want to go epic in scope, a heroic sacrifice that results in a happy ending for everyone else.

      This is the game that moved me from “Bioware has the best games, Obsidian has games that I enjoy beta testing for them” to Team Obsidian as well… but if you can play Jade Empire, you should.

      You’ll see what I saw in Bioware.

        • They’re eventually playable. Once this happens, they’re FM, baby.

          They’re Magic.

          • Given how terribly they screwed up NWN2 and ruined the perfect opportunity to give us a great, fantastic updated engine for better MP DMing and PWing, I can’t really take Obsidian seriously…(And all their proposed “fixes” wound up being hot air.)

            There’s that and then there’s the state of Alpha Protocol.

          • I was lucky. I tended to only have it crash every couple of hours or so.

            There’s some really sweet stuff in there.

          • the pc version was technically solid in my experience, though i know that wasn’t true of everyone. i liked it quite a bit, though the weapons and stealth in particular were definitely imbalanced.

            and i can’t speak to the mp experience in nwn2, but it did give us mask of the betrayer, which is one of the better single player experiences in recent memory, if not of all time.

          • NWN the franchise should be about the multiplayer and the ability to actually run DMed interactions online.

            The fact that they tried to turn it into a singleplayer focused experience is one of the substantial problems with their entire system.

          • as per jaybird, i don’t do mp online. and mask of the betrayer is really one of the spectacular pc rpg experiences. the writing is excellent, the spirit hunger system (or whatever they called it) is well-done, the characters are great fun and the ending is, depending on your path in life as it were, potentially amazing.

            the single player of the original nwn2 campaign was not so hot, however. not bad, just not great.

      • actually, jade empire is probably the one i’ve least enjoyed, though mass effect 1 was kind just average (i did like 2, though) and the first baldur’s gate was never that compelling to me. my problem is that the writing tends to be subpar and on top of that they get all hamfistedly* romancey whenever possible – even the first dragon’s age (the second was ridiculously bad), which mostly fought against this tendency, still mostly catered to it. subverting this insane drive is what made the first kotor a lot of fun – but only if you played evil, which is the only way to fly if you must deal with star wars.

        ok, i think that was enough parentheses.

        my take on bioware is that they’re generally there to serve up concepts and ip’s that obsidian can then effectively deliver an 85% finished product on. which then rocks so much ass it might as well be a and so they give us stuff like mask of the betrayer. that said whether they live through 2013 or they fall to pieces sometime before or after they contribute to wasteland 2 remains to be seen. i like them, but not south park rpg like-like them.

        • What, really? Golly, that is the one that had me drop my jaw and pinky swear BFF with Bioware.

          • yeah i only got about an hour in before giving up. it didn’t click.

          • Jade Empire was/is awesome. You can get it off Xbox Live now. 🙂 I picked it up…lot of fun. 🙂

            Having Mal from Firefly as one fo the voices is just a bonus.

          • iirc, i’d gotten it from newegg during a pc parts order for five bucks. i gave it to a friend.

            and despite my being friends with a lot of libertarians, and being largely minarchisty myself, i’ve never gotten through an entire episode of firefly. i only tried once, but sometimes you know a thing ain’t yer thing.

            i’m hoping that once me3 shows up, i can install it and skip this dlc to get a feel for what’s enraged so many. though i have my issues with bioware’s smooches-all-around design philosophy, i am indeed curious as to how bad/”bad” it really is.

          • May I suggest Serenity?

            That was my introduction to the concepts of the series and, after I watched the movie, I was able to watch the show (and got much pleasure thereby!) when, prior to the movie, I thought I was merely watching a failed Fox show and could always find something better to do with my time.

          • i thought the movie was a sequel/closer to the series?

          • It was… but, like The Avengers, it’s a movie you can enjoy in its own right without having seen the prequels.

  3. A few things that should be kept in mind with this subject:

    1) When discussing the lead writer, it should be mentioned that Mass Effect 3 was not written by Drew Karpyshyn (who also wrote the wonderful Darth Bane trilogy.) who had written ME 1 & 2 as well as the supplementary novels. For Jay’s benefit, he also wrote the story for KOTOR and Jade Empire. Why didn’t he write ME3? I don’t know. Maybe he was too busy with SW: The Old Republic.

    All I’m saying here is that the writer for ME3 was not the same person as ME1/2.

    2) As for the intent behind the DLC, there are one of two options which could be both true:

    a) Bioware has announced more DLC down the pipe. This new DLC could be a cynical way to get the warm fuzzies going so we buy the DLC.

    b) This could be a sincere attempt to make things right. Katsuhiro Harada, producer for the Tekken series, has said a number of times that the idea of charging extra for fighters in fighting game DLC goes against his beliefs on game design. To him, a fighting game has to be carefully balanced out as you create it. (Extra costumes and other cosmetic changes are not his bag either but he is not wholly against them.)

    As some may know, people who preorder TTT2 get some extra fighters that will be released for free but will be released later for free a month later. While some have chosen to condemn Harada for it, I see it as someone who is getting squeezed by upper management and made a compromise. This way, he still gets to balance the DLC characters. Gamestop/Namco get their preorders. The entire community get the characters.

    He and the Tekken team didn’t have to release it for free *cough* SC IV, SFXTekken *cough* but he’s doing it anyway. In turn, despite that I was going to skip TTT2 after the SC IC/V and Tekken 6 issues, this convinces me that Namco’s upper management is trying to right previous wrongs done to the consumer which got me to place TTT2 on the “rent” list.

    So, either Bioware is saying “We done wrong. Sorry” or Bioware is saying “We done wrong. Here is an ending DLC so you’ll be willing to buy our upcoming DLC.” Which you think it is (or maybe it’s both) is up to you.

    • The new DLC has, apparently, split the (disappointed) base. Some folks feel like it addressed their problem as best could be expected, some folks feel like it was craaaaaaap, and some folks like how this part was addressed (ah, a wizard did it!) but wish that this other part was also addressed or what have you.

      I look forward to writing a day late/dollar short essay on it after I beat the game.

Comments are closed.