The BioWare Situation

March 17, 2012

Editorials

It seems that BioWare, the studio behind such beloved titles as Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and the more recent Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect, have been under a lot of fire as of late. Fans have noticed a certain change in BioWare’s philosophy since its acquisition by Electronic Arts, and many might say it isn’t for the better. Dragon Age 2, while toted as an excellent title with superb gameplay and an engaging story, still fell short in the fans’ eyes. To them, DA2 represents the conversion from true gaming as art to a mass audience appeal. One might think that they would factor these experiences into the release of the much-anticipated Mass Effect 3, but it would appear that BioWare might be getting themselves into an even deeper hole.

The aim of this article is to keep our readership up-to-date on BioWare’s status, the controversy they find themselves in, and what their responses have been to fan outcry. This is *not* for discussing whatever flaws fans may think Mass Effect 3 has, including gameplay, story, etc. We’ll also offer polls so that you, the reader, can voice your own opinions as well. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

Day-One DLC

One of the larger issues facing the game is the fact that the Day-One DLC, From Ashes, was intended to be included with the game but was removed and released as DLC for initially uncertain reasons.

The issue was blown wide-open when a video began to circulate, demonstrating that a simple modification of the game’s configuration files unlocks the Prothean squadmate without having any DLC installed. The video demonstrates Javik’s presence in the squad selection screen, movement in a level, and his power selection menu; it’s all there. And it would seem to be damning evidence.

However, BioWare’s response seems to indicate that the only things the video demonstrates are Javik’s “framework” included in the game: “From Ashes is a 600 MB+ download with all new content, including the mission on Eden Prime, new dialogue options and conversations with Javik, new cinematics, the Prothean weapon, and new appearances for all squad members. All of the above content was completed while the main game was in certification and are not available on the disc. … As stated previously, in order to seamlessly integrate Javik into the core campaign, certain framework elements and character models needed to be put on disc. We did something similar with Zaeed and Kasumi in Mass Effect 2.”  The video definitely doesn’t prove anything to contradict this…

…however, new information may be putting BioWare back in hot water. According to the recently-released “Final Hours of Mass Effect 3” iPad app, journalist Geoff Keighley goes into lead writer Mac Walters’ and Executive Producer Casey Hudson’s long-term plans for the game. Specifically, there is mention that the gameplay portions included in From Ashes was intended to be included with the game, but due to time constraints “needed” to be excluded and developed separately as DLC. On its own this information isn’t too controversial, but when BioWare has been insisting that From Ashes was never meant to be included with the game, it’s a pretty clear sign that they were lying.

The Ending

Possibly one of the biggest problems BioWare is facing is over the way the trilogy was ended. I won’t write about the ending here, since there are at least a million other places to read up on it, but at the end of the day, a lot of fans are very upset at it. It felt like a cop-out and didn’t make any sense in regards to the choices you’ve made in the past and the context of the situation Shepard is in. And for all the time you spend raising War Assets and improving your Galactic Readiness, there really isn’t much to show for it in the end.

For the most part, BioWare has stayed quiet on the issue, save for a post on Mike Gamble’s Twitter page, encouraging fans to “hang on to their ME3 saves”. No apologies have been issued, no explanation was given, and fans are being encouraged to come up with their own theories on what the ending means. And the responses have been pretty wide-spread, from simply being bad and nonsensical to go as far as to say the final moments are a hallucination, and represent Shepard’s attempts to break Reaper indoctrination, going as far back as the beginning of the game.

Other fans have taken different action; some have demanded that BioWare develop and release “ending” DLC to either explain the endings in a more coherent, complete fashion, or to provide a completely new ending. Another beleaguered fan, a former employee of a PR damage control firm going by the name “atghunter” on the BioWare forums, has broken down and analyzed EA/BioWare’s strategy to contain the fan outcry. An entire transcript of his posts can be seen here. At the end of the day, atghunter wants to encourage everyone to stay civil, but not to relent.

UPDATE, MARCH 19, 2012: It appears that the fan outcry has finally garnered a response from BioWare, but it’s probably not what they hoped for:

“We are aware that there are concerns about a recent post from this account regarding the ending of the game. In this post it was stated that at this time we do not have plans to change the ending. 

We would like to clarify that we are actively and seriously taking all player feedback into consideration and have ruled nothing out. At this time we are still collecting and considering your feedback and have not made a decision regarding requests to change the ending. 

Your feedback and opinions are of the utmost importance to us. We apologize for any confusion this has caused. Our top priority regarding this discussion is to keep communication with you, our loyal fans, open and productive.”

It’s likely that the fight won’t end here though, and that the fans won’t give up until they’re given a fair deal.

False Advertisement / Empty Promises

BioWare has made some promises leading up to Mass Effect 3’s release that some fans feel they just haven’t lived up to.

First, and probably most important in fans’ minds, is that their decisions from the first two games would have a huge impact on the events of the third. The official Mass Effect web site states that players can “experience the beginning, middle, and end of an emotional story unlike any other, where the decisions you make completely shape your experience and outcome.” As stated in the ending section above, many feel that just wasn’t the case. It could be that these decisions are more subtle than fans expected, or perhaps it really does tie in with their disappointment in the ending, but BioWare has yet to release an official statement on this issue.

Many fans are also dismissing the promise that you can “choose your own ending” to Mass Effect 3, citing that there isn’t any fundamental difference between the three choices and that no consequences follow them. It’s even gotten to the point that fans are voting to file a claim with the FTC and BBB against BioWare. As the author claims, this isn’t a “big legal issue” but simply an attempt to keep BioWare honest. At worst, they might sustain a small fine.

Miscellaneous

Everything posted here is just fact, and isn’t meant to be debated.

The weekend of March 16th, 17th, and 18th, BioWare is holding a special Multiplayer weekend event titled Operation: Goliath, where players can attempt to beat a special challenge to earn unique equipment. Unfortunately, the event is only for players who own the PC or Xbox 360 versions of the game; PS3 players have been left out, with BioWare’s Chris Priestly only citing “technical difficulties” for a reason. No official word has been given as to whether or not PS3 players will be compensated for being left out of the event, or if future events will include them.

Many fans are criticizing the reveal of long-time crew member Tali’Zorah’s face in Mass Effect 3. As seen here, her face is just a stock photo from the Internet given the 5-minute Photoshop treatment. For such a beloved character from the entire series, fans seem disappointed that such a huge issue to them was considered an afterthought.

UPDATE 3/21: After the news hit that Amazon.com was offering refunds to customers who purchased Mass Effect 3 through them, EA’s Origin service is apparently beginning to offer the same service. According to this article, not all customer service representatives know about EA’s stance, but it’s a big step in their admittance that the fans’ concerns should be taken seriously.

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About Argus9

Jonathan ‘Argus9′ Zisser has been an avid gamer for over 20 years. His early years of playing the NES with his father helped springboard his interest in gaming, and has eventually matured into an avid following for the gaming industry. Studying Computer Engineering at Stony Brook University also gave him insight into the more technical side of video games. A passionate writer as well, Jonathan loves conveying his experiences and opinions by creating engaging articles as often as possible. More often than not, he tries to break down today’s industry and write editorials that make his readers think.

View all posts by Argus9

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