Mass Effect 3’s Ending: Comments and Review of the Writing

I mostly agree with this person’s description and feedback on the ending. Don’t read it unless you have already seen ME3’s ending or will never play the game, since it goes right to the end game spoilers: I’ll talk about it in such a way that it doesn’t spoil the game.

Now, minus the run-on sentences and improper grammar, (I am too tired to be bothered with proper grammar) I created in 15 minutes what a team of VERY talented writers did not do in 2 years: Give a satisfying (In my opinion), proper ending. I may not have tied all loose ends, I may not have made it perfect; but hell, neither did they. Bioware made me care about the characters and universe they created, and to end it the way they did is just an unbelievable shame. Everything about Mass Effect 3 was perfect, right up until that ending.

I’m become very well aware of the frustration American writers and Hollywood or commercial companies have outputted the recent 30 or 40 years. I’ve also had the benefit and chance to look at some alternatives, namely oversea market demographics (Japanese anime and visual novels) to see how they do things. People may remember Final Fantasy 8’s ending had an epilogue, which was sort of a travelogue of the main and secondary characters getting together and having fun at the post-victory party, full of humor and individual quirks. The perspective format used was that of a photographer and you saw snapshots of the party, and just from a few pictures alone, rolled out along with the ending credits, you felt nostalgic and pleasantly satisfied with the conclusion. Even though the actual ending didn’t have that sense of closure and epilogue… ness. Overall the Japanese are fans of alternative endings, time travel resets, and providing positive and fun ending epilogues. The only time they get bogged down is when they try to write an ending with a committee. And guess what the main complaint about the “team of ME3 writers” was… that they couldn’t write a good ending. That’s because, as we all know, committees are good for only one of two things: getting blown up by massive explosions to please the player and getting in the way of Shephard as the main hero tries to save the galaxy.

So if a committee of politicians can’t get anything done right, what makes people think a committee of writers is any better? The maximum recommended number for a collaboration novel or short story is Two Authors. Two. Not 5. Not 12. Not 20. Two.

SO for people wondering how talented writers could create good gameplay material that ends up sucking and not making any sense at the end, blame it on the fact that committees have an interesting formula for adding in talent. For every new person that is added too the committee, the total talent pool of the committee is divided by 4. Assuming a committee starts at a minimum of 3 people, that means that a total pool 200 talent from 3 people, will be reduced to less than half their strength if they add another guy with a talent of 200. Most people think adding 200 to 200 would double the group’s talent pool, but the way a hive mind works is that it divides exponentially and ends up with 100, half the talent of the group of 3 to begin with. We’re humans, not AI. We don’t get smarter the more processors are around us. We get dumber, in fact, the more people are around us.

And if playing Mass Effect 1-3 didn’t teach you what it meant to work with committees, real life will.

So to get back to my view of the ending, I’m quite well satisfied. Because I already understood that if you want a good ending, write it yourself. So I’m just going to modify the ending to Mass Effect 3 by my own hand, and just ignore the other stuff. You feel a lot less frustration when you understand how to manipulate “reality” like that. After all, the Japanese concept of multiple realities and branching decision paths in their visual novels already assumes this to be the case. How else could you start a new game, meet the same characters, at the same time, but do completely different things? From a Japanese point of view, there is no “canon” ending. So the ending from Mass Effect 3, for me, is not set in stone. The desire of American companies to create an ending set in stone is pretty inflexible and does not conform to the power or nature of the internet or player client base. A single original creator can create a solid ending, such as the Creator of Babylon 5, including the movie about the Earth-Minbari war, created a great ending. But only if he has creative control of the beginning or end, or at least the end. I doubt Bioware selected one writer and gave him or her the authority to decide how the ending would go. Not after having a team work together for the first 1-3 games. While game play components can fit together almost seamlessly with enough experience, if you have one writer write one character and another writer write the character’s lines for this battle or mission, but at the end of the game, you need someone calling the shots, getting it done, and doing so based upon the “big picture”. And it’s one that will not necessarily please everyone at the committee, company, or fan base level, but it will be Consistent. It will have artistic value and completion. It won’t feel like ME3, where promises were made to the player, but wasn’t fulfilled at the end.

American companies are still nowhere near the level of the Japanese when it comes to awesome endings. Some of the endings to my favorite visual novels such as G Senjou no Mao, had as many high moments as Mass Effect 3’s story, but the ending left me in a complete omnipresent daze for several days. The visual novel employed a double climax ending, with one normal ending which concluded the primary arc, and then when everything seems peaceful and nice, you get the “real ending”. It evokes a horror genre device of bringing back the villain when everyone thought the villain was alive… except there’s no cliff hanger. But that’s just a gimmick, the real strength of G Senjou is how it ended, and it doesn’t matter what gimmicks people try, what matters is the quality of the content. It was powerful enough to stun even me, who is relatively unaffected by Mass Effect 3’s ending, in a sad/depressed sense. Think about how it would affect all the other Americans who actually can get pulled down by ME3’s sorry state of affairs at the end. They would be destroyed, mentally and spiritually, by a Muv Luv Alternative. The quality and power inherent in the emotions such things evoke, is something American consumers desire, but they cannot quite imagine just how powerful it can get in a dramatic and emotional sense. Part of the reason ME3 is so powerful is because it carries over, in terms of character relationships and templates, from Mass Effect 1. So like a long fantasy novel, there’s a degree of investment involved. Cerberus brought Shephard into the fold precisely because they used the investment of the main character in the crew of the Normandy. Emotional investment is a powerful lure.

Perhaps I’ll write up a fan fiction synopsis of the “real ending” for Mass Effect 3, in so far as I envision it at least. It’s certainly something doable for the imagination.

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4 Comments on “Mass Effect 3’s Ending: Comments and Review of the Writing”

  1. Jeff Says:

    Bioware is actually a Canadian company based out of Edmonton Alberta.

  2. ymarsakar Says:

    The company itself is culturally backed by game journalists in the US, which is primarily a Californian thing. Many of the game developments are in SF, for some reason. Silicon Valley is the other side of things.

    I can’t comment on the culture of Edmonton or Alberta, but in the US, Californian culture is pretty unique. Although people these days just call it PC, Leftists, or part of the Technocracy of the Google/Yahoo NSA affiliated spying elites.


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