My interpretation of how Mass Effect 3’s Ending Destroyed the Timeline of Itself

Nick Cramer has an interesting way of presenting things.

In addition to the false advertising which people have pointed out to you- there is also the issue that the story is broken on a fundamental level. It is inconsistent and illogical, and makes no sense in the context it was presented. To the point where people have to pretend “its a dream” or “Indoctrination” or something along those lines for it to even work.

A story is a logical progression of events. Cause and Effect on its most basic level. When the ending began, this all fell apart.

It contradicted itself, introduced no less than a dozen new plot wholes, raised a ton of questions, contradicted key events in mass effect 2, and nearly the entire plot and cause portion of mass effect 1, in addition to being presented in an entirely nonsensical way. If you want me to post spoilers explaining why, I can, but it requires context knowledge of what happened in Mass Effect 1.

This is NOT the equivalent of the Star Wars prequels not being what fans expected and then getting mad- this is as if the Star Wars prequels revealed that Darth Vader actually WASNT Lukes father, and that this new Darth Vader could and never would ever be able to use Force Choke- even though it is clearly shown that he can use it. And then for some reason when the Death Star blows up, it causes every planet in the galaxy to blow up, except for Han Solo, who only lives along with some of the main cast, who are magically alive again without explanation even if half of them died explosive and nasty deaths a few hours prior, because he somehow and for some reason decided to run away from a winning battle, and crash landed on a planet that somehow is not blown up, even though we are clearly shown and told every planet blew up, and then han solo walks out with leia for some half baked adam and eve allusion and then the credits roll.

After the credits you get a short epilogue hinting at more or that the ending is incomplete, and to buy DLC for rest of it or the ‘real’ ending.

Now when you and everyone else bitches about how much this sucks, the media, people in power, and crew of the film all tell you that you are just being entitled, and in no way deserve an ending that works. We aren’t even entitled to ANY ending they say! Be glad we even got one, they say!

Well, I say WRONG! You are selling a product, a piece of entertainment. This product is sold as a story. A story is a logical series of events with a beginning, middle, and end. Mass Effect 3 has one of two things- Either a broken ending (and when you buy a broken product, you are ENTITLED to a refund, or a replacement with a version of the product that works), and a story without an ending (an incomplete product- ENTITLED to a refund or replacement of the product with one that contains what it was sold as.)

Anything else is a disgrace to the consumer. We are paying money for something they said they would give us, only for them to give us something that is not what they said they would give us. They OWE US. We paid them in exchange for a certain service or product they said they would provide. Until they provide us with that service or product, they OWE us for it. We are ENTITLED to it. If they don’t like it, then they should refund us- this way they can no longer OWE us.

That is how business works. It is for this reason money was even fucking invented. It is why an economy even exists. What, does everyone think money is just some magic paper that makes people nice enough to give you something that they feel is worth it? WRONG. Take out a fucking dollar and read it. DO IT. “This note is legal tender for all debts”. In other words, in exchange for this note, the person OWES us whatever they promised in exchange for it. We are entitled to it. Legally. It is a legal bind as strong, if not stronger, than a contract. Either they give us what they said they would, they give us our money back and admit their fuck up, or we take them to court and demand one of the two. Or we could let them think they CONTROL US and that WE OWE THEM, instead of the other way around. That way they can get away with this without any problems.

If you are selling a story, it better be complete. It better not be broken. When it is broken to the point that it actually destroys the story to the previous 2 entries in the series- thus making them owe us a story that works for all 3 games, not just the last one- they better fix it or refund us.

That is all.


I have nothing to do with the ending beyond a) having argued successfully a long time ago that we needed a chance to say goodbye to our squad, b) having argued successfully that Cortez shouldn’t automatically die in that shuttle crash, and c) having written Tali’s goodbye bit, as well as a couple of the holo-goodbyes for people I wrote (Mordin, Kasumi, Jack, etc).

No other writer did, either, except for our lead. This was entirely the work of our lead and Casey himself, sitting in a room and going through draft after draft.

And honestly, it kind of shows.

Every other mission in the game had to be held up to the rest of the writing team, and the writing team then picked it apart and made suggestions and pointed out the parts that made no sense. This mission? Casey and our lead deciding that they didn’t need to be peer-reviewe.d

And again, it shows.

If you’d asked me the themes of Mass Effect 3, I’d break them down as:

Galactic Alliances


Organics versus Synthetics

In my personal opinion, the first two got a perfunctory nod. We did get a goodbye to our friends, but it was in a scene that was divorced from the gameplay — a deliberate “nothing happens here” area with one turret thrown in for no reason I really understand, except possibly to obfuscate the “nothing happens here”-ness. The best missions in our game are the ones in which the gameplay and the narrative reinforce each other. The end of the Genophage campaign exemplifies that for me — every line of dialog is showing you both sides of the krogan, be they horrible brutes or proud warriors; the art shows both their bombed-out wasteland and the beautiful world they once had and could have again; the combat shows the terror of the Reapers as well as a blatant reminder of the rachni, which threatened the galaxy and had to be stopped by the krogan last time. Every line of code in that mission is on target with the overall message.

The endgame doesn’t have that. I wanted to see banshees attacking you, and then have asari gunships zoom in and blow them away. I wanted to see a wave of rachni ravagers come around a corner only to be met by a wall of krogan roaring a battle cry. Here’s the horror the Reapers inflicted upon each race, and here’s the army that you, Commander Shepard, made out of every race in the galaxy to fight them.

I personally thought that the Illusive Man conversation was about twice as long as it needed to be — something that I’ve been told in my peer reviews of my missions and made edits on, but again, this is a conversation no writer but the lead ever saw until it was already recorded. I did love Anderson’s goodbye.

For me, Anderson’s goodbye is where it ended. The stuff with the Catalyst just… You have to understand. Casey is really smart and really analytical. And the problem is that when he’s not checked, he will assume that other people are like him, and will really appreciate an almost completely unemotional intellectual ending. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it.

And then, just to be a dick… what was SUPPOSED to happen was that, say you picked “Destroy the Reapers”. When you did that, the system was SUPPOSED to look at your score, and then you’d show a cutscene of Earth that was either:

a) Very high score: Earth obviously damaged, but woo victory

b) Medium score: Earth takes a bunch of damage from the Crucible activation. Like dropping a bomb on an already war-ravaged city. Uh, well, maybe not LIKE that as much as, uh, THAT.

c) Low score: Earth is a cinderblock, all life on it completely wiped out

I have NO IDEA why these different cutscenes aren’t in there. As far as I know, they were never cut. Maybe they were cut for budget reasons at the last minute. I don’t know. But holy crap, yeah, I can see how incredibly disappointing it’d be to hear of all the different ending possibilities and have it break down to “which color is stuff glowing?” Or maybe they ARE in, but they’re too subtle to really see obvious differences, and again, that’s… yeah.

Okay, that’s a lot to have written for something that’s gonna go away in an hour.

I still teared up at the ending myself, but really, I was tearing up for the quick flashbacks to old friends and the death of Anderson. I wasn’t tearing up over making a choice that, as it turned out, didn’t have enough cutscene differentiation on it.

And to be clear, I don’t even really wish Shepard had gotten a ride-off-into-sunset ending. I was honestly okay with Shepard sacrificing himself. I just expected it to be for something with more obvious differentiation, and a stronger tie to the core themes — all three of them.

Anonymous Source possibly Bioware writer

This story lines up with the Android app story.

That would make these two independent sources solid corroboration. While I personally want 3 independent sources verifying a single claim, this is getting dangerously close to solid. The reason why police ask the same questions in interrogations for 24 hours straight is because it’s amazingly hard for people to come up with stories that are consistent, if they are lying. The CIA and other intel branches couldn’t create fake information this consistently accurate.

Interesting Quotes: (Please note, some of these I’m transcribing from Video’s. I’m trying to be as accurate as possible. Will try rewatching the videos later and updating then.)
Mac Walters on the Star Child/Reapers
“Originally, with the catalyst, the star child at the end of the game, I had written that much more in the guise of a investigative style conversation, where there is something he tells you but then, you get to ask a bunch of questions and you get your questions answered. But then me and Casey talked and decided, lets keep the conversation “High level”. Give you the details that you need to know, but don’t get into the stuff that you don’t need to know. Like “How long have they been reaping?” You don’t need to know the answers to the mass effect universe. So we intentionally left those out”

Casey on after Mass Effect 3
“Whatever we do would likely happen before or during the events of Mass Effect 3, not after”

On delaying the game
In march 2011, he also faced a roomful of Mass Effect developers who expressed concern about hitting the promised holiday release date… New release date set for March 2012. After much deliberation, the CAT mission (or rather, the Prothean mission) had to be removed from the set of tasks. The missions would later be completed as post-release content”

Casey on the End Boss
‘We had the final fight with the Illusive man in the game, but it just felt very Video Gamey. It didnt fit in with the themes. And really, is there a point of the end boss if only for the sake of an end boss?’

The article also states ‘Although art was created for this sequence, it was ultimately dropped because it felt too predictable to end the series on a massive boss battle.’

On Tali’s Face
We eventually decided that she gives you a memento of her pictures, but the team was throwing around a lot of pictures and designs until we decided on something and said “Yup, that’s her”.

On Deciding the End of the Game
The illusive man boss fight had been scrapped… but there was still much debate. ‘One night walters scribbled down some thought on various ways the game could end with the line “Lots of speculation for Everyone!” at the bottom of the page.’

In truth the final bits of dialogue were debated right up until the end of 2011. Martin sheen’s voice-over session for the illusive man, originally scheduled for August, was delayed until mid-November so the writers would have more time to finesse the ending.

And even in November the gameplay team was still experimenting with an endgame sequence where players would suddenly lose control of Shepard’s movement and fall under full reaper control. (This sequence was dropped because the gaemplay mechanic proved too troublesome to implement alongside dialogue choices).

Final Hour by insider on the dev process

So basically we have two corroborations that two individuals wrote the ending by themselves, bypassing the normal Bioware process and bypassing even the critique or feedback of the writing group itself. And that would account for the “quality drop” people noticed for ME3 that happened 5 minutes before the end.

A simple theory, using human incompetence and flaws, to explain verifiable and observable facts.

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