An Open Letter to Dr. Ray Muzyka & Bioware

Dr. Muzyka,

First I want to thank you for taking a moment to address the fans more or less directly. I know many people in the Mass Effect fanbase have been getting frustrated by the relative “wait & see” responses we’ve been getting up to this point. While you didn’t really provide solid answers you at least gave us a time frame in which to expect them, which is more than we had yesterday. I also want to thank you for what has mostly been an amazing gaming experience that has stretched three games and nearly half a decade.

Now to the point: I think most everyone can agree that Mass Effect 3 is a good game, so please stop hiding behind review scores. In my experience with talking with other fans it’s clear that almost everyone likes, nay loves, the first 98% of the game. Sure there might be some small issues or minor complaints, but nothing is really wrong with the game until you reach the ending. There is a lot of emotional satisfaction leading up to the ending. It’s almost like a Mass Effect class reunion. All the old characters show up (as long as they didn’t die,) you do some dancing, get drunk and then wake up on a couch next to Aria. Unfortunately, you wake up start to party some more and now the last bit of the night where you hook up with your old crush is a muddled drunken blur. Completely unsatisfying and putting a dampener on an otherwise AMAZING night.

That being said, I must again request Bioware hide behind the ratings. Sure you’re getting a metacritic score in the 90s from industry reviews, but on that same site you’re getting a 49 from the fans. Now I’m not saying that’s a fair score, because I strongly disagree. Anything below 80% as a rating is just someone being petty. *BUT*. If you’re going to embrace one, you can’t dismiss the other.

Here’s the sad honest truth that most of us know about video game reviews. Many reviewers never finish the games that they review. If you’re a professional in the industry, you’re a busy person. You have deadlines to meet and things to do. You don’t always have time to play through a 30+ hour game, and you surely don’t have time to play through the game twice; which is where the endings honestly get the most frustrating. So we have to take reviews with a grain of salt. How many reviewers finished the game before they published their review? How many had a chance to realize that all the endings were more or less the same, just with a different colored tint?

Seriously, the three endings (four if we’re being really generous) are more or less the same. They are so similar, that the cutscenes sync up and it’s obvious that the CGI was recycled between the endings (click here for a video that perfectly illustrates this point.) At this point, it feels like more effort has been put into the amazing commercials for the game than the actual ending.

In a game that was so character driven, why would anyone assume that ambiguous endings about characters that people have dedicated years to would be okay? Why are there plot holes? How did my squad get back the the Normandy without me? Why was the Normandy running from the fight? These are basic questions that no one asked during development? It seems like somewhere, there is an explanation to these sorts of questions but they might have been cut for the sake of keeping things moving. But why would you do that? I don’t think anyone has complained about an ending being “too long” or “too in-depth.” If you’re going to get wordy and long winded, the last scene of a trilogy of games seems to be the perfect place to do so.

The “Indoctrination Theory” is interesting two fold:
First, the ending was so bad that a large number of fans would rather it all be a dream. Think about that for a moment fellas. The ending is so disliked, people would rather you pull one of the cheapest and most reviled storytelling cop outs of all time. People would rather have Shepard wake up next to Bob Newhart or the Normandy be a ship in a snowglobe. That’s saying something.

Secondly, the story at the end is so rickety and undefined that fans can make a decent argument that it never happened. Sure you can really do that with most stories, but it seem particularly easy with Mass Effect 3. A well written story can leave thing vague without poking holes in their own balloon. And again, this doesn’t really apply to the whole story, just the ending.

All that is to say the following: Remember that you make games for the fans, not the critics. I personally think a brand new ending is asking a little much, but patching up the existing ending is well within reason. Tell us what happened to our crew. Tell us what happened to Shepard. Tell us what happened to all the other races. Are all the galaxy’s military forces now stuck in Sol? How did my squad get back to the Normandy? Why was the Normandy traveling via relay at the end? Fair warning, please don’t charge for this content. I personally won’t pay and there are a lot of people out there just waiting for another reason to be “internet” angry with you guys.

Also, in the meantime… make a video. Interview the Mass Effect 3 team. Ask them questions and let them answer with candor. Why were these choices made? How do they feel about the ending? What went into it? I don’t think I would be so frustrated personally if I just knew what the logic behind all this was.

Anyways, I want to thank you Bioware for one of the defining video game franchises in my nearly 30 years of playing games. While I didn’t like the ending of Mass Effect 3, the Mass franchise has always been a positive note in my experience and I will continue to view it as such. I know it’s not easy to pull off something like Mass Effect, and you guys should be given a lot of credit for taking it this far before your first “major” misstep.

P.S.- The Multiplayer is a lot of fun. I rarely play multiplayer and I find myself not able to put it down. Can’t wait to see what content you have lined up for it.