Monday, April 2, 2012

Yes, I Saw The Jimquisition

Jim Sterling and I have shows on the same network, so yes I've seen his Mass Effect video. Stop Asking.

I think he raises a plethora of good points - certainly framed more thoughtfully than the trolling I've been bombarded with for the last two weeks (guys, a MINUTE on Wikipedia can tell you that Arthur Conan Doyle left Sherlock Holmes untouched for about a DECADE before reviving him, and even then never "re-wrote" The Final Problem. Look shit up before you parrot it from 4Chan) but I still can't fundamentally agree that anything good will come of caving to "Re-Take Mass Effect;" whether EA/Bioware "planned to" or not.

I don't accept the premise that gaming is fundamentally different from film or literature because of the manner of user-engagement, nor that choose-your-own-adventure structuring and letting you adjust the visual look of a main character makes Mass Effect some kind of sea-change, NOR that any of this represents some kind of important shift in the relationship of audience to artist - and if it does, it's a bad shift. Good art and good stories are not made via democracy. The artist is the superior of his/her audience, with the sole caveat that they may choose to render said artist powerless by withholding support. You take that away and all we've got is made-to-order bullshit, which is where cultural stagnation comes from. People who only ever get what they WANT will never discover what the didn't know they NEEDED.

Also, I still say that the precedent this will set is one of the worst things that could possibly happen to this increasingly-ridiculous industry - YES, it's possible that Bioware's back-to-the-drawing-board approach will yield a "better" ending for this ONE game... but that won't be the end of it. This being so high-profile will have an automatically-disasterous effect on fans, telling them that if they throw a tantrum they'll get their way, and on publishers especially: they're already disgustingly risk-averse, and "Remember What Happened To Bioware!" will be a convenient cudgel to bludgeon the ambitions of any creative team that wants to do something risky or unconventional in the medium...

...but, then again, given the number of folks tripping over themselves to insist that "Games AREN'T art! They're PRODUCT! I don't WANT them to be art if it means stuff like this!!!" recently, maybe everyone else will be okay with that; while I just get used to the ever-clearer realization that my remaining actively-engaged in the modern gaming scene is becoming an act of masochism.

Still, let it never be said I can't appreciate a different point of view, and Jim expresses his exceedingly well.


Joshua the Anarchist said...

I gotta say, I'm not even a gamer, but this debate has become increasingly fascinating to me. I don't play video games myself (mostly due to having extremely limited exposure to them as a child, and now as an adult lacking the time &/or money to start from scratch) but I enjoy following game journalists such as yourself for this very reason. It's so interesting as an outsider watching a comparatively new art form and it's community grow and develop like this.

Dan Hoyt said...

Be strong Bob! I still completely agree with you and while I agree Jim has some good points, he is wrong on this subject. I've been getting similar emails since I covered this topic myself last week at The Best Game Site Ever. It actually made me kind of sad to think that people who read my articles have such poor grammar.

James said...

You can accept opposing points of view, Bob? I'm shocked.

Aiddon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aiddon said...

Ah, Sterling, by far the most irritating hack trying to pretend he's an actual journalist.

I have to agree with the notion that this whole fiasco could in fact turn into a cautionary tale for too many game companies trying to push the envelope. Too many games are already committee-designed pablum and if we get people just pandering to audiences instead of asking them to step outside their comfort zone gaming innovation in both narrative and gameplay will grind to a halt. This kind of crap attitude is why I tend to side with developers over gamers.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the artistic license thing. Bioware should be the last word on what the Mass Effect ending is. Meaning that if they choose to change the executive meddling-reeking rushed bullshit that ended their absolutely fantastic series because of fan outcry then that should be within their right, and screw the consequences. If not then fine, but I'm willing to bet that few, if any, of the people who made the series great had a say when someone slapped that ending on there. The ending, as is, just comes off as something an uninvested publisher or marketer forced into being, thinking they could get away with it based on the lackluster crap that has passes for videogame storywriting pretty much all around. I think Jim has a point in that this might get a message across that there actually is a desire for good, well-written conclusions to game. "Remember What Happened To Bioware!" could just as well be used as a follow-up to "We don't want to screw this up by rushing to meet the release date" or something similar.

But whatever, that's speculative. The only point I really would like to make is basically just that the future of the medium, good or bad, isn't Bioware's resposibility. If they feel there is cause to change the ME3 ending then that's their perogative.

Anonymous said...

I just appreciate Jim was able to get his point across in one video instead of two, and without needing to shoehorn in some silly plot.

No Dice said...

How long did it take for Charles Dickens to rewrite the ending to Great Expectations? Or for Bethesda to flesh out the ending to Fallout 3? Or Prince of Persia (2008)? There is plenty of precedence. Art is not immutable. That ship has sailed a long time ago.

And really, this doesn't come down to art. Mass Effect 3 is a commercial product. As with The Sopranos, or with Lost, or Battlestar Galactica, or any other series with divisive endings, Bioware doesn't need to change the ending. But if they don't respond to this outcry, they are going to face a huge loss in sales and the irrevocable tarnishing of their brand. Farns are simply expressing their righteous indignation as disappointed consumers. No one's holding a gun to Bioware's head, aside from some loonies with FTC filings. The ball's in Bioware's court.

MerelyAFan said...

You know as much as Bob is hardly thrilled about the reaction to Mass Effect 3, I will say if nothing else its produced some interesting debate about the merits of fan expectation/demand vs. artistic right/compromise. Its certain produced far more fascinating discussion about games as art than anything since Ebert's quote years back.

James said...

So splitting off the lead writer to make a terrible last-minute ending with symbolism added in by the fans later on with no peer review and slapping it on as the 'ultimate culmination of EVERYTHING you did' is now 'pushing the envelope'? I'd say that publishers would point to Bioware and say 'They made a crappy ending and got forced by their fans into a better one', not 'They tried to do something new and interesting with their shit ending and got flamed for it'. And hey, getting better endings is ONLY a good thing.

Anonymous said...

"I think he raises a plethora of good points - certainly framed more thoughtfully than the trolling I've been bombarded with for the last two weeks (guys, a MINUTE on Wikipedia can tell you that Arthur Conan Doyle left Sherlock Holmes untouched for about a DECADE before reviving him, and even then never "re-wrote" The Final Problem. Look shit up before you parrot it from 4Chan)"

There goes Bob again even straw-manning the comments. Seriously, using 4chan as a insult is just as bad as swinging around the 'entitlement' word these days. As long as it is from the escapist (Jim on ME3, Yahtzee and EC on Other M) Bob will happily listen, but forget it if it is from the comment sections, no matter how coherent or well put together the argument is.

Göran Isacson said...

Yeah, what James said. You want to talk art? Mass Effect 3's ending is not art. It is either a cliff-hanger meant to entice the audience into waiting for the TRUE DLC-ending, if that theory is correct, or a last-minute expression of creative desperation over not being able to write anything GOOD, a non-ending written to be a non-ending on purpose because Bioware thought they could get away with it.

Suffice to say, they couldn't. I really don't think you realize how bad this ending is, Bob. The arguments you made in the video about how fans shouldn't expect to be part of the creative process just because they made a few decisions in the games branching storyline is all true, I agree with that.

But Mass Effect 3's ending is so bad. It is so. So. So. So so so so so so so BAD. It is the exception to your argument that I otherwise agree on. Them going back and doing it right IS the option that respects the art and integrity of storytelling, believe it or not... unless it WAS of course their plan all along to release the real ending later on. If that turns out to be the case, I'll save my slings and arrows in case they decide to charge for it.

Anonymous said...

You know what I like about Jim? He doesn't talk to down to his fans like they're worthless trash. I was hoping all this outcry from his peers would bring his over inflated ego down a peg or two, but NOPE! It looks like its only validated his opinion that he's part of some elite club of commentators, and only their opinion counts, and the rest of us who don't spend our days writing ego stroking sub plots about obese, multi coloured ninjas from a laptop whilst glancing at the scantily clad hooters staff like pigs, can go fuck themselves.

Sylocat said...

I wonder if BioWare could salvage this by issuing a press statement along the lines of, "We wanted to do this new ending all along, but EA made us change it because it didn't go over well with test audiences; and we're not saying that gamers are a bunch of morons who don't know what they want, but..." as a way of preemptively crippling the credibility of any further campaigns.

Aiddon said...

I would actually enjoy that somewhat, if just to indicate to gamers that their massive, easily-bruised egos need to be knocked down a notch. Christ, fan-pandering is what killed any edge the Metal Gear had and I can't see it working any better for any other title. My question is what's going to happen if this supposed new ending doesn't please fans. They are going to pitch ANOTHER FIT and keep telling Bioware to redo it? Any writer or other creative mind would be laughed out of the room by that sort of action. It's no wonder game writing doesn't get any respect from literature, film, or television

antecedentless said...

>before you parrot it from 4Chan
I think Bob has a far more inaccurate straw man for /v/ than religious republicans. Then again, I have not been on /v/ lately, so...

I am sure moot would be more than happy to give Bob a special tripcode on either /v/ or /tv/ like he did for deadmau5 on /mu/

MatsVS said...

"Good art and good stories are not made via democracy."

Of please.

AAA-games are already made by a fucking committee, so to hold them to some strange, arbitrary standard as to how art should or should not be dealt with in regards to the creator/player-paradigm is laughably stupid.

Shitty stories are fixed all the time, in books and films as well. If anything, it's about time video games caught on to that simple fact.

antecedentless said...

>a fucking committee
The auteur theory accepts the premise that truly collaborative art is not art, and there needs to be a single vision guiding everyone.

I firmly disagree. A work of "high" or "fine" art can be an equal labor by multiple artists. This especially applies to narrative art, because entirely different approaches can be applied to the same draft, outline, or "high concept."

B.L.C. Agnew said...

"Good art and good stories are not made via democracy."

Really? So the director, producer, and screenwriter never come to any sort of creative consensus when shooting a film? Oh wait, that happens all the time. Hey, that's how we get good art and good stories like The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark in fact. Hell, one of the most memorable lines in movie history (in Empire as it happens) was an ad-libbed contribution from an actor when the director, writer, and producer were at a loss.

So. . . there's no democratic process there?

And let's not forget that back in the day when studios had more direct control over films that company heads would have a huge amount of creative input, and sometimes multiple directors would be shooting on a single picture - but I guess the genre-defining Adventures of Robin Hood doesn't count as good art, huh?

Not that using the same restrictions for all forms of art/entertainment gets us anywhere. Just because you say "No, games aren't that different from books/movies" doesn't make that statement true. YES THEY ARE. PERIOD. Not just because they involve the player, and not just because they are far more financially tied to their consumer base. But because on any given game, there are literally dozens to HUNDREDS of people working on it. Meaning that even if there's "only" a few writers and gameplay directors, that's still a LOT of fingers in the pot, and that's not even counting the amount of control a publisher like EA exerts over a mega-million franchise like Mass Effect.

Again Bob, DO YOUR RESEARCH. The lead writer of the original Mass Effect left halfway through the second game's development. Mass Effect 3's original ending was reportedly scrapped only a few months from the game's release. So we're looking at something slapped together at the last minute so the publisher can stick to a pre-scheduled release date that had next to no creative input from the person who had originally begun shaping the franchise.

And you're saying that the fan outrage is what compromises the artistic integrity here? That the invitation BioWare printed on an endgame screen to enjoy future DLC being greeted with "Well you can start with giving the franchise the send-off it deserves" is what will set the medium back?

That's bullshit. BioWare has been designing the franchise around the fans for years. Fans loved certain things, they critiqued certain things, and so the games changed in HUGE ways. That's the artistic statement that BioWare has been making since it started this series.

So when the end of Mass Effect 3 said "Look forward to DLC" the consumers said "Okay, but here's what we want." It's that simple.

Mads said...

The artist is the superior of his/her audience, with the sole caveat that they may choose to render said artist powerless by withholding support.
Define this. Elaborate on this.

How may they withhold support, in which manners may they do it. Describe exactly what you mean.

And then tell me why this is how it has always been, and even how it should be.

Because if you can't or won't, then I'll simply argue that this is exactly what the Retake movement is doing.

I don't mind your criticism, but it's so general, so unspecific in it's analysis, so as to render it completely irrelevant; I feel like putting in a "citation needed" for the sentence I quoted because it's just completely unexplained, even though it's the pivotal point of this whole debacle.

antecedentless said...

> So the director, producer, and screenwriter never come to any sort of creative consensus when shooting a film
The word you are looking for is oligarchy.

Anonymous said...

Did Bob watch the Jimquisition?

Anonymous said...

So basically what you're saying is that art can never be changed, game companies can't be held accountable to their fans and that this whole fiasco is "setting a dangerous precedent" despite the fact that Fallout 3 and Prince of Persia 2008 changed their endings.

I am quite fascinated by what you said toward the end about masochism, does that mean you're going to pack your shit and stop Game Overthinker?

Anonymous said...

"I don't accept the premise that gaming is fundamentally different from film or literature because of the manner of user-engagement,"

Then you are wrong. End of story. It is a simple and irrefutable fact of the medium and your refusal to acknowledge that shows that on a truly fundamental level, you don't understand how videogames work.

Deadpool said...

If you go to a restaurant and they give you bad food, you don't pay for it, right? Cooking is art too...

If you're an architect, and you design a building that just doesn't work properly, aren't you expected to do it over, and do it RIGHT this time?

Larry Niven has said more than once that one of the big reasons he made a sequel to Ringworld (his most popular novel) was that fans ran the math, and were walking up and down his hotel hallways dring a con shouting "The Ringworld is unstable!" His sequel RetCons many of the assumptions in the original.

Movies using test audiences all the time. As Good As It Gets originally had Nicholson's character just be a douchebag. Audiences didn't relate, so they added the OCD thing to make him more likely...

Akira Toryama planned to have Gohan be the main character in the last season, but brought Goku back because people liked him better.

When Peter David took over the Hulk, he RetConed past story out as a dream by Nightmare.

Broken Steel ALREADY RetConed the ending to a game because people shouted enough.

When a game's gunplay is considered broken or unbalanced, a patch (FREE patch, mind you) to fix it. In a game where the story is at least as important as the gameplay (arguably more) why SHOULDN'T the game fix a broken ending?

Fixing problems fans don't like is something that happens in cooking, architecture, books, TV shows, movies, comics and even GAMES themselves. What's the difference here?

As for bad precedents, giving MORE money to people who put out a flawed product is much worse than "developers give fans what they want."

Anonymous said...

Great now we have that fat tub of slop's contribution.

Sylocat said...

@Deadpool: "Akira Toryama planned to have Gohan be the main character in the last season, but brought Goku back because people liked him better."

Um, that's a pretty good reason NOT to pay attention to fans.

No Dice said...

Certainly, fans and focus groups are often wrong. The ending to I am Legend was changed to appease dumb focus groups. The point still stands that whether or not a post-release edit is of good quality, editing a finished work doesn't mean any of the artistic integrity is being taken away. And I'd say the majority of people who want ME3's ending to be changed do not want Bioware to change it to a specific way. We just want something good. How can anyone defend three endings that are virtually identical except for color scheme? How can anyone defend that under any criteria?

Anonymous said...


I thought it was more like: the fans preferred Goku, so Toriyama's editors pressured him to make Goku the main character again.

Anonymous said...

So I'm guessing Bob didn't read the dozens of articles from Forbes and various other media that defended the 'entitled' side.

Guess those contributors at Forbes cited 4chan too much.

Anonymous said...

Bob, I get the point you're trying to make, and as such I can tell you you aren't making it very well. Ep68 barely passed decent as it was at least civil, but last week's big picture was little more than a hissy fit insulting anyone that might tell an artist what to do without any real serious talk as to why they shoudn't even before a piece of art/product is made.

I get that art is there to push society foreward and it can't do that if it produces safe entertainment pablum to fit the safest audience, and we could go on about how much "art" is compromised already to meet it's ultimate audience, or the BS behind auteur theory, or how even the "artist" can suffer fanboy blindness from time to time (see Spider-Man: One More Day) for a while, but beyond that, any message in "art" is lost if it doesn't connect with it's audience. I'm sure there was a message to ME3's ending, and I think I know what it was, but between poor writing and broken marketing promises, no one really cares to find out. And the fallout: even if they got Dragon AGe 3 perfect, how many people would avoid it out of fear of some last minute jerk around by the director, or at the very least, hold off for a used copy from gamestop. It's that fear that we will "vote with out wallets" in the future that will prompt an ending change, not the outcry itself.

I get what you're afraid of, that this will set the precident for something like the cut of Final Fantasy 7 where Aerith lives or a complete do-over of the star Wars Prequels, or a rewrite of Harry Potter that's Harry x Hermione, and most of the time I'd agree with you entirely. But while I think this may be the rare time the fans got it right, I do respect your side, at least when it comes without the condesention. It's sad I found more maturity on the topic from a guy that brings phalic objects on as props than I did from you.

Anonymous said...

"...and "Remember What Happened To Bioware!" will be a convenient cudgel to bludgeon the ambitions of any creative team that wants to do something risky or unconventional in the medium... "

Or maybe it will be a motto to warn the industry against slapdash, bullshit endings which lack artistic integrity and narrative coherence.

Sylocat said...

@Anonymous(1): "I thought it was more like: the fans preferred Goku, so Toriyama's editors pressured him to make Goku the main character again."

Which also just happens to feed into the line I was hoping BioWare would sell to head off further whinefests.

@Anonymous(2): "Or maybe it will be a motto to warn the industry against slapdash, bullshit endings which lack artistic integrity and narrative coherence."

No, it won't. That's the point: It would be great if publishers would take the correct lesson from this, but that just plain ain't gonna happen. And by deluding ourselves that it will, we're crippling the long-term potential of the medium in the name of short-term self-gratification that the fans will forget about in three months no matter what BioWare winds up doing or not doing.

Anonymous said...

"The artist is the superior of his/her audience"

This kind of pretentiousness is why I am growing increasingly frustrated with the people hiding behind the "artistic integrity" argument.

It might hold water if people actually were complaining because it was not a happy ending, but this is a strawman that gets pulled out way too often. No, people are complaining because the ending is simply bad - so bad it arguably actively compromises the artistic merit of the game itself.

Nobody who pulls the "artistic integrity" card seems to be willing to even entertain the volumes of complaints that the ending is riddled with plot holes, is a literal Deus Ex Machina, and is simply poorly done overall. It's bad art, and should be fixed if only for that reason alone.

Popcorn Dave said...

Bob, you are such an arrogant shit. Your ME3 videos were an absolute joke - you didn't play the games, you didn't listen to the arguments, you made up a ludicrous slippery slope about how if you listen to fans once you'll never be able to make anything interesting again - the whole thing was just embarrassing. You got a ton of GREAT responses to those videos: long, well-argued comments backed up with mountains of evidence. How fucking DARE you call them all "trolls" and accuse them of parrotting 4chan just because they don't have a cunting Internet show?

Jim's video is pretty good, because unlike you, he (a) researches topics (b) respects the people that watches his shows, and (c) most important of all, he actually LIKES FUCKING VIDEO GAMES. However, if you'd actually read the "trolling" you were "bombarded" with (diddums), you'd realise he's making pretty much the exact same arguments that Jannie, Mads, and many, many other "trolls" already put to you. The ONLY reason you're treating him any differently is because he's got a web show, and you think that only people with web shows (i.e. "artists") are worth listening to.

Actually, why don't you post some examples of "trolling" so we can all have a look? I've just looked through the Episode 68 comments section and I honestly can't see any trolling at all. Maybe there's some on the Escapist or ScrewAttack forums, but c'mon man, there's always going to be a bit of trolling on communities that size. Trolling is where you post something insulting and "edgy" just to get attention, or, to put it another way, it's exactly what YOU'VE been doing for the last few weeks.

Anonymous said...

I believe the complait is that the game was building up to a grand ending. Happy/sad it was going to be epic as promised to b delivered. However the ending received appears to be rushed slapped on at the last miute scrap that sure as hell would not fly in the realm of movies or even books. Hell wounder how bob would like it if his next mario game was sworn to be the last game ever and they slapped on a final bowser boss level where you jumped over one pit and then faced an ending cut scene with a quick time event to end the series. no puzzles no bad guys just a simple press x to not die sequence at endgame. Im pretty sure bob would be screaming for miyamoto's head on a platter in his next video if this were the case.

Anonymous said...

The situation is certainly interesting in its own right. It's obvious that Bioware intended to chock its players. Whether it was one big attempt at creating a controversy for publicity or a genuine will to end the saga, let's say, unconventionally is still unclear. I would be very interested in knowing the thought process behind it. Sadly, we probably never will.

About that "debate" on "re-taking" the ending and the player versus author issue surrounding it: there seems to be two sides among fans. On one hand people defend the inherent right of the author(s) to not give in to the fan's demands. Most arguments being the "artistic integrity", the "superiority of the author over the audience" and "populism destroys art".

On the other hand people wish to change the ending for "it's badly made/written, it has plot holes, it's melodramatic, Bioware betrayed their word, it's our right to get the ending we want for it's a product we paid for" etc.

Stop kidding yourselves, all of you. All art is a product that seeks to sell itself to it's target audience. This holds true whether the currency is money or fame. And in this case especially we have a product/art made with money as the primary means and goal. However Bioware WILL decide (if they haven't already) if they want to change it or not. It's not a question of "should we?" They CAN and WILL if they think the advantages will be there.

I don't particularly care about the outcome (though I would lean towards not changing because hey, I bet they had a good laugh at Bioware, and I laugh with them). The consequences are much more interesting in my eyes. And I bet that whatever the answer is, it will change the video game landscape, for better or for worse.

Josh said...


Not that you'll pay attention to anything I say, or if you do you'll just chalk me up as someone else parroting opinions from 4chan, but I must say I remain unconvinced by your argument.

Show me the evidence that the artist is "THE SUPERIOR" to the audience. You seem to remain ignorant of some of the truest aspects of the creative process. Are writers unbeholden to test readers and editors? Are film directors above the opinions of focus groups, producers, and screenwriters? You seem to have a romanticized ideal of art creation that has little to do with the actual creative process.

From where I stand, if a so-called 'artist' stands alone on a mountain top, dispensing what they consider to be art when it's really just smears of excrement on copies of Twilight and claiming anybody who points this out "just doesn't get it," they're not being an artist. I don't think I have to elaborate on what that behavior shows them to be.

You are continually invalidating any opinion that is not (a) your own, or (b) spoken by someone else in the industry with their own outlet viewed by thousands of people or more. Do you really believe that one's opinion is only valid if it gets a certain number of hits per day on the Internet? That is the impression you're giving. I'd love for it to be wrong. But the evidence is pretty damning at this point.

Let me put it to you this way: would you allow a sound editor, a screenwriter, or a CGI artist to work with you on the incidental little bits you put into your GameOverthinker videos? Even if they were to improve those bits, would tell them to stay far away, as they may 'tarnish' your 'vision'? Is your work, in your opinion, so perfect, so immutable, so immaculate, that no peon dare touch it lest it lose all glamour and become "made-to-order bullshit" as you put it?

The impression you give is that no, you wouldn't, because you as the artist are superior to the audience. By your logic, you, as the GameOverthinker, are superior to each and every one of us.

Think about that, would you?

Sam Robards, Comic Fan said...

I'm pretty much in total agreement with Bob on this one, though I do have one caveat: I'm mainly concerned with HOW they plan on altering the ending.

I'm first and foremost a comic book fan, so I'm used to retcons and things of that nature. However, retconning doesn't affect the original work. For example, despite the fact that Spider-Man's marriage was wiped from continuity, I can still go back and read the wedding issue as it was originally written.

I'd prefer it if BioWare makes this revised ending an addendum to the original ending since you could still go back and see how they originally ended it.

However, if they alter/remove the original ending, THAT I have a severe problem with.

I think the situation as a whole does set a negative precedent, but BioWare can limit the scope of the transgression by how they implement this change.

As a tangent, I think this illustrates the game industry's need for actual, dedicated writers and not developers/guys who occasionally write stuff.

Yes, the bulk of a project's money is going to go to tech-related concerns, but if gaming wants to move forward as a narrative medium, it needs writers that are capable of telling stories better than what currently pass for writers in the games industry.

I'm not saying that all games have crappy stories, I'm saying that games need to tell those stories better.

I love the Metal Gear Solid series but I can admit that the writing is stiff and incredibly expository. Part of that has to do with translation, I'm sure, but it can still be tweaked by writers and editors over here to make it more palatable for an English-speaking audience.

Xythe said...

I'm really starting to feel like I'm the only person in the world (I know I'm not, just an expression) who thought the ME3 was simply outstanding. And, no, I don't buy the "Indoctrination Theory" (although I do agree they were probably trying to indoctrinate him, they’d be pretty stupid not to go after such an important target, which explains a lot of the stuff the theory brought up). I'm not going to go into full detail, but I thought it was great when I played it, and the more I've thought and read about it, the better it seems to me.


You blow up the Mass Relays, everything in Mass Relay containing systems (including Earth) is obliterated as a result according to established lore. Survivors inhabit a shattered galaxy of war ravaged worlds, interstellar travel is impossible on the scale it was before. The 50,000 year cycle came about, the power driving the Reapers succeeded, the survivors think they won and tell stories of “The Shepard”, they will not prepare for the next cycle. You charged around the galaxy for hours and hours over 3 games, you fought, killed, sacrificed friends, died (twice), and changed absolutely nothing. Everything happened that was going to happen, and will go on to happen again. I was so god damn happy when the credits rolled.

Anonymous said...

@Sam Robards, Comic Fan

I believe the prevailing notion is that if Bioware went with the Indoctrination Theory, the new ending would be plonked down after the original.

It's a lot easier to to add on than it its to actually change content in a major way, and from Bioware's perspective, the fans did their work already. Write up some new dialogue, new in engine cutscene, bang, boom, package, door, out. Fandom rejoice.

Sylocat said...

@Popcorn Dave: Given that your entire post consists of deliberately misrepresenting and strawmanning Bob's points in order to give yourself a better excuse to get self-righteously indignant (IE, exactly what you are falsely accusing everyone else of doing... I can see you've been learning a lot from Jannie, haven't you?), and downright ignoring any of the actual specific points that have been made... either by Bob or by any of the commenters who happen to agree with him, such as, oh for instance, me... I think you need look no further than yourself to see a perfect example of the trolling that has gone on.

Aiddon said...

for some relief, a Mega Man X fan film:

Popcorn Dave said...

Yes, I realise my own post was a bit trollish. Still, if you and/or Bob look seriously at the response to these videos on the Blogger sites, there's been very, very little trolling. Yeah, probably the Escapist and ScrewAttack sites trolled a bit, but still, many, many people have made comprehensive, thoughtful responses to his videos. There's been a lot of bile, yes - there always is with Bob - but it's well-argued bile, and Bob is being disingenuous claiming he's been "bombarded by trolls" only to praise Jim Sterling for making basically the same arguments that the "trolls" have been making.

I'm not accusing "everyone else" of anything (FWIW, your posts have been good even if I don't quite agree).

Sylocat said...

Could you point me to a comment that has actually addressed MY response to their responses? Because I can't seem to find anyone addressing the points that I've actually been making. Instead what I see is people cherry-picking quotes from Bob's posts/videos to quote out of context in order to dodge the actual issues.

I've laid out the problem: You can claim that "art doesn't matter," and yet art is what drew people's interest into Mass Effect in the first place. And if publishers start buying into the notion that the work of these *gasp* artists can be tossed out at a moment's notice if the internet screams loud enough, it will make the developers even more risk-averse and pablum-oriented than they already are, and no writer worth a damn will ever want to work for the big-name publishers. Which means Mass Effect won't happen again.

Yes, the ending to ME3 sucks. But if they change it in response to an internet tantrum, it'll be crippling the long-term potential of the medium just for short-term self-gratification.

(oh, am I repeating myself? Sorry, but I didn't get any responses the first time. That's kind of my point)

Now, if people don't want to dignify ME with a response, whatever. But now Bob has made an entire post saying the same thing that I've been saying all along, and nobody is producing a coherent response to it when HE says it either. They're still just quoting other lines out of context and deliberately inferring the worst intent possible to those individual snippets of text.

Kyoraki said...

" And if publishers start buying into the notion that the work of these *gasp* artists can be tossed out at a moment's notice if the internet screams loud enough, it will make the developers even more risk-averse and pablum-oriented than they already are, and no writer worth a damn will ever want to work for the big-name publishers. Which means Mass Effect won't happen again."

This is what I don't get. The whole idea that publishers will start paying too much attention to the mob is based purely on assumption, without any real evidence to back it up. If it was true that just one high budget game can ruin the industry, then how come the same never happened with Fallout 3, arguably a much bigger game than Mass Effect could ever hope to be? The theory just doesn't add up at all.

Xaos said...

"I will say if nothing else its produced some interesting debate about the merits of fan expectation/demand vs. artistic right/compromise."

But, there isn't any artistic right to be had here. The reason people say the ending is a product is because it was treated as one.

They rushed the ending to release it. If they felt confident in the artistic merit of their vision, they could just ride out the criticism. The fact that they caved so easily means that they didn't have a vision, at all.

Actually (and I feel this hasn't been stressed enough), for all this talk about "Made-to-order" endings, the simple fact of the matter is, I haven't heard what this "Democratically agreed upon" ending is supposed to be.

I'm not sure that the fans actually want or are suggesting a specific ending, as opposed to just pointing out what's bad about the ending. Part of the joy of an ending is not knowing exactly how its going to turn out.

Therefore, most fans have limited themselves to pointing out wants with the ending as is, and giving vague directions on how Bioware might go about writing a new ending.

(Well, aside from the Indoctination theory, which is basically "The original ending was just a dream", which means you STILL have to write a new ending from scratch, or keeping the original ending but adding a Renegade Option that lets you tell Mr. Star Baby to go fuck himself and let everyone fight to the death with the Reapers. Because, in the complete bullshit that is the "ending", that really is the only option that really makes sense.)

Anyway, Bob, I have a question for you:

Let's say I am one of these "disgustingly risk-adverse" Publishers, but I also like to think of myself as something approaching a rational actor. What lesson SHOULD I take from the Mass Effect ending debacle?

I mean, it happened, Bob. But exactly WHAT happened? What is there to be observed?

Far too many "journalists" have expressed more concern with undermining the Retake Mass Effect movement's numbers than with actually figuring out how this happened.


After ages and ages of 1)Shadow the Hedgehog leaving Sonic and friends to be eaten by Black Arm larvae, 2)NWN2's too-damn-hard final dungeon ending with "Rocks fall, everyone dies", 3)Drawn to Life 2 making the entire series out to be a dream and everyone DYING when the dreamer wakes up- I mean really that was just cold blooded- 4)Chrono Cross being basically a giant slap in the face of Chrono fans, but we took it just to keep the franchise alive, and 5) the fact that "Call of Juanez" fucking EXISTS in the first place...why did this happen now?

...Also, what would you say is necessary for gamers to do who want better writing in general in games? I mean, I don't know what else the Retake Mass Effect people were supposed to do other then make a direct attack on Bioware's wallet and demand refunds en masse over the endings.

I mean, there's a lot of this argument floating around: "Who cares about story? Its a game. Nobody is going to mention the ending when they review it. The story just doesn't matter."

Which tells me that the worst thing we could do for the medium as an art form when a major series ends on such a huge change to Genre, focus, central conflict, (all at the expense of Narrative coherence) as the ending does, is to shrug our shoulders and say "Oh well, at least the part of the game where I shot stuff was cool."

You tell me what's the right thing to do.

Mads said...

@ Sylocat

You want a response? I'll give you a response. I don't think you adressed any of my points at all, but fine, I'll play ball in your court if you won't come to mine.

And if publishers start buying into the notion that the work of these *gasp* artists can be tossed out at a moment's notice if the internet screams loud enough, it will make the developers even more risk-averse and pablum-oriented than they already are, and no writer worth a damn will ever want to work for the big-name publishers. Which means Mass Effect won't happen again

Planescape Torment was largely written by Chris Avellone. To date, it's one of the most wordy games ever produced. The magnitude of the writing of that game dwarfs other titles like Deus Ex, Baldurs Gate, Fallout, and all of the final fantasy game.

Now I don't want to argue about whether the writing has actual quality to it; that's not the point. The point is, a ton of people do think the writing has actual quality.

Show me 10 people who think the mass effect series has quality writing, and I will bet you 5 to 1 that each of them will also think that way of Planescape: Torment.

...Avellone wasn't a writer before writing a ton of things for torment. He actually took whatever measly game industry jobs he could get, and simply advanced to that position.

Are you saying that a person like him would somehow no longer have any passion for developing games? That someone like him wouldn't want to do his writing there? Because I think that's what you're saying.

If that's what you're saying, well, we can go ask him. He has a twitter. I'm sure I can boil the question down to 140 characters.

Will you admit to being wrong if he contradicts you and argues that he burns for games and would clearly have been willing to go into writing for games even if this thing had occured when he was 15 ?

"Yes, the ending to ME3 sucks. But if they change it in response to an internet tantrum, it'll be crippling the long-term potential of the medium just for short-term self-gratification."

This get's back to my points, which you don't adress. What's the rule here for what hurts the medium, exactly?

I want to know in great detail, and since you apparently know, I'll ask:

Suppose there were no critics who disliked the current ending. Suppose only the friends and family of the developers and publishers offered criticism, in private. Suppose the developers listened to this criticism and put out an alternative ending via DLC.

Would that hurt the medium? Or is it the fact that there have been internet protestations that means it hurts the medium? A sort of catch 22: If you're a critic and you gain enough influence and mindshare to have a change be necessary, then the developer actually cannot make the change?

Is that the rule? So long as you're inefficient in your criticism there's no problem?

And what types of changes are ok and aren't considered artistic, for that matter? Game developers patch games all the time. Is it only storyline patching that would be bad for the medium? Or would patching Garrus face (which has a buggy low-res texture in ME1) be bad for the medium?

In fact, is any storyline patching ok? Or is it only not ok when it's in response to fan criticism? What exactly damages the medium?

Mads said...

And then, there's your nebulous allusion to having lower quality talent and more scared developers working for the big publishers resulting in suckier games. To which I reply, with dripping sarcasm, Oh yeah. Definitely.

Like how for comics, after writers and artists started relenting on demands of long term campaigns, the overall quality of the medium decreased. Or how movies just weren't the same after a movie studio finally relented and produced Serenity.

Or how all movies are almost certainly going to be suckier from now on now that Michael Bay has caved on his artistic vision due to public pressure for a transformers 4.

Yes. Clearly, these tamperings with artistic vision are in fact not just bad for certain specific products, they're bad for the medium as a whole because nobody is interested in making quality products anymore. After all, the people involved have standards, and would rather go pick corn on a farm than sully themselves by being artisting under influence.


Of you want to prove your point, show me. Show me where listening to the audience, in another medium, has produced a poorer medium. Or show me in the games medium, if you prefer. Just show me _something_ to back up your assertion that critical influence tends to drag a medium down, as a whole.

Sylocat said...

Well, Mads, that touches on another point that people seem to be (deliberately?) missing: There is a difference between listening to feedback and bowing down to whiners. And I reiterate what else I said: At this point, too much bile has been spewed for it to all be shrugged off. We're past that point now, thanks to the Retakers making death threats and filing FTC complaints.

(and I don't care what the exact percentage of the Retake movement doing that is. Regardless of their actual numbers, you have allowed those people to become your public face. When you say, "The fact that they're doing this just proves they care!" or somesuch nonsense, that's complicity if not endorsement)

And yes, perhaps "no writer worth a damn" was a bit hyperbolic. But my point about risk aversion stands. After this mess, the line "Remember what happened to BioWare!" will become THE catchphrase of choice for marketing hacks trying to squash creative decisions by developers.

Now, for some specific points:

"Of [sic] you want to prove your point, show me. Show me where listening to the audience, in another medium, has produced a poorer medium."

Easy. After Watchmen and DKR changed the (American) comics industries, fans were crying out for "grim and gritty" superhero reboots, and so we got all that bullshit that, well, that got talked about in an early TGO episode, if you recall. Which led to the Comics Crash.

And now, with the reboot, remember that little issue with the superheroines? Well, the comics publishers are listening to their audience, their audience of basement-dwelling white males who pitch a fit if comics pander to anyone except them, and look at the "wonders" it's done for the medium.

Meanwhile, in movies, we have marketing teams with the power to override creative decisions in movies, and even the merchandizers are able to walk on set and tell the director to change things around to make it more ad-friendly. I could also point you to the specific examples of I Am Legend, Blade Runner, a zillion other fine movies that were butchered because the test audiences were apparently having an off day.

Anonymous said...

Okay Sylocat, a couple of points:

1) It's art is not a justifiable excuse for crappy output. I won't argue there is a fair amount of fanboyism in the retake ME3 thing, but there's just as much analysis of something very poorly done. Even objectivly it drastically shifts the tone and central conflict in the last 5 minutes, offers a poorly explained / condridictory explaination to the Reapers actions, and offers up only a forced reconsiliation to the conflict that again, doesn't make a lot of sense among other problems that would have it flunk even a high schooler's creative writing class. Deflection of criticism aside,, what can this mean for games as art in the future? How can games be taken seriously as a medium when those outside looking in to validate have a strong example of total disregard for narative structure even as interactivity is lost and we're mostly watching a movie? We have enough trouble finding game stories worth taking seriously wihtout saying it's fine if they fall apart in the name of "art". Regrettable, no one has given a clear breaking point between legitimate fan input and whining, and without it, it can fall to be "whining is when the fans want me to change something I don't want to" or some other purely subjective line.

2) Re-written ending or lack of support for future games, the result's the same. You maintain that if forced to change the endiong, companies will be more risk adverse to upsetting fans. True. However if Bioware's next title flops and the forums are full of "ME3 was such a disapointment so I didn't bother" comments, the same outcome occurs. Companies learn that pissing off the audience hurts sales and becomes more risk adverse. Pretty much any "art" sold commercially will be heavially influenced by the audience desires. There's no real way to remove this reality without somehow demonitizing any artistic project such that no one is afraid of lost sales current or future. Claiming that retractng something due to fan demand is somehow more compromising to art and artists than basic capitalism is somewhat shortsighted.

Art can only have an impact if it doesn't alienate the consumer in the process. I understand why the default reaction is to assume fans are just being whiny about something trivial or out of fear of the different: it's usualy true. Still, I worry about the arrogance behind the idea. You're right to question what moral the industry might learn from this as they don't seem to get a lot of what's outright said about things like piracy or the used games market. But then, that's caused by someone beleiving the fans don't know what they're talking about and shouldn't be listened to because they don't know business. I'm not sure I like giving the writers and director the same level of narcicism.

Xaos said...

You know....there's a lot of "Because fans got angry, these people will do this and that will QUASH CREATIVITY!"

I have simple question in return.

Why does that have to be our fault? Why do the fans who payed for the product have to be more responsible than everyone else?

Our reaction was just as natural and automatic as you imagine the industry might do.

Also, quite frankly, as something of a writer myself, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that I DON'T WANT THE FREEDOM TO -ACCIDENTALLY- DESTROY MY OWN SETTING. I might never be rid of it, due to whole "accident" thing, but that's somethings that literally happened with this ending. The writers didn't even seem to notice they killed everyone.

In fact, wouldn't another campaign making sure

Sylocat said...


1. It may not be a "justifiable excuse," but it's a price we have to pay. I'd love them to change the ending, but I've already explained why we're past the point of reasonable debate. Yes, "feedback" and "whining" are a difference of degree and not of kind, but there is still a distinction, and it's an important one. The ones who made FTC complaints, tried to file lawsuits, and made death threats, crossed that line in a big way, and the allegedly-more-"reasonable" members of the Retake movement expressed solidarity with them. It's too late to drop it all after that, because there's no way it can stop here.

2. BioWare's next game won't flop. You know perfectly well that for all the internet's yammering about boycotting EA, they keep buying EA's games anyway, so they sure as hell won't stop getting games from one of its GOOD subdivisions.

I might also add that you're unable to "objectively" state the ending sucks. You might want to read Devin Faraci's defense of it. I personally disliked it, but Devin made a very interesting defense and raised a lot of good points.

Hyperme said...

I could civil arguement without personal attacks, but then I took a 4chan strawman to the brain.


"I don't accept the premise that gaming is fundamentally different from film or literature because of the manner of user-engagement"






They are different. What is the point in making a game if you don't use the tools given to you? No other medium is interactive in the same way as gaming is. A film is obviously different from a book. Any idoit, even you, can except this. One has sound and is based around visual splendor, while the other is based around text and narritive text. Hell, each have their own ways of being all subtle and forshadowing things.

So games must, by extension, be equally different. It's not difficult. In a game, no matter how much you whine about this artist vision bullshit, the driving force is, shocking as this may seem, the player. The Player. Without The Player, a game is nothing. A static, purposeless shadow of a world, where princesses remain kidnapped, and Reapers reap without worry. But with the addition of The Player, things happen. The princess is saved, the war is won, Robot-Space-Cthullu may be slowed and even stopped. Unlike films, where the characters run round, achieve something and fail to art, since films can't art. Well they can, but usually not very well.


Anyhow, open your eyes and apply logic. Remember Logic? The part of your brain that wonders why you do videos without researching the topic. I think he lives with Common Sense and Journulistic Standards. I here they're pretty cool guys, eh stop you looking so stupid and don't afraid of fallacies.

I was going to say some stuff about points, but you probably won't listen, since a small moon could orbityour ego.

Anonymous said...

When I find Jim's thoughts on video games are more researched and thoughtful than Bob's, I know that GO has really gone downhill.

Well, I guess he still has those storylines of his...

Smashmatt202 said...

It almost seems like people stopped reading what Bob had to say after the first two sentences. Way to be mature guys. :/

Anonymous said...

Only as mature as one who called everyone "whiny brats" that would send the medium back a decade. That said people who hated Adam from Other M held a subconscious jealousy over the fact that he was ordering Samus around and not them. That said anyone who remotely enjoyed Transformer films shouldn't be allowed to vote. That tried to make the connection that Halo was racist.

Bob's level of maturity only brings about like minded souls.

Jannie said...

I love how almost no one tries to defend the ending and yet somehow everyone who DOES defend Bioware says it is due to wanting to protect some vaunted "artistic merit". So which is it--is it a really great, artistic ending or is it a shitty ending, because the two are in fact mutually exclusive. If there is some deep, meaningful thing to be had here then you'd be able to defend the ending ON THAT POINT and not some nebulous notion about art and the supposed power dynamics of story tellers and consumers...and if it IS just a shit, slapped on ending (and so far even the defenders admit this, INCLUDING Bob) then it has no artistic element to protect in the first place so what's the big deal?

This is why games should NEVER be compared to movies or books, because those mediums do, as Bob pointed out, have a rigid and unchanging power dynamic between the creators and the consumers. Games allow change and player interaction, they're a completely new, organically evolving media that is changing as we speak and they don't and CAN NOT be shackled by the same rules their forebears did for the same reason we can't be shackled by the same limitations our neanderthal ancestors were. We're better, more evolved, more capable and adaptable, able to change and learn and grow. They weren't, that's why they're not around anymore.

I'm gonna go a step further here:

This is a bellwether moment for gaming. If some segments of the community have their way, games will always be trapped in the same box that movies and books and tv are. If they lose, and we win, then gaming will become something far more important than "art", and far greater than those other mediums, it will be the first medium where the consumer and the creators are on equal footing and where the consumer's interaction with the product directly changes it, in game and out.

If games are going to evolve then we have to stop giving a shit about movies or books or whatever arcane rules they cling to and move forward into the future with the rules WE MAKE. Maybe it's just fate that Mass Effect, a game about choice, is the game that will lead to this crossroads but in the end I believe that in games as in life evolution will win out over stagnation. I think that at this point the resistance to change, not changing the ending but change in general, change in gaming, is starting to die off.

And if that means that games don't get "taken seriously" by movie critics and the too-cool-for-school arthouse cliques then thank Christ for it. I'd rather be part of something that will matter than something that's popular. And make no mistake, that is what this is, every time someone says "games will never be taken seriously if XYZ" they're appealing to popularity. It's saying that unless we're "taken seriously", whatever that means, then our accomplishments and our goals and our culture doesn't matter. Never once of course is the other suggested, that if gaming, the biggest form of mass media this century all told, doesn't take movies or books seriously anymore they'll never catch up.

That isn't an argument it's a logical fallacy, and worse yet, it's a stupid one.

Or as an article from the UK on the subject said: "It's like an old, irrelevant king complaining that the young, strong knights refuse to show him respect". (paraphrased)

Jannie said...

I'd also like to point out that trying to create a story, over several games, where the player's different choices and consequences of those choices directly effect things like who is and isn't alive in the next game and so on...that is far more creative and "risky" (whatever THAT buzz word means) than something esoteric and silly like the ending of 2001 or Brazil or whatever overly complex symbolic fluff people like to throw around.

Yes, I said FLUFF, because those movies were hilariously shallow and silly the second you stop and think about them. MOST of the movies considered great artistic monuments are, most actual great artistic monuments are. Or more precisely they're not designed for anyone else to enjoy they're designed by the bloated, suffocating ego of someone whose idea of masturbation is pretending to be deep.

Ironically, no matter how bad the ending, Mass Effect will never be confused for the product of some auteur fresh out of film school who wants to measure his penis based on how obscure and hip his subtextual references to other movies is.

Jannie said...

I'm talking about Kevin Smith, by the way. In case anyone is wondering what I mean by that.

Stanley Kubrick is a whole 'nother level of bullshit, if slightly less disingenuous.

John M Osborne said...

@Sam Robards, Comic fan -

Bioware is one of the few game companies that DOES hire staff writers, and not on a per project basis. This makes this outrage all the more sad, in my opinion.

Sylocat said...

Jannie, I can't help but notice that you never answered my question in the previous thread.

Secondly, no, "bad ending" and "artistic ending" are not mutually exclusive. You yourself never get tired of constantly reminding us that any attempt to be artistic is a waste of your valuable time, so you should know that there is such a thing as bad art. Unless, of course, your priorities and tastes just automatically change to whatever gives you the best excuse to get self-righteously indignant at someone. This would also explain why you denigrate appeals to popularity while constantly making such appeals yourself.

Jannie said...

Ok first off, I don't know what question you're referring to so if you'd repeat it sure I can answer.

But more to the point, if something is "bad art" then why defend it at all? Simply BECAUSE it is art? Then what the hell is the point? Call me crazy but I was under the impression that art had to actually mean something however nebulous, and if that wasn't the case, if it were just some slapped together nonsense with no objective or point whatsoever, then it's not art it's just "stuff" or "bullshit" depending on your view.

But even IF I agreed with you that bad art is still art, even though it defeats what little purpose art has, then why defend it still? If we all agree--and as far as I can tell, it seems to be a consensus even among Bioware's defenders--that this ending is shit even if it is art, then still why defend it? Art isn't above ridicule or somehow exempt from being discarded if it's shitty art, that's why I can't just draw a stick figure and have them hang it in a museum, there has to be a standard for some CONTENT to the art even if it is esoteric and obtuse...and so far no one has made an attempt to argue this ending HAS any worthwhile content so how is it art? Even Dadist (don't know if I spelled that correctly) art has a point--it was a silly, impossible to prove, nihilistic kind of point but it was a point. Mass Effect 3's ending wouldn't even pass as a satire of art since what is it satarizing? Not pretentiousness cause it's as dead simple, cliched and cheap as possible. Not cheapness or shallowness, because it still has delusions of being meaningful despite lacking meaning. It practically exists in a vacuum of suckage where time and space have no meaning, like a black hole of creativity.

And I'd love for you to point out what you mean by that last swipe, as opposed to being flippant from a distance, because I am virtually certain I can defend anything I've said. For someone who indignantly calls me indignant you're pretty indignant yourself there dude.

We're getting into indigception here.

Jannie said...

And for the record, yeah I think Bioware should get shitcanned for false advertising since they openly lied and misled people knowing that they could not deliver on several key promises they used to sell the game. Or better yet I'm gonna make something easy on everyone:

Here is a fact--Bioware specifically said, in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS, that there were "sixteen wildly different endings". That is literally the exact words they used.

Being generous, people estimate there are about three endings AT MOST, none of which are in any appreciable way different save for color, and none of them "wildly different" in any way, shape or form. Some people may have even bought the game BASED ON that and never known they were had until the end, when it was too late to return it or decide on something else.

This is the equivalent of a movie saying "this film contains at least eighteen minutes of sex in real time" and building a whole hype buzz and ad campaign around it...and then it has one minute, three if you're generous. Obviously that was false advertising, and worse yet people may have seen that movie based on that without knowing they were being misled.

In other words, the best possible spin you can put on this is that Bioware actively misled people to get them to buy a game knowing what they said was untrue. Realistically speaking, this was most likely a chance by EA to sell people DLC and Bioware went along with it, scrapping the original ending and slapping in this one when time started running out.

The fact that now Asura's Wrath seems to have done the same thing--with this "true ending DLC" bullshit Capcom is pulling--shows that this could become a worrisome habit in gaming unless someone gets the authorities to lay down some ground rules on what can (guns, characters, new levels) and what can't (THE ACTUAL FUCKING ENDING) be considered for downloadable content.

And if Bioware comes out with a "new" ending that is just the old, scrapped ending but now you have to pay $10 for it...well, I hate to say I told you so, actually, I love telling people "I told you so" because it reminds me I'm better at recognizing patterns in life than they are.

Jannie said...

I posted this in the wrong ME3 thread so I moved it over here, so my bad. In case anyone is wondering what that deleted comment in the "Yes More Mass Effect" thread is about.

Anyway I couldn't find the exact quote where they said the game would have sixteen ending choices, despite searching, due to the fact that--or at least I've been told--it was on twitter now removed.

So I'll retract that point unless and until I can show evidence to back it up because I don't want to be accused of making shit up by anyone or whatever because I can't find it. I'll continue looking and if I can ever pin down an exact quote I'll post it, for sure.

Highlander92 said...

I don't know how likely it is that you'll read this Bob, but I want you to know that while I respectfully disagree with you, I still do enjoy your show and don't have anything against you personally.

That said, how can you think that Video Games aren't different from film or literature? Film and literature themselves are completely different from each other. Film is completely audio-visual in its presentation, while literature relies entirely on the imagination of the reader. Film and literature are in turn completely different from painting, or sculpture.

I would go so far as to say that EVERY medium is completely different from every other in its own ways. Saying that Video Games are like film is like saying that film is like paintings. Consequently, ANY attempt to compare one artistic medium to another, or hold one medium to the same standards and customs of another just doesn't makes sense. Every medium is fundamentally different from every other, so why should anyone criticism or judge the artistic merit of one based on the standards of another? It just doesn't make sense.

Telling gamers not to take take part in the development of games so that games will be more like movies is like asking directors not to make movies with sound or movement, so that they'll be more like pictures. I personally believe that the fact that players can have a hand in changing a game is one of the things that make's games the best medium yet, and it worries me that so many people seem to think that uniqueness is something to be feared and avoided.

Mads said...

@ Sylocat
Excuse the late reply. You have a few additional points:
“there’s a difference between listening to feedback and bowing down to whiners”.
Ok, well, what is that difference? I get the difference between who you think of as whiners, and who you think of as feedback’ers. I don’t have a problem with that side of the issue.
But if you’re fundamentally giving up artistic vision by listening to anyone but yourself, then isn’t it just a matter of who you’re giving artistic vision up to? Isn’t that the difference?
And if that’s the case…why is it fundamentally worse to give up artistic vision to whiners? If the reason you’re giving up the vision to the whiners is that _they’re right_, yeah, sure, maybe next time they’ll whine about some other game, but if they’re _wrong_ in that instance, then that game company can simply not listen to them…. In other words, it doesn’t start a perpetual cycle unless the reason anybody responds is because the whiners are loud, rather than the fact that the whiners are right.
This is supposing, of course, that Bioware could ignore the whiners if the whiners were wrong, but I don’t see why that wouldn’t be the case.
Anyway, if I’m wrong, then please explain the difference between listening to whiners and feedbackers to me.

Mads said...

“Easy. After Watchmen and DKR changed the (American) comics industries, fans were crying out for "grim and gritty" superhero reboots, and so we got all that bullshit that, well, that got talked about in an early TGO episode, if you recall. Which led to the Comics Crash.”
Did that produce a poorer medium though? Sure, there may have been a comics crash, but that doesn’t necessarily result in a poorer medium, ipso facto. If you look at things across a 10 year period…hardly that long for a medium as such…then the medium has undergone a lot of changes. Overall, though, the properties themselves are being taken a lot more seriously by a lot more people right now. The Walking Dead, for instance, has achieved recognition and has been turned into a television series. All the marvel properties are being turned into other products. And while I recognize that Watchmen is an amazing limited series, surely 300 is as well.
Find me someone who has read all of these that can explain to me how comics are getting worse, then I’ll buy it; because otherwise you’re just making another nebulous assertion.

And now, with the reboot, remember that little issue with the superheroines? Well, the comics publishers are listening to their audience, their audience of basement-dwelling white males who pitch a fit if comics pander to anyone except them, and look at the "wonders" it's done for the medium.

Again. Show me on that Eisner Awards page how there’s a negative trend on this. You can cherry-pick a category if you want; these comics are exemplars of the medium, and if you can’t point me to a trend within those, then how the hell can you back up those assertions?
If it ultimately comes down to opinion that springs entirely from you, then it holds no real value in regards to making me think differently. I mean, yeah, sure, I can see “well this is also a way to think of it”, but I need something a little bit more compelling than that.

Meanwhile, in movies, we have marketing teams with the power to override creative decisions in movies, and even the merchandizers are able to walk on set and tell the director to change things around to make it more ad-friendly. I could also point you to the specific examples of I Am Legend, Blade Runner, a zillion other fine movies that were butchered because the test audiences were apparently having an off day.

All fine and good, but you’re talking about an entire medium here. Sure, some movies will be worse for being pandering, that’s absolutely clear, but you’re saying that, as a net effect, all movies reduce considerably in quality from this trend. And you know, right now, I see sooo many good movies coming out, it’s ridiculous.
So either responding to audience input really isn’t that bad in the movie industry, or it just isn’t very common…either way, your example doesn’t work.
The medium as a whole isn’t worse.

Anonymous said...

"If they lose, and we win, then gaming will become something far more important than "art", and far greater than those other mediums, it will be the first medium where the consumer and the creators are on equal footing and where the consumer's interaction with the product directly changes it, in game and out."

Ummm, Did I imagine the last 40 years of Tabletop gaming history happening?

I've seen this point raised a lot over the course of the ME3 arguement. "Our stories are interactive, which means we are unique and original because we have input in the narrative." "Our stories are presented as products which means we should be able to get them changed and this situation is unique to gaming!"

You kids might not know this, but those things have been true of tabletop role playing for a while. Almost all of the most popular RPGs take place in a setting that is the IP of the publisher and a lot of them have their own storyline outside of the players individual games. Most RPGs publish pre-made games that have a storyline laid out for the GM to present to the players. There are some things that players can do in a game and some that they canonically cannot. Hell, Old World of Darkness even had a damn Apocalypse. That setting ended! You can't play official games in it anymore! Any of this sound a little familiar?

Jannie said...

I'm aware of tabletop games, I've actually been active playing White Wolf games for years. But forgive me if this sounds insulting but I don't think you can call tabletop games a "medium".

Tabletop games are more traditional games, in a sense, while video games are like movies you play through or books you play through. While certainly tabletop RPGs have had overarching and player-driven stories in the past and really great ones (which, really, just helps prove this "player narrative destroys art" line wrong) and I don't deny that nor would I...I'd also have to lump them in more practically with something like checkers or chess.

They're definitely story driven, player driven narratives and they have real depth but by and large they're still games in a traditional sense as opposed to video games which have evolved into what can best be called really expensive pay-per-views with no fourth wall.

I'd also kind of argue, however practical or impractical it may be, that video games are in a sense the eventual evolution of such RPGs with things like WoW and Skyrim being good examples of it translating over well into video games. Not a perfect transition but certainly better than JRPGs like FF-13 or something which don't even try. Hell Mass Effect is a great example even, save the ending. Again not a perfect one-for-one transition, obviously due to the real time nature a preference for direct combat had to be made, since you don't have the capacity for a whole host of options, but it's definitely getting there. Or was, anyway.

Or that's my take. I'm not going to argue it's a particularly GOOD rebuttal or that it's completely objectively sound. I completely agree with you though, RPGs like the World of Darkness have been doing player-driven, overarching meta-plots across MULTIPLE settings for years and it hasn't destroyed their ability to tell meaningful stories. If anything that kinda proves how unrealistic it is to say player-driven narratives don't work, because clearly they do and have for decades, just in a different field up until recently.

Jannie said...

Also take note that despite having experience with tabletop games like World of Darkness and Exalted, I'm more of a video gamer, so I'm just kind of biased towards my side I guess.

That doesn't take away from what you were saying though, you're right about RPGs having done this in the past of course, but I kinda disagree if they're an entertainment medium all on their own or not.

Mads said...

@ Jannie

I actually think that less rigid mediums in general are the perfect comparison. It's not unlike folktales...and it's not unlike the greatest Epic of them all, the Odyssey.

But standardized roleplaying games and scenarios most certainly are an entertainment medium, it just requires humans being more involved. In a certain sense, it's performance art, just like theatre, but in others, it's developed by artists. So, yeah, not saying you're wrong to think of roleplaying tabletop games as different, but I do think they're still relevant.

cdstephens said...

It's always fun to see two webshows to take a different point of view in a respectful manner, especially when both shows have very good points.

Not sure why people were asking that question though, since it's a good assumption that you *did* watch it.

Unknown said...

Full disclosure: I haven't played Mass Effect and don't care to.

I think the attitudes expressed in this blog post are exactly the reason why the "high art" scene has been in the toilet since the early twentieth century: artists some how got it into their heads that they don't have to work *with* the audience to effect a transaction of ideas; that they are somehow the one in charge in this relationship, even though historically this has never been the case (see: patronage.) It's no coincidence that the best "classical" composers now exclusively work in film scores: patronage and commissioning *work,* and everything else doesn't.

Anonymous said...

late weigh-in on this topic from an outsider who has never played ME and hasn't watched Jimquisition:

There are two things I see going on here:

1) People are asking for (well, demanding) a "better" ending from bioware, but not giving any indication as to what that better ending ought to be - how were you expecting ME3 to wrap up? Seeing as choice and consequence were the big selling point of the franchise, what were you expecting with the end? I'm really not sure what people were expecting - I don't know if they even know what they were expecting. Were you really expecting 20+ completely unique endings?? how were they going to be all different from each other, and still fit the continuity of your decisions and the storyline?

2)Artists need patrons with resources to create amazing works of art and patrons often dictate what content a piece may have (this goes for all media). Publishers function as patrons for video games and may want to commission great artistic works, but are businesses first and foremost. While I agree that there will never cease to be interest in creating video games, the decisions we make as the Market will influence which projects the Publishers are willing to greenlight and may end up pushing riskier, more artistic works to smaller budgets (or even no budget) and thus a lesser version of their creative idea, which is in turn less appealing to the Market, rinse, repeat. It may mean that riskier ideas on a project may be quashed for fear of backlash. And it will also promote the more mainstream sameyness that I've heard complained about/seen in mainstream games, as Publishers can rely on those to sell.

I guess the question we should ask is: do we want video games to be recognised as High Art? Certainly there are very artistic and aesthetic aspects of some video games - but the whole product? Are we just after this title for VGs simply to legitimize ourselves as adults?

I do think artists should not have to change a piece simply because we did not like one aspect of it (I mean, of all the things to get so worked up about, the ending? we know that VG production teams tend to rush endings, as they spend most of their time working on the core of the game, which is arguably the more important bit).

(The artist in me hopes that the additional ending Bioware releases includes a "black holes fall, everyone gets crushed out of existence" as a rather indignant response to the fan outcry.)

Mads said...

Actually, mr. annonymous, people are very clear on what they would have wanted instead. There's several distinct proposals outthere.

Secondly, they're demanding it under pain of no longer buying bioware and ea products. Which is their right.

They're only demanding it in so far as they're using the power already implied to be a power that is theirs and which they should be free to use.

Thirdly, the current ending is already rock falls, everybody dies.

Anonymous said...

I has been mentionned in the comments already, but I was stunned to learn that for 5$ DLC, the 2008 Prince of Persia had a different ending. My personal liking of the original dark ending aside, I felt like they were just trying to rob me. Everything felt at its place and now, I'd need to shell out more of my cash just to see the "real" ending? not a chance.

That said, in the Jimquisition episode, he mentioned quickly a rushed ending to get the game on the shelves. I believe that this may also be valid to some extent too. if EA pressed Bioware to release ME3 faster and even the creative team was left with little to no time before the project went gold, they very well could have pooped out something to end their ordeal - in which case I would have been OK with them releasing a statement saying that the On Disk ending would be the first of many more options and different outcomes would be released in the future because companies need to sell in order to pay their people, and people need to get paid to live.
it wouldn't have damaged the art value of the product. It would have been in the spirit of the series since now, the game may evolve beyond the current trilogy.
heck, at that point, if all the endings are valid for the franchise, they could put a 1$ symbolic value to that DLC and people satisfied with the On Disk ending wouldn't have to buy it since it doesn't alter the ending but gives more option.

anyhow, those were my .02

The Karligarchy said...

Okay, I haven´t played any of the Mass Effects but, I have been following the controversy. So, I may be a little misguided but the solution to this seems pretty obvious. Instead of changing the ending, shouldn´t they just make a handful of alternate endings as DLC that are triggered based on certain decisions in the game or even endings that triggered by decisions from the previous games for replay value. I´m sure that I am missing something because that seems way too easy.

Smashmatt202 said...

I COMPLETELY forgot about this episode of Extra Credits, and what they say directly contradicts MovieBob's thoughts on "the artist must be inherently superior to the viewer/player".

...I'm sure that Bob has already seen this and I doubt watching it again will change his mind, but for everyone else, check it out!