At what point does addressing fan concerns compromise artistic integrity?
That’s the underlying debate born today out of BioWare co-founder Ray Muzyka’s announcement via an open letter to fans that Mass Effect 3′s ending will receive changes.
In the wake of fan outcry regarding the core of the game’s conclusion (which I won’t spoil here), Muzyka said the Edmonton-based studio is “hard at work on a number of game content initiatives that will help answer the questions, providing more clarity for those seeking further closure to their journey.”
In my opinion, BioWare -a company lauded by gamers as being more open to fan feedback than most game developers- is not only aware they’re walking a fine line by addressing fan complaints about the ending of Mass Effect 3, but they’re doing so with care and honesty.
Muzyka highlights how proud he is of the team and the conclusion they’ve crafted, but he also understands that the fans are “deeply involved in how the story unfolds” and “have the uncontested right to provide constructive criticism.”
The negative feedback BioWare has endured over the ending since the game’s release was a surprise to everyone at BioWare, Muzyka said, and “Unfortunately became destructive rather than constructive.”
It’s an issue that obviously hurt the development team to some degree and while Muzyka believes in the team’s artistic choices, BioWare is “working hard to maintain the right balance between the artistic integrity of the original story while addressing the fan feedback we’ve received.”
While developers make changes to their games all the time via patches or downloadable content, it’s almost unprecedented for a development studio to make major changes to a game’s story due to fan feedback, especially a studio as big as BioWare.
In short, BioWare doesn’t need to do this. They want to, and I applaud them for it. Muzyka isn’t saying BioWare is going to rewrite the ending. From the letter, it seems they want to help present or explain it better to fans.
I finished the game last week and while I can say I was happy with the conclusion to my Shepard’s story, I’ve had a number of difficult discussions with friends over what was exactly going on in the final hour of Mass Effect 3.
Personally, I find the ending isn’t disappointing as much as it is confusing and I’d be happy to receive clarification from BioWare rather than spin my wheels trying to discern what happened for myself.
I don’t believe they’re buckling under fan pressure to rewrite the game, but rather understanding that the confusion surrounding the ending(s) has really pissed people off and left fans feeling bitter over a game they’ve invested so much time in.
Executive Producer Casey Hudson said they wanted people to discuss the ending after the fact, but I don’t think they anticipated the frustration those discussions would ignite. While we won’t receive more concrete details on how or what is being altered in the game until sometime in April, I trust BioWare enough to let them try.
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