Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

23 March, 2012

Waiting for the ending and the dangers of spoilers
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 11:15 AM

Like a lot of other people, I’ve been playing a lot of Mass Effect. The difference is that I’ve been playing the first game in the series, rather than the third and most recent installment. Yeah, I’m a bit behind the times.

But, there’s enough interesting stuff to post about even if I’m two games behind.

The big question…

So, I went with male Shepard. No particular reason for not choosing femShep; I play a lot of female characters in MMOs, so I’m certainly not afraid to choose a female avatar. I know some people are ardent fans of the female version; Liz Danforth mentioned to me that the game didn’t gel for her until she played the female character.

I’m mostly taking the Paragon route in this playthrough. Figured if I wanted to play another time through and try the Renegade path, I’d go with a female character.

Why I’m late

So, why am I so late to the party? Well, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m cheap. I picked up ME1 on Steam sale last Christmas to give it a spin. Dave Toulouse is a huge fan of ME2, so he gifted me a copy of that game as well since it was on sale. Sadly, I haven’t had a lot of time to play given how busy (in a good way!) I have been with Storybricks. After getting the flu GDC, I was able to play the game even if I couldn’t do useful work. So, I started and have been sneaking in time in between getting Storybricks work done.

The second reason is that I hate waiting on a story. I read a lot and play a lot of games. A story I read last year will have been followed by dozens of other stories, so it’s easy for me to lose track and potentially lose interest. I waited until the next to the last book in the Harry Potter series before starting to read those (wonderful) books. But, I watched the Harry Potter movies as they came out and I haven’t even seen the last three or four movies since there was a long wait between the releases. Waiting until a series is almost finished is better for me so that I can choose to keep playing (or reading) if I want to keep experiencing the story rather than getting distracted.

So, the good news is I get away with spending less money and I don’t spent time waiting for the ending of a story (or forgetting the early parts). The bad news is I can’t necessarily chat about the latest topics. (What? Reavers attack in ME3? I haven’t even met them in ME1!) Luckily for me….

I am (mostly) immune to spoilers

For some reason, spoilers don’t “ruin” stories for me. Okay, I do prefer not to know the “twist” in a story; seeing The Sixth Sense without outside knowledge almost certainly made it a better experience, and always looking for the “twist” in subsequent M. Night Shyamalan movies did tend to diminish some of them. But, as a game designer, my tendency is to analyze a game heavily anyway. I can often quiet that part of my mind when I just want to enjoy something, although it comes back with a vengeance later and I often spend a lot of time doing post-game analysis and review. I can do the same to the part of my mind that knows the story.

I think part of this is that I often enjoy the structure of a story in addition to the content. For example, the plot of the book Banewreaker and its sequel Godslayer are pretty predictable as it follows the “dark” side of a LotR-like story. Even though I knew were it was going, I really enjoyed the way the story was told. Unlike Richard Bartle, who only read the first book and gave the second a pass as he could see where it was going to go.

Trying to do it all

One thing that stands out about ME1, which it sounds like they addressed in the subsequent games, is that it tries to do a bit of everything. It’s got shooter-like mechanics, RPG stats and gear, action-focused driving sections, a heavy emphasis on storytelling, a mini-game, and probably a crossword puzzle hidden in there somewhere.

Now, I’m enjoying most of the game because I’m a fan of most of these parts. I’m a big RPG fan, a (rather causal) FPS player, and enjoy stories. One part I don’t like is the driving sections. From reading a few sites online, I’m not alone in that area. The controls for the vehicle feel sloppy, built for a controller rather than a keyboard. The physics leave a lot to be desired, where the vehicle tends to bounce all around the planet surface. This makes things like driving around trying to find hidden stuff on planet surfaces feel more an exercise in frustration than a fun bout of exploration.

I think the gameplay also suffers a bit. At the beginning, playing on “normal” setting, I got struck by a lot of “one shot kills” despite playing what I hoped was a sturdy class (the Vanguard). As I gained levels, however, I noticed that my survivability increased significantly. A few enemies, particularly those that bypass shields easily, still can put the hurt on me. But, in general I noticed that I reload a lot less later in the game.

In addition, the RPG parts are a pain to deal with. Buying upgrades is hard because it only shows the gear of party members with you. When buying from a seller without your companions, you have no way to check if the item is better than what they already have. Selling off stuff is also a pain because all your gear is one huge list ordered by quality rank and then by name. It requires a lot of UI hopping around to figure out if a given item you could buy is really an upgrade for someone else, or if that equipment enhancement is obsolete or not. The UI is worse than what I had to deal with in Skyrim, which is accepted to be a poor UI design.

Finally, I’m also not a big fan of the mini-game they use for hacking into terminals and retrieving artifacts. It feels too twitchy and imprecise to me. I’d prefer a version where your limit was number of mistakes rather than a time limit. That would make some of the encounters feel a bit better, I think, with the player feeling in control rather than frustrated especially when time runs out right as you were about to “solve” the mini-game.

I think the lesson here is that when a game tries to do too much, usually something suffers. It seems to me that some parts didn’t come together very well in the end; there was a lot of room for improvement all around.

Quality of the story

As I play the game, I find myself drawn to the world developed in Mass Effect: I love the setting, in particular the alien races. They seem varied, a bit more than the old Star Trek standard of “humans with different wrinkly foreheads” that plague a lot of games.

The one thing that does leave me cold is that the story is still told from a very human-centric point of view. For example, there seems to be a contradiction with the asari, the mono-gendered race that “breeds” with other races to diversify their genetic makeup. Since the asari have incredibly long lifespans compared to most other races, they will outlive their partners. So, you would think their relationships would tend to feel transitory. Nope, they tend to fixate on a partner, falling back on current cultural assumptions about monogamy. The game even says that other races see the asari as promiscuous, when the asari NPC you can recruit assures you this is certainly not the case. I understand that science fiction stories are really tales about our modern society, but it’s a bit disappointing to see such obvious compromises made to satisfy cultural assumptions.

As for the specific story in the game, it feels like the typical “you are the badass chosen one that will save reality as we know it.” Smacks a bit of adolescent power fantasy, but I can live with that given that it’s not worse than pretty much every other game story out there. The part the really irks me is how little control really feel like I have when the game touts how much my decisions are supposed to influence the story.

(Mild spoilers in the next paragraph, but we’re talking about a 5 year old game here….)

One one planet where I’m going to defeat a mind-controlling alien, I have to go through a colony that is under the control of said alien. Being the Paragon, I choose to knock out the colonists rather than kill them. After I use different techniques to knock out all the colonists, there’s essentially a cut-scene that shows the former leader coming out. The mind-controlling alien wants him to fight me, but he realizes he is not under his own control and works to fight against it. His solution? Shoot himself in the head. It’s a struggle, so it takes a few second for him to do the deed. But, all the while I’m frozen there, pointing my gun at him (which I can’t do normally) just watching him get ready to blow his brains out. Frustrating that the game specifically takes control away from me, and that there was even an in-game way I could have saved him: rush up to him and melee attack him to knock him out, as I did with a bunch of other colonists in the battle right before this scene. As a designer, I understand that the writer probably wanted the scene to feel dramatic, showing the struggle and sacrifice that the leader had to endure to not fight me. But what it really did was remind me that the story was not truly my own.

This is one reason why Storybricks is very exciting to me. We’re working hard to blend authorial control with the player’s experience in shaping the story together into something meaningful. Hopefully we’ll find something exciting as a result, otherwise I’m sure quote from this post will haunt me for a while.

OMG the end of it all!

Speaking of spoilers….

I pretty much couldn’t avoid spoilers given the big furor du jour: the ending of Mass Effect 3. Now, I haven’t read in-depth or watched the actual ending, but I know enough to have an idea.

Daniel Rachels, a friend of mine who studies game design, is of the opinion that the ending is intended to be non-literal. He believes that the story may use the unreliable narrator technique to make the ending more open-ended. He accuses some people of being too literal with the ending, and this explains the disappointment people feel about the ending. Other people have put forward theories (oh, yeah, spoileriffic link there) that the game is indeed intended to be taken non-literally, showing a lot of areas where the game specifically shows the true meaning of the ending.

The goal of an open ending that doesn’t wrap everything up neatly is that it gets people talking and potentially allows people to put their own individual spin on it as in that previous link. But, the need for a clear-cut “happy” ending seems to reinforce a stereotype about American audiences, and the stereotype that game players aren’t as sophisticated as audiences of other storytelling media. Other people have hinted that this demonstrates the entitlement some people feel when it comes to games they play.

I can appreciate that other people think that a three part game with a huge story arc deserves more closure for the player. A lot of people feel very invested into the story, and after following the ups and downs of the game for nearly 5 years. I think it shows that a lot of people feel very personally about the story, how involved they felt, to the point that they are unwilling to accept the authoritative end from the story author. Some have even argued that this reeks of a “we’re making it up as we go along” attitude that hurt some TV series like Heroes or the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. However, bioware founder Ray Muzyka has said they are going to re-do the ending based on player dissatisfaction.

As someone who regularly waits for a series to near the end, I won’t have quite so much invested, so I suspect I might not react so negatively to the end. We’ll see how I feel, I still have the formidable ME2 to play through before I get to ME3.

Your thoughts?

What do you think? Is the furor over the ending meaningful? Should people accept the ending? Is Bioware right to change the story, or should they have stuck with their guns? Or is John Carmack right that story is a superfluous part of the game experience?

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  1. I’m of a mind that stories should have endings. They may be happy or sad, whatever, but they need to end. I recognize that’s a cultural thing, at least in part, but I think it also serves a psychological end: stories should end so that we can get back to our real lives or move on to something else. Stagnation in uncertain waters isn’t healthy. Stories without endings tend to generate emotional attachment, yes, but I think that’s because we’re naturally wired to want resolution, so we try to force it.

    Think of it as the old “what if” stuff many go through from adolescence. “What if I’d asked her out” or “why didn’t I” or any of a hundred other questions that we agonize over precisely because there’s no resolution. In many ways, it’s healthy to just let go of those sort of loose ends or find resolution, for good or for ill.

    …I’m no psychologist, though. This is something I’ve been meaning to dig more into as I spend more time thinking about writing my own stories. Stories without resolution always feel sloppy and, well, unfinished to me. They feel like copouts; ways to generate interest by throwing viewers off balance.

    To a degree, yes, they could be seen as authors ceding control of the narrative to a degree, but that’s always an illusion, and shifting around the strength of that control can make for very uneven appeal.

    Comment by Tesh — 23 March, 2012 @ 12:40 PM

  2. (I think this is a spoiler-free comment.)

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I stumbled into Mass Effect when it launched and got hooked. It’s fun. It’s at least relatively vanilla, right? You’re an epic sci-fi hero who will save the galaxy from the evil invading aliens. This was painted in a gritty setting with some genuinely interesting decisions with ramifications. Even cooler, they cascaded these decisions through future games. Neat.

    So there’s an ending, and they took some artistic license to leave a bit up to the player. I was just thrilled that there was no deus ex machina. I didn’t feel cheated, and they didn’t pull any kind of “it was all a dream” trick. I thought it was satisfying. Then again, I’m the kind of guy who prefers Hamlet productions that leave it undefined whether Hamlet is crazy or whether his father’s ghost is real… perhaps that doesn’t sell to the mass audience.

    Comment by Tachevert — 23 March, 2012 @ 12:48 PM

  3. Personally, I don’t care if the ending is happy or sad, so long as it makes sense in the context of the game’s universe. The problem that I had with the ending(s) is the way they trivialized my time in the other games, and didn’t ring true for me. After spending all that time as Shepard, I felt instinctively that s/he wouldn’t have taken any of those choices.

    From a dev perspective, I was also turned off by the fact that (something like your example about the colonists’ leader), game mechanics changed from what the game itself had taught me to expect all along, forcing me into a different reality. I might have understood that my self-healing suit wouldn’t work if zapped by eleventy billion malcolms of Reaper-tech had that ever occurred/been mentioned before. Suddenly pulling that ability away and removing all my biotic powers without explanation felt broken, not right.

    Comment by Owlchick — 23 March, 2012 @ 12:51 PM

  4. I think it’s really hard to discuss the ending of ME3 with someone who hasn’t played it. It just feels out of place. I find it really hard to believe that the same people who wrote the rest of the game wrote this ending.

    For example, during ME3 (before the ending) some much-loved characters from the previous games can die. These deaths are magnificent, full of catharsis and closure. I just cannot see how a writer who thought it was important to give these secondary characters closure, would not do the same thing to the *main* character–and other important secondary characters–at the end of a 120 hour trilogy.

    Comment by Rohan — 23 March, 2012 @ 12:53 PM

  5. @Tachevert, what do you mean, “there was no deus ex machina”? There was a literal god in the machine in the ME3 ending.

    Comment by Rohan — 23 March, 2012 @ 12:55 PM

  6. The main issue I have with the ending is that the player’s final choice doesn’t seem to matter much. That’s a major problem since the core appeal of the game is supposedly the player’s impact on the story. There are three options. I have played two of them and heard about the third from a friend. In all three cases, nearly every scene of the ending cinematic is the same.

    Ray Muzyka has called ME3 the end of a trilogy, but a couple events in the ending suggest there might be another Mass Effect game to come. If so, bridging ME3 and ME4 with DLC would likely spoil Bioware’s intended introduction to the next game.

    Still, ME3 is fun. I’m loving the multiplayer’s combination of dynamic AI (bots > human opponents sometimes), meaningful customization and grab-bag rewards.

    Comment by Aaron — 23 March, 2012 @ 2:24 PM

  7. I actually avoided ME3 because of the story direction. Unfortunately when you start pulling terms like “Epic” into modern storytelling there are only a few ways to go story wise. When the first ME3 trailer showed up, in a bout of sarcasm, I listed ME3′s choices for endings to a friend as a joke. I was disappointed I was right. I have felt that most games where you get epic story, and tout choice as a big selling point, usually converge on a single point no matter what “Choices” you make. This narrowing has always made me feel like my choices in a game didn’t matter. ME3 is not the first to have that issue, and it wont be the last. Here’s to hoping Storybricks breaks that trope with a 10 ton hammer.

    As a voracious devour-er of Fantasy and Sci-Fi most stories are rehashes to me anyways. “The Great Evil” syndrome most “Epic”s suffer from, except maybe “A Song of Ice and Fire”(So far), is incredibly tiring and video games, especially RPGs, are so insanely fond of this trope. Admittedly it makes it easy to build a game and systems if you have a clear and present enemy/goal. To me the most evil of characters are the masterminds, manipulators, traitors and frauds. Dante Alighieri chose those to inhabit the lowest circles of hell, so why not use them to make a smashing good epic. It’s controversies like this that always draw me back to to think on how to change/break/get away from tropes of my favorite genres.

    Comment by Haversack — 23 March, 2012 @ 3:59 PM

  8. An interesting article with other game writers commenting on the ME3 ending controversy:

    Comment by Psychochild — 23 March, 2012 @ 4:18 PM

  9. I’m fine with the ending, but I do think Bioware miscalculated with it. The post-final choice scenes (especially with the destroy choice) seem to cause the most confusion as the things it depicts are the most clearly irrational. Secondly people tend to view the last 30~ minutes as the end when it’s pretty much the entire game as it ties up all the different plot threads (aside the Reapers) that had been a major part of the story up until now.

    The problem with this kind of ending is that it’s supposed to engage the audience – the player’s context with the scenes leading up and follow should color their interpretation and understanding of the events. This generally flies in the face of mainstream Western narrative expectations. It worked for me and a close friend of mine, but I can easily understand why it wouldn’t work for others. That said the reaction is a terrible case of fan entitlement and I don’t feel that Bioware has any obligation to fellate their desire for an ice cream and cupcakes ending. I would primarily expect epilogue exposition and maybe some slight tweaks to end dialogue and scenes to clarify if they should be interpreted literally or not.

    They’ve said they plan to do more Mass Effect, but ME3 is the end of Shepherd’s story.

    As for ME1, I should have wrote a list of things I disliked and hoped they changed for ME2 – because every single one was changed pretty much in the sequel. So you do have that to look forward to.

    Comment by Daniel Rachels — 23 March, 2012 @ 4:51 PM

  10. God damnit. It’s so frustrating that nearly everyone on the whole “fan entitlement” side of the fence insists on believing that those on the other side want rainbows, cupcakes and ponies.

    The dislike for the ending has nothing whatsoever to do with it being happy or sad. People are not so upset because they wanted a happy ending. They’re upset because the ending is implemented terribly.

    Keeping in mind, this is a game all about player agency. About the impact your choices have. Bioware harped on about how peoples endings would be very different.

    1) None of your choices in the first 90% of the game or in either of the prior games have any impact whatsoever on what happens.

    2) All of the endings are virtually identical (save for color changes, see here: (obviously, spoilers as it’s the endings, but not really game harming as it doesn’t make any sense if you haven’t played through it… though…it doesn’t make that much sense if you did either.) You can watch all the ending vids simultaneously, try to pick out the differences. If you’re colourblind, it’ll be *really* tough.

    1 and 2 together result in near-zero replayability. The first two games are awesome to replay, as so much can change – even different squad members living or dying, overall success or failure, so much is variable. The third, though, hits you in the face with “No matter what you do, you get *this* and that’s it.” There’s no real point in replaying to see what other sorts of endings you can get. Hell, because none of your actions affect what ending you get, you can just replay the last bit of the game and choose different colours to see the biggest differences right there anyways.

    3) There’s no epilogue. Now, this is the *REAL* reason people are pissed, though it’s not mentioned as directly. I personally believe this is because most of the folks don’t fully understand *why* they are so stunned and upset about the ending.

    The events of the ending are cataclysmic, but (in a game where *EVERYTHING* is directly spelled out in the codex, nothing is left to be interpreted) there is no information as to what happens as a result.

    Every single galactic race’s entire (or very nearly) military is in orbit around Earth. The mass relays are all destroyed: They are trapped there.
    Did your squadmates survive? Well, other than the three who are (inexplicably) fleeing Earth in the Normandy as Shepard is doing his thing and the battle is raging around them?

    Bioware could have avoided so much of this if they’d extended that ending cinematic for another 5 minutes or so, highlighted actions of Shepard’s friends during the ending rather than just flashing up still photos of a couple of them; particularly different bits depending on what you went to battle with. For example, if the Quarians and the Geth were with you, show Tali leading a squad of Primes. Tie in what Shepard did and accomplished and personalize the endings, even if the macro events are the same. Show a little of what happens after.

    You collect all these “War Assets” throughout ME3 – and what’s available to be collected is determined directly by what you did in ME1, 2, and through parts of 3. Show them in the end. There’s some assets available through paragon actions and others from Renegade actions. Brian, you noted the Mind Controlling Alien section in ME1 – this is a good example of a part of ME1 that leads to very different war assets available depending on how it plays out. These should be shown!

    Then, the player would want to replay the game, do things differently, just to see how it can all play out.

    Instead of just staring in shock at the abrupt, short cop-out the ending was.

    Comment by Derrick — 23 March, 2012 @ 9:37 PM

  11. Mass Effect, like all Bioware games is about cultivating a convincing illusion of player agency – not actually having it.

    Comment by Daniel Rachels — 23 March, 2012 @ 9:54 PM

  12. Dave Toulouse wrote a bit about his feelings on the ending. Very pragmatic. :)

    Comment by Psychochild — 24 March, 2012 @ 2:03 AM

  13. Personally, my hang-up with the ending centered on the final scenes with the Normandy.

    People talk about the writers’ “artistic integrity” and such, as if it were not possible they made the Normandy do what it did simply because “it looked cool.” Which, well, mission accomplished? But it made no goddamn sense. What were they doing? How did the crew get back on-board? If the people I took with me survived, why weren’t they with me? Even if they thought I had died, it was very clear that the mission had to be completed “at all costs.”

    Cut out that Normandy bit, and I am fine with the ending. A little melancholy, but fine.

    Comment by Azuriel — 24 March, 2012 @ 2:10 AM

  14. Personally, my hang-up with the ending centered on the final scenes with the Normandy.

    Said it on my blog but reposting it here. I don’t quite understand why people who agree to different levels about the dream/indoctrination suddenly decide to draw a line at a particular point in the ending and exclude parts of it. The Normandy is part of it.

    Indeed it doesn’t make any sense. The people who were on Earth with me magically appeared on the Normandy? Why try to rationalize that part if everything before happens in Shepard’s head. Why must this scene be anything else than yet another part of that “dream”. All I saw in that scene were the the wish of a dying man hoping that his friends would make it alive. Not actual events.

    Of course if you reject everything about the dream/indoctrination then I can understand how nothing about the ending makes sense because there’s no way to rationalize it.

    Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.

    Comment by Dave Toulouse — 24 March, 2012 @ 9:35 AM

  15. Brian, my issue with the ME3 ending is not the ending, but the ending lead-in. (i.e. many games a “from here on there is no turning back, make sure all sidequests are complete” point)

    I’ll try to avoid spoiling specifics here.
    But in essence the ME3 ending is in fact bittersweet, and all paths do lead to a certain set story point in the ME3 universe.
    This means that the universe is in a mostly known state for a future Mass Effect 4 to start from.

    Known facts/states/questions for the start of ME4:
    The legendary Commander Shepard ended the reaper threat, but at what cost?
    Did Shepard survive?
    What is the extent of Earth’s damage?

    As a writer/developer/programer/artist/thinker I understand this.
    And I have no issue with BioWare’s “canon” ending at all really, it is their ending after all.
    What I do have issues with are the loose threads in the ending lead-in/lead-out. Things that would not affect the ending as it is at all, just bring some clarification.
    Like how did Joker and the Normandy end up in that situation and why. Or how did your teammates in the last stand magically end up on the Normandy.

    Now if BioWare is actually considering a quadrilogy instead, then all this makes a lot of sense, and part of me hope that is actually what they are planing.
    If not then they really need to resolve the complaints people have.

    I think a lot of the people complaing are not really upset of BioWare’s “canon” ending.
    They are upset over loose ends, and more importantly the ending for “their own” Shepard.
    When I heard that ME3 would have multiple endings I thought that it was awesome.

    I expected a canon ending and maybe at least one alternate non-canon ending (like Knights Of The Old Republic) had.
    And even if I’d ended the story with the non-canon ending I’d have no issues if BioWare released a ME4 with a different end/start point.
    After all ME4 would be in a new time, new characters, new plots and an new story.

    Deus Ex Human Revolution got some critique due to it’s “press 1 of 4 buttons and choose your ending”, and here BioWare did the same but only 3 variants.
    Barely that even as it’s no wonder they are called the Blue, Green and Red endings. Also depending on who you allied with/squad mates etc. The 16 or so mutations of the ending is so miniscule.

    It reminds me of a tv series that you love watching. And then it’s the season end and you can’t wait until the next season to see what will be next for all characters. only to find out a half a year later it was cancelled as it wasn’t getting good enough Nielsen ratings. (which means nothing to us in Europe for example)

    And as to the “narrator is lying” theory. That is indeed a possibility and if that is so then a ME4 continuing Shepard’s story is a very high possibility as well. The issue though is the other parts, where the narrator either can’t keep track of his own lies, or forget what the narrative was to himself.

    The best lies are those which has some truth in it, only in this case if the narrator is truly lying, then the lies not only contradict reality (unless all 3 games was only a dream, now that would just be cheap “reset button” writing) but the narrator and/or the antagonist (lines are blurred on that at the end though).
    I was given three choices, three paths. I really did not believe my choices and found them all to be false or not believable. (as the character commander Shepard) but there was no alternatives to this.

    In fact if the 3 “endings” had only been 1 ending and a cutscene instead people might be less upset actually than the 3 (really just 1) choices right now.
    I write about this in more details (and plenty spoilers obviously) at

    Mass Effect 1 was really good in my opinion. A refreshing Space Opera in the game industry. With a feeling of epic scale that is only matched my Star Wars.
    Mass Effect 2 while maybe being a bit more sloppy on the overall plot did something amazing with the side characters. Tali in particular has probably one of the best character developments in a game or movie series that I can recall. (if you romance her)
    Mass Effect 3 does bring some freshness and does pay homage to the fans of ME1 and ME2, it does reference earlier stuff and choices. And again Tali’s character arch goes to new heights. Sure you cant’ get the romance to go much further than it did by the end of ME2, but Tali’s personal storyline is worthy of a game itself.
    In fact the story line of most of the characters are truly epic in and of themselves, but Tali’s in particular (yep I’m a Tali fan, don’t ask me why, probably the writer+voice actress+director combo).

    It’s just at the very end of ME3 that the trilogy falls apart, and it’s not the “canon” ending. It’s the other characters. Shepards ending sucks but he/she does end the threat. But the ending of the other characters is just missing, no closure at all for them. And what little hint there is (Joker and the Normandy escaping) is never explain how/when/why/who.
    An alternate non-canon ending could have allowed people to get their “happy” ending, and maybe that could have let BioWare work more on the individual character endings too, as it is now it feels like they ran out of time to do that (tying up all character threads).

    Comment by Roger Hågensen — 24 March, 2012 @ 11:56 AM

  16. By ending lead-in I mean the point at which the reader/viewer/player knows that “this is the beginning of the end” in the story.
    And by ending lead-out I mean the point at which the reader/viewer/player knows that “from here on I know what the ending concludes with, but there are still some loose threads to resolve before the credits roll” in the story.

    Comment by Roger Hågensen — 24 March, 2012 @ 12:04 PM

  17. @Rohan (way too late as I failed to keep up with the thread) — I didn’t even notice the literal irony of the deus ex machina. But what I meant was that nothing in the ending struck me as a bit dropped in with no preface or planning. There is no part of the ending that struck me as illogical or not following from previous; there was just less exposition than I could have hoped for.

    Comment by Tachevert — 27 March, 2012 @ 1:08 PM

  18. My comment is somewhat tangiential: I wonder about complaints of “so called player choice” or “agency”. It seems to me that RPGs are forging ahead in the “interactive” department, but it obviously takes so much more development (writing/art/programming) as well as computing power that true leaps in that area aren’t going to happen overnight. Knowing programmers but not actually being one, I can only imagine what kind of gaming rig would be necessary for a game that was an iteration more interactive than what we already have. Nevermind what that game would cost.

    I guess its good that people want it though. :)

    Comment by Djinn — 16 April, 2012 @ 2:20 PM

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