Welcome to part 3 of my article series discussing the possibility of Mass Effect 3’s complete failure to satisfy. I have already discussed Bioware's possible inability to craft a proper sequel and the dangers of streamlining the gaming experience. Today I am going to talk about one of the most dumbfounding trends that Bioware has incorporated into their game creation process. Over the course of ME1 and ME2, Bioware has shown a considerable contempt to the folks that love their games, stories and characters most. Today I will present you with a few examples of how Bioware retconned Mass Effect to appeal to the unpleasable fanbase, better known as “the haters.”
I’m going to create a hypothetical example. Imagine a TV show where all of the principle characters are well written and each have significant fanbases. Some fans love Bill, the gun collector. He’s mild mannered, owns a few dogs, likes to reads, and he loves his guns. Now, some people who watch this show think that Bill is militant psycho just because he loves collecting guns. His fans understand that he is just a collector of finely crafted weaponry. Season 2 rolls around, and all of the sudden, Bill has turned into a militant psycho. Worse yet, none of the characters seem to notice this change in his personality and opinions and treat him like this is how he always was. Another character in the show, Gloria, she’s the girl next door. She is adorable and sweet and always vying for the main character’s attention. Although many love her, she was accused by her haters of being boring. Season 2 rolls around and all of the sudden she’s working as a spy. What?! Guess what, now nobody likes Bill because he’s crazy and nobody likes Gloria because her fans liked her as the girl next door, and the haters will not like no matter what. I just described what happened to Ashley and Liara in ME2.
Mass Effect 1 was more of an RPG than it was a shooter, but the shooter goons who picked it up hated the game. Mass Effect 2 was therefore transformed into heavier on the action and light on RPG. RPG fans hated that, so now Bioware says they’re going to make ME3 more of an RPG. Ashley managed to secure a significant fanbase for her for realistic view on the potential dangers that exist in a multi species environment. Her argument was essentially, we are all the top of our food chains, so who’s the top of the galactic food chain? Those who understood her perspective found the character to be refreshing and brilliant. Those who didn’t classified her as a racist. Mass Effect 2 rolls around and one of Ashley’s very few lines of dialog can only be construed as racism. "You know I'm no fan aliens..." What? I didn't know that. I thought you were just cautious of other races because they would easily sell out humanity to protect their own kind. When did you start not liking aliens? They retconned Ashley's character based on the opinion of those who felt she was a racist. Why? Certainly not to build her fans, because everyone hates racists (which is an ironic statement when you think about it). Are her fans not enough? Can we expect her newfound racism to carry into ME3 despite some players persuading her to take a more easy going approach to interacting with other species? Liara got the same treatment too. Fans liked her because she the adorable and sweet girl next door. The haters call her boring. What does Bioware do? They appeal to the haters, again, by making her the new Shadow Broker and giving her a cold and damn near sociopathic attitude. Now the haters still hate her (heh) and her fans don’t like her anymore. Good going Bioware, or as I like to call you now B-Ware.
As a writer, I understand how frustrating it is when people don’t like the character that you are most proud of. Does that mean you should compromise your vision in an attempt to please an unpleaseable fanbase? Absolutely not, because then you screw things up for those who like the character. Mass Effect 2 seemed specifically tailored for the people who hated ME1. Now, ME3 seems to be tailored to those who hated ME2. This is actually a good thing because most the people who hated ME2 were ME1 purists, which should mean we may very well get the best of both worlds in ME3. There is another possibility that I mentioned earlier that ME3 is being downgraded to a TPS to appeal to the widest possible audience (I personally find this to the most likely scenario).
Look B-Ware, as a Mass Effect junkie since the day you announced it in 2005, please, don’t sacrifice the opinions of the people who love your material to please the haters. Please don’t focus on building your fanbase. This is the final chapter. Your focus should be to satisfy the fans who have the ability to be satisfied. Appealing to the haters is only going to turn the fans into haters. Then, all you have is haters and your entire franchise was a big waste of time. If you guys want Mass Effect 3 to be successful, you should be focusing on pleasing the hardcore fans. I bought Mass Effect on its release day. I’ve read each book, each comic book, and all of the Cerberus Daily News entries. I own each piece of DLC, from Bring Down the Sky all the way to Arrival. I believe that considering I’ve paid hundreds of dollars to ensure I get a complete story, that I deserve some recognition. I deserve to see Balak again if I let him live. Not everyone will see, him, but I paid you years ago to get some closure on that (among many other plots and subplots developed over the years) and I want my damn closure! Appealing to the DLC haters and not including it in anything more than an e-mail will just make me angry. And you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. Oh, and there’s hundreds of people who have the exact same opinion. The last thing you want on your doorstep is an army of disgruntled me’s!
In short, Bioware has on more than a few occasions appealed to the exact opposite people they should be appealing to. Retconning Ashley into a racist, shifting Liara to the girl next door into the sociopath next door, dramatically altering the game play of ME1 to become more shooter driven in ME2. Bioware should have acted on behalf of the fans in crafted Mass Effect 2, instead they acted on behalf of the folks who hate their product. The idea is by betraying a portion of your current fanbase, you thereby build your overall fanbase. That works in theory, but more often than not, it does not work in practice. How exactly are building Ashley up as a better character by converting her Darwinian views on galactic politics into ignorance and xenophobia? You are actually harming the character and diminishing the brilliant point she represented. What about Liara? I like the idea of her becoming the Shadow Broker, but why the hell does she have be so cold and evil? Are you mirroring her mother? Regardless, you cannot deny that Liara's portrayal in ME2 stripped away everything her fans found appealing.
I do not like Tali. I find her to be the most bland and one dimensional character in the franchise, and yet, her fanbase is enormous. Do I think you should rewrite the character so that I find her more appealing? No. Whatever you are doing, you are doing it right by them. My favorite character is Ashley, and her fanbase does not compare to Tali's. If you do things right by me, Tali would likely be the least popular in the series. My point is simply this, the characters you've created appeal to certain personality types. By shifting Liara's character to appeal to a personality that already has pre-established prejudices against the character only alienates her fans. The haters are not going to care because they already despise Liara. Nobody likes her now. The same principles are applied to every other facet of Mass Effect as a whole. Bioware needs to ask themselves this question: Do we want to maintain our fans or not? These past couple of years, it seems like the answer is not.
We’re done with another article. Obviously Mass Effect 3 already has a lot stacked against it, but tomorrow, I have even more potential issues that face Mass Effect 3. This next one is especially troubling because it has already happened. I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but tomorrow I will discuss with you fine readers the problems Bioware faces in terms of the very beloved characters and the inevitable shortcomings most of that cast can anticipate having in the final installment of the trilogy.