Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mass Effect 3 is Going to Suck pt. 3: Haters Gonna Hate


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.

6 comments:

LucidFox said...

I actually think Lair of the Shadow Broker was one of the strongest points of ME. It gave Liara new layers of characterization, believably written, and actually made her a more interesting character than she was in ME1. She wasn't boring in ME1, mind - but LOTSB made me like her even more.

And I say that as someone who romanced Liara in both her playthroughs!

Ryan said...

I agree, I love LOTSB. And I personally like that Liara went all dark side. It mirrored her mother's actions. I also think that Liara being the Shadow Broker is a logical step for her character. I believe she says in ME1 that she wasn't so much a fan of archaeology as she was a fan of discovery secrets long forgotten.

That being said, I don't represent the majority opinion of most ME fans, let alone Liara fans. I have observed that most of her fans (most, not all) seem to despise her character arc thus far.

In Liara's case, I would normally assume that the fans are being overly whiny and should just sit tight and wait for the conclusion. However, when you look at the way the game play changed from ME1 and ME2, and the way Bioware handled the VS post ME1 release, and now how ME3 is shaping up with a stronger focuses on RPG elements, the cast comprised of ME1 characters, and multiplayer, you start to notice a pattern in the company's behavior.

It just seems like they listen to whoever screams the loudest, when they should just do things the way they want to. Of course they may be doing things the way they want to, in which case my only response can be, "whatever." Some may say that I am jumping to conclusions. Personally, I prefer to think of it as speculating.

Thanks for the comment! Did I ever mention how much I love ME fans? You (or should I say we?) always post such great comments and bring traffic to my blog. Thank you!

Evan said...

Dude, I want to start by saying I LOVE Mass Effect.

It was my Space Opera, the best Sci-fi I have consumed since the Ender's series.

Almost everything you've said I've been saying since the first day I played ME2, you hit the nail on the god damn head.

They took fantastic journey into the unknown infinite universe, and turned it into Robocop 4 Space Monster Puncher.

Anyway I know that it is to late now, that my favourite game of my adult life will just kinda fizzle out as a shitty gears of war rip off with even shittier preachier writing (god damn Hepler)

I guess I just wanted to say thank you this is as close to consolation as I've ever achieved for the death of my series... and hopefully someday soon the death of the business that did this.

Ryan said...

You're welcome Evan and thank you for leaving a comment.

I agree with you 100%. I too really loved ME1, and while ME2 frustrates me, I still enjoy the game a lot. However, after playing the demo for ME3, I can't help but feel that the quality of the story is getting successfully worse with each installment. Mac Walters is the Rob Liefeld of writing.

Robocop 4 Space Monster Puncher? Is it weird that I think that sounds kind of awesome?

Thorin said...

I would like to third that. While I did like ME2 as a game, it fails on so many levels as a sequel. Everything is changed, the mood, the characters, the gameplay etc. The music was a big problem for me. I love orchestral scores, but me1 had a more synth bladerunner/bad 80s music feel that fit the game. I didn't even notice the music in part 2, but still hear the music from Flux or when landing on the 3 main planets.

So throw me in the purist boat. I thought they needed some tweaks, not ripping the heart out of the game. As an RPG fan ME2 pretty much ruined the series to me. If I wanted to play a duck and cover shooter I will play one that handles exactly like that, not an RPG that half asses it with ammo that doesn't make any sense given the context of the first game.

One of my biggest gripes was how my adept was useless. Cooldowns on individual skills is great, but for all your skills is bad. Do one biotic and then its pew pew time with your handgun. So much for the cool magic like portion of the game.

Anyway I will not be buying part 3 and will wait till my friends and family have had enough and get a play through before they trade it away. I heard Dice had a hand in the game and after seeing how BFBC2 my favourite shooter ever went on to be BF3 It makes me more nervous than ever at how bad this game will be. EA has ruined Bioware which was one of the best game companies. Even Star Wars TOR is a mess, and this should be a good fit for BIOware. thanks for the great read BTW.

Ryan said...

Thanks for the comment Thorin! A few things I would like to point out though, DICE really didn't have a hand in ME3's development. They simply offered advice on the sound design, particularly in terms of sound effects. A lot of critics and fans have been very impressed with SFX, myself included, so it's not a bad thing.

In regards to the Adept, I have heard about their new weight system, which allows for near instantaneous cooldowns for all classes depending on your weapon loadout. It sounds like it could address the issue of ME2's cooldown system. We'll have to wait and see.

I have to admit, as much as I love ME2's score, it truly was missing the 80's synth of ME1 which noticeably changed the vibe of the game. Having heard minor tidbits of ME3's score, I can tell you that the synth sound is making a grand return. Have you listened to the music from Arrival? The DLC itself was only so-so, but the music was killer. I am so happy to see those two composers on ME3.

I have heard a lot of good things about ME3 lately. But, will the new RPG features hold up? Will the focus on combat overshadow all other aspects of the game? Will it have a great story? Will any of the choices we made, or have yet to make have any bearing on the story at all? These are the questions in my head. I know Bioware has the ability to make ME3 the best game ever. I just don't know if they will utilize that ability. We will find out next week. Thanks again.