It’s a surprisingly heartfelt post, which I will excerpt at some length (though not in its entirety):
As co-founder and GM of BioWare, I’’m very proud of the ME3 team; I personally believe Mass Effect 3 is the best work we’ve yet created. So, it’s incredibly painful to receive feedback from our core fans that the game’s endings were not up to their expectations. Our first instinct is to defend our work and point to the high ratings offered by critics — but out of respect to our fans, we need to accept the criticism and feedback with humility.
I believe passionately that games are an art form, and that the power of our medium flows from our audience, who are deeply involved in how the story unfolds, and who have the uncontested right to provide constructive criticism. At the same time, I also believe in and support the artistic choices made by the development team. The team and I have been thinking hard about how to best address the comments on ME3′s endings from players, while still maintaining the artistic integrity of the game.
Mass Effect 3 concludes a trilogy with so much player control and ownership of the story that it was hard for us to predict the range of emotions players would feel when they finished playing through it. The journey you undertake in Mass Effect provokes an intense range of highly personal emotions in the player; even so, the passionate reaction of some of our most loyal players to the current endings in Mass Effect 3 is something that has genuinely surprised us. This is an issue we care about deeply, and we will respond to it in a fair and timely way. We’re already working hard to do that.
To that end, since the game launched, the team has been poring over everything they can find about reactions to the game — industry press, forums, Facebook, and Twitter, just to name a few. The Mass Effect team, like other teams across the BioWare Label within EA, consists of passionate people who work hard for the love of creating experiences that excite and delight our fans. I’m honored to work with them because they have the courage and strength to respond to constructive feedback.
Building on their research, Exec Producer Casey Hudson and the team are 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. You’ll hear more on this in April. We’re working hard to maintain the right balance between the artistic integrity of the original story while addressing the fan feedback we’ve received. This is in addition to our existing plan to continue providing new Mass Effect content and new full games, so rest assured that your journey in the Mass Effect universe can, and will, continue.
As I remarked to Sergorn Dragon via email, it would seem evident now that BioWare is going to do something about the ending of the game (Dr. Muzyka says as much, above), though what exactly is…not specified. The worst case scenario, I think, is a full-on rewrite of the ending sequence, pushed out via a multi-gigabyte download…mirroring what’s being done even now with the most recent Mass Effect novel. A slightly better case would, I guess, be the rumoured “The Truth” add-on, which some fans believe has been planned all along.
Note: Spoilers follow!
Then there’s the indoctrination theory, as it has come to be known, which asserts (if I have it right) that the ending of Mass Effect 3 does not depict actual events in the life of Commander Shepard, but instead depicts a hallucination or dream he suffers through after being blasted by Harbinger during the Battle of London. The theory maintains that Shepard, having been exposed to Reaper technology many times during the course of the series, has now finally begun to succumb to the siren call of his mortal enemy; the endgame sequence depicts his struggle to retain ownership of his own will, and control over his own mind.
It’s a reasonable enough theory, with one (that I can see) major fly in its…lotion: the Prothean VI on Thessia didn’t detect that Shepard was indoctrinated. That’s not to say it couldn’t have happened (maybe it happened on Horizon?), but it goes to show that the theory isn’t fully airtight.
Apart from this issue, however, the theory has some merit, and I like in particular how it ties back to the “from the rubble” shot (which graces the final moments of certain version’s of the game’s ending cutscene). Perhaps more importantly, the theory leaves the ball in BioWare’s court as to how to best capitalize on the interpretations of the imagery of the finale; it actually allows BioWare to preserve the original ending, and even treat it as a valid outcome in some circumstances (any that don’t lead to a “from the rubble” sequence, in fact). I, for one, hope that the Mass Effect team already — always, really — had plans to capitalize on these things, that some sort of follow-up to the game’s otherwise very disconcerting ending was always planned.
Because if that isn’t the case, that means that BioWare is bowing to fan pressure and making a potentially hasty correction to the ending of the game. This has good and bad implications.
On one hand, things like “Reclaim Mass Effect” and the Kickstarter events of recent months show that studios are willing to directly engage fans — and even involve then in the development process in more direct ways…especially if said fans are willing to be constructive rather than trollish. There’s something to that, and more than a few people have already speculated that this might herald a new era in gaming and game development, one that sees much closer and more direct engagement between fans and studios. That’s pretty to think about.
On the other hand, well…fans are fans, and the psychology of fans as a group is, if I may say, very fickle. By which I mean there is often a rather stark contrast between what fans SAY they want and what fans SHOW (by their actions) that they want. There is a certain sense of entitlement to be found in fans, and an always-present mentality of never being satisfied that secretly isn’t meant to be acted upon. And when it IS acted upon, the backlash is often even worse.
If BioWare is pandering now…yeah, that’s (potentially) not good. For them, or (probably) for us. On the other hand, if they’ve had something up their sleeves all along, that could be one of the ballsiest moves in gaming history on their part.
We will, as the good doctor says, know more in April.