Mass Effect retaken: Bioware described extra ending content at surprisingly positive PAX East panel
The Mass Effect panel at PAX East was a hot ticket: Fans began lining up early, and there was much discussion and speculation about the possibility of an ugly crowd. The developers and press had been sent nasty tweets and e-mails about the game’s ending in the weeks leading up to the show, and it was expected that members of the “Retake Mass Effect” movement would take this opportunity to be heard, and the message might be less than respectful.
The reality was that the event went smoothly, and the developers onstage discussed the game and the process of writing and executing the game’s core scenes. The popularity of certain choices was often determined by a show of hands. Attendees often yelled things at the stage during the speech, but the ribbing was both good-natured and friendly. It was a rowdy but loving audience.
Then, of course, the ending was discussed. “So yesterday we announced the Extended Cut,” Bioware producer Mike Gamble said. “To be clear, the extended cut is not a re-imagining of the ending or a new ending.” There was even more applause at this point, but no more details about what to expect were shared. “We’re currently building it right now, our cinematics team is on it. Our writers are heavily involved. It’s coming together,” Gamble said.
So what’s the point of the content? “We want to give more closure about some of the questions you have,” Gamble explained, “and in general we wanted to give the players a sense of personalization with the endings. Many people mentioned that some of the choices they made in the game are not necessarily reflected in the ending scenes. We’re definitely going to focus on things like that. We want to make sure that when you see the ending of Mass Effect, you now have the information and context to be satisfied.” They’re shooting for a “generic summer” release, and we’re told to expect a decent amount of content; the new information won’t be rushed. “It’s more than just a few cinematic scenes,” Gamble said. “We’re happy to be doing it.”
The panel pointed out that this content wasn’t in the game because they didn’t know fans wanted it. “The dev team stands by what was released in the core product, and we’re very proud of it. It was important though for us to listen to the community, and a lot of that feedback didn’t come until the game came out. Once we were listening we decided to include the extended cut. It wasn’t in the game because we didn’t know there was such a huge demand for it, to be honest with you.”
Gamble also talked about the indoctrination theory, however vaguely. “The indoctrination theory kind of illustrates again how committed the fanbase is. The thing is, we don’t want to comment either way, because we don’t want to be prescriptive for how people interpret the ending, especially with the Extended Cut coming out. We want the content to speak for itself, so we’re going to let it do so.”
The rest of the panel delved deeply in the hows and whys of the game, but describing the rest of the content would devolve into spoilers for different ways to play the game. The crowd was warm, the developers were engaged, and the panel was a positive look at Mass Effect 3. The developers encouraged people who couldn’t ask a question to find them in the Bioware area the show to speak about the game directly. The group was cheered by the fans, many people posed for pictures with the amazing cosplayers, and it was over in around an hour. While it looked like things went smoothly, the Internet exploded with wild theories about why things didn’t become more negative. Some fans claimed the questions were screened (they weren’t) or why people were kicked out for wearing certain t-shirts (didn’t happen).
The truth is that Bioware is doing what was asked of them by disgruntled fans, those who attended the panel seemed to enjoy themselves, and everyone learned many new details about a world they’ve explored across three games. The panel may not stop the name calling and nastiness online, but it did prove that the fans had many interesting things to ask about the game and its ending, and Bioware is more than willing to listen and act on that feedback.
The reality is much friendlier, if less sensational, than the wild stories being told online.