Escapist Podcast: 037: Directed vs Player Driven Narrative

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037: Directed vs Player Driven Narrative

This week, we discuss directed narratives vs player driven narratives and how it affects the ending of a game. We also talk about the Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition announcement.

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*Gleeful gasp
So many podcasts! Feel free to make some more for the weekend, too... They're good to play over ME3 multiplayer.

I listened to another podcast and read a follow-up essay from the good folks at Ferretbrain on the subject that I feel sums it up well.

They didn't give us one great ending or five good endings.

They gave us three versions of the same one ending, and all of the versions of the one ending are filled with plot holes and inconsistencies and needlessly break the Universe of Mass Effect and don't answer our questions about what happens to the characters after the final decision.

Kahunaburger:
I listened to another podcast and read a follow-up essay from the good folks at Ferretbrain on the subject that I feel sums it up well.

Article was excellent, thanks.

Uszi:
They didn't give us one great ending or five good endings.

They gave us three versions of the same one ending

It's almost like stopping the Reapers was the entire point of the whole trilogy.

and don't answer our questions about what happens to the characters after the final decision.

It's almost like the whole trilogy was meant to follow Shepard from the very first scene of the first game.

But yeah, can't argue with the plot holes.

Phlakes:

It's almost like stopping the Reapers was the entire point of the whole trilogy.

Which isn't what I meant by "the same ending."

It's almost like the whole trilogy was meant to follow Shepard from the very first scene of the first game.

Eh, but then the current ending doesn't do that, since you're treated to that awful Normandy scene.

But yeah, can't argue with the plot holes.

Indeed.

i am both an artist, and a highly creative person... most of the time (cant be original constantly) but yeah, that sounds about right... cuz yeah, im a bit nutso.

also, i've met some reserved artists, and their art seems to be a way to vent their emotions in a controlled manner, or a means of observing the world...

...now to actually finish listening to the podcat

Why would people look at a script before the game releases, even if they care about it? Because they're curious... no self control... eager. Not that complex.

I really have a hard time accepting that Bioware made a game that was 99% fantastic, and then -purposefully- created an ending where nothing matters, nothing is answered, and none of it even makes sense...

I mean, that's really what gets me, if the game itself was mediocre, the endings wouldn't bother me at all, but the endings are so glaringly bad, for a minute there I thought perhaps I was suddenly playing a different game. Hell I would actually -prefer- the DA:O text crawl or the "it was all a dream" of the Indoctrination Theory as opposed to what we've been left with.

"How much would you spend on BG:EE if it was just prettier and functional?"

20 - Buy in a heartbeat.
30 - I'd mull it over but I'd ultimately get it unless my bank account was pitifully low.
40 - I'd feel guilty and unless I got a cash winfall I'd wait til' it went on sale. Unless it was REAL pretty and I got to ogle Viconia DeVir.

ps. fuck that mage-assassin dude at the first town's inn. He always stomped all over me.

What?! As a Texan, I have this to say... things are trying to kill you? Buh?

On another note...

80 degrees is hot? What?

And lastly...

I go two ways, in my underwear or in pants. I don't wear shorts. I wouldn't wear clothes at all if it were legal (Pst... it's hot in Texas, clothes suck), but if am going to be forced to wear something... it's not going to be shorts.

I think I finally understand the ending of Family Guy's y2k apocalyptic episode

Did anybody else catch the Dragon Age 2 call back?
Well done guys.
Lets stop talking about Mass Effect 3 let's jump over to Bioware's other biggest failure and talk about that for a bit.

EDIT: I'm wrong. While it's true they skimp on the details in THIS podcast, turns out they explore all the fan outcry very well in a previous podcast. Check it out here: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/escapist-podcast/5483-Bonus-Mass-Effect-3-With-Spoilers-Part-2

I'm sorry, but you guys are way over-analyzing something that's not that hard to figure out. People like a happy ending. This isn't rocket science. Hollywood figured this out decades ago.

BAM: http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2012/03/16 There's your in-depth analysis.

People aren't bitching because they wanted MORE choices. They are bitching because no matter what they do in the game, they get a downer ending.

I get that you didn't want to spoil anything for Steve, but going on and on about "player agency" in the middle of the podcast is simply dishonest. It creates the impression that you believe that people are complaining because the story converged. They're not. They're complaining because the story converged in a direction they didn't want it to go, and they had no ability to avert it.

You had to know that going into the podcast. Why not just ask Steve to step out of the room? Then you could have actually discussed the game and the issue people have with the ending, instead of this non-content in the middle of the podcast where everyone goes "derp, I dunno, I gueth people juth want more choitheth!"

WarpZone:
BAM: http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2012/03/16 There's your in-depth analysis.

People aren't bitching because they wanted MORE choices. They are bitching because no matter what they do in the game, they get a downer ending.

Ahhhh yes. That old saw. Certainly it has nothing to do with the fact that Casey Hudson explicitly stated in a JANUARY interview that the endings would have hundreds of permutations and that they would NOT just be an A, B, C choice ending. Yet that was exactly what we got. Or, y'know, the fact that the ENTIRE theme of the games RIGHT up until the ending itself has been "Choices Matter". That clearly has no effect on fan outrage.

But of course, according to you NONE of these things has to do with fan outrage and it's only because we wanted a happy ending.

Susan: I thought we weren't gonna talk about Mass Effect 'cause you haven't played it!

Steve: No, no, but let's talk about the ending.

(Wait, what?)

Speaking of broken, Mass Effect 3 ending DO include a broken part. 2 Characters that were with you in the end get magically teleported elsewhere without explanation. It does look broken, exactly as if they killed a character and then he's suddenly alive with no explanation.

And another point, "main villain" offers an explanation of his action which is flat out retarded and illogical and Shepard believes it.

How illogical? Like saying "I've murdered these children with a butcher knife to prevent them from being murdered with a butcher knife".

Am I wrong or is there really no other way to download the podcast other than iTunes? I don't use iTunes, but I also rarelly listen to podcasts on my computer, I listen to them from my phone while on the bus, work and school and during walks.

Unless I have missed some great download link, here is a humble request: Please make it downloadable straight to your computer as an MP3. I would use the crap out of that feature. ;)

It's possible to play Baldur's Gate multiplayer with the old versions. You just need to use a program called Gameranger.

sindremaster:
It's possible to play Baldur's Gate multiplayer with the old versions. You just need to use a program called Gameranger.

I've tried it and couldn't get it to work for whatever reason.

Draconalis:
What?! As a Texan, I have this to say... things are trying to kill you? Buh?

On another note...

80 degrees is hot? What?

And lastly...

I go two ways, in my underwear or in pants. I don't wear shorts. I wouldn't wear clothes at all if it were legal (Pst... it's hot in Texas, clothes suck), but if am going to be forced to wear something... it's not going to be shorts.

For March, 80 is hot. We were wearing hoodies and stuff a week ago, so we haven't mentally shifted to "warm" mode yet.

And yes, Texas wants to kill you. Coyotes, snakes, scorpions, spiders....*shudder*

I wonder why reviewers and non-reviews seem to disagree so much. Over at Bioware's forums, a poll with 55,000 votes shows they majority (91%) want a different ending. There's a thread with 236,000 views comprised of people asking for new endings. On Amazon ME3 has, on xbox, 2 stars (527 reviews), on PC it has 2 stars (185 reviews). Side note, ME2 had 4-4.5 stars. Metacritic shows the same thing, if you read the reviews (even the good ones) people are complaining about the end. Everyone I've talked to at school says "the game was great but that ending was so bad, I've returned my game." That to me shows there's an issue. They shouldn't "patch" it but releasing DLC that supports the indoctrination theory would be pretty cool.

tbh I don't think they even needed 5 good endings or 1 amazing. I think a split of 3 good would have easily sufficed.

1) You prepared the best you could. As much peace and cooporation as possible. Largest fleet ever. Max (or fairly close to) War Assets etc. = You save the day yay!

2) You did a lot but not quite enough. You had enough War Assets to win the war but Shepard has to sacrifice himself in order to ensure victory.

3) You rushed through everything. Pissed off everyone. Those who aren't angry probably died off somewhere. Low War Assets. You utterly fail and Reapers win. Game over, try again next game.

Then at the very end a slide show like DA:O with a simple voice over doing a simple "You picked X. Here's how that panned out... You picked Y. Here's how that panned out... etc"

Maybe that's just me.

EDIT: Basically, a happy ending isn't a requirement just available as an option. You can have it if you put in the effort.

EDIT 2: Upon further listening I have to say aside from the outcome of the ending. They are in fact mechanically broken on a story writing level. If they have pride as writers it should at least be fixed on those grounds to repair the glaring plotholes and wonky writing. For further reading on this: http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/355/index/10022779/1

Susan Arendt:

For March, 80 is hot. We were wearing hoodies and stuff a week ago, so we haven't mentally shifted to "warm" mode yet.

And yes, Texas wants to kill you. Coyotes, snakes, scorpions, spiders....*shudder*

80 is like, nice here, but at the same time... 40 is too damn cold, so I suppose temp tolerances are drastically difference.

And spiders are just terrifying... period.

And in other news, because I couldn't listen to the whole podcast last night.

With THAC0, your Armor class goes down because you're hurting their chance to hit you. They need to get a 15 to hit you, and you want fuck that up, so you add your AC to it, thus lower numbers are better.

It's simply addition and subtraction.

I am a 2nd edition guru, and I refuse to ever move on... mostly because I hate the d20 system. But I also hate how OP all the characters got in 3rd edition.

Subject change!

My wife is pregnant, and people tell me I need to stop cussing so much. I don't think it's going to happen.

But what I find hilarious, is that I never heard people talking about kids and gaming (user questions, Articles, people just talking about it) until my wife got pregnant and we decided to keep her... so now, when I hear these questions I'm like, "Yeah, I was wanting to know this too! This is relevant to me now!"

It may be worth remembering that that while Mass Effect 3 is the ending of Shepard's trilogy; If there is going to be spinoffs that takes place in the Mass Effect universe, after the ME1-ME3 events, there is going to need to be a post-trilogy stage, that is set in a similar way to every player, plus/minus this or that faction.

I have yet to play ME3, waiting for the price to drop, in sort of a quasi-boycott and I am trying desperately to fight spoiling myself before I do get to experience the game, but from what I have not managed to avoid overhearing:

WarpZone:
I'm sorry, but you guys are way over-analyzing something that's not that hard to figure out. People like a happy ending. This isn't rocket science. Hollywood figured this out decades ago.

BAM: http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2012/03/16 There's your in-depth analysis.

I found the comic hilarious, especially the last panel. I can't help but read it in Wrex's voice.

That said, it isn't an in depth analysis. Penny Arcade lampoons game industry news for laughs, and this was the funniest jab they could make on the issue--not the most accurate.

People aren't bitching because they wanted MORE choices. They are bitching because no matter what they do in the game, they get a downer ending.

"People," "they," etc are the operative words here. There certainly are people who are complaining about getting a "downer" ending. And there a lot of other people who have a lot of other complaints. For instance, my main reason for disliking the ending isn't that it was sad or that I didn't have enough choices, it was that all of my choices ultimately destroy the Universe of Mass Effect as it had existed up until the end of ME3. None of the options preserve or improve the status quo as it existed prior to the war with the Reapers---the status quo which I had just spent three games trying to defend, and most of Mass Effect 3 I spent improving (ending the war with the Quarians/Geth, saving the Krogan, etc).

My impression is that you either aren't reading what other people have said, or you're ignoring what other people have said, or you're assuming they're lying to you when they list other reasons.

I don't think you can generalize one set of complaints to the tens of thousands who have complained about the ending online, especially when there's no way for any of us to collect a representative sample of those complaints.

I get that you didn't want to spoil anything for Steve, but going on and on about "player agency" in the middle of the podcast is simply dishonest. It creates the impression that you believe that people are complaining because the story converged. They're not. They're complaining because the story converged in a direction they didn't want it to go, and they had no ability to avert it.

So.... are they complaining about the story converging, or aren't they? First you say its inaccurate to claim, "that people are complaining because the story converged." Then, you say, "They're complaining because the story converged..."

Anyway, using your words, how is complaining about the ending to a series (where player agency and control are the hallmark feature) ending in a way where the story converges in a way beyond player control NOT a complaint about player agency and control?

Also how is it dishonest to create "the impression that you believe that people are complaining because the story converged?" Stating that you believe something because of "X" is not dishonest. Stating that something is objectively so because of "Y," where "Y" is untrue or a misrepresentation, is dishonest.

An example of actual dishonesty is saying that all players are complaining simply because of the downer ending.

I'll be interested in seeing the BG enhanced edition as i missed the old school RPG Renaissance in the late mid 90s as My computer could not handle the games. I've been using GoG to play some of them but one that would be more agreeable with my modern computer would be nice.

ravenshrike:

But of course, according to you NONE of these things has to do with fan outrage and it's only because we wanted a happy ending.

My bad. I didn't mean to suggest that there weren't tons of smaller problems. I was just pointing out how lame it is to do a podcast about Mass Effect, directly acknowledge the fan reaction, and then not address anything the fans are complaining about, not even the obvious broad-stokes problems other venues have already openly discussed.

It comes across like they're attacking a straw man of the fan complaints, as if to say "Sorry, sponsors! We don't know why the metacritic score is so low!" Even though they made it clear they were trying not to spoil anything for Steve, it comes across this way because they avoid saying anything of substance. The voice of Gaming, ladies and gentlemen.

Sorry about the double-post, there was some kinda bullshit involving cross-site captchas that didn't want to load properly.

sordcooper:
also, i've met some reserved artists, and their art seems to be a way to vent their emotions in a controlled manner, or a means of observing the world...

More or less came here to say this. I'm very reserved (except with my wife or a few very close friends), so, to Steve and anyone else who doesn't understand introverts/reserved people: just because we're not prone to visible emotional displays or outbursts doesn't mean there's any less of an emotional response to things or we're less sensitive to or less driven by emotion.

Granted, I'd never self-identify as an "artist" (that'll never be my profession, nor am I arrogant enough to believe anything I've written/drawn/sculpted merits public display as art), but I enjoy various creative hobbies when I can find the time and energy for them.

This is what I've heard about Baldur's Gate Enhanced:

There will be Baldur's Gate (with Tales of the Sword Coast) and Baldur's Gate 2 (with Throne of Bhaal).

They are updating the graphics at least to Throne of Bhaal level for all of the Enhanced.

Some new content will be added.

Keeping 2nd edition rules.

Susan Arendt:
And yes, Texas wants to kill you. Coyotes, snakes, scorpions, spiders....*shudder*

I suggest you never go anywhere near Australia.

Uszi:

For instance, my main reason for disliking the ending isn't that it was sad or that I didn't have enough choices, it was that all of my choices ultimately destroy the Universe of Mass Effect as it had existed up until the end of ME3. None of the options preserve or improve the status quo as it existed prior to the war with the Reapers---the status quo which I had just spent three games trying to defend, and most of Mass Effect 3 I spent improving (ending the war with the Quarians/Geth, saving the Krogan, etc).

Uh... sorry, maybe we're talking at cross-purposes here, but I consider what you just described an additional choice that leads to a happy ending. What did you think I meant?

Uszi:

I don't think you can generalize one set of complaints to the tens of thousands who have complained about the ending online, especially when there's no way for any of us to collect a representative sample of those complaints.

No, you're right. It's just that they're going out of their way to avoid mentioning even the big, obvious ones. My post was mostly expressing frustration that the gaming comic's throwaway joke had more to say than a half-hour podcast by the self-professed "voice of gaming."

So.... are they complaining about the story converging, or aren't they? First you say its inaccurate to claim, "that people are complaining because the story converged." Then, you say, "They're complaining because the story converged..."

I meant that it's what specifically happened after the convergence that pissed people off. Not a general "lack of content," but the fact that the content included was directly antagonistic to their ongoing gameplay experience.

Anyway, using your words, how is complaining about the ending to a series (where player agency and control are the hallmark feature) ending in a way where the story converges in a way beyond player control NOT a complaint about player agency and control?

It is. But they didn't go into deep discussion about it in the podcast, as we have done in these post. They just tossed around the words "agency" and "control" without actually relating it to anything that happens in the game, even the parts of the game that happen the same way to everybody.

Also how is it dishonest to create "the impression that you believe that people are complaining because the story converged?" Stating that you believe something because of "X" is not dishonest. Stating that something is objectively so because of "Y," where "Y" is untrue or a misrepresentation, is dishonest.

I view it as a straw man argument. I'm sure they didn't intend it that way, it just comes across as one, because in avoiding spoilers, they avoided weighing in on the controversy at all. You'd think the Editor-In-Chief would have seen this coming.

An example of actual dishonesty is saying that all players are complaining simply because of the downer ending.

I'll admit that was careless use of language on my part. I probably should have said something along the lines of "One complaint that comes up pretty consistently while paging through the reams of negative reviews over at metacritic is that the endings sucked. Not simply because they were sad, but because they were sad for reasons that lore, the ME universe's internal logic, and the past choices of the player suggest should have been avoidable." My bad.

WarpZone:

ravenshrike:

But of course, according to you NONE of these things has to do with fan outrage and it's only because we wanted a happy ending.

My bad. I didn't mean to suggest that there weren't tons of smaller problems. I was just pointing out how lame it is to do a podcast about Mass Effect, directly acknowledge the fan reaction, and then not address anything the fans are complaining about, not even the obvious broad-stokes problems other venues have already openly discussed.

It comes across like they're attacking a straw man of the fan complaints, as if to say "Sorry, sponsors! We don't know why the metacritic score is so low!" Even though they made it clear they were trying not to spoil anything for Steve, it comes across this way because they avoid saying anything of substance. The voice of Gaming, ladies and gentlemen.

I have no idea why you're being so hostile towards us, especially when we devoted an entire podcast to the endings, including a variety of fan complaints.

Vkmies:
Am I wrong or is there really no other way to download the podcast other than iTunes? I don't use iTunes, but I also rarelly listen to podcasts on my computer, I listen to them from my phone while on the bus, work and school and during walks.

Unless I have missed some great download link, here is a humble request: Please make it downloadable straight to your computer as an MP3. I would use the crap out of that feature. ;)

Yes, lower left hand side of the player there is a little podcast button. That will take you to an RSS page with download links, for whatever reason it doesn't work in Chrome but every other browser should be fine.

ARCTIC_EAGLE:
I wonder why reviewers and non-reviews seem to disagree so much. Over at Bioware's forums, a poll with 55,000 votes shows they majority (91%) want a different ending. There's a thread with 236,000 views comprised of people asking for new endings. On Amazon ME3 has, on xbox, 2 stars (527 reviews), on PC it has 2 stars (185 reviews). Side note, ME2 had 4-4.5 stars. Metacritic shows the same thing, if you read the reviews (even the good ones) people are complaining about the end. Everyone I've talked to at school says "the game was great but that ending was so bad, I've returned my game." That to me shows there's an issue. They shouldn't "patch" it but releasing DLC that supports the indoctrination theory would be pretty cool.

In general, I think reviewers are more willing to look at the product as a whole. That's not to say that someone's opinion that the ending ruined their whole experience is invalid. For example, I flat out stated in our podcast that I though the ending was broken, but I still think Mass Effect 3 is overall an great game. I genuinely believe that a lot of those 55,000 views or 236,000 page views are coming from a similar place of affection for the game and series. If people simply hated from start to finish we wouldn't see this much outcry.

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