Mass Effect 3 Ending Controversy

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As much as i hated the ending, i don't feel that Bioware HAS to completely change it. All i want is a text scroll telling me what happened to the factions and people encountered along the way, i don't feel like that much actual closure is an unreasonable ask.

RedEyesBlackGamer:
http://squallsdead.com/
The ME fanbase isn't the first, nor will it be the last, to try to explain a game's ending/story in a way to convince themselves that it is better/deeper than it actually is.

Interesting site. As a big fan of FFVIII, I'll definitely go check that out.

The only bit I take particular exception to is this:

to convince themselves that it is better/deeper than it actually is

"Actually is"? No, no, the ending is precisely as good and as deep as the person viewing it believes it to be. It's the way of all art; the viewer receives pieces of information (visually, audibly, etc) and pieces it together as they see fit. Whether Bioware intended indoctrination is not the point if the pieces can seamlessly go together that way.

For me to believe indoctrination theory and make it fit within the ending, zero concessions have to be made. NONE.

BUT... to claim that everything that happens in the end is reality, several concessions DO have to be made. Whether they are chalked up to a sudden rampant case of excessively extreme stupidity by Bioware (to the point of one guy being shot and the OTHER guy bleeding), deliberate subterfuge by Bioware, or indoctrination is ultimately irrelevant.

For me, indoctrination IS the ending of the game. You may certainly think otherwise, but the evidence for me says that's what it is. That is the conclusion I drew, and everything I've seen on the replay supports it. What the artists' intent was no longer matters. How I interpret it is all there is.

And be it book or movie or whatever have you, this kind of discussability is generally looked upon as a GOOD THING. Which is why I think Shamus has - once again - let us down. Instead of DISCUSSING THIS as art, he is content to shake a finger and roll with the crowd, offering very few suggestions of how it COULD be interpreted, nothing in terms of how it could be better. Whether you believe it IS indoctrination or ISN'T, a case can absolutely be made for both sides. Both sides deserve discussion.

But Shamus seems content to roll with the "HERPA DERP, this is stooooopid!" crowd. And as someone who constantly complains that the industry treats us like morons, he needs to be held to a higher standard than constantly complaining that video games need to be better, and then completely avoiding all discussion of that meaning when it's perched atop on his nose.

mfeff:

The.Bard:
I just beat the game at 1am last night and I can FINALLY join in on this discussion!

snippidy snip

Please if you have a moment, read this, and the comments. It's worth your time.

http://jmstevenson.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/all-that-matters-is-the-ending-part-2-mass-effect-3/

Great write up. I don't agree with everything he says, but he makes many excellent points. I did not read all of the comments yet, but I definitely will scope them out.

I have no evidence or fly-on-the-wall info to suggest what he hypothesizes about rushing the ending is on the money or out in left field, but I very much agree with him that - regardless of the shitestorm the endings caused - Bioware was going to be releasing more of an ending update at some point in the near future anyway. I just don't see all the DLC coming down the pike for this game to be separate missions unrelated to the Reapers. I think a lot of it will be focused on tying up the story. I know some people like Zeel would flip out at that prospect, but if they end up with 10-12 LotR-esque endings that culminate in a 2-3 hr mega-ending, I'm sure a lot of people would die of joy.

Murmillos:

The.Bard:

If you think these bad endings are laziness/stupidity on Bioware's part, then why are there SO MANY subtle comments and clues that fit together extremely well?

Because I think it was executed in the wrong manner, and they out-right lied on what the ending was going to be like.

Had they not promised non A-B-C endings and polished the ending better & provided some more clues towards the end, this ending would have gone down much much better.

Well, at this point anything additional they release will be assumed to have been done at gunpoint by the fans, but I believe the intent was to roll out multiple pieces of endings over time so we could be left hanging a little and get a jammin' emotional punch when it hits.

With all of the emotion and time they've invested into this series, do you really think it was their intent to lie to you and purposefully undercut this? To what end?

I completely understand how one could come away from the ending dissatisfied. That's a valid emotional response. But I also think too many people are confusing "This ending didn't satisfy me" with "This is the stupidest thing ever and I have to retake this game from the artists who made it."

I guess I still have faith Bioware is gonna pull an ace and deliver an extended ending ($0 if they're smart), and it will flesh out a beautiful ending to this trilogy.

The.Bard:
I just beat the game at 1am last night and I can FINALLY join in on this discussion!

For starters... snip-snip

Bard, I can admire the idea of the Indoctrination theory. I really can. Hell, I even believed Shepard was being subjected to some sort of fishy Reaper control the instant Harbinger's beam blind-sided him. But that idea quickly fell apart as the ending continued, and I can't see any reason why we shouldn't just accept the ending at face value.

The truth is, nearly every point the Indoctrination theory sets forth can be Occam's Razored down to a much simpler, more obvious explanation, or else simple coincidence, or else sloppy writing. I'm going to give a brief run-down of every one you mention.

1) The final radio transmission says NOBODY made it to the beam. Odd seeing how both Anderson & Shepard seemed to.
2) All game long, James CONSTANTLY talks about hearing a strange hum in the shuttle deck when shepard is around.
3) The last dream before the final mission features Shepard watching the little boy run into a copy of him/herself, all evil looking, and then they both ignite in flames. Given the repetitive nature of the dreams, I think it very fair to read into this. Just a bit.
4) How did TIM control both Anderson AND Shepard? And everytime he tried to exert control, the black lines fade in on Shepard's face, like control of him/her is strengthening (or weakening!?).
5) We are told Shepard's entire team is killed, but they appear in the Normandy Synthesis ending (haven't played the others out yet). Given the subtle details everywhere else, I sincerely doubt this was an oversight on Bioware's part.

1) The final radio transmission was being sent out while Shepard was lying, apparently dead, on the ground, so Command would probably just chalk him up alongside the other casualties and turn their attention elsewhere to regroup. There's also the possibility that the destruction of his armor made his life-signs flat-line on their end. Anderson following you onto the Citadel is a little trickier to explain, although I guess you could dismiss it as him getting up from the rubble and following you after you got on, implausible as that may be. No idea on how to explain the "dark hallway" he claims to be in, since there are no other "dark hallways" between you and the control panel.

2) What do you mean about "all game long?" As far as I've noticed, he only mentioned it once. Keep in mind that Vega is standing in the docking bay of a space ship -- a docking bay, of course, which is beneath the giant thrumming engine core. Why is this a suspicious thing to say -- in idle dialogue before a battle, no less, when his nerves would be at their jumpiest. I'm pretty sure that is what the writers were attempting to convey: his nerves.

3) What made you think the copy of Shepard was evil-looking? My Shepard looked simply peaceful, even as the flames engulfed him. A more obvious explanation is that this was simply foreshadowing that Shepard would join in death those he couldn't protect -- a foreboding of potential failure to stop the Reapers. Bioware seems to have clearly been trying to humanize Shepard, and the dream sequences were one of their methods.

4) If the Illusive Man could control one man with Reaper tech, why is it odd that he control two? The black tendrils creeping in represented the "song of oily shadows" of Reaper control -- only in this case, it was Reaper control by way of the Illusive Man's tech.

5) No fucking idea. This is perhaps some of the more compelling evidence, I think, in support of the theory, but given the sloppy, rushed nature of the rest of the ending, it was probably just a case of reused art assets. They didn't want to make a separate cutscene to account for every squad configuration you took down to Earth with you, so they made one cutscene for each ending and you just happened to see one that had at least one of your squad members in it.

Now, fair's fair, my explanations may be simpler and, on their face, more plausible, but that's not to say they're certainly true; that's an assumption in itself. There are, however, much more damning evidence that runs contrary to the Indoctrination theory:

For instance, if the theory is correct, then why, if Shepard has low EMS, does only the "Destroy" option present itself? If the Reapers are trying to Indoctrinate Shepard's mind, then presenting only one option -- their destruction -- with no resistance seems a bit . . . dumb. This is especially dumb if you've chosen to destroy the Geth during the game, since there is now no reason to take that only option.

Furthermore, what is the point of the cutscenes after the choice on the Crucible? Why, after you choose anything, does Harbinger take the time to show you images of Reapers flying away or falling to the earth, Mass Relays exploding spectacularly, and the Normandy attempting to outrun the blastwave and crash landing on an alien world? What function does that serve? Building from that, why -- especially during the "Destroy" ending, where it appears after the scene of Shepard waking in the rubble -- does an epilogue appear? An epilogue which features, no less, the same alien sky the Normandy crashed beneath and which depicts an old man and grandchild presumably generations descended from the original survivors. Their dialogue even gives us the impression that humanity has been unable to reach the stars since the Mass Relays exploded, which pretty well implies that the events we saw at the end happened as we saw them. Why -- and how -- does Harbinger impart that little nugget into Shepard's brain after he breaks free?

Lastly, the Mass Effect series -- hell, all of Bioware's games -- have never been this oblique and psychological; they've always been purely straight-forward adventures -- adventures with mature and complex themes, to be certain, but always straight-forward in execution. So why now, in the last ten minutes, should I expect this change? Why should I suppose that Bioware has applied this level of sophistication and complexity, when nothing prior to this has even approached this level of subtlety?

To compound all of this, none of the released documents, interviews, and statements give any real indication that they have any ace up their sleeve or that this is not their honest-to-God, intended ending. They've always been frank about how this is the way the wanted it to end, and if they were planning something, why did it take a massive petition, a wave of Amazon returns, and review-bombing, for them to make the simple, small concession of planning "game content initiatives" to "add more closure." Why wouldn't Casey Hudson or someone just come out in the face of this controversy and say, "Hey, we know you're confused about all this, but don't worry -- we've got it covered. You wouldn't believe the shit we've got in store." It just doesn't add up.

I like the indoctrination theory. I really do. In fact, it shows a level of imagination in the fans that Bioware should be jealous of. But the fact is, there's just not as much going for it as people believe. It's mostly just boxing shadows on the wall, so you shouldn't really blame people for accepting what they see at face value. Personally, I find it bad writing on their part even if it is indoctrination, since there's so much conflicting evidence either way.

And you know what? Fuck it. Believe in it if you want, even if it doesn't totally make sense. It's a better idea than what Bioware tossed us, at any rate, so substitute their reality for your own.

RedEyesBlackGamer:

http://squallsdead.com/
The ME fanbase isn't the first, nor will it be the last, to try to explain a game's ending/story in a way to convince themselves that it is better/deeper than it actually is.

Oh, man, I can't believe I forgot about that site. Thanks for bringing that up.

P.S. Goddamn, I didn't realize I wrote that much. Forgive the shit-brick of text.

P.P.S. During the writing of this, I watched the gameplay of the Crucible approach on Youtube to refresh my memory, and goddamn if that shit just doesn't jive. Bioware's writing team certainly couldn't have dropped the ball that much by accident, could they? It's just so fucking weird to take that sequence of events at face value, even though I doubt the Indoctrination theory.

The.Bard:

RedEyesBlackGamer:
http://squallsdead.com/
The ME fanbase isn't the first, nor will it be the last, to try to explain a game's ending/story in a way to convince themselves that it is better/deeper than it actually is.

Interesting site. As a big fan of FFVIII, I'll definitely go check that out.

The only bit I take particular exception to is this:

to convince themselves that it is better/deeper than it actually is

"Actually is"? No, no, the ending is precisely as good and as deep as the person viewing it believes it to be. It's the way of all art; the viewer receives pieces of information (visually, audibly, etc) and pieces it together as they see fit. Whether Bioware intended indoctrination is not the point if the pieces can seamlessly go together that way.

For me to believe indoctrination theory and make it fit within the ending, zero concessions have to be made. NONE.

BUT... to claim that everything that happens in the end is reality, several concessions DO have to be made. Whether they are chalked up to a sudden rampant case of excessively extreme stupidity by Bioware (to the point of one guy being shot and the OTHER guy bleeding), deliberate subterfuge by Bioware, or indoctrination is ultimately irrelevant.

For me, indoctrination IS the ending of the game. You may certainly think otherwise, but the evidence for me says that's what it is. That is the conclusion I drew, and everything I've seen on the replay supports it. What the artists' intent was no longer matters. How I interpret it is all there is.

And be it book or movie or whatever have you, this kind of discussability is generally looked upon as a GOOD THING. Which is why I think Shamus has - once again - let us down. Instead of DISCUSSING THIS as art, he is content to shake a finger and roll with the crowd, offering very few suggestions of how it COULD be interpreted, nothing in terms of how it could be better. Whether you believe it IS indoctrination or ISN'T, a case can absolutely be made for both sides. Both sides deserve discussion.

But Shamus seems content to roll with the "HERPA DERP, this is stooooopid!" crowd. And as someone who constantly complains that the industry treats us like morons, he needs to be held to a higher standard than constantly complaining that video games need to be better, and then completely avoiding all discussion of that meaning when it's perched atop on his nose.

Sorry if I sounded condescending. :S
You have every right to believe that, but I don't want to see Bioware getting credit for something that they didn't put in the game. From my understanding, they scrapped the Indoctrination plan, but were lazy enough to leave the hints in. They created a horrible ending, some fans made it better than that.

I have to seriously ask: When was it promised that the ending of mass effect 3 wouldn't be a choose a, b, or c ending, that it would be a unique ending based on the choices made throughout the three games for the player?

I've read many times that Bioware "Lied, owes us a refund because the last 10 minutes of the third game didn't meet the standard the 100+ hrs of the series had met, translation: We are indisputably children, with entitlement issues."

I understand being unhappy with the ending, I've read books with endings I didn't like. But suddenly deciding I'm owed something because I didn't like the ending of a series I liked until that point? Yeah, at that point you need to grow up.

Caverat:
I have to seriously ask: When was it promised that the ending of mass effect 3 wouldn't be a choose a, b, or c ending, that it would be a unique ending based on the choices made throughout the three games for the player?

I've read many times that Bioware "Lied, owes us a refund because the last 10 minutes of the third game didn't meet the standard the 100+ hrs of the series had met, translation: We are indisputably children, with entitlement issues."

I understand being unhappy with the ending, I've read books with endings I didn't like. But suddenly deciding I'm owed something because I didn't like the ending of a series I liked until that point? Yeah, at that point you need to grow up.

Just so you know, saying "I do not know what you base your points on, do not care to research, and yet am in a position to call you children" is laughably bad logic.

But here is a list of verifiable lies told by BioWare staff prior to release:

http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/323/index/10204263/1

To answer your first question:
- Interviewer: [Regarding the numerous possible endings of Mass Effect 2] "Is that same type of complexity built into the ending of Mass Effect 3?"
- Casey Hudson: "Yeah, and I'd say much more so, because we have the ability to build the endings out in a way that we don't have to worry about eventually tying them back together somewhere. This story arc is coming to an end with this game. That means the endings can be a lot
more different. At this point we're taking into account so many decisions that you've made as a player and reflecting a lot of that stuff. It's not even in any way like the traditional game endings, where you can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, or C... The endings have a lot more sophistication and variety in them."

This specific enough for you?

ThingInTheCoat:

P.S. Goddamn, I didn't realize I wrote that much. Forgive the shit-brick of text.

P.P.S. During the writing of this, I watched the gameplay of the Crucible approach on Youtube to refresh my memory, and goddamn if that shit just doesn't jive. Bioware's writing team certainly couldn't have dropped the ball that much by accident, could they? It's just so fucking weird to take that sequence of events at face value, even though I doubt the Indoctrination theory.

Dude, I was an English major. Not only did I read your entire shit-brick of text, but I salivated at reading it, because I'm dropping a shit-brick of text right back at you!!! XD To keep this SOMEWHAT readable, I've hidden much of the prior and current content in spoiler tags to keep it easier to swallow!

FINAL NOTE AS I COMPLETE THIS: I AM SO SO SORRY. THIS IS EVEN LONGER THAN THE LONG LONG THING I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DO SHAMUS' JOB FOR HIM. 8P

---------

ON REWRITES VS INTERPRETATIONS:

ON "BIOWARE PLANNED THIS ALL ALONG" -vs- "BIOWARE ABANDONED THE IDEA AND THREW IN A LAST MINUTE HACK JOB ENDING":

To your points in response to my points:

ON HAVING LOW EMS / ONLY DESTROY OPTION:

ON POST CRUCIBLE CUTSCENES:

ON BIOWARE'S NON-USE OF THIS IN OTHER GAMES:

IN CLOSING:

Thank you again for engaging me in conversation on this. I have been DYING to discuss the ending with someone, and most of my friends at this point haven't beaten the game yet, or, like my brother-in-law, just want to spout on about how much the ending is a PoS, no room for any other interpretation. You have really made my day! XD

RedEyesBlackGamer:
Sorry if I sounded condescending. :S
You have every right to believe that, but I don't want to see Bioware getting credit for something that they didn't put in the game. From my understanding, they scrapped the Indoctrination plan, but were lazy enough to leave the hints in. They created a horrible ending, some fans made it better than that.

Oh no, you didn't come off as condescending at all. When I said I took exception to it, I just meant I disagreed. You voiced your opinion quite well.

I just wrote a mega-uber-long reply about the potential of them scrapping the ending and being lazy, so I won't repeat my uber long windedness. Feel free to read the post if you have trouble falling asleep tonight, though:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/jump/6.355500.14163480

ThingInTheCoat:
P.P.S. During the writing of this, I watched the gameplay of the Crucible approach on Youtube to refresh my memory, and goddamn if that shit just doesn't jive. Bioware's writing team certainly couldn't have dropped the ball that much by accident, could they? It's just so fucking weird to take that sequence of events at face value, even though I doubt the Indoctrination theory.

Ok, if you haven't already read my last uber duber mega post, don't bother. Everything I said can be summed up far more effectively by going here and devoting 20 mins of your time to a VERY worthy eye-opener:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ythY_GkEBck

I take back what I said about no conclusive evidence. This -IS- as close to conclusive evidence as you can possibly find. It's one thing to play the game and think to yourself, "OH, this looks like indoctrination!" But hearing the voices of Sovereign, Shepard, & Harbinger over the course of the entire series SPELL IT OUT as each part of the ending flies by? That is a whole new level of eye-opening. There isn't one part of that video that does not fit together LOCK and KEY.

Occam's Razor, baby:

1) Bioware wrote a final confrontation of Shepard's internal struggle against indoctrination. Anderson and TIM are competing facets of Shepard's mind, and the entire ending choices are ultimately nothing but the fight for control of Shepard. (Logic Gaps: None)

- OR -

2) Bioware willfully defied EVERYTHING ELSE they did within the game, creating 15-20 plot holes the size of the Titanic. They were all drunk off their asses when the ending went through the wire, and they intentionally shit upon their own work in a myriad of ways. There is no feasible universe in which this level of ineptitude goes through unless they did it ON PURPOSE. Otherwise, we are to believe Shepard shoots Anderson and they forgot who was supposed to bleed? They "rushed" the ending by creating extra vocal files of Fem/BroShep speaking the Reaper Child's lines? We are supposed to believe nobody was fact checking any of this? Exploding relays that don't explode like they did in Arrival? Everyone at Bioware missed ALL OF THIS?? (Several logic gaps need massive amounts of filling for this to work.)

I'm sorry, #1 wins. Every. Damn. Time. It is more probable, and requires ONLY the information Bioware has previously submitted about indoctrination. It just... DAMN.

image
Bioware, congratulations. You created an ending so brilliant, so amazingly resoundingly full of awesome, that your entire fanbase not only missed the point, but missed the point by so much that they think you guys are mentally challenged.

I think I'm tearing up.

HO-LEE MOLEE.

------------
EDIT: Hmmm, after thinking more, retract statement of missing the point.. Fanbase not missing point. Intent is to make feelings... uncomfortable. Logical for Reaper indoctrination to have loopholes in logic. Therefore, fan reaction appropriate. Correctly identifying somerthing wrong. Anger is not misplaced. BIoware knew this in advance? Predicted accuracy of fan rage to... 79.43%. Did not account for misidentification of cause, however. Hmmm. Need to run more tests.
image

I *loved* the endings of Mass Effect 3!
But the authors of the game received so much criticism.
Show the authors of Mass Effect 3 your appreciation of their art by joing the facebook group and share this post to spread the news!
http://www.facebook.com/groups/362681940443797/

I don't love the endings, but I don't hate them by any means. I'm actually excited that one of my favorite series of all time didn't end. I'll be HAPPY to pay for DLC to continue such an awesome story. What is the problem? If you loved the entire series so much, how does it make sense that you actually want it to end?

The point is, I'm happy to continue the story line. I know that BioWare will put out some awesome content to provide closure. I'll be sad when it ends.

The.Bard:
snip

Brilliant post! Seriously...and the use of Mordin's speech patterns in the edit...just great. Its nice to see someone explain things concisely.

I just have one question about the indoctrination theory. How do you explain the short scene AFTER the credits? It might have been addressed somewhere else, but I havn't been able to find it and I havn't watched the entire video that you linked yet.

The.Bard:

snip

Jesus Christ. I'm not apologizing for text blocks anymore. Evidently, you're writing your thesis on Mass Effect 3, so you reply to mine with a manifesto. I'm humbled. Inspired, even. Not so inspired that I'll reply in like, but it's the thought that counts. This is going to be a sloppy reply, since I'm too tired to give it a good structuring.

As I tried looking into the matter again, I keep finding that everything is so vague in this ending that arguing it is like trying to draw equations in the sand during a tide: All the variables frustratingly keep washing away as I puzzle over them. I'm starting to warm to the Indoctrination theory (as a viable interpretation, not as Bioware's original intention) simply due to how it's not much more implausible than the ending we've got.

Just assume that if I'm not responding to something, I've ceded the point, or else I just can't effectively respond to it with anything more substantial than "LOL LAZY WRITING." And let me tell you, this make a pretty repetitive bullet list if I did.

TO YOUR POINTS IN RESPONSE TO MY POINTS, REDUX

1) As I replayed that part again, I can't deny how dream-like and ethereal it is. I could chalk it up to the haze of pain and shock that Shepard would doubtless be experiencing after having been blind-sided by a space cruiser-destroying stream of molten metal, but the details still just don't jive totally with me.

2) On my playthrough, Vega only ever mentioned the hum once, and that was before the decisive battle on Cerberus' home base, so along with every other character getting edgy, I chalked it up to his nerves getting the best of him. If he says it often in other people's games, I guess it's a little more odd a thing to repeat ad naseum. Theoretically, it might have been a good idea to have other characters perhaps make subtle offhand comments to cement this, had this been a deliberate foreshadowing of indoctrination.

As for the importance of soundtrack reoccurances, the amount people are reading into them is a little reaching, methinks. It's more likely they're just an innocent throwback to remind people of the good times, or else a simple recycle of assets (they reused some Shadow Broker and Project Overlord tracks numerous times, I noticed, even during instances with no apparent connection to either DLC). Since there's very little relationship between Vigil's theme or a Geth combat theme and indoctrination, I'm guessing it's just a case of one of the above.

And as for dead teammates on the Normandy . . . Huh. I . . . guess that could be a bug? It's not entirely clear what the significance of the teammates exiting the ship actually is, if there even is any. Hell, I've heard that even EDI has been spotted leaving the ship on the "Destroy" ending, although I can't confirm. That's so obviously out of place that it has to be a glitch; could be something similar for dead teammates.

Regarding the little details across the board . . . They seem to be little details that add up and fall into place, because they add up to you, not necessarily because the creators intended for them to do so. People make interpretations about media all the time that differ from what the author intended. For instance, many people believed that Lord of the Rings was an allegory for WWII, but Tolkien explicitly stated that such was not the case. Does that make those people's interpretations any less valid, any less founded?

(Quick aside: I never understood why people keep pointing towards Shepard bleeding from the side as evidence. Do they forget that Shepard just took the brunt of a Reaper beam and woke up in a massive pool of his own blood? Showing the still-heavy bleeding from his side after Anderson kicks it simply seems to convey that he also may not be much longer for this world as well as to explain his rapidly fading strength.)

4) It's never established just how or to what extent TIM's Reaper tech works. The method he uses to indoctrinate his troops seems to be similar to the "true" indoctrination the Reapers employ, eroding their will and psyche and replacing it with their own without them being any the wiser. What he seems to use on Anderson and Shepard instead is not "true" indoctrination, per se, but some sort of control mechanism -- something to hijack their nervous systems and will directly, without being able to affect their minds; he still has to attempt to convince them of the righteousness of his path the old-fashioned way. He's using a bootlegged copy of the Reaper's ability to control indoctrinated subjects, not indoctrination itself. Which . . . would possibly actually mean that Shepard and Anderson already suffer from some early stages of indoctrination, anyway, since he can control the indoctrinated. But that's a very concrete observation rooted in earlier evidence that would imply the entire exchange is taking place in reality. But that still implies that Shepard is possibly indoctrinated, reality or not . . .

Fucking equations in the sand. I'm not even entirely sure what I'm arguing anymore. This shit is falling apart in my very hands.

Not sure what to make of your theory on ME2, though. That's . . . an interpretation, I guess. You'd have to do some serious English major kung fu to work that out.

5) Because fucking Casey Hudson and Mac Walters, that's why. We needs lots of speculation from everyone if it's to be good, you understand? Of course you do. Because art.

The Normandy scenes raise so many questions that I cannot begin to address them succinctly. But to address instead your vision of their development model -- you're actually a little closer to the truth than you believe you are. In the behind-the-scenes documentary "The Final Hours of Mass Effect 3", Bioware flat-out admitted that the ending wasn't even written until November; they simply didn't know how to end it until the eleventh hour struck its tones. Combine this other facts -- claims that future DLC would probably only happen before or during the ending, for instance -- and the rumors (allegedly spread by Bioware employees) that Casey Hudson and Mac Walters pretty much collaborated on the ending alone and sprang it on the rest of the writing team without peer review, and you've got just the right ingredients for a monumental disappointment.

Also, in case you're interested, here's a scan of lead writer Mac Walters' notes for the ending. Make of it what you will.

ON HAVING LOW EMS \ ONLY DESTROY OPTION

A fair point. You could argue that, I suppose. However, as to the Reapers losing interest in Shepard, I can't buy that very easily. In ME1, Saren claims that Sovereign expresses great interest in having Shepard come over to the dark side, and in ME2, Harbinger and the Collectors go through great pains to capture Shepard, either as a corpse or a warm body. Of course, the latter may be better explained as an artifact of Drew Karpashyn's original vision of the series' plot, which implied that Reapers were selective about the races they assimilated and had a special eye on humanity -- and Shepard in particular as the crown jewel due to his spearheading of Sovereign's defeat, an apparently unprecedented event. In any case, I think it's safe to say that the Reapers appeared at least intrigued at the prospect of wrapping their song of oily shadows around Shepard, even if their reasons sort of become muddied after ME3 charted a very different plot path from the original, so I find it odd they would just throw their hands in the air and let his indoctrination slip through their fingers without a fight, low EMS or not; he is, after all, still a potentially very valuable commodity.

On another note, the codex states that the most effective indoctrination is a slow burn, so as to maintain maximum mental stability. You could see this in play with Saren and the Illusive Man, where it took months if not years of a steady, gradual shift in mentality via self-delusion and rationalization. In other words, there was no apparent breaking point where they flipped a 180 into full-blown indoctrination. Call me odd, but a vivid, apocalyptic hallucination that ends with Shepard possibly dying and casting the galaxy into an unprecedented dark age, doesn't really seem the insidious, patient process of a high-level indoctrination. Of course, the Reapers may just be pouncing on an opportunity to snatch Shepard in an all-or-nothing gambit, but it seems to me that such a severe, hasty form of indoctrination would leave Shepard's mind deeply-scarred and less useful to their cause. Anyway, I'm just throwing that out there as food for thought.

ON POST CRUCIBLE CUTSCENES

Quickly in regards to the teammates onboard the Normandy: I was under the impression that the ending cutscenes were all pre-rendered and set in stone; I was wrong, and they're in fact rendered using the in-game engine. Furthermore, I went back and replayed the decision on the Crucible, choosing all three endings with full EMS, and strangely I noticed that Tali was in every cutscene; she was my Shepard's love interest and on the ground with him. After looking around on some forums, it seems your love interest always exits the Normandy, for whatever reason. So, I'm wrong about the re-used art assets, and I can't settle on the significance of this criteria for who they choose to exit the Normandy.

As for your theories on the post-crucible cutscenes . . . I can't really argue with them except to draw Occam's Razor over their wrists and look for blood, and that's admittedly just kind of a cop-out when the ending is custom tailored for LOTS OF SPECULATION FROM EVERYONE! Its nonsensical nature doesn't help my case either. Even if they weren't thought out, your ideas are valid enough by default because I just don't have enough substance to back up why they wouldn't be, Bioware, goddammit.

Also, as to the "One more story" bit: I'm pretty sure they were just using that to hawk their side-story DLC, not as a lead-in to the "true" ending. After all, imagine, if you will, the following exchange:

BUZZ: ". . . Shepard had faith in the races that the Reapers never did, so with the power of the Catalyst, he finally brought the cycles to a full reset; and in so doing he allowed the races of the galaxy to blaze their own paths to the stars. The end."

BOY: "Wow, Grandpa. So that's how we got here. Tell me one more story about the Shepard! Please!"

BUZZ: "Well, it's getting late . . . but all right, my sweet. Here, remember how I ended the last story? You should know that I was completely fibbing, you gullible little shit! Goddamn, you kids will believe anything adults tell you. Fine -- here's how it really ended, for complete reals this time . . ."

BOY: "You're the worst Grandpa ever. I just want to go to bed now."

Seriously, who gets asked for another story, and then proceeds to grant that request by retconning the story just told? Or admitting that the ending was chopped off for whatever reason and now here's the real ending? Answer: The best grandpa ever. Still doesn't properly add up to me, though.

ON BIOWARE'S NON-USE OF THIS IN OTHER GAMES

Let me clarify what I meant here, since you seem to have misinterpreted it somewhat. I didn't mean that Bioware does not typically make use of literary allusions in their writing or attempt to manipulate people's emotions with subtle musical cues, when I claimed that their story-telling was always straight-forward; virtually all artists do this, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Rather, what I meant was that their plot execution has generally been simple and unambiguous: A leads to B leads to C finally ends at D -- The End, or To Be Continued, as the case may be. Their plots have not required this degree of analytical gymnastics to unravel, where you have to connect B to E, back to C, then on up ahead to F, reverse it to A, then have it apparently end at G -- but ho-ho! -- it wasn't actually G that it ends at, but the number 7, if you were really paying close attention, maybe, possibly, we're not telling. . . .

I'm not saying it's impossible that they're changing their tactics, I just don't find it likely when comparing this to precedent.

IN CLOSING

My argument was never that Indoctrination was impossible -- in theory. The more I think about it, the more meat I find on the bones. Details do start to fall into place Tetris-like with enough analysis and imagination (and if you ignore more likely explanations and the potential for just plain, old-fashioned bad writing); but I just can't accept that it was part of Bioware's vision all along -- not when it requires this many holes to be cemented over and this many critical flips to be jumped by the fans. Any theories and interpretations just won't ring true personally because -- and this may be intellectually stubborn or conservative or what-have-you -- the way I see things, when the fans have to put more thought into a work than the writers themselves have for it to all come together satisfactorily, then you have made a grave error somewhere along the way, and it's an error I have serious trouble swallowing, no matter how much deconstructing and dissecting I do to rationalize it and figure it out.

Oh well. Here's to seeing how the "game content initiatives" turn out.

For starters, I was bummed that the credits spoiled Buzz Aldrin.

It wasn't the credits that spoiled Buzz Aldrin for me; it was hearing him call a young boy "my sweet" in his wispy, awkward old man voice. But that's neither here nor there.

The.Bard:

Ok, if you haven't already read my last uber duber mega post, don't bother. Everything I said can be summed up far more effectively by going here and devoting 20 mins of your time to a VERY worthy eye-opener:

Damn good video, isn't it? The "Loose Change" of Mass Effect 3. I've already seen it, and it's what initially made me think the Indoctrination theory has some feasibility as an interpretation, even if I don't believe Bioware intended it and even it has to rely on some wild-ass conjecture (and it does).

decay0815:

I *loved* the endings of Mass Effect 3!
But the authors of the game received so much criticism.
Show the authors of Mass Effect 3 your appreciation of their art by joing the facebook group and share this post to spread the news!
http://www.facebook.com/groups/362681940443797/

Decay, it's grand that you loved the endings. I'm ecstatic for you. But would you care to explain just what you found so enchanting about them, as is? How did you bypass or explain the plot holes, sudden shift in tone and theme, and general slap-dash nature of the whole affair?

Eh, I have a feeling you're just here to do a drive-by pimp for your Facebook group, anyway.

Just finished reading the Deconstruction article on your blog. Laughed out loud at the Crucible deconstruction. It's pretty much the best Mass Effect 3 joke I've ever heard.

Even though I don't agree with the "you can't please everyone" sentiment, /thumbsup.

ThingInTheCoat:
Oh, fine, though it pains me, I will also snip!

I doth promise this time to be brief. As brief as a summer rain in the springs on Rannoch! As brief as Lady Jack's fleeting patience! As brief as... *ahem* Sorry.

I think you pretty much nailed everything with this line:

As I tried looking into the matter again, I keep finding that everything is so vague in this ending that arguing it is like trying to draw equations in the sand during a tide: All the variables frustratingly keep washing away as I puzzle over them. I'm starting to warm to the Indoctrination theory (as a viable interpretation, not as Bioware's original intention) simply due to how it's not much more implausible than the ending we've got.

And ding ding ding, we have a winner. Yes, this is exactly it.

I spent more time ruminating over this during the weekend than is probably healthy. I tied my wife to a chair and made her watch the ending. At first she was like "Let me get back to my cooking shows & I won't divorce and sue you into oblivion," but then she started saying how it made no sense. And when it was over, she said it still made no sense.

And even now, it makes no sense. I could as easily drop Indoctrination Theory and introduce "Conrad Verner" theory. Conrad flies in on a Harvester, chases off Harbinger, gets on the intercom to tell Hackett you're alive, radios Joker to bug the F out, and then uses the Crucible to piggy back a signal to each Mass Relay to self-destruct, thus triggering a "soft explosion" rather than the Galaxy-killing one.

... and you would have absolutely no way to prove me wrong.

So I'm 180'ing by the hour. I still believe the ending is Indoctrination Theory, but I'm beginning to doubt whether Bioware intended it as such. I was listening to the soundtrack, and all of the tracks are very straight forward.... "We Face Our Enemy Together" / "I'm Proud of You" / "An End Once and for All"

I just can't imagine them being so brilliantly smart as to release a fake ending and then make the soundtrack fake to go with it. The number of people in the know increases by the hour for this to truly be a fake-out.

I want to believe they sacrificed money, respect, and glory for the sake of faking us all out, but I dunno. I'm still faithful, but I concede it's difficult to close the door on the other options.

James & The Humming Peach: Theoretically, it might have been a good idea to have other characters perhaps make subtle offhand comments to cement this, had this been a deliberate foreshadowing of indoctrination.

Agreed. Nobody else mentioning it certainly weakens the idea of the hum being important.

And as for dead teammates on the Normandy . . . Huh. I . . . guess that could be a bug? It's not entirely clear what the significance of the teammates exiting the ship actually is, if there even is any. Hell, I've heard that even EDI has been spotted leaving the ship on the "Destroy" ending, although I can't confirm. That's so obviously out of place that it has to be a glitch; could be something similar for dead teammates.

Good point. I do remember during KotoR, I... (KotoR spoilers follow)

So yea, it could be a bug, but if so, that is one mighty gigantic bug.

I was also thinking, slightly off topic, what is the purpose of the grayed out portraits? In my game, I saw Joker, Anderson, & Ashley. In the past, the greyed out photo meant the person was dead, and it was an "In remembrance" thing. Like when exploring the downed Normandy in ME2, and you see Presley and Ash/Kaidan. But if Joker & Ashley are dead... how could they show up on the jungle... ohhhh, my head!

Regarding the little details across the board . . . They seem to be little details that add up and fall into place, because they add up to you, not necessarily because the creators intended for them to do so

Absolutely. This is purely a case of "The sign says Bioware did all of this on purpose." Or it says "Bioware is lazy, didn't think the fans cared enough to bother worrying about whether the game ending was terrible, and have probably rotted inside out from EA's influence."

Not wanting to believe it's Choice B, I am still desperately clinging to Choice A. But yea, it's not because I have irrefutable evidence of it. I just can't bring myself to consider the alternative.

(Quick aside: I never understood why people keep pointing towards Shepard bleeding from the side as evidence. Do they forget that Shepard just took the brunt of a Reaper beam and woke up in a massive pool of his own blood? Showing the still-heavy bleeding from his side after Anderson kicks it simply seems to convey that he also may not be much longer for this world as well as to explain his rapidly fading strength.)

Well, Marauder Shields shot him in the shoulder, and his arm (as best I can tell) is NOT covered in blood previous to that moment. It's just highly suspcicious that he would go from "I can walk and talk coherently" to "Oh, the spot where I shot you on my own body is now bleeding profusely, not the shoulder where I was just shot, and now I can't stand, and I feel fai--ohhhhhh." *THUD*

If Bioware's intent wasn't to make me think the wounds were matching, then I hate them. I hate them forever. Have him touch his shoulder, where he was shot. Not the left side of his gut.

In the behind-the-scenes documentary "The Final Hours of Mass Effect 3", Bioware flat-out admitted that the ending wasn't even written until November; they simply didn't know how to end it until the eleventh hour struck its tones. Combine this other facts -- claims that future DLC would probably only happen before or during the ending, for instance -- and the rumors (allegedly spread by Bioware employees) that Casey Hudson and Mac Walters pretty much collaborated on the ending alone and sprang it on the rest of the writing team without peer review, and you've got just the right ingredients for a monumental disappointment.

No, that isn't true. It can't be true! I just...
image

After looking around on some forums, it seems your love interest always exits the Normandy, for whatever reason. So, I'm wrong about the re-used art assets, and I can't settle on the significance of this criteria for who they choose to exit the Normandy.

So if the ending is truly legit, and not IT, then Bioware's intent was to imply that your love interest is gonna shack up with Joker to reproduce and eventually create an incestuous line of Buzz Aldrins seducing their own grandchildren? I just... I'm not even sure where to BEGIN on what I think of that. Please see the "Noooo" image above.

Also, as to the "One more story" bit: I'm pretty sure they were just using that to hawk their side-story DLC, not as a lead-in to the "true" ending. After all, imagine, if you will, the following exchange:

BUZZ: ". . . Shepard had faith in the races that the Reapers never did, so with the power of the Catalyst, he finally brought the cycles to a full reset; and in so doing he allowed the races of the galaxy to blaze their own paths to the stars. The end."

BOY: "Wow, Grandpa. So that's how we got here. Tell me one more story about the Shepard! Please!"

BUZZ: "Well, it's getting late . . . but all right, my sweet. Here, remember how I ended the last story? You should know that I was completely fibbing, you gullible little shit! Goddamn, you kids will believe anything adults tell you. Fine -- here's how it really ended, for complete reals this time . . ."

BOY: "You're the worst Grandpa ever. I just want to go to bed now."

I laughed heartily at this. I hope when they release the new ending they put something like that in it. At the very least, a solid "Come here, my sweet, Grandpaw is feeling naughty today."

Seriously, though, in my mind, which is one of the more unsafe places for any sort of resolution to be coming from, I don't think it would be Grandpaw telling him he lied, as much as Grandpaw telling him a different story. So it would be as if he never told him the story of how the Shepard blew up more people than the Reapers did, doomed the rest of them to starvation, and kept his buddy Wrex from ever seeing Tuchanka, the Quarians from seeing Rannoch, etc.

Rather, what I meant was that their plot execution has generally been simple and unambiguous: A leads to B leads to C finally ends at D -- The End, or To Be Continued, as the case may be. Their plots have not required this degree of analytical gymnastics to unravel, where you have to connect B to E, back to C, then on up ahead to F, reverse it to A, then have it apparently end at G -- but ho-ho! -- it wasn't actually G that it ends at, but the number 7, if you were really paying close attention, maybe, possibly, we're not telling. . . .

Ah, my bad. The only one offhand that comes to mind is (KotoR Spoilers)

That was an inspired bit of "HAHA, we got you, suckers!" storytelling.

Damn good video, isn't it? The "Loose Change" of Mass Effect 3. I've already seen it, and it's what initially made me think the Indoctrination theory has some feasibility as an interpretation, even if I don't believe Bioware intended it and even it has to rely on some wild-ass conjecture (and it does).

Yea. It pretty much IS the ending of ME3 for me, now. Shepard hears Sarens voice in his mind, flips back to memories of confronting him and Benezia... if Bioware don't come out themselves and reveal that is the true ending, then I'm basically indoctrinating into believing it to be that way!

I feel like I've been trying to convince a kid that Santa Claus isn't real. Not a terribly great feeling, that.

The.Bard:

I could as easily drop Indoctrination Theory and introduce "Conrad Verner" theory.

Ah, yes. The Conrad Verner Theory. I subscribe to that school of thought myself.

I was also thinking, slightly off topic, what is the purpose of the grayed out portraits? In my game, I saw Joker, Anderson, & Ashley. In the past, the greyed out photo meant the person was dead, and it was an "In remembrance" thing. Like when exploring the downed Normandy in ME2, and you see Presley and Ash/Kaidan. But if Joker & Ashley are dead... how could they show up on the jungle... ohhhh, my head!

I think they're simply there to signify Shepard thinking of his loved ones as he flings himself into oblivion, nothing more, nothing less. Also, examining the game's video files, there's a flashback scene each for only Joker, Anderson, Liara, Ashley, and Kaiden; Joker and Anderson always show up, and the third flashback is selected among the last three for fuck all reason that I can determine. I have no idea why they're the only flashback shots available, especially considering Shepard may be much closer to other characters and presumably be thinking about them instead in his final moments.

So if the ending is truly legit, and not IT, then Bioware's intent was to imply that your love interest is gonna shack up with Joker to reproduce and eventually create an incestuous line of Buzz Aldrins seducing their own grandchildren? I just... I'm not even sure where to BEGIN on what I think of that. Please see the "Noooo" image above.

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Incest isn't the only thing to look forward to, in this brave new world. If there's any hope of populating the planet they're stranded on, then your love interest and the other females will, in addition to becoming Joker's new squeeze, also likely become breeding mares for the rest of the survivors. To compound this, the Normandy's crew has a gene pool with the approximate depth of a shotglass, give or take a millimeter, so recessive genes are going to start snowballing onto each other quite rapidly. Did you notice that you couldn't see the faces of Buzz Aldrin and his grandson? Well, that's because they've probably been so inbred that they now have cleft lips up to their foreheads and teeth where their nostrils should be.

Think about that, and then try to remember how to smile. You won't be able to.

You're welcome.

Great read, Shamus. I only now read this article because today I finished Mass Effect 3, saw the "three" endings (basically the same in different colors) and finally understood why people are so mad at it. This was probably the worst game ending I've ever seen in my life. Even SNES Jurassic Park's "Congratulations! You have escaped Jurassic Park" wasn't as bad because, despite being just a screen of text, it didn't turn the enemies into a ridiculous joke, didn't unnecessarily kill any major character and didn't raise such a huge amount of questions which will remain unanswered.

Bittersweet endings are fine (Deus Ex), ambigous endings are fine (Inception), but endings that turn a 100+ experience into a mockery of themselves can't possibly expect to be welcome. Seeing such a ridiculous ending (let's not even pretend there's more than one, since all that changes are colors and a couple of minor details), specially for a game like this, which specializes in taking your actions into account, makes you feel like all your hard work was for nothing and the satisfaction you should feel was forcefully taken away. Now I know what the Illusive Man was feeling.

By the way, this is a major problem I had with the ending, I don't know if it has been mentioned, but:

The next time Bioware produces a three part-five year game I won't be buying so it really doesn't matter what kind of ending they decide to make.

As far as Bioware claiming the ME series is some kind of art, that's a bunch of bunk. Bioware is a company trying to make money, not a starving artist that is willing to forgo all he has for the sake of his personal vision. Bioware made a huge mistake and now they are trying to cover their butts that are hanging in the breeze. This ending was some nonsense they cobbled together with little or no thought or effort just to rush the product out the door on a time schedule. They figured they could patch things up with a DLC and charge even more money but the fan base is having none of it. They under estimated the fan base and now are running for over. Bioware now gets to reap what they have sown.

ThingInTheCoat:

Eh, I have a feeling you're just here to do a drive-by pimp for your Facebook group, anyway.

True, so true :D Hope you did not spend to much time on having tough emotions for this ;)
I ran this experiment on posting my group to some blog posts and forums to see what happens. (Result is: nothing happend, so its not that simple. Googling this would have taken the same half our for setting up the group.)

ThingInTheCoat:

Decay, it's grand that you loved the endings. I'm ecstatic for you. But would you care to explain just what you found so enchanting about them, as is? How did you bypass or explain the plot holes, sudden shift in tone and theme, and general slap-dash nature of the whole affair?

You are right, I kind of owe you this one.
First of all, I have by far not as much reflected as you did. In the end ME3 is a computer game and I used it for entertainment.

I don't know how to do this cool Spoiler-Click-Thing, so rather than RTFMing I'll keep it general (better not read this part in case you are still afraid of spoilers):

I loved the ending until the platform went up. The final "battle" was well told and I also love this classical scifi-space-opera esoteric kind of an end. This was true to the genre. Yet, this esoteric part of the ending lasted about five minutes (at least it felt so) and I had the feeling that the game was over already anyway. For me the ending started much earlier which I loved.
The fact of becoming esoteric in the end was fine with me and the only totally strange plot-hole I could not at all relate to was the one about my two squad-mates who where with me.
So I liked the way the choices were presented after the platform to the light. Yet, I wondered why anybody would give me these choices or why not somebody almighty could have chosen this on His/Her own. This all is truly strange, but somehow it was okay when I played it.
I would have loved it more if Shepard in fact had no choice at all in the end. It would have felt terrible and therefore be true emotional gameplay. (The game is more about emotions than choice, isn't it?)
When it comes to The Three Colors, I do not care at all. I played parts of the games again and noticed that it's almost always like this. As long as I *feel* like having a true impact on the game, I'm okay with it. But of course there where these wild statements of BioWare that everything will be different...looks like they actually lied.
Then there are more questions such as what happens to the fleet, how can you flee, what's up with this grandpa under the moon, etc. These are just details. I am very curious how this story is continued in DLC and I would also love new alternate endings. Finally, there is the Harbinger-Conspiracy which would be absolutely great if it were true.

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