I snipped a few things out of this post, things I thought might make j.D Scott's parts too long.
To be fair, I thought Casey Hudson and I know Ray Muzyka to be fairly strong willed guys, and they caved like a souffle in a Metallica concert. Do I know whether Ken Levine would do the same thing in the same position - no. Do I want to put him and Irrational Games to the test - not particularly. Here's the thing, a guy like Ken Levine and the Bioware guys have enough influence in the industry to stand up for themselves, but smaller developers, especially smaller developers with large publishers will not. And I don't think if Casey or Mac or Ray came out and said - that's the ending that this would have ended. It wasn't like anyone suggesting to the RME crowd that this was a terrible idea stopped anyone from going forward with their terrible ideas.
Well we don't really know if they have "caved" yet, or in what manner so it's a bit up in the air at the mo. And I find it very interesting indeed that the Bioware defense for the ending was basically "critics loved the game" and "artistic integrity". Indeed if they do "cave" they have done so with remarkably little resistance on the actual merits of the ending.
I still find it somewhat distressing that you are so convinced that an other developer would stop so quickly. If you are going to make art that pushed the boundaries, you are going to have an outcry against it. That's the nature of the game and as such if you can't cope with it, then best to not be controversial in the first place.
As for your small publisher argument, we are getting into the realms of prediction there. I'm sure you can guess my response, perhaps it will encourage developers to pay greater attention to the ending. I would also state that perhaps one of the reasons why the ending is so inconclusive is because of the desire to sell DLC.
Let's sat Bioware did say they weren't going to change the game, end off. I would believe the whole RME was silly at that point and should stop, they are of course entitled to say whatever they want but IMHO, it would be without validity. But how would that anger force Bioware to go back on their decision?
I'm not totally opposed to an artist going back, looking objectively at his work, and modifying it based on whatever criteria they choose, including fan reaction. It happens a lot - Ridley Scott cut and recut Blade Runner so many times it was silly. Clive Cussler (and don't confuse this with art necessarily - I think this novel series is TERRIBLE) brought back a major character from the dead many many books later (Dirk Pitt's wife). However, there's a difference between an artist doing that because they want to and being [bold]forced[/bold] to. In this case, Bioware didn't exactly offer resistance, so I have to think they're complicit in the idea. I worry about an artist being pressured into making a more commercially acceptable ending, because the goal of art shouldn't be universal acceptance, but I'm in a holding pattern on all of this. It'll be interesting to see what Bioware does.
And again we come to the concept of being "forced". Pressure to change does not equal immediate change.
If I may say so, I think it can be very hard to "kill your babies", and sometimes it is the external force shouting that "this doesn't work" which makes you realize that "He's right, it doesn't work". Of course sometime that external voice is wrong, so it's why the artist should always be the man in charge.
In the long game, this could be all much ado about not much. It could be beneficial to the games industry in the fact that game buyers won't tolerate bad or incomplete writing. It could also be very poisonous. I worry that the long game result of this will be less Mass Effect 3s and more Modern Warfare 3s. Mass Effect 3 was a game that played out less like wish fulfillment and more like the third act of an opera or greek tragedy - it was about suffering, sacrifice, and death, and the character's major hope was that their death would bring about the desired change. Modern Warfare 3 was a mindless shoot-em-up with a thin plot, clearly defined right/wrong (you right, evil russians wrong) and recycled gameplay.
I think you and I interpreted ME £ very differently but whatever. You could be right, but IMHO, if you are then it's a trend which can be reversed, or ignored. If I'm right, then we are all richer for it.
And the thing is, these super-publishers (Activision, EA, Ubisoft) don't really care too much about art. They really really care about money. They control the purse-strings in this industry and any reluctance to create a high-concept game because of fan interference will inevitably make them make more conservative, safer, less interesting gaming decisions.
And it could be the start of turning the tide on the practice of things like Asura's Wrath true ending DLC or the Prince of Persia's epilogue DLC.
You might think it's conjecture, but look at the game industry in the next 10 years or so. Companies who had no real vested interest in good games (EA, Ubisoft, Activision) snapped up developers because profitability was really incredibly high in the crest of two big gaming trends (the rise of the MMO, and online multi-player-heavy first-person shooters). The tide of public opinion swung towards these products and away from artistic content, and new technology (iPhone/iPad/Android) changed the way people get their games. Developers start to focus on more image-based, easily consumable games that appeal to a younger, less content-savvy base. Higher concept games were relegated to smaller platforms (portables, cell phones, or Steam) or not made at all.
Discussing corporate futures is, I feel a subject for another topic, but in brief, I'm not sure the future is going to be like EA, who from what I understand aren't making mega projects. I'm not sure we aren't going to see a rise in small 3-5 man teams, who really heavily on outsourcing and can afford to offer a much more targeted piece, which can forgo mass appeal and take risks due to lower costs and being done for gamers by gamers (not saying that game companies don't need to make money, but rather that hey see the process as money=games rather then the conventional games=money)
But that is very much in the realms of conjecture, And I would need to do my homework on it before I was to talk with any real confidence.
(As for challenging the medium, there's a big difference in artists challenging the limits of the what the medium is capable of in terms of storytelling and player effect and fans challenging the limits of what the medium entitles them to for their purchase price. There's no direct correlation whatsoever. You just used the same term to justify a bad argument.)
I'm sorry, I phrased it wrong, I was alluding to the potential to incorporate player feedback into a sort of continuously evolving narrative, which continuously can jettison elements of the narrative that don't work in favor of those that do.
It was a very embryonic idea that popped in my head.
Just a thought here. What if Jim said - I took some time, studied the other side, and it reaffirmed the opinion I already had? Would you all still praise him for studying the issue to it's fullest? There's a base assumption that people who disagree with RME don't understand it that I don't think is entirely true (in some cases, it is - I happen to like Bob Chipman a lot, but maybe he should have played the game first - it's not hard to have played the game and reach the conclusion he did...)
I think a lot of you are praising him only because he's on your side and damning others because they're not.
Yes of course people are being a bit head over heels, but can you honestly say if Bob had liked RME then after sober consideration reversed his opinion, that the naysayers wouldn't be having the exact same reaction?
If I may say so, part of my problem with bob's stuff was not his position, I hardly expect people to agree with me all the time, but rather both his tone and his lack of knowledge. But that's my personal problem with Bob, a not a mark against you argument.
Name of the actors change, but the characters always stay the same.
Either way I would like to say that this post is it for me, I feel we have both done the topic justice and I fail to see what more we can get out of it. You've caused me to gain new respect for the "leave it as it is" side's views and I hope I have managed to do the same.