BioWare took a pummelling during the controversy over Mass Effect 3's underwhelming ending, but as far as key creatives are concerned, that's all for the good. Speaking to OXM in an enormous series retrospective penned by US editor Francesca Reyes, BioWare's Casey Hudson, Dusty Everman and Mike Gamble have admitted that they "underestimated" fan demand for closure, and have promised to do better with subsequent releases.
"One thing that really stood out for us is that we underestimated how attached people would become to the characters," began Hudson, who serves as executive producer. "An example of this is the Citadel DLC, which has hours of pure character interaction - hanging out at a party, chatting at a bar, etc.
"We'd never have imagined that as we ended the trilogy, all people would want to do was spend more time with the characters, sort of bathing in the afterglow - getting closure and just having some time to live in the universe that they fought to save. This, and many other learnings, will be built into our future games."
Fans started a petition for a new Mass Effect 3 ending shortly after the game hit shelves, complaining that the three original options feel contrived and leave too much up to guesswork. A couple of weeks later, BioWare announced that it would address such complaints via a free Extended Cut DLC pack, which was eventually released in June.
Everman says the experience has underlined what's at stake when you're working with an interactive medium. "It shows how invested a player is in the story, and how much they care about the outcomes. I've learned that a bitter-sweet ending is much easier to watch in a movie, than experience in a long RPG where the player is very invested in the protagonist."
"The primary take-away was never to underestimate the passion of your core fan-base," Gamble concluded. "As a company, we've always tried to respond to our fan requests and try to create something special for them. We learned that since fans had spent three games with most of these characters, that their feelings about letting them go were just as strong as ours."
BioWare is presently working on a new IP and a new Mass Effect project for next generation consoles. As of yesterday, the studio is also putting together a Star Wars game of some sort. Hey, there's no way they can write an ending worse than that of Return of the Jedi, right?
Let's take the #HoldTheLine thing for one more whirl. What are your final, closing and definitive thoughts on Mass Effect 3's ending? Check out issue 99, which hits shelves on Friday 10th May, to read the aforesaid enormous series retrospective in full. We're currently offering three-month, half-year and full-year subscriptions at a hefty discount, by the way, and there's a free game in it for you when you subscribe for six months - Hitman: Absolution.