Yet Another Mass 3 Effect Rant

I’m sure this won’t be the last rant I make about this damn game, but as I was working on crafting an “alternative ending” that leads into my ME story another piece of out and out idiocy in the ME3 ending as written occurred to me.  The Star Brat goes on about how he/it controls the Reapers, and he/it has been aware of the development of this weapon, and the critter has the three color button options all set up and ready to go — BUT the Reapers leave the Citadel alone until the very end?  WTF?????  If you  were an ancient, sentient synthetic race and knew this station was the key to your destruction, and your glowy annoying Star Brat overlord was living there wouldn’t you for pity’s sake go there _first_?  Blast the Citadel into its component atoms?  Or at least take control of the damn station so some random human can’t wander in and pick a color?

For some reason this latest bit of bad, stupid writing  just enraged me all over again.  Must.  Get.  Control.  But Hulk wants to smash.

16 Responses to Yet Another Mass 3 Effect Rant

  • Tim S says:

    Hi Melinda,

    The previous games established that the Reapers would seize control of the Citadel and deactivate the relay network, commencing a divide and conquer strategy lasting centuries. I found it equally odd that it was just left alone in ME3.

    Instead we ended up with concepts like the Crucible. Near the end of the game, I was half-expecting that the Crucible would activate the dormant Citadel relay and propel the assembled allied fleets into dark space and beyond, leaving everyone and everything else behind.

    Instead, and quite unexpectedly, there was a glowing child and an elongated conversation full of circular logic. Not to mention the colored buttons, the space magic and lots of speculation. I wonder whether the writers had cornered themselves with prior plot decisions.

    That being said, I look forward to reading your alternate ending. Have you considered writing a sample script for the live action, that’s currently in the works? 🙂

    … and did Hulk pick the green ending? So much speculation …

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    I found the green ending to be creepy as hell, and a violation of everything that had been established as the themes in the earlier games — strength through unity and diversity. One guy or gal is going to make a decision that links everyone with terrifying killers who had destroyed literally trillions of people over millions of years? Ugh. No, this Hulk hit the red button, and was happy to do so. Also my Shepard really wanted to live. See what the world was like when you’re not looking at it from behind the barrel of a gun.

    I was okay with a big monster weapon though they should have hited at it way back in game one for it to really be effective.

    And it wasn’t “writers” who gave us that disaster of an ending. The guy who had made the series sing, Drew Karpyshyn was gone before the end of ME2. I have no idea if this is true, but it sort of feels like he was forced out. Whatever the reason we go the idiotic human reaper that you fight at the end. By ME3 only one of Karpyshyn’s team remained, the team that had helped craft this amazingly vibrant universe were gone. The two guys who went into a huddle and created the mess of an ending were primarily producers, not writers. The whole dark energy thing in the mission where you recruit Tali in ME2 was supposed to play a big role in the finale. Instead they just dropped it. It’s almost like these producers resented Karpyshyn, and the acclaim he had received. And btw, Karpyshyn is terrific novelist too. His Mass Effect novels are very well done, and just dandy science fiction even if you haven’t played the games.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    I’m going to mention to my manager how much I love Mass Effect. They’ve already fired one writer, and , picked another. I have too much contracted work to write a spec, and I have no idea what the studio is looking for. A brand new story? Dramatize the game? There’s too much risk.

    As I mentioned to another friend I don’t do a huge dramatization of the ending because it would require a roll back through so many events in the game to make it work. Instead I build off a mission that’s assigned to you way back in the first game, and use that as the ultimate solution in conjunction with the big mucking weapon. From there I’ve ended up writing a story about PTSD and survivor’s guilt. It was supposed to have been a light, fun romp about a wedding spiraling out of control. But, hey, I’m a drama writer, what can I say? It ended up a lot more serious.

    I’m hoping to start posting it in sections in a week over on the Writing section of my website. Thanks for coming by and chatting about my damn obsession. 🙂

  • Tim S says:

    Obsession is just the extended version of passion, and it comes as a free expansion pack 🙂

    Thanks for the tip, I’ll keep an eye on the Writing section and look into the novels.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    Thank you for telling me I’m not totally, utterly nuts. I love these games which is why I got so mad when they screwed it up so badly. I’ve just finished playing for way too many hours this afternoon and evening. Now I have to go in search of something for dinner.

    Just to show you how good these tie-in books actually were — I was a Philip K. Dick judge, and we all agreed this ME novel by Karpyshyn was good enough to make the short list. He just got barely got edged out. 🙂

  • Tim S says:

    The first game was a masterpiece and I equally enjoyed the sequels, until the conclusion of the trilogy ended on a sour note. But it’s a good thing that there are angry authors, willing to pick up the ball that was dropped. 🙂 I’ve seen a lot of talk of entitlement in the media and on the Bioware Social Network, but nearly a year has passed now, and the ending is still haunting the minds of the passionate fan base. It was just that awful . The fans deserved more than what was delivered, and the Extended Cut didn’t rectify anything.

    I found it reasonable to expect having choices matter, and assumed that every major decision (and all those obnoxious fetch quests) would have some impact on the conclusion of the trilogy. But by the end of the day, ME3 concluded with the removal of player choice and character personality. The forced series of events did not reflect upon prior decisions; you could pick a color, watch a couple of confusing cinematics and plotholes unfold, before finally being prompted to buy more DLC. I chose not to.

    But I did choose to read a sample of the novel Retribution, and will probably give Karpyshyn’s novels a read in the nearby future. 🙂 I enjoy reading a good sci-fi story, as much as ‘partaking’ in a digital one or watching one on the TV. Speaking of which, do you think that we might one day see the Mass Effect story as a full-fledged television series?

    … just imagine the poor screenwriters having to work around the Star Brat’s favorite space magic color in the final season finale … 🙂

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    Yeah, we were entitled after a great deal of money, and a shit load of hours spent playing all three games and the various DLC’s. Okay, maybe they weren’t capable of delivering a brilliant ending, but a logical, satisfying ending was the bare minimum. It was clear the 2 gentlemen who wrote this mess actually had no idea what were the themes explored in this game. They thought synthesis was the same thing as alliance. No.

    And Shepard tamely accepting the Star Brat’s version of things, and picking either blue or green was completely out of character. The only possible choice for a true Shepard is the red ending. Especially since they showed David Anderson at that console. Did they not understand the bond between Shepard and Anderson? That was a father/son, father/daughter relationship. Even if you played pure renegade I also think that the relationship with TIM would be fraught. You had fought Cerberus all through the first game.

    I realized today that they have made it impossible for Mass Effect 4 to be set after the events of the trilogy. They’re going to have to do a prequel. Because how on Earth do you write a game that acknowledges the red, green, blue endings. The world is very different if you got suckered into picking green.

    If there is a TV series I want to work on it. I would crawl across broken glass to be on that staff. And my advice to the Exec Producer would be to ignore the ending, and come up with one of our own. For my story I crafted one based on silly old Chorban way back in game one, and it wasn’t that hard. Just think what I might have done if I was getting paid to come up with a decent ending,

    I’m still angry as hell because I got obsessed with this game, and the extended cut was lazy in the extreme — bad voice over and a few slides. Wow, thanks for nothing. There are still a few people hanging onto the hope that the ending isn’t really the ending, and they are finally going to sell us that DLC that will make it all better. If only they had enough integrity to admit they messed up instead of feeding us shit and telling us it’s caviar.

  • Noelemahc says:

    Dear Melinda,

    I’m one of those Mass Effect players that got referred to this site because of your numerous wonderful blog entries on the trainwreck that was the plot of Mass Effect 3, and I have to say: if we had someone like you writing it, it probably would have been glorious.

    The biggest problem with Mass Effect 3 (and, in a smaller part, Mass Effect 2) is the lack of a unified idea, an editor overseeing all the content the individual writers put out to make sure it meshed together. It’s clear that Karpyshyn either did that himself with the first game or at least was considered the final step in the decision-making process, while in the second and third games there was a lot of disparity between the pieces done by individual writers (most evident in the humongous volume of contradictions between what CG cutscenes show, the Codex says and characters in the actual gameplay say and do which run up to the point that everything surrounding Priority: Earth is one big huge plot hole).

    There’s a long, LONG, HUMONGOUSLY LONG list of things that were written, plotted, laid out and even storyboarded for the third game that ultimately weren’t used, and the horrible thing is, most of them are written better than the stuff we got in the end. If you have the time to kill, here’s the thread on HoldTheLine:
    If you don’t, a decent TLDR is available in this post, summing up all the available storyboarding plans:

    It involves… a lot of things. The Crucible is merely one of possible plans discussed by the heroes; the Citadel Council admits they were wrong and gives Shepard their support rather than trying to strike personal backdoor deals with him/her; the entire messy Cerberus Coup of the Citadel is de-plot-holed; many characters have larger parts and virtually all of those that were killed offscreen appear alive and well and have missions for Shepard to carry out for them or WITH THEM.

    The terrifying thing is that all of this was written at the very least by June 2011, meaning that most of the things we see in the final full game were written and programmed and voice-overed during the second half of 2011, (assuming the game went gold sometime in January-February 2012 for its March 2012 release date). They were going in into the final part of a supposedly epic trilogy without an ending planned out (all of the leaked scripts – April 2011, June 2011 and November 2011 – lack any ending after Shepard enters the Citadel, with only snippets of what would become the scene with the Illusive Man in one of the versions). In the end, that was their undoing: writing by the seat of their pants of the one thing they were supposed to have had figured out sometime around Mass Effect 2 went into production, if not earlier.

    Sure, a large portion of that was due to Mac Walters throwing his weight around – looking at Mass Effect 2 (and things that Chris L’Etoile had to say on how things he wrote for the Geth were changed for the final game) and Mass Effect 3, it’s evident that with the departure of Drew Karpyshyn and his installation as the Head Writer, he really really really wanted to get any fingerprints of the other guy off the script, which is why Drew’s “Dark Energy” subplot that took up a good third of Mass Effect 2’s metaplot, and all the characters that were associated with were dropped, reduced or flat-out killed offscreen in Mass Effect 3.

    But that weight didn’t carry substance: the Extended Cut was supposed to rectify mistakes and answer questions, but instead it asked MORE questions and made MORE mistakes, and the Leviathan DLC only added to both piles. And that makes me a sad panda.

    On a different, happier note, I (and a great many other folks over at HTL) am gleefully anxious to read your fanfic as what little you’ve told us about in your blog posts sounds very very interesting and – and this is the important bit right here – thought-out, something the original game really could have used more of.

    Thanks for your time, and please, by all means, continue being awesome =)

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    Dear Noelemahc,

    What a lovely message to find on a stormy Tuesday morning, and thanks for the links. I can’t stop obsessing over this game, and there is something fascinating about looking at a train wreck so I appreciate getting some insight as to why the wheels came off this franchise.

    I’m disappointed to hear that this Mac Walters wanted to kill Drew’s work. Unfortunately it’s a common phenomenon in Hollywood and even in book publishing. If your editor gets laid off your book becomes an orphan, and a new editor isn’t as interested because they didn’t “discover” you. In Hollywood George R.R. says that “everyone has to piss in the soup to make it taste better”, crude, but accurate. I had hoped it was different in the game industry, but I guess egos are the same all across the world and genres.

    Plot and structure are my gift, and I think it’s the critical and most essential skill for a writer. You’ve got to know the end before you start. I understand that a company can’t predict which game is going to break out, but you’ve got to plot as if it will extend past one game, and lay in all the parts that will come together to form the climax. If I ever teach a screenwriting class one of the movies I will use as an example of this being done well is, of all things, THE HANGOVER. If look at that film everything is set up in the opening 20 minutes of the movie, and everything pays off.

    You can see exactly when Drew Karpyshyn disappeared from the mix in Mass Effect 2 because suddenly we had the gibberish of the “human reaper” which just didn’t make any damn sense. Harbinger was the threat, and desperately needed to be the major villain in the third game. The Illusive Man was just a side show, and should have been dealt with much earlier in the game. It was clear from the moment you saw his eyes in Mass Effect 2 that there’s something hinky with the guy, but he’s not big enough to be the ultimate challenge.

    It’s always death when you play back story, which is what Leviathan appears to be. Other than the pleasure of adventuring with Kaidan again I really have no desire to play that DLC. It diminishes the Reapers if we meet their creator. If you make them explicable they are no longer frightening.

    Another point that I’m about to add into the forward to my story — don’t make your bad guys dumb, and not blasting the Citadel the moment they enter the galaxy is dumb since they appear to know all about the potential that the Citadel can be used as a weapon. And who built the little red, blue, green consoles? Was the Star Brat hoping someone would come along and pick a color? When I try to analyze the logic I end up with a headache.

    I’m flattered people are looking forward to my story, but it also makes me nervous. I don’t try to rewrite the game to correct the logic flaws. I do find something from game one that becomes the ultimate solution at the beginning of my story, but I don’t have the time or energy to backfill and do repair work on the entire triolgy. And frankly the fans who have done all the work with the Indoctrination Theory have done it far better than I ever could. Why, oh why didn’t EA/Bioware take that out, and then craft a real ending of the game? I would have cheerfully paid for that DLC.

    But I digress. I’m fascinated with the toxic mix of stress, fame and guilt and what it does to a person. I wrote an aftermath story that tries to take my Shepard and the other companions to a place where life can go on.

    Anyway, thanks so much for your kind words, and interesting insights and information. I will hop over to HTL, and check it out.

    P.S. and I used your full handle because I’m not sure if you are a Noel (one syllable male) or a Noel (two syllables female) or Noelle, but I found it funny because my Shepard’s name is Noel (one syllable male). Do stop by anytime, or friend me on Facebook. I do love to talk about my obsession with fellow addicts. 🙂

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    P.S. I just went to your site. You are a male. Sorry for the confusion. I’m getting ready to plunge in now.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    Hey, Noel, if you get this message please help me out. I went to HTL (so cool all the amazing things the group found), but I can’t join because it says I don’t have a unique email address. Which is sort of funny when you think about it. Anyway, your guidance would be appreciated.

  • Noelemahc says:

    It’s actually Ivan, but “Noel” is fine too =)

    I’ll take it up with our tech people, this is a situation I’ve never heard of before =)
    Try again in the meantime if you can, there’s been a lot of upgrading lately and registration may have been down for some time and simply defaulted to a random error. Sorry about the possible inconveniences =)

    And I’m not sure anyone has dared a full recuperation rewrite, most fans that wrote their own endings/post-ending fanfics (myself included) usually did some form of damage control or handwave to get it over with ASAP and move on to not rehashing someone else’s mistakes =)

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    Thanks Ivan. I appreciate the help. I love all the work and effort that went into HTL, and it is so fascinating to see the bad changes they made.

    It would just be daunting to try and go back and clean up all the bad choices. I think you can only “hand wave” the ending, and then tell the aftermath story that will take the bad taste out of your mouth. I was so certain when I finished Mass Effect 1 that scanning the Keepers was going to be really significant. And they kept hinting at that with your meeting with the AI on Ilos, and the email from Chorban in ME2. And then nothing. It’s not as intricate and cool as indoctrination, but like indoctrination it was set up right from the start and it could have played a role in the finale.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    It still does not love me. This is the message I keep getting.

    Email addresses must be unique. The specified email address is already in use.

    Yes, it’s in use. It’s mine. 🙂

    I’ll try back in a day or so, and see if the sign up section likes me better. Thanks for the help.

  • Noelemahc says:

    Perhaps maybe you’ve already registered with it? The admin asks what e-mail you’re trying to use, if you’re not okay with posting it publicly, my e-mail’s to pass it on.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    Just sent you an email detailing how I may just be completely absent minded, but I don’t think I ever signed up with you folks.

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