Wednesday, March 21, 2012

An Open Response to Dr. Ray Muzyka

The following is a response to this letter by Dr Ray Muzyka to Mass Effect 3 players.

To Dr Ray Muzyka, from a Mass Effect 3 fan

Thank you for taking the time to respond to the Mass Effect fan base regarding this controversy. You have every right to be proud of the work you and your company has done in the past. BioWare is a company that produces high quality games and has an excellent team behind it. I am sure most of the fans, even the ones presently criticizing Mass Effect would agree. I have been following the controversy regarding the ending of Mass Effect 3, and most of the criticism seems to stem from the last ten to fifteen minutes of the game. It is a testament to you and your company that you have released so many quality games over the years.

However, your comments do not address the key points brought forth by your critics, specifically the final ending of this trilogy. The final sequence seems to break some conventions of good storytelling. I would like to note a few examples:

Themes: The theme of free will is a constant throughout the series. Often the main character, Commander Shepard, is faced with a one sided choice presented to him by other characters. In just about every circumstance, the player, as Shepard, can reject the choices given to him and take a different path. The final choice given to the player by the alien AI rejects this theme. Shepard is forced to accept one of the solutions as presented by the alien AI, an entity that he has been struggling against for 3 games. Although he questions every other solution presented to him throughout the series, at the finale, he blindly accepts the reason and logic of his ultimate enemy.

The theme of organic vs synthetic life is also prominent throughout all three games. In Mass Effect 3, Shepard is finally able to see the real reason for the Geth/Quarian war. The player has the opportunity to solve this problem, freeing the Geth, allowing them to become individuals and ending their conflict with the Quarians. This theme is undone when the alien AI claims organic and synthetic life cannot live in peace, although Shepard has proved that it is possible and he is unable to question this assumption.

Underdeveloped Ending: With all the time and effort put into the storytelling of the series, the final ending appears underdeveloped and rushed. The logic used by the alien AI can be summed up as follows: In order to protect you from inventing artificial intelligence which will evolve and kill you, I have created this hybrid artificial intelligence which returns every 50 thousand years to kill you. The circular logic is obvious and is not present anywhere else in the trilogy.

Plot Inconsistencies: Mass Effect Relays – Throughout the 3 games, the key goal of Commander Shepard is to save the galaxy. This is his overriding motivation. Yet, in all three endings the Mass Effect relays explode. Even if these explosions do not destroy the solar system they were in, as established in ME2 DLC The Arrival, creating a holocaust far worse than the Reapers so far, travel throughout the galaxy would be ended. This would strand thousands perhaps hundreds of thousands of non humans, some of whom it has been established cannot eat human food, on a planet that has been destroyed by the Reapers invasion. In addition, certain other planets which cannot survive without help, such as the Krogan planet, are likely to starve, or devolve into tribal fighting, something which Shepard has spent considerable effort to prevent.

Normandy Escape – During the battle for Earth, it is established that the Normandy and its pilot, the character Joker, is engaged with the Reapers. Yet, immediately after Shepard makes his final choice, we see the Normandy racing to escape a blast wave. Did the character of Joker leave the ultimate battle right in the middle? Were the other characters on the ship, all of whom have demonstrated loyalty and faith in Commander Shepard, simply decided to flee without a thought to trying to save, or even ascertain the fate of their beloved commander?

Normandy Crash – After the escape scene, the Normandy is shown to be crashed on some jungle like planet and Joker walks off the ship, followed by two other crew members. It has been previously established that Joker has a condition that makes his bones brittle and prone to breaking. How is he able to walk off the ship, after what appears to be a serious crash under his own power? Furthermore, some players have reported that often one of the other two members who exit the ship are a member of Commander Shepard's party during the run to the beam, all of whom were reported as killed. How did these characters survive the run to the beam and how did they get onto the Normandy in the middle of the biggest space battle in galactic history?

There are additional plot inconsistencies but I believe these are the main ones.

Although I am sure most of the critics of Mass Effect 3 enjoyed the game immensely, you can see how the discarding of some themes, the underdeveloped ending, and plot inconsistencies could detract from the enjoyment of what would otherwise arguably be the best story in video game history.

I, and many other fans, would appreciate it if you addressed these questions in order that we could understand the vision you have laid out.


A fan

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