Thursday, March 22, 2012

One Month Away. Again!

UPDATE! The news has been circulating since yesterday that EA and BioWare are going to release their next piece of DLC for "Mass Effect 3" in April. And guess what? It adds to the ending of the game; no details (yet) on exactly what the content will involve.

Okay. Anyone who knows even the basics of video game development knows it's an intensive, painstaking process in which anywhere from a handful to hundreds of people can be part of the production. The biggest of games, those made by premier developers and the biggest publishers, can often take a long time, even over a year, to go from concept to Gold. Even with months of time to develop a game, the most seasoned of game makers can suffer a lot of sleepless nights as the inevitable deadlines approach. The process has never gotten in the way of creating a complete video game. But for some reason, it has now, and the proof of that is the belated announcement that more will be added to the ending as downloadable content?

Any fan who knows BioWare knows that for years, they've striven to make games fans will want to play again and again. They pride themselves on making truly great, award-winning games like "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic", "Jade Empire", and the "Mass Effect" games. For them to release the all-important final chapter of a series they're respected and beloved for in a way genre fans love the original 'Star Wars' trilogy, and that chapter is flawed in such an elemental way as to have an incomplete ending, is out of character for them as game makers. I'm absolutely convinced of that.

What's happening, I'm sure, is because of someone's idea of the bottom best, someone on the business end should have known better than to have things go as they have thus far. Someone high up didn't have faith that we as fans would be willing to wait for a complete, rewarding experience to cap off the "Mass Effect" series. At worst, their motivations were...I don't know. I can only speculate.

In fact, I imagined a satirical vision of what might have taken place...something similar to the deliberations of a certain fictional Citadel Council...and I hope you get the joke as you read. What I'm saying is with a knowing wink. A lot of fans have been much, much less kind...

In the Executive Boardroom of Electronic Arts, some time in January...
EA CEO: "Okay, how's 'Mass Effect 3' coming along? I heard there might be a delay?"
BioWare Rep: "It'll be Gold soon, but...not before our target release date. There's still some polishing up to do for the ending."
EA Boardmember #1: "Excuse me? After all this time you had -- ?"
BioWare Rep: "We've said again and again we might need more time. We want to deliver a quality product, like always, especially considering this is the last part of the series."
EA Boardmember #2: [grumbles] "Can't exactly say 'Dragon Age 2' was a quality product..."
BioWare Rep: [defensive] "Hey! You wanted a rush job on that, remember? That's the only reason it wasn't as good as the first one! But we can't rush "ME3", it's too important to the fans! It's too important to us to tell a good story!"
EA CEO: "But we'll miss our release date."
BioWare Rep: [shrugs] "Well...yes, but that can't be helped if you want a great game for people to play, right?"
EA Boardmember #3: [disinterested] "It'll make us look bad, announcing a delay. Everyone's ready for it to come out in March."
EA Boardmember #2: [sarcastic] "So you want another rush job? Great idea!"
EA Boardmember #4: "Let's do a survey and see how many customers are willing to wait. If the number's positive enough, we can just announce the delay."
BioWare Rep: "The fans will understand. I'm sure of it. If you give us the time we need for the ending, the game will definitely be ready for release in April."
EA Boardmember #3: "April? Bah! We can still get it out in March."
EA CEO: "What are you thinking?"
BioWare Rep: [worried] "Yes, what exactly?"
EA Boardmember #3: "Three words: downloadable content."
EA Boardmember #2: "That's two words."
EA Boardmember #3: [shoots #2 a dirty look] "If I can TALK...thank you. If the game's mostly done, then just get that ready for March. You can finish the ending later and we'll make it downloadable content."
BioWare Rep: [stares at #3 hard] "Do you know anything about video games? Or anything at ALL? You want us to make a game WITHOUT AN ENDING?!"
EA Boardmember #5: "Zzzz...whoa, I'm up! What??"
EA Boardmember #4: "That is a very stupid idea."
BioWare Rep: "Thank you!"
EA Boardmember #1: "Why is it stupid? It makes sense, financially speaking. DLCs are how we'll REALLY make money in the future anyway, right?"
EA Boardmember #3: "People will pay for an ending."
BioWare Rep: "You need to be quiet for a moment."
EA Boardmember #3: "Why?"
BioWare Rep: "Because you're an IDIOT! You want us to end a fan-favorite, award-winning trilogy with a game that doesn't have an ending? And then expect our fans to sit back and wait for the rest to come out later?!?"
EA Boardmember #1: "That's how the old movie serials were made, right? In more than one part? And you had to wait a while before seeing the last part with the ending. Why would this be so different?"
EA Boardmember #4: "Uh, for one thing, no one does that anymore."
BioWare Rep: "Besides, imagine the original 'Star Wars' trilogy ending just before Darth Vader died, the second Death Star got blown up, and the Ewoks celebrated...on second thought, never mind about the Ewoks! Or...or imagine 'Stagecoach' ending as John Wayne marched toward the bad guys in the big showdown? Or 'Pulp Fiction' ending before -- !"
EA Boardmember #6: "Or '2001: A Space Odyssey' ending before Dave got turned into the Space Baby?"
EA Boardmember #5: "I never understood that ending. A baby floating in space. Big, creepy eyes. Uh, what are we talking about?"
BioWare Rep: "Imagine 'The Godfather' ending before Michael Corleone got his revenge on everybody!"
EA Boardmember #7: [glances at #3] "He's got you there. Not having an ending would suck."
EA Boardmember #1: "Then make a shorter ending!"
BioWare Rep: "...What?"
EA CEO: "That's interesting. We can still make the release date, then you can add on the rest of the ending you were planning as a downloadable. Is it doable?"
BioWare Rep: "Uh...well..."
EA CEO: "So do it!"
BioWare Rep: "B-but that's never been done before in a video game! And if we cut the ending short, fans won't like it!"
EA Boardmember #7: "Giving them the rest later should ease the pain."
BioWare Rep: "But until then, after investing themselves in the trilogy for so long, it'll be like we pulled out the rug from under them! They'd protest! Loudly! They'd hate you!"
EA Boardmember #1: "But we'll be making the money."
EA Boardmember #3: "And they'll pay if they want an ending...oh, they'll pay. Heh!"
EA CEO: "That's true. So do it. That's an order!"
BioWare Rep: "Crap..."
EA Boardmember #4: "Uh, when are we going to announce this? Just so the fans know?"
EA CEO: "We'll talk about that at our next meeting. Everyone, dismissed!"

And naturally, the Board never got to that meeting...

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