Is BioWare’s Mass Effect 4 Survey a Good Sign

Recently, Mass Effect 4 game producer Michael Gamble posted a Mass Effect fan feedback survey on his Twitter account. Gamble wants fans to “help” BioWare make the new Mass Effect game “the best one yet.” I decided to take the time to fill out the survey. It is interesting that BioWare put up a fan feedback survey for the game, considering issues with the release of Mass Effect 3 in 2012. If you recall, the disjointed and convoluted ending to the game became a giant debacle. The disappointment with the ending became a major national news story. However, BioWare staff was more or less silent during the entire event. Now that BioWare has implemented a fan survey, I am curious to see how serious they are about taking fan feedback into account.

The survey questions focus on what features and aspects fans are looking for in the next installment of the Mass Effect title. The survey also asks players to rank what elements of the game they are most looking forward to regarding combat, exploration, the story and customization. I think it is a fine idea for BioWare to reach out to fans for feedback. However, where was this dialogue with the fans after the third game’s release? The most puzzling of all was game director Casey Hudson’s bizarre, PR-spin answers about the game’s ending. Hudson’s answers seemed disconnected from reality, almost like many of the questionable choices George Lucas made with the Star Wars prequels–even those that contradicted the original Star Wars trilogy.

The honest answer to Mass Effect 3 is something that developers are still uncomfortable in addressing. My conclusion: The game was rushed to the finish. The release of the Mass Effect 3: The Extended Cut DLC is proof enough that BioWare was rushing to the finish to meet EA’s release date. In addition, BioWare still raised fan expectations about the ending to an unrealistic level with statements about intricate choices that would affect the ending and a level of variety in the endings that did not exist.

So, if BioWare wants to be more open with fans this time, they should heed the lessons of Mass Effect 3 to heart. Do not lie about the ending; or at least, do not create unrealistic expectations about the ending that turn out to be blatantly false. Also, do not create an open dialogue with the fans through fan feedback surveys unless you are prepared for the heaping amounts of creative criticism. In other words, do not ask the question unless you are prepared to hear answers that might not sound nice and you might not like.

I realize Mass Effect 4 it will not have Shepard as the protagonist, and the cast will feature a new set of characters. However, I am still skeptical about BioWare and the next Mass Effect game. Will they still make the game they want and will it not be rushed? Will the ending actually make sense? I look forward to the answer to those questions in Mass Effect 4.