Is BioWare’s Mass Effect 4 Survey a Good Sign

2 min

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.

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  1. I think it’s pretty clear that BioWare haven’t learned a thing. Dragon Age Inquisition alone is proof of this where I’m standing. They clearly don’t want to make the RPG’s they once did, and just want to pander to the mainstream masses and make story-driven action games with “Lite” RPG elements.

    The survey didn’t ask enough questions and didn’t go in depth enough. Players should have been asked about the major aspects of each title in the prior trilogy to give BioWare an idea of what worked in each one and what didn’t and where they slipped up. Of course, the major problem is the attitude modern BioWare have lately as I stated in my first paragraph, one which has only become worse and worse as once key members have left the sinking ship when EA took the helm. BioWare don’t seem concerned about fixing their problems because they don’t see the problems. They are blind to them, because they’ve deliberately pulled the wool over their own eyes and refuse to acknowledge constructive criticism leveled at them. In fact, games like Dragon Age II and Mass Effect 3 aren’t so much games filled with problems as they are games filled with symptoms of a far greater problem: BioWare’s overall attitude as of late, which, again, seems to have its genesis in the EA acquisition of the company.

    BioWare don’t care about players or quality, they just care about money and milking their once great IPs. Each new title seems to have less player agency, less choice, less customisation, less control of the narrative, and just less as a whole. Mass Effect 3 was barely an RPG, not just in the fact that it focused so much on combat, but in that everything was on autopilot and the character we created in ME1 and/or ME2 was not the character we were given with ME3. This was no longer our Shepard, but THEIR Shepard. This was no longer our story, but THEIR story. We had almost no influence over anything, our prior choices that they claimed were going to have major ramifications and varied outcomes got twisted into essentially the same thing through poor writing and narrative convenience, and in the end everything was just fed into a grinder and turned into a number to feed the war machine and determine overall success rather than being represented in any tangible, meaningful way.

    The series as a whole also took a less mature, more bombastic style and tone. Simply put, we started out with Blade Runner and ended up with Michael Bay’s Transformers. We started out with a game aimed at sci-fi geek children of the 80’s and ended up with a game aimed more at 12-14 year old CoD Blops obsessives. The third entry to this so-called “trilogy” barely resembled the original game and concept at all. Sure, there’s evolving and changing through development through a series, but that’s not what the Mass Effect Trilogy did: it watered and dumbed down itself to the point of having an identity crisis by the end. Dragon Age suffered the same fate, to the point where ALL three major pillars that were the reason for Dragon Age being made in the first place were completely demolished only just over a year later with the very next game (those being 1) A return to BioWare’s roots, 2) A spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate, and 3) a proper PC driven tactical RPG).

    BioWare haven’t just lost their way; they’ve deliberately got on a plane to take them in the opposite direction with an almost malicious intent. They’ve essentially said, “Screw the old fans that got us where we are today! Let’s just pander to the same mainstream masses that every other AAA studio is catering for!”

    1. Bioware is a business, not a charity. If dumbing stuff down keeps them in business, then so be it. They said this back in 2006ish. Their fans are not their target market, no matter how much you want them to be.

      Gamers like TerrorK think the entire gaming industry revolves around what he wants, and when a company like Bioware caters to someone else, especially a group he despises (casuals), then he starts going nuts. Calling them incompetent, lazy, or that they don’t care about quality (another way of putting it) is the icing on the cake of his complaints.

      People like him is why you don’t get much change in the industry, and a lot of rehashing. Make the first game. Second game comes along, tries to be different, people complain it’s too different from the original. Third game comes along, tries to restore some of the stuff the first game had (weapon mods, XP for killing, etc, etc), people complain about that.

      Bottom line, hate Bioware TerrorK? Don’t buy any more of their games. It’s not difficult to understand.

      1. Fans are anybody’s target market. Or at least should be. Fans were their target market for over a decade and it served them well enough then. It wasn’t until EA got their claws in that that changed.

        And saying that people like me are why there is no change in the industry couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s no change because too many games today are the same derivative brown mush as every other game out there. Almost every big title these days is either a shooter or a story-driven action game with Lite RPG elements. Games can evolve without rehashing and still remain true to their source material. It’s pandering to the masses that’s resulting in the lack of change in the industry. Everything has to be aimed at the lowest common denominator and accessible to everybody. If it’s too complex or confusing, it has to be dumbed down until it’s not.

        I don’t expect the entire gaming industry to revolve around what I want. What I want is it to NOT revolve around what the average Call of Duty fanboy wants. I want variety. I want a good different selection of genres and unique, original games, not just shooters and story-driven action games. There’s a place for those, and I even enjoy the odd one myself, but not EVERY game has to be in that style and made for the same audience. To state that I want the entire gaming industry to revolve around me is hypocritical and couldn’t be further from the truth. When a company makes a series that starts out as an RPG that was intended for RPG fans then it should remain that way. I don’t expect Call of Duty or Battlefield to become a deep RPG any more than I expected Mass Effect to become a shallow shooter, and yet in the latter case it did. Sure, some things that ME2 culled came back like you said, but that was meaningless when the writing was so God-awful, nothing you did mattered, and the very fundamentals that made the series great in the first place were gone or sidelined for combat and action-related gameplay and things like Multiplayer and Kinect support. It wasn’t even really a roleplaying game when you couldn’t even ROLEPLAY your character any more.

        Bottom line, I am already not going to buy any more games from BioWare. I’m just also trying to educate the populace to make sure they don’t either. Quite frankly, after ME3 and Dragon Age 2, I can’t understand why anybody with a brain in their head would buy a future BioWare game. They’ve done nothing but lie and betray over the past few years, and on top of that are completely unapologetic about it and deliberately blinded by their own hubris.

        1. I really don’t buy that ME2 and ME3 aren’t role-playing games. By definition, taking on the role of Shepard, and playing as that character, is roleplaying. As for the shooter thing, the prototype of ME1 did have guns in it. Is it really that bad? I play an adept quite a bit, and I don’t even fire a gun that often. So that isn’t really shooting. There’s only one shooter class in these games–the soldier. Infiltrator fires a sniper rifle, but has other abilities…

          Now as for meaningful choices, I don’t know what to say. When you say meaningful, do you mean that a choice (from previous games) will ultimately change the entire story, because I haven’t seen a game work like that. Even in the previous games, saving the council in ME1 amounted to a 5 minute conversation that was more or less the same, with different dialogue. Other subtle changes, like whether you asked Mordin to sing or not. Or whether you upgraded the Normandy with Silaris armor.

          You make it sound like Bioware can’t live without their fanbase, but like it or not, not every customer is worth keeping. Considering what happened, I’m not surprised that they decided to ditch their fanbase, and took to other markets. You might say Bioware had it coming, but there’s nothing worse than a customer with the “I’m always right, it’s all [random company’s] fault. The customer is King”.

          Could they have done any different with you at the helm?

          In the end, trying to convince everyone to hate the same thing as you isn’t really constructive. Saying that everyone who actually likes these games is essentially brain-dead (like you said) would be considered a personal attack.

          1. ME3 is pretty much no longer a roleplaying game because you CAN’T roleplay as Shepard. The dialogue options were so stripped back and Shepard was so pre-defined in the final part that he/she is no more mine than Nathan Drake, Ezio Auditore, Batman, Lara Croft, etc. are my character. In the first two games I could shape my character through dialogue choices. In ME3 the dialogue wheel barely appeared, and Shepard just ran off at the mouth on autopilot with things that would have previously been player input choices. On the rare occasions it did, there were more often than not only two options, and they were the two extremes. I felt completely disconnected from Shepard in ME3, like an observer rather than a controller. Same went for conversations on the Normandy that used to be interactive but instead had Shepard treating his/her crew like pull-string plush toys.

            Shepard was overly emotional too, which also stems from this, along with BioWare taking player feedback in completely the wrong way. Players wanted Shepard to be able to express more emotions, and this was actually praised in the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC when Liara actually asked Shepard how the whole Reaper business made him/her feel. The difference was, in LotSB you got to choose from a selection of options to express your Shepard’s emotions. In ME3 Shepard just expressed their emotions automatically with no player input. We had Shepards saying they “missed Ashley/Kaidan” during cutscenes that may not have even liked them, and saying “this is for Thane!” while stabbing Kai Leng if they were a pro-human racist bigot who didn’t even like Thane. Shepard and the Mass Effect narrative became BioWare’s story and players were forced to just sit back and observe when the previous two entries let you roleplay YOUR Shepard and write YOUR own story. ME3 was completely on-the-rails and linear. The fact there was a “no choices” play option where you only get cutscenes and no dialogue choices just illustrates the audience BioWare is pandering to these days.

            And when I say meaningful choices I mean choices that actually MAKE a difference and feel like you made a difference in making them. Other games such as The Witcher 2 have pulled this off, and even the likes of The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us have done a far better job than BioWare did with ME3. It’s like they didn’t even really try. When my full-on Paragon Shepard gets pretty much the exact same outcome as my full-on Renegade one, there’s something wrong here. Almost all the outcomes were poorly written contrivances that resulted in the same outcome, then just turned it into an arbitrary victory number for the ending(s) instead of actually paying off. Choices didn’t matter at all. Deceased characters from prior games are treated like garbage by just having “clones” come in and fill their roles in pretty much exactly the same way anyway (literally in Miranda’s case). When one of the writers even responds to a fan’s outrage at the outcome of the Rachni Queen decision from ME1, he even admitted they basically made it the same because they didn’t want to punish new players by holding back content from them if they haven’t played ME1 and done an import. That ALONE is complete bollocks; you can’t push your trilogy’s main selling point at the start being the importance of choices and consequences and your import feature and then just cop-out so utterly and deliberately like that.

            If I’d been in charge I wouldn’t have dumbed the game down so much and shifted it’s intended audience. It would have remained true to its original premise rather that becoming all dude-bro. I wouldn’t have wasted time developing multiplayer and would have focused purely on the single-player storyline (if MP had gone it, it’d be a DLC add-on later). Choices like the fate of The Council, whether Wrex or Wreav were alike, the fate of Ashley or Kaidan, The Rachni Queen, keeping or destroying The Collector Base, the Quarian vs. Geth conflict, etc. would have had completely different outcomes and missions tied to them. Building up the war effort would have actually had you seeing and being able to control your war resources in a more direct manner rather than just turning it into a number. Shiala and Gianna Parasini would have factored in. Kaidan and Ashley wouldn’t have spent more than half the game in hospital instead of your party just so the writers wouldn’t have to deal with them as separate characters with different personalities. Ashley wouldn’t have suddenly been sexed up. I would have taken my time as well and not rushed the game out there. The Reapers’ true motivations would also have not been revealed, thus keeping their mystique and Cerberus wouldn’t have been God-modded, overpowered and unrealistic to the point of replacing The Reapers as the dominant enemy. Previous companions would have more screentime and importance. James Vega would never have existed and probably been replaced by an important ME2 companion (perhaps Miranda or Jacob depending on whether it was Kaidan or Ashley that died; opposite gender of survivor perhaps). There’d have been proper sidequests instead of listen-in Sidequests where you just click on NPCs and then go fetch something from the galaxy somewhere by simply going there and not actually doing a mission. There’d be a mix of missions like ME1’s uncharted worlds, ME2’s sidequests and the Overlord ME2 DLC with The Mako/Hammerhead making a comeback (player’s choice as to which to use, but both would be tweaked/improved). All companion conversations would be cinematic and have dialogue choices.

  2. So, ultimately for me, there is more to it than just making sure that Bioware follows some new formula for game design to incorporate player feedback. Mass Effect 4 could be the VERY BEST stand-alone game of all time, praised by the critics and players alike… but if it doesn’t somehow address the major issues at te end of ME3, then I won’t be playing it.

    So, its more than just making an awesome game that matters here. Its also about fixing an issue with the IP that they created before. Without that, nothing about ME4 matters. Nothing.

    … at least for me.

    1. The thing is, the ending is just the most obvious thing that was wrong with ME3. It was by no means the ONLY thing that was wrong with it. Hell, it wasn’t even the worst aspect of ME3, though I would say it could be considered the culmination and result of many really bad factors about the final entry to the trilogy (e.g. choices not mattering, choices just turning into a number, an overall lack of choice and player agency, bad writing, etc. to name a few issues that plagued the game throughout).

      The other thing is, it doesn’t matter how awesome ME4 is if it ends up the same way. Mass Effect 4 could be the greatest Mass Effect ever, but if we end up with ME6 resembling ME3, then it makes it all pointless. ME1 and ME2 are almost lesser games since ME3 came along because of how crucial ME3 was to the trilogy and how it made them redundant and meaningless wastes of time. I’ve tried to play ME1 again since ME3 came out, but always just end up getting mad and stopping whenever something “major” comes up that should have had a meaningful impact in ME3, but didn’t (e.g. I have a save game where I haven’t played beyond the Rachni Queen decision because it just ended up reminding me of how awfully that was handled in the end).

  3. It is just about addressing the ending of ME3, they need to fix it or the franchise is dead.
    The catalyst’s existing calls sovereign and all of ME1 into question. What the catalyst saye contradicts everything we learn about the geth and EDI. And the 4 endings are all nonsensical and horrible in versus ways.
    Control: Shepard becomes a god and imposes a reaper controled police state across the galaxy, after spending the entire game trying to stop that from happening.
    Synthesis: Shepard become Serene 2.0 and turns everyone into reaper troops.
    Destroy: kill every synthetics and cyborg, leaving all other technology intact for some reason, in the galaxy, but Shepard and all othet cyborgs live, call the reaper’s death into question.
    Refusal: Shepard throughs a tamper tantrum and kills everyone but the reapers.
    BW cannot just ignore this and go no, they will deal with this mess or they will pay for it in the end.

    1. Yeah… because THAT’S how you get quality products; just sitting back and taking it silently whenever developers throw out rushed, terribly designed crap made for the wrong audience for the wrong reasons.

      1. You get quality games by not spending money on those you don’t want. I say fuck the fans. You can’t please everyone, so either let the devs make what they want or fuck off. If the franchise “fails” because of it, then oh well. No one buys the game(s) and we all move on.

        1. You don’t know how long I have been waiting for someone to say what you just said, without sounding like a pushover about it. I think that you may have just made my week.

        2. The “game the devs want” shouldn’t suddenly change and shift its intended audience for the sake of mass appeal and because its Lord and Master (in this case EA) wants it to for the sake of $$$’s. Any series without fans is going to fail, so saying “fuck the fans” is the worst thing to do.

          Mass Effect 3’s problem wasn’t that it was a bad game per se, but because the trilogy took such a wild design change over its course and by the third entry the type of game and audience it was aimed at was completely different from that of the original game. That’s all very well for a different game in a different series, but any direct sequel should at least remain consistent and true to its original source material. Mass Effect didn’t. We started with something aimed at RPG loving sci-fi nerds in their late 20’s to mid 30’s and ended up with something aimed at CoD-loving teenage douchebags who like Michael Bay’sploshuns!!1 and don’t care how poorly something is written or how shallow the gameplay is so long as there’s loads of shooting and non-stop action. This is an audience that’s already overly catered for as it is, and it’s clearly just pandering to the lowest common denominator to just twist the series to suit this audience more by dumbing everything down for the sake of mass appeal over quality and depth.

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