I'll make a disclaimer first: I haven't seen the ending, nor have I come close to finishing Mass Effect 3. But my concern doesn't stem from what said ending is, it's the repercussions that could occur if Bioware go ahead with their just announced plans to 'flesh out' the ending and answer more questions.
Now of course, there's every possibility that the planned DLC was already going to do just that, but by now the entire team must be wondering 'Shit, better re-write it all then' thanks to the maddening backlash from fans over the past few weeks. That anger is fair, not everyone will agree with a creative decision (i'm looking at you, George Lucas), but that should never mean changing a game just to suit an audience. Never.
Imagine if Ridley Scott changed Blade Runner again because the final cut left fans empty? Or the creators of Lost re-shoot the entire last episode? Or, heaven help us, Georgie boy takes out all of the additions to Star Wars! The fact of the matter is, none of that will ever happen. Why? Because as much as we like to think that these special little gems of the entertainment industry belong to us, the fans, they don't in the slightest. Who are we to tell a creator that he should change his own creation?
You can bag things out, tell people that they did a bad job if you really want, that's what fans do. The just recently released movies John Carter and The Hunger Games will no doubt have fan backlash, whether that be for changes made from the original story or even to the look and feel of a certain character because it doesn't 'fit' within what certain fans thought they should look like. Even Harry Potter had a few fans scratching their heads at times, but did JK change it? Of course not!
That's the crux of the problem. You want to do right by the fans, give them what they want, but some things should never go that way. I'm writing a story at the moment, something that's been building in my head for years, and I know deep down that if it ever got published and people started reading it, there are certain elements where they may or may not appreciate it, certain events which they won't like. Once you get attached to a character, you don't ever want anything to happen to them. But as a creator, as the person behind those characters, you know exactly what needs to be done to create the right kind of story. And only you, the creator, should judge that.
Joss Wheddon had a similar problem with Serenity, killing off certain fan favourites. He believed at the time that it was the right thing to do, and even though I wish he didn't have to, IT WAS the right thing to do. It made us sad, to lose such loveable creations, and that's exactly what such a story should do to its audience. In no way should Joss apologise for it (and I don't believe he ever did.)
And so we have Mass Effect, where the ending wasn't what people expected. I understand that the character is your own, you've shaped the course of the events the way you see fit, I get that. But this is still Bioware's baby, and they made the choice to end it the way they did. They know what Shepard thinks, what makes him or her tick, not the audience. Giving players a choice is important, but when it comes to saving the galaxy from a threat greater than anything before it, some things should never be placed with a simple answer in mind.
There's a few things I've read the last few days that put a light on the situation that some people may not have considered. Firstly, the last few moments of the game shouldn't be considered 'the end'. The ENTIRE GAME is the ending, with each character you've come to love finding a conclusion of sorts to their own story.
I'll say it right here. I don't like Shepard, I never have. He/she is a rather bland character, especially if you strictly follow renegade or paragon decisions. Compared to everyone else among the universe, Shepard is one dimensional. He's the greatest hero ever born, or a smart ass, nasty soldier who still wants to save the Earth. There's very little middle ground to play with, and that's always been my biggest gripe with the series. I appreciated the option of choice, but I would have just as much enjoyed playing the game the way Bioware felt was appropriate story progression. In the end, it's those that follow Shepard, the colourful party to choose from, that makes this series so enjoyable to watch.
Secondly, for any game with a plight as big as Mass Effect, to have anything else but a shock and difficult ending would have been a failure. I can't believe there are fans out there who actually want a happy ending! It's your character, sure, but to suddenly go from the end of the world to all rainbows and butterflies would have been just as bad, if not worse, than what we have now.
Thirdly, with DLC on the way, the end isn't even here yet. Sadly, by allowing the fans to dictate what that DLC may be sets a bad example for the rest of the industry. Suddenly, fans will have the power to determine how video games may end, and developers will be on tippy toes, praying they don't have a similar situation befell their own creation.
Flash back to a year ago, and the character development of Infamous 2, where Cole MacGrath was visually changed for story reasons to the shock and horror of its fan base. Instead of sticking to their guns, Sucker Punch fell on its sword and reverted the character back to his original look to appease those fans. Flash forward to later this year and the new Tomb Raider, which has a similar situation. Imagine if fans decide that this new Lara, softened up a little and made more believable, isn't what they want. Does Crystal Dynamics hold its own and build a sequel around the same character, or watch it burn in bargain bins and start over again? Only time will tell.
As for this story, it's a sad situation. I love Mass Effect, and as I've said before, I believe that the ending will create controversy because it isn't what I was expecting ... but that's exactly what I want! I want to be shocked and surprised, I want to feel heartbreak and the thought of losing everything I fought for. I don't want a happy ending where everything ties together in a neat little red bow. To think that this creative vision doesn't fit the lofty standards of fans has split the industry in two is a sad, sad state of affairs. But I'll keep on playing, and I'll enjoy every minute Bioware allows me.