The Man Who Fixed Mass Effect 3
We chat to the guy behind Vindication, a one-man PDF fan project to right BioWare’s wrongs…
Could you give us a little background to your experience in gaming/narrative and your connection to the Mass Effect franchise?
I’m a marketing assistant and a freelance writer. I don’t have any official connection to the Mass Effect universe, EA or BioWare. I’m just a big fan.
What is it that most attracts you to the Mass Effect universe?
I like the realism of Mass Effect. I know that sounds silly because it’s a made-up world, but Mass Effect and games like Dragon Age and Fallout: New Vegas are gritty and feel alive. Sure, you’ve got the ‘bang bang shoot-’em-up’ all games must have, but Mass Effect is more. You can develop friendships and relationships, experience love and loss, make tough choices, and shape Shepard in your image. It’s a fun way to live vicariously. I might just be some guy from New Jersey, but I’m also Commander Shepard, minus the smoldering good looks.
What exactly was it about Mass Effect 3 that made you feel the need to change it? And what exactly did you end up changing?
I got the idea to revise Mass Effect 3 while playing it. I know, shocking! See, I played Mass Effect 2 about a billion times, both with uploaded games from the original and using Mass Effect: Genesis, so I pretty much know ME2 inside and out.
So when I played ME3, I had a major mental checklist of things in my mind and guesses as to how they’d play out, but from the onset of the game, I saw a lot of choices were glossed over, casually addressed, or excluded. This didn’t sit well with me. So I started taking notes.
Was there anything in the first two games that you’d like to have seen edited/altered?
Mass Effect was great. For me, it’s all about story and gameplay is a distant second, but ME’s gameplay was rough: enemies run around like mad, the inventory system is a nightmare, and the Galaxy Map desperately needs percentages and notes to help you navigate the galaxy. I think a remastered version of Mass Effect that fixes these little things would make it AMAZING!
ME2 is my favorite of the series and probably my all-time favorite game, but I hated mining for minerals. It was just too tedious and boring. The other thing is after you beat the game, the Normandy is beat up and damaged from the suicide mission, and since you can continue playing the game after the suicide mission, I would have liked to see the Normandy keep that battle damage and not revert back to pristine condition.
Do you think BioWare should have buckled under community pressure and released the modified ending?
BioWare had no choice – they had to do something. Their fan base – the people who give them money – were disappointed and outraged. That’s basically a mutiny, so they had to soothe the savage beasts. Extended Cut was their answer. I think it helped BioWare repair their relationship with their fans, but not completely. It will take time and a lot more great games.
Did the Extended Cut address the problems you had with the game and its conclusion?
I don’t think Extended Cut was enough. It seemed like it just put back what was taken out of the original cut. That cut-scene running to the beam felt so organic and natural to the game. I can’t imagine why it wasn’t included in the original game. Did BioWare think it was bad? I hope not. It was the best cut-scene in the game! It makes you wonder what happened over at BioWare during those last few hours of development.
The other problem is BioWare kept the star child and the red, blue and green endings. I understand why they did – changing it would totally depart from their vision – but the star child was the root of the fan outcry. I just don’t understand how you make a game that is all about choices and how they shape the world and at the very last second, you can make a decision that totally washes over all your previous actions. It’s too generic – Mass Effect is not generic!
What made you feel like you could succeed where a team of hundreds had failed?
Trust me, I realise this project is incredibly arrogant. I’ll admit it. I’m just a guy. I’m not schooled in game design. I’ve never worked in the industry. I’m just a guy who plays videogames, happens to do some freelance writing in addition to my full-time job, and has taken a few screenwriting classes. So for me to say I can make Mass Effect 3 better than a talented team of game professionals is crazy. I know that! My friends think I’ve gone nuts, but all I can say is the changes and revisions I make in Vindication make ME3 the game it should have been, period.
Do you think fans and communities have more power to change things they don’t like than they realise?
The internet, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc have given fans major power! How long did it take for the ME3 outcry to become major news? Inside a week? That is amazing! I think online forums can help keep videogames companies honest. You don’t have to cater and pander to your fans, but you have to treat them with respect and appreciate that they are willing to spend their hard-earned money on your products. So plan accordingly… don’t just throw anything out there.
What would you say to anyone considering undertaking the same kind of project?
Do it! If you have the time and the passion, why not? I wouldn’t go neglecting your marriage or forgetting to walk the dog, but if writing about something you love is fun and helps you pass the time, enjoy! But be prepared to drink a lot of coffee! It’s a ton of work. I’m in Starbucks every day – morning, noon, and night!
Mass Effect 3: Vindication is not affiliated with BioWare or Electronic Arts, Inc. and is not intended for commercial purposes. Mass Effect 3: Vindication is a fan creation. Mass Effect is the property of BioWare and Electronic Arts, Inc.
For details on how to download Mass Effect 3: Vindication, follow @MassEffect3V on Twitter.