It appears as if Mass Effect 3's own writers didn't have anything to do with the game's controversial ending. BioWare writer Patrick Weekes, who is known as user Takyris on the Penny Arcade forums, allegedly posted a message depicting in detail the writers' involvement with the game's ending.
The author claims that Mass Effect 3's ending was written solely by Casey Hudson and lead writer Mac Walters. The two allegedly disregarded any feedback or protests from the rest of the writing team who, according to Weekes, had plenty to say on the matter.
As reported by Gameranx, the post has since been deleted from Penny Arcade's forums (although the full text appears on page two of this article), and any posts linking back to or quoting the original text have been removed. Naturally, that makes this difficult to confirm. On top of that, BioWare community coordinator Chris Priestly says he spoke to Weekes about the posting. From the BioWare forums:
"So, I saw this and went and asked Patrick about it.Patrick didn't write this.No one is getting banned or anything for posting this, but I want you to know it is not real. Just an imitation."
However, according to Gameranx, their firsthand source verified that the post undoubtedly originated from Patrick Weekes' account. That doesn't mean someone couldn't have simply used his account to create the posting. That said, the things written don't sound like the rantings of some fake, but like the criticisms of someone with inside information -- of course, that's up to opinion.
So, was this a disgruntled BioWare writer, venting his frustration and clearing his name from a controversial issue, or was this the result of a clever hacker who used Weekes' account to stir the pot?
It's very likely, if the posting were from Weekes himself, that he might have simply regretted what he wrote and thus had it removed. It's also hard to imagine that BioWare would have been pleased with the message, and so they may have forced Weekes to delete it. Whatever the case, the post has a lot of interesting "behind the scenes" knowledge about what went down after the writers were removed from the equation. There are a lot of personal opinions on the final results, and some insight into what was allegedly supposed to happen.
There are plenty of spoilers, so those who haven't finished Mass Effect 3 may wish to avert their eyes. For everyone else, it's worth a read. If this proves true, it might help explain some of the umbrage fans have taken with the ending (some more than others), more specifically the issues dealing with the game's dramatic shift in quality and theme in its final minutes -- which would make sense if the core writers weren't even involved. Check out what might, or might not, have been said by following this link (thank you, Mwat!) and let us know what you think.
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Alleged Penny Arcade forum post by Takyris (aka Patrick Weeks):
I have nothing to do with the ending beyond a) having argued successfully a long time ago that we needed a chance to say goodbye to our squad, b) having argued successfully that Cortez shouldn't automatically die in that shuttle crash, and c) having written Tali's goodbye bit, as well as a couple of the holo-goodbyes for people I wrote (Mordin, Kasumi, Jack, etc).
No other writer did, either, except for our lead. This was entirely the work of our lead and Casey himself, sitting in a room and going through draft after draft.
And honestly, it kind of shows.
Every other mission in the game had to be held up to the rest of the writing team, and the writing team then picked it apart and made suggestions and pointed out the parts that made no sense. This mission? Casey and our lead deciding that they didn't need to be peer-reviewe.d
And again, it shows.
If you'd asked me the themes of Mass Effect 3, I'd break them down as:
Organics versus Synthetics
In my personal opinion, the first two got a perfunctory nod. We did get a goodbye to our friends, but it was in a scene that was divorced from the gameplay -- a deliberate "nothing happens here" area with one turret thrown in for no reason I really understand, except possibly to obfuscate the "nothing happens here"-ness. The best missions in our game are the ones in which the gameplay and the narrative reinforce each other. The end of the Genophage campaign exemplifies that for me -- every line of dialog is showing you both sides of the krogan, be they horrible brutes or proud warriors; the art shows both their bombed-out wasteland and the beautiful world they once had and could have again; the combat shows the terror of the Reapers as well as a blatant reminder of the rachni, which threatened the galaxy and had to be stopped by the krogan last time. Every line of code in that mission is on target with the overall message.
The endgame doesn't have that. I wanted to see banshees attacking you, and then have asari gunships zoom in and blow them away. I wanted to see a wave of rachni ravagers come around a corner only to be met by a wall of krogan roaring a battle cry. Here's the horror the Reapers inflicted upon each race, and here's the army that you, Commander Shepard, made out of every race in the galaxy to fight them.
I personally thought that the Illusive Man conversation was about twice as long as it needed to be -- something that I've been told in my peer reviews of my missions and made edits on, but again, this is a conversation no writer but the lead ever saw until it was already recorded. I did love Anderson's goodbye.
For me, Anderson's goodbye is where it ended. The stuff with the Catalyst just... You have to understand. Casey is really smart and really analytical. And the problem is that when he's not checked, he will assume that other people are like him, and will really appreciate an almost completely unemotional intellectual ending. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it.
And then, just to be a dick... what was SUPPOSED to happen was that, say you picked "Destroy the Reapers". When you did that, the system was SUPPOSED to look at your score, and then you'd show a cutscene of Earth that was either:
a) Very high score: Earth obviously damaged, but woo victory
b) Medium score: Earth takes a bunch of damage from the Crucible activation. Like dropping a bomb on an already war-ravaged city. Uh, well, maybe not LIKE that as much as, uh, THAT.
c) Low score: Earth is a cinderblock, all life on it completely wiped out
I have NO IDEA why these different cutscenes aren't in there. As far as I know, they were never cut. Maybe they were cut for budget reasons at the last minute. I don't know. But holy crap, yeah, I can see how incredibly disappointing it'd be to hear of all the different ending possibilities and have it break down to "which color is stuff glowing?" Or maybe they ARE in, but they're too subtle to really see obvious differences, and again, that's... yeah.
Okay, that's a lot to have written for something that's gonna go away in an hour.
I still teared up at the ending myself, but really, I was tearing up for the quick flashbacks to old friends and the death of Anderson. I wasn't tearing up over making a choice that, as it turned out, didn't have enough cutscene differentiation on it.
And to be clear, I don't even really wish Shepard had gotten a ride-off-into-sunset ending. I was honestly okay with Shepard sacrificing himself. I just expected it to be for something with more obvious differentiation, and a stronger tie to the core themes -- all three of them.