justabaldguy wrote:Better bring this ship back on course, I saw executive producer Casey Hudson say this about the ME3 ending on a Joystiq article:
"I didn't want the game to be forgettable, and even right down to the sort of polarizing reaction that the ends have had with people -- debating what the endings mean and what's going to happen next, and what situation are the characters left in -- that to me is part of what's exciting about this story."
In the general sense, I like huge-stakes stories well enough, particularly when the stakes turn on interesting ideas. The Mass Effect kinda sorta qualifies in that regard — there are some interesting ideas, but also some stupid ones, and the writing is uneven.
As to the Hudson quote… mystery is important, so in a larger sense he's right, but again, the execution was seriously flawed. Some measure of mystery — some sense that the world of the story is larger and deeper than the story taking place within it and that not every corner of the world has been exposed to light and not every room and cavern has been explored — is, I think, essential to an epic story's enduring appeal. But writers can't just punt and leave vital, central elements of the story unexplained, or everything just winds up feeling arbitrary, like it happened by fiat and for no particular reason other than authorial ineptitude.Lost
is a great example of what not to do in that regard. The end of the series largely gave us solid conclusions to the characters' personal stories, but it did absolutely nothing
to wrap up the show's larger mythological understructure. The whole mythology wound up feeling like a random bunch of crap, making the show, in the end, feel like a huge con job, even though large parts of it were genuinely excellent, particularly when considered in a narrower, more local context.
I actually think The Lord of the Rings trilogy — the books, not the movies — provides an excellent counterexample of how to cultivate and maintain mystery without undermining narrative satisfaction in the least. Everything we see transpire over the course of the narrative feels complete and internally consistent and makes sense in terms of the characters involved, and yet while we understand the overall gist of the larger mythology and it seems internally consistent and fairly utilized rather than feeling like an arbitrary, random collection of ad hoc cheats, there's still a lot that's left unexplained. What
exactly is Gandalf, for example? What is the secret flame of Anor? Exactly what happened in Dol Goldur? What precisely compels the elves to leave Middle Earth after the destruction of the One Ring? And so on and so forth. There are a great deal of un-explicated references that feel fair and consistent with what we know of the world and with each other, and which thus serve to make the world feel much larger and deeper than the picture we'd get from focusing solely on what happens directly to the characters in the course of the narrative. And yet for all the remaining mysteries, the central narrative is effectively and comprehensively resolved.
The creators of Lost
didn't need to explain every last detail of the show's mythology. If they had, they would've reduced it, made it seem small and made-up. But they did need to explain some
The problem with Mass Effect 3 is that the developers didn't explain the right things or enough of them, and a number of the things they explained weren't explained in a satisfactory way. Not to mention that some of what happens is actually inconsistent with other elements of the the story.
Joker and Shepard's allies suddenly being on the Normandy at the end is a trivial but perfect example. It makes absolutely no sense, but rather than posing an intriguing mystery, it just feels like gross authorial sloppiness.
I could imagine an alternate version of ME3 in which the full nature and implications of synthetic-organic synthesis wasn't explained in detail but was only hinted at by the game's coda(s), but the version we got doesn't even remotely qualify. Joker's "transformation", which apparently has no practical impact on him, is silly and doesn't embody any actual change, and the far-future coda is completely unaffected by Shepard's final choice. The differences in both should have been substantial, especially in the latter one.
So I agree in principle, but the people behind the Mass Effect series made a real hash of it in practice.