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Mass Effect 3's ending reshapes the entire galaxy and changes the lives of everyone serving on the Normandy, but it wasn't good enough for a large and vocal number of BioWare fans. Beware: there are spoilers ahead, as fantasy authors Joe Abercrombie and Jonathan Green discuss the ending, director's cut, and whether BioWare owes their community anything at all.
Mass Effect ends with a conversation with the Catalyst - a God-like entity responsible for the Milky Way's 50,000 year cycle of annihilation and renewal - a three-way choice, and one of three cut scenes. Tens of thousands of Facebook users, Redditors, and forum posters demanded a resolution with more answers, greater respect for past decisions and less ambiguity.
BioWare's response is a free, downloadable update planned for release this summer, extending the ending and clearing up a mystery or two along the way. But it's not the first time a writer has listened to their fans says Pax Britannia and Star Wars: Clone Wars author Jonathan Green.
"I've done it," he says. "My latest novel in the Pax Britannia series, Time's Arrow, is initially being released in three parts as eBooks, and readers are able to vote online for how they want the story to continue." When Time's Arrow is finally printed it'll be a collaboration between author and reader, with an ending the community helped decide before the novel was ever finished.
Mass Effect is finished, though, so would Green re-write the end if fans wanted it? "If people were happy to pay for it, why not? I would love to be able to write something where the basic story isn't the be all and end all. I'm in the business of world-building, and such extra content can only enhance the world being built."
Should fans be given so much power? "Reader feedback is worth listening to, but reader control is the high road to disaster," says Joe Abercrombie, author of the gritty First Law fantasy trilogy. "I get advice from my editor, I get opinions, and in the end I decide exactly how it will be.
"I can see why it's a lot harder to be bold with games, though. Books are relatively easy to pull apart and alter, but you wouldn't want to tell a few dozen designers that you'd decided to trash a sequence they spent six months working on and do it differently. A lot of thought upfront is important in games."