Monthly Archives: March 2013
It’s been over a year since Bioware released Mass Effect 3 to the world, and in doing so they invited a firestorm of criticism from fans, critics and even the Better Business Bureau. If somehow you haven’t heard, the ending to Mass Effect 3 was vilified and hated by longtime fans of the franchise and they took to the Bioware forums to vent their hatred. In response Bioware released a special download called “the extended cut” which sought to improve the original ending by adding extra content to the original game. While the exact numbers are difficult to determine, I estimate that less than 50 percent of players are satisfied with the extended cut. Regardless of how anyone feels about Mass Effect 3, the release of the extended cut was an unprecedented event not only in gaming history, but in entertainment history. Never before had a product of entertainment been so swiftly altered in response to its fans. As someone who has invested hundreds of hours into each game, I think it’s long overdue that I talk about the controversy. I’m not going to talk about how Mass Effect 3 should have ended; I simply want to express how I feel about the controversy and more importantly what it says about the industry.
When I completed Mass Effect 3 for the first time, my initial response was confusion. I had heard a lot about the fan response to the ending but I hadn’t had anything spoiled for me. I asked myself “is this really what people are so mad about?” However over the next few days I slowly realized how unsatisfying the original ending was. Leading up to Mass Effect 3’s release, Bioware made a lot of claims about how the game would end. They promised multiple endings that were all different and that every question would be answered. These are just some of the many promises that original ending broke. For this reason, I think that the initial response to Mass Effect 3’s ending was justified (at least partially) based on the fact that Bioware blatantly lied to their customers. Then Bioware released the extended cut the following June, and I (for the most part) was satisfied with the new endings. I have absolutely no problem with people expressing their opinions but I noticed very quickly that on the topic of Mass Effect 3, I disagreed with a lot of people.
This past Monday, John Riccitiello the CEO of publisher EA, announced that he was stepping down. This news comes in wake of the disastrous launch of the SimCity reboot which is now being called “the worst video game launch in history.” This is huge news as EA is probably the biggest gaming publisher that doesn’t have a product on the console market. Over the past few years, EA’s reputation has gone from being bitterly received to being outright despised. They are hated so much that last April, EA was voted the worst company in America. One of these days I’ll get around to explaining why EA is hated so much but for now, all you need to know is that EA’s reputation is at an all time low point. It’s easy to forget that back in 2008, EA was actually a respectable company releasing new IPs like Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge. What EA needs more than ever is to rethink their business direction and having a new CEO could be the start of that.
The most notable thing I took away from Riccitiello’s resignation is that I don’t have any idea why he stepped down. Was he fired? Was it to distance himself from EA’s crumbling reputation? Was he just tired of being a wealthy businessman? There are some facts to consider, like the fact that under Riccitiello, EA has struggled financially. They haven’t recovered from the global financial crisis of 2008. Their struggles can be explained with another fact: EA has simply made a lot of bad decisions since 2008. From the release of Spore, to the marketing of Dead Space 2, all the way to today with SimCity’s disastrous launch. All of this controversy had to factor into Riccitiello’s decision. The question of hour is: What is EA going to do in light of this news?
In the opening moments of Tomb Raider, the one thing that stood out to me was the vulnerability of its main character. The new Lara Croft does not start off as the sassy adventurer of past games, but as a scared and vulnerable woman, fighting for her survival. Much like the Tomb Raider series itself, Lara has to adapt to her environment to survive. Let’s face facts, a lot has changed since the original Tomb Raider was released back in 1996. Fortunately for developer Crystal Dynamics, their hard work has paid off. In a game dedicated to reinventing its iconic main character, Tomb Raider succeeds in finding its own identity.
The story is a simple one, Lara Croft and a friendly group of stock characters journey by boat into the Pacific ocean in search of a “big’ archaeological discovery. The ship sails into a storm and crashes onto an island, stranding the crew. They are not alone however, the island is ruled by a radical cult who seem content to hunt down anyone who comes across their path. The primary goal for Lara (and the player) is to escape the island. Unforunately none of the characters (besides Lara) are interesting and the story isn’t going to win any awards. It’s not bad per se, it’s just not very good. The story succeeds only in managing to provide Lara with a short-term goal and it moves at a brisk enough pace. All in all, it’s a passable tale.