Evidence that one of the Mass Effect 3 writers posted a denunciation of the ending on the Penny Arcade forums has come forward to a huge amount of controversy. The writer noted that he was very disappointed in the ending of the game and that it wasn’t what he thought it would be. The final mission was written entirely by Casey Hudson and lead writer Mac Walters, without input or review from the other writers, which wasn’t true for every other mission in the game.
With this coming to light now, it only shows that fans are not only justified and supported by a member of the ME3 writing staff, but also that BioWare should have been aware of the backlash it would have caused, and shows poor decision-making and lack of communication among the team, at least with regard to the ending.
But here’s where the “huge amount of controversy” comes in: the writer, knowing the amount of trouble his statements would cause, deleted his posts and requested that nobody attribute his statements to his name, asking them to simply say “I heard” or “I bet”. These posts were also taken down by Penny Arcade at the behest of the author (well-known in the forums as Takyris), though Gameranx both published the writer’s name (Patrick Weekes) and received an anonymous screenshot of the posts in question, dated March 11.
Takyris is an account that has been on the forums since ME1, linked to Weekes’ LiveJournal where he discusses his work, and Penny Arcade users noted that he would sometimes bounce light ideas off of them. Some of the posts referencing what Takyris said are also still up, like this one (imgur), and this one (imgur), also from March 11, thereby making it clear that Takyris is the source of the denunciation and later redaction. One of the posts states:
Takyris explained some of this in SE++. ‘The ending was written without being reviewed by most of the writing staff, unlike all the other parts of the game.’ (are we not supposed to reference things Taky deleted? Because I’ll blank this if so).
The full text, which was copy and pasted from the original forum to places like Something Awful and others, reads as follows (warning, spoilers):
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.
While these statements have been attributed to Mass Effect writer Patrick Weekes, on the BioWare forums, Chris Priestly, Bioware’s community coordinator, has said he asked Weekes about it, and that the whole debacle is nothing more than an imitation. Forum users have accepted Priestly’s statement, saying, “…if you see this topic of a BioWare writer speaking out against the ending that is floating around on the internet, it has been debunked!”
Users on other forums have also actively spoken out and become extremely defensive against anybody who tries to “incriminate” Weekes, saying things like (taken from comments on the Gameranx article and from Penny Arcade’s forum):
The only reason people are saying it’s fake is so that [Takyris], a genuinely nice dude who just wanted to give some of his friends some insight on why the ending turned out how it did, won’t get fucking FIRED because you decided to fucking call him out by name you absolute pile of fuck juice and human compost
The Scarab already mentioned that people at Something Awful and other places read the forums and copy/pasted his posts at their shitholes weeks ago . and it was around that time that taky left. it makes me sad and I’m angry at the fuckers who took advantage of his trust in us.
In writing this article, though I am avoiding direct contact with Weekes’ name or his role in everything, I’m opening myself up to those criticisms as well, but here are the facts:
- Whether or not Weekes was the one who posted the original message, it was posted on his account. Priestly calls it an imitator, but in this case it would make more sense for it to be an account hacker, which neither Weekes nor Priestly has claimed.
- BioWare is already aware of the situation and the fact that Weekes’ name is involved. Through Priestly, they have already addressed it. Publishing his name doesn’t make much of a difference—they already know that people suspect and/or know that Takyris is Weekes. As much as Weekes/Takyris wishes to remain anonymous, and doesn’t want the information leaked attributed to him, it is no longer possible. Everything Takyris said and his identity were already posted to Something Awful and Reddit before Gameranx got a hold of it.
- There is sufficient evidence to warrant this being called “news”. Some people say that forum posts aren’t “sufficient evidence” and citing them shows a lack of journalistic integrity. However, forums, while not legitimate sources for news in themselves, are where people conduct discussions, form ideas, organize, complain, and everything else people do when they talk to each other candidly. Sometimes, the people who write in forums are important people, and in publishing words publicly, they open themselves up to all kinds of readers, including the media. This is also true for normal users – what you write in a forum can be taken as a bystander statement when it comes to issues predominantly taking place online. In this particular case, Weekes got caught, and candid statements are still statements when you work for one of the most popular game franchises of the decade. Yes, journalism ethics dictate that you should withhold the names when the particular piece of news might damage someone’s reputation, but at this point the company in question has already issued a statement regarding the issue which stated the name of the writer in question as being Patrick Weekes.
- If Weekes gets fired over this, you can’t blame the online community. If Weekes truly is the one that posted it, then he is responsible for his actions. If it was the work of a hacker, he and BioWare should come out and say so. If BioWare fires him, that is their decision. As great a guy or writer as he is, if BioWare decides that his indiscretion is worth getting rid of him, that showing a unified face over their products is more important than the ability to express personal opinions, then the blame shouldn’t lie on the shoulders of news outlets or “tabloids” or blogs or forums. The blame lies on them for considering his complaint egregious enough to warrant termination, for not considering his talent, and for not standing up for him as their employee and someone who has done a lot for the Mass Effect franchise.
It seems, however, that most people are primarily angry that Weekes’ name was published in association with the posts, an issue that can’t be helped now. There wasn’t a lot of denying that it was a BioWare writer — just that the name of the writer should not have been leaked. Despite evidence to the contrary, maybe BioWare will stand beside their original statement of, “It wasn’t him,” and let Weekes stay.
Ultimately, the statements made by Takyris on March 11th are critical of BioWare and the decision making that took place with regard to the ending, and their objection to receiving feedback from the other writers on what was to become the final chapter of what is possibly the greatest videogame trilogy. It’s also a criticism of the ending itself, which he agrees failed to live up to BioWare’s promises, a central point to the rationale behind the Reclaim ME3 movements. If Takyris truly is Weekes, then the anger of the masses is justified, and BioWare can no longer hide behind meek statements of “that’s just how it was always going to be.”