“From Ashes” and Mass Effect 3

I normally don’t comment too much on the creations of others, but considering this topic pertains to a series I’m quite endeared to, I’ve decided to drop my two cents (whether you’ll pay that isn’t entirely supported by my sales)…

Mass Effect 3 announced a Day One DLC (additional content to a game released the same day the game is).  I’m not particularly bothered by this, for reasons I’ll explain later, but I could understand why some gamers would be irritated.  Except for… the fact this content was always intended to be part of the Collector’s Edition of the game (which many gamers spent extra money for), and is being offered to those who purchased the standard edition for what will still be less than the cost of the Collector’s Edition.

If you want to complain that companies shouldn’t be creating such tiered systems of content, or that DLC is getting out of hand and has become a tool for game companies to nickel and dime their customers, that’s fine.  I’ll largely agree with that sentiment.  But don’t be surprised or demand something for free when it was made clear months ago that this was going to be available for an extra charge.

The second complaint that has arisen from this entire controversy is one that I really think is being made from ill-informed opinions on how the writing and creating process works.  Since most people pretend to dislike spoilers (when in fact the large cross-section of humanity actually does… but that’s a story for another time), I won’t go into specifics.  I’ll only say that the complaint is that because a story line resembling the DLC “From Ashes” was found in leaked early scripts, that must mean that Bioware has taken out vitally important parts of the story, and are making people pay for the entire story that they shouldn’t have to.

On the surface, I can also understand this concern; and if that is what Bioware has truly done, I think they’ll discover this is a horribly short-sighted move to make money now at the expense of their reputation and that future games will suffer for it.  Video games aren’t like gas… if people don’t have to have it, they won’t buy it if they don’t want to.  If Bioware truly has gone down a very dark path of creating tiers of story content, it will lead to the end of their company.

Now here’s why I think it’s wrong to assume they have done so.

Critics have pointed to leaked early scripts that show this story line and its central character as an integral part of the ME3 tale.  Now I want you to talk to any author, any music composer, any scriptwriter, or designer, or artist… or hell, basically anyone who creates as a profession.  Ask them if their first draft is anything like how the final revision turns out.  99.999999% of the time, the answer you get will be “Hell no.”

Correction, the first response will either be a derisive scoff or hilarious laughter, then followed by “Hell no.”

Just because this element was integral to the story in its draft stages, does not inherently mean it is important at this point.  In fact, I would wager a good half of the material in the first drafts of ME3 doesn’t even remotely resemble how it shaped up into the actual game.  I can relate, as I am probably the worst at this phenomenon.  Anyone who would read my first draft of The Second Gate (not that anyone outside of the small handful that already has ever will), would be startled to realize that about the only thing that remains constant is a handful of names.  The characters, the plot, the places, all of them are starkly different than how they were originally planned.  There were more than a small handful of story elements that were absolutely vital to the first draft that are missing completely from the story in its finished form.

My theory is a fairly simple one, that I think explains the superficial importance yet demonstrates how it isn’t.  “From Ashes” was a plot line that wound up rejected, either by Bioware or Electronic Arts.  The story was then further constructed without it.  Then, at some point later in the games development, someone looked back, and thought, “Ya know, I don’t think we should give up on this concept.  I think we can salvage it.”  The result was a pared down auxiliary story line, but since a lot of the initial framework was already in place, it allowed Bioware to put it together much more quickly than content they normally composed from scratch.

As for charging for this extra content; I can’t say I disagree.  I plan on doing something similar myself.  When I am able to put The Second Gate together in a printed, dead tree form, I plan to include an extra short story, to this point unpublished, that will only be part of the printed version of the book.  This story doesn’t particularly add or detract from the The Second Gate itself (and you’ll actually get several hints within The Endtimer’s Legacy anyway), but I think it’s a nice addition for those who are willing to put forth the extra money to support my work.  I don’t see how this is a scam, or evil, or anything other than a nice added piece to those who give me extra money.

Anyway, that’s my two cents.  And I gave it to you for free.  Eat that, Bioware.

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