I have to say that I am getting more than a little annoyed with the people who are decrying us, The Unsatisfied, as whiny, entitled shits who should just shut up and go away.
Using the argument that this is someone else's work and we have no right to demand we change it is somewhat redundant. I say this because I am an artist (well, I draw stuff and some of it I was even paid for) and quite frankly I cannot agree.
When I am commissioned, I may be given a little artistic licence but in esscence, I have to come up with something the customer wants and likes. If they are not satisfied, they have a right to tell / ask me that I sort it out. Now if the picture is finished (I use traditional methods rather than a Wacom) there is little I can do about it other than start over but the medium of the videogame is different. It CAN be changed and it I can't see why, when the endings were so unfulfilling and confusing then they should not be changed.
I've also written a few stories for people and you know what? Once or twice they read it and said: "Well actually...can you change this bit as I didn't think it fits with my character" or something like that. You know what? I did and everyone was happy. More people read the story and it got me some more work and the customer got a story with an ending that satisfied. Wether or not it was what he was expecting is not relevant - what IS relevant is that it made sense, tied things up and didn't end with an epilogue that basically amounted to saying "Oh well, if you didn't like it, there are more chapters coming that you can buy!"
At this point you may ask, what the fuck are you on about, mate? Fair point - I will tell you.
The parallel between the story I wrote and the whole Mass Effect trilogy runs thus. Both contained characters that someone put a lot of time and effort into creating. They were more than just cartoon lions that walked upright and smoked, they had been honed and shaped by decisions, roleplays, character progression and so on in a million and one ways. Sometimes these defining moments were small and seemingly unimportant. Other times they may have been something utterly epic.
When we first started Mass Effect 1, we were asked to provide a very basic framework for the Shepherd character we would then go on to shape as we saw fit. The very esscence of the trilogy, and the reasons for repeat playthroughs, was that we were not just reading a pre-set story, we were choosing it's path and watching the consequences of our actions and decisions unfold. It was always put to us that it was down to us, the players, to effectively write our own version of the Legend of Commander Shepherd.
Sure we had to progress towards the end via a certain set of waypoints for the obvious reasons but there were umpteen-billion variables between the various waypoints that resulted in some waypoints being locked out, others being opened and a whole slew of outcomes in between.
We were constantly told that our decisions would make a difference; that when the dust settled, what we had done and said would have determined the state of the galaxy once it was all over. To that end, a lot of us spent a good deal of time making sure that we got it right because we didn't want to be responsible for cocking it up. I think the term "Labour of Love" can be applied to the trilogy for the many people, like me, who loved all the games, the characters, the universe and everything else and so put in the effort because we knew that it would all pay off in the end.
We are NOT in a serious huff because the game didn't have a happy ending!
Nearly every single person deriding us because we want the ending changed are ignoring what we are saying and / or speaking with air of smug-patronisation that makes me rather angry.
Let me put it another way: You are completely missing the point!.
While I fully accept that, on the whole, some people could stand to calm down a little bit, it does NOT alter the fact that everything we worked towards was rendered utterly irrelevant. It turns out no matter what we did and what he said, the ending, happy or not, gives no closure, no absolutiuon and shoots several big holes into the plot and canon while it's at it.
When you make a series of games such as Mass Effect, basing a massive amount of it on the principle that they are merely providing the framework on which we can build, you cannot have a "one-size-fits-all" ending! and that is essentially what he have...and it's a crap one to boot!
Speaking personally, I would have been satisfied with an ending in which I'd fucked it up because of what I had done, just so long as it explained WHY and went on to say: "And look what you did to the galaxy as a result, way to go, you tosser!" Sure I would have been happier if I'd done good we never had the chance to find out.
No matter what we did, it was all thrown away by the ending. There is no incentive to try again, as we are often urged to do in the ME2 loading screens, for a "whole new experience".
Look at it this way: Say I offered a service in which you paid me for a basic framework for a house. I also gave you a massive range of tools, materials, furnishings and said: "Do what you like; I have provided the means and now it's up to you to build the house YOU want to build. Also, if you want, I can provide other materials, some help with the building and also some labourers. They cost extra but are entirely optional."
With me so far? So you get to work on shaping your house, making your choices from the many options available to you. Sure other people are using my service but I guarantee that no two houses will be the same. As time passes, you see your house take shape and, although the process might have its setbacks, you are still working towards a place YOU want to live in and built the way YOU want it and you look forward to the end because you will have the absolution, if not the satisfaction, that this was pretty much all your own work.
So how would you feel that, if at the culmination of your efforts, I show up and bulldoze all the houses and then say: "You will live in a caravan, a shed or a tent - pick one!"
Even if you worked tirelessly night and day to make sure that the foundations would hold up the walls and the walls would hold up the roof; you mixed and matched styles to your tastes while still making sure that the toilet flushed and you were not electrocuted when you tried to turn the lights on, it makes no difference because I have just come along and, with no explanation, destroyed all your hard work and rendered it as irrelevant as the person next door who couldn't be arsed and made his "house" by stretching a tarp over the framework and then went to the pub.
Wouldn't you be just a little bit pissed off with me? I would!
What makes it worse is that I never gave you the chance to see if your house would have worked or not. Did using steel beams on the loft conversion instead of cheap, wooden ones stop the roof falling in? Does it appear to be perfect but wind up costing a fortune to maintain? We will never know because, despite all the pretty pictures I presented you in my pitch, I've rocked up in the Deus Ex Machina-mobile!
And as for the replay value...
Remember, you bought tonnes of different materials from me at the start so you still have the stuff to make many different houses on the framework I provided. You could have got to the end and realised, actually - this didn't work or (if you are like my parents) decide the house is awesome but are a masochist and so start anew anyway. Used bricks last time? Well why not go for a log-cabin this time? Baroque? Art-Deco? Modernism? How about a water-feature instead of a patio in the garden?
How would you then feel if I said: "Well yes you could start over but I'm just gonna do the same thing when you're done!"
You: "Can't we at least see if our houses stood the test of time or failed miserably?"
Me: "No, fuck off!"
Me: "Fucked if I know - fucked if I care! Tell you what - I'll just chop the roof off and let you try a different colour of slates than before but be-warned that we you will just end up back here again. Oh and by the way, you can still buy those extras I mentioned. See ya!"
THAT is why we're so annoyed! I'm sure that you wont have read this because you will have dismissed me as a whiny, entitled shit who knows nothing at all, ever and that you are so clever you know everything.
Long and short - all we want to know is, what was the point? Did we make a difference? What becomes of the galaxy as a result of our actions? Even if we got it horribly wrong or just want to see what happened if you cut the red wire instead of the green wire, there is no way of knowing because we will always come back to the fact that it makes no difference at all.
The whole series also gears you towards building bridges and gaining allies - it's one of the few things that are crucial to every playthrough regardless of class, gender, orientation or what size gun you use. In ME1 and ME2, you CAN skip bits but you will pay the penalty just as you would pay the penalty if you had the chance to lay the bricks of your house properly but decided to use Pritt-Stick instead of mortar because it was cheaper and you couldn't be arsed with all that mixing of cement, sand and water. In the end, it's all turned on it's head because, the only real thing we can gain from the ending is that the more mates you bought to the fight, the more you are condemning to a slow and painful death or, at the very least, a very miserable existence.
Don't get me wrong, I have played and loved all three Mass Effect games. They became more than just three games that link together and have pretty blue alien-girls in; it's been a personal journey. Each game had it's pros and cons but I got on with it because, as I said, it had become a labour of love. I replayed my main campaign over and over, getting Lion Shepherd and his team as ready as can be and yet, in ten-minutes, EVERYTHING is rendered moot and that is why it cannot be allowed to stand!