Oh Mass Effect 3, how I loathe thee. Even after three years, this game is still a sore spot for me. Easily the best game of the series, it quickly turned into a giant mess of “what the fuck is this shit” in the last half hour of the game’s story. To the point that the entire series has been ruined for me. Deus Ex Endings are obnoxious. Is Bioware accountable to me as a consumer of their product when it fails to deliver on their promises, and in some aspects lied about how the game will end? Do I deserve a refund from EA for the A, B, C ending Hudson promised wouldn’t be in the game? The game was advertised as a story that would be impacted by the choices you make, which arguably it is. The entire series is designed like that.
“Consider this: If you had purchased a game for $59.99… and were told that you had complete control over the game’s outcome by the choices your character made and then actually had no control over the game’s outcome, wouldn’t you be disappointed?”
When lawyers were asked about the issue of a legal case against Bioware due to the complaint with the Better Business Bureau (yes the complaints got so bad people were talking to layers) and the ramifications of what some players felt was “deceptive advertising” you can see where a complaint against a game company starts to fall apart in certain regards.
“I am not sure that I even accept the premise of the complaint: as far as I know, the company said player choices would influence the outcome, but I don’t think there was a guarantee of limitless outcomes. Rather, the player was offered a choice of three ending paths. Arguably, this could be construed to mean player choice affected the outcome. I suppose there may have been a comment from someone at BioWare that ‘every’ choice would affect the outcome, but it would be difficult to prove that furnished the sole basis for the purchase.”
Although severely disappointed by the game’s outcome, all of your actions are impacted throughout the story. The real sore spot is that the ending turned into one that Casey Hudson (Mass Effects Director) said we were not going to get. The hard part is proving that Bioware purposefully deceived gamers with the final product versus what was advertised and showcased at conventions. In my opinion Bioware didn’t deceive gamers, it is simply a case of players not liking how the production team chose to end the series. I don’t like the ending, I infact loathe it, but I don’t feel like Bioware swindled me. Yes the Shepard I had gallivanting around the universe for three games was partially mine (I chose how she looked, whether she was a Paragon or Renegade, whom she flirted with, and more so who she chose to save or try and kill) but in the end it is a character confined to the story and evolution created by a production crew. This is basically a Choose Your Own Adventure movie.
“This story arc is coming to an end with this game. That means the endings can be a lot more different. At this point we’re taking into account so many decisions that you’ve made as a player and reflecting a lot of that stuff. It’s not even in any way like the traditional game endings, where you can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, or C.”
As a consumer of games am I entitled to something like a refund when a game does not deliver like I expect it to?
In the Case of Mass Effect 3? Definitely not. No gamer is entitled to a refund due to how the ending played out in the game, regardless of how pissed off it made you. I was still able to play and enjoy the game up until the final scene on top of the Crucible.
“[You] recognize that, to some degree, a game is a little bit different than a lot of media because the players feel like they own it. They co-own everything that happens in the world. And there are some things that just creatively – whereas, if it’s a book or a movie, you want to go a certain direction with it – players may have wanted to see something different.”
Games are a product of the people making it, you go in not knowing what kind of experience you will have. How many titles have you bought that you ended up not enjoying? Do you go back to the store you bought it and demand a refund after you played it its conclusion? Or call up customer service for the game company and demand a refund? Most gamers don’t. They either trade it in for a game they will enjoy or toss it on a shelf to collect dust, or even attempt a replay at a latter date.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is another example of gamers feeling like they were lied to in order to buy an inferior product. The concept of the game was well received, and many gamers eagerly awaited the final product after tech demos and pre-release videos were shown by the company. Several sites have shown videos from Gearbox’s pre-release in relation to the locations in the game as shipped, revealing that the finished game is significantly different than what was shown in demos. This an example where the disclaimer “work in progress” does a disservice to the final project. In this instance there is such a high chance of a lawsuit, that Sega themselves have threw Gearbox under the bus in order to gain back some semblance of customer relations, and has attempted to pay a settlement.
“In exchange for the relief described above, Sega — but not Gearbox — will receive a full release of all claims related to Aliens: Colonial Marines, including claims relating to the design, marketing, operation of, or warranties provided in connection with the game, according to the filing. Quite importantly, the settlement only releases claims against Sega — not Gearbox.”
As of 2015 the case against Sega and Gearbox has hit a snag since the Judge involved in the trial found issue in how the plaintiffs planned on determining who in the US was able to see the E3 demo before the game was released. Gearbox themselves ended up being removed from the lawsuit, but they haven’t been able to salvage any customer goodwill in the process. Many still think that the company purposefully mislead gamers, and views them as “snake-oil salemen.” It is going to be a hard perception to get past in the industry, especially after such a huge let down.
Lawsuits against companies most often fail to see the company charged with any crimes related to deceiving customers, usually the cases are thrown out, as in the case with Colonial Marines regardless of how strong the case was against Gearbox.
What about projects that gamers help get made? There are various examples of Kickstarter campaigns that failed to create projects or games that were promised. This creates a large problem for backers as not only are they helping to get a game funded, there is more so a sense of entitlement to the final product that is released.
Indie developers have been relying on Kickstarter for a while, since game development is a long arduous project that requires a lot of dedication. People still need to pay for boring things like food and rent. Kickstarter creates a even larger entitlement as gamers are putting money into a project as it is being developed. In essence they have become shareholders. Kickstarter does have a system in place for projects that failed to deliver, but you rarely hear about funded projects being forced to pay back donations after the game crashed and burned. A lot of times the game still fails to make enough money due to the inexperience of those trying to create a game. They don’t understand the amount of time and money needed to push out a game with a small production crew.
If it wasn’t for Kickstarter Double Fine wouldn’t have as many games developed. It isn’t very often that an Indie company has a project picked up by a major studio like in the case of ThatGameCompany’s Journey. What usually happens when an Indie developer gets picked up by a major company is a loss of creative control of their projects. This seems to be the perception of what happened when Bioware was bought by EA. Bioware has been known for years has a developer of strong well made and well written games, but since their acquisition into the EA umbrella their quality dropped significantly, and games were released that felt rushed and out of place in their strong library of creations (like Dragon Age II and Mass Effect 3.)
So where does this leave the gamer? It is an awkward spot to be in when you experience a game that has disappointed you so severely, that you feel like the company stole your money. Are we completely powerless in the gaming industry? Of course not. Games are made for gamers to play and enjoy and are an integral part of the clockwork in the system. It is a system of goods and services, without us there is no industry. This creates a fine line between being engaged in the development and continued creations from a company to having a false sense of entitlement when a game goes south of your expectations. The easiest method in dealing with companies that fail to deliver to your expectations is to no longer buy their products or wait until reviews are released before you buy their games.
It shouldn’t be the end of the world when a game fails to deliver, and gamers have many outlets available to voice their opinions on games that are released. Companies have been known to listen from time to time to complaints.