On March 6 this year, a videogame trilogy ended, enraging thousands. The final ten minutes of Mass Effect 3 veered suddenly into unexpected territory and delivered a closing segment that left many baffled and disappointed.
Some of those people felt extremely angry and decided that Bioware needed to be held to account for underdelivering on the final 1% of their stomping 100 hour space adventure. Cue the Take Back Mass Effect Facebook campaign (tagline: DEMAND A BETTER ENDING), which has received over 61,000 likes.
They had valid complaints. Mass Effect 3's ending was really weird , but demanding a new ending from Bioware and then writing one for them perhaps went a little too far. "Fans of the Mass Effect trilogy have put far too much time, effort, and money into the game to be abandoned with such a fate," the group insisted.
"Bioware desperately needs to resolve this issue. New DLC (something long) to add a new, more satisfactory ending to the game, or even a full expansion based as an epilogue to the trilogy.
"Some possible ideas include Shepard retiring or settling down with his/her love interest, returning to work as a Council SPECTRE, or traveling the galaxy as an inter-species diplomat."
In addition to that, a poll on the Bioware forums requesting a "brighter" ending gained 68000 positive votes. Some folks even made a happy ending mod to bring the ending more in line with their expectations.
In April, Bioware responded by announcing a free extended cut patch that would add extra cut scenes and clarity to the ending without changing what actually happened. It was released in June, but by then it was all a bit too late.
Still, some good came out of it. A Child's Play protest drive raised £50,000, though as the BBC reported , Child's Play closed down the drive "after it emerged many people thought they were giving money to produce a new ending for Mass Effect 3."
Bioware mentioned that they are working on Mass Effect 4 in October. It will be built in Frostbite 2 , it won't feature Shepard , and Bioware haven't quite decided whether it should be a prequel or a sequel .
Diablo 3 proved more popular than Blizzard had really anticipated when it released on May 15. Huge numbers had pre-ordered, many more received a bonus copy as part of the World of Warcraft annual pass deal, and still more bought it on the day. Blizzard later said that 6.3 million people were playing in the first week after launch.
Diablo 3's controversial always-online requirement meant everyone logging in to play would have to successfully connect with Blizzard's servers first. Unfortunately, with a noise like a whoopee cushion in a wind tunnel the server farms melted into a steaming puddle of silicon and couldn't be coaxed into full operation.
Rejected connections were met with the now infamous "Error 37" message. Furious fans vented their frustration on a 19 page forum thread entitled " Epic Fail Blizzard ." #error37 became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter
After a few very late nights and some emergency updates, Error 37 messages started to fade, but more controversy lay ahead. After several delays the real money auction house arrived in June. Patches hiked repair costs for high level players and put in the support pillars for a disappointing endgame .
Then there was the incident involving Diablo co-creator, David Brevik, who spoke out about Diablo 3 in August saying "some of the decision they have made are not the decisions I would make and there have been changes in philosophy and that hasn't gone over very well. I think in that way I am a little sad." Diablo 3 devs vented their frustration on a less-private-than-expected Facebook thread in which game director Jay Wilson responded with the message "fuck that loser." Wilson later apologised in a lengthy post on the Diablo 3 site:
"What I said was expressed out of anger, and in defense of my team and the game. People can say what they want about me, but I don't take lightly when they disparage the commitment and passion of the Diablo III team," he said.
Phew. Buried under all that hoo-ha it's important to note that Diablo 3 is a good game. Very good, actually, if you forgive the post-level 60 grind. Find out why in our Diablo 3 review . Blizzard are currently planning more updates and there should be some proper expansions on the horizon.
By the time E3 rolled around, there was already some concern surrounding Crystal Dynamic's new direction for Lara Croft. The only footage and screenshots released so far had shown her battered, bruised, bleeding in a state of permanent pain, fear or misery.
Then, two and a half minutes into the E3 trailer, amid the falling, impaling, shivering and screaming, an assailant groped Lara. The implied rape threat was clear to many, and a flood of opinion pieces were penned in response. Here's the trailer so you can see for yourself.
The situation wasn't helped by comments executive producer Ron Rosenberg made to Kotaku . "When you see her have to face these challenges, you start to root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character," he said. "When people play Lara, they don't really project themselves into the character. They're more like 'I want to protect her.' There's this sort of dynamic of 'I'm going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her.'"
Our Tom Francis got to play through the scene to its conclusion, deliberately failing (to his considerable discomfort) the quicktime events that enable her to fight back. In the end, her attacker merely strangles her to death instead. Oh, good.
Global brand director Karl Stewart told us there's “No sexual element. He doesn't care who you are. He has got you cornered and you are female, so there is an element of 'oh he's creepy, and this is slightly intimidating', but straight out it's: bite his ear, kick him in the nuts and shoot him in the head.”
Regarding Rosenberg's comments, he said this: “Unfortunately someone mis-spoke, rather than was mis-quoted, and said a word that isn't in our vocabulary and shouldn't have been said… We're not trying to create something that causes a stir, what we're trying to create is something that's still in a mature world but still feels real.”
On watching the trailer, it's hard to believe that those who cut the trailer together weren't trying to cause a bit of fuss. It's still too early to tell where the developers are taking Lara, and it certainly isn't the first time a marketing campaign has misrepresented a game. It's due out on March 5 next year.
Where to start? Square Enix' promotional efforts have provided some of the most painful "what were they thinking?" moments of the year. The graphic murder of a squad of hypersexualised, rubberised BDSM nun assassins in the May trailer was an impressively misjudged opening gambit that worked on precisely no level.
Game director Tor Blystad later apologised for the trailer, explaining that "there are a lot of movie influences in Hitman Absolution, like Tarantino and Rodriguez." But where Tarantino re-purposes influences from asian cinema and martial arts films to create quirky and spectacular pop-cultural mash-ups, the Hitman nunsassin trailer seems to take its cues from rubbish porn and Rambo. The resultant video was exactly the sort of peurile hyperviolent nonsense that gives videogames a bad rep.
“We're sorry that we offended people” Blystad said at E3 . “That was truly not the intention of the trailer.”
“We've been reading as much as we could of the articles and responses” he added. “We were surprised that it turned into such a huge topic. Something similar happened with our Sniper Challenge pre-order bonus. We just wanted to make something cool, it wasn't the intention to stir up anything.”
IO Interactive subsequently changed the level that featured the nun assassins - a crack squad sent by the Agency to slay Agent 47 - to create more context for their appearance .
It was bad, but a mistake is a mistake, right? Those involved have apologised and will probably be more thoughtful about their marketing schemes in future. As long as they don't do anything else stupid then we can all get past - OH WAIT. Just a few weeks ago a Facebook stunt encouraged players to put "Facebook hits" out on their friends. Those taking part could select insults to throw at each other. You could put out a hit on someone for having small tits, bad hair, an annoying laugh or a small penis.
The campaign was pulled in the wake of a torrent of disapproval. Depressingly, the game proved disappointing, too, ditching many of the traits that made former Hitman games special in favour of a more directed, linear experience. Find out more in our Hitman: Absolution review .
At the time of writing, The War Z has been plucked from Steam. Valve's Doug Lombardi told RPS that Valve have removed the game so that Valve can "work with the developer and have confidence in a new build." They're also offering refunds to purchasers who file a support ticket . The problem? This build of The War Z doesn't seem to match up to the promises its developers have been making.
Steam user Shock4ndAwe captured this image showing the original product description on Steam. It promised maps between "100 and 400 square kilometers." It claims you can create "private servers" and "gain experience and spend it to learn dozen of available skills." These features aren't in there yet. What's more, PCGamesN investigated the size of War Z's map and found it to be around 10 sq km large - far smaller than promised.
In an extraordinary interview on GameSpy , executive producer of The War Z, Sergey Titov attempted to defend the Steam listing, saying "I think there's difference between false claims and perception of the text."
When challenged on the "up to 100 players" claim (only 50 players could play simultaneously at the time), he said "let's be frank: when you read "up to 100 players" -- what does it mean to you personally? I mean, for me it doesn't mean that I will play with 99 other players. Really :) And yes game supports 100 players -- heck, it supports actually over 400 players per server as of today. Do we have servers launched with this number of slots? No we don't, because this is not what our players WANT."
The War Z creators, Hammerpoint, have since released a statement that blames players for expecting the features clearly labelled on Steam. “We also want to extend our apologies to all players who misread information about game features," they said. The Steam listing has since been altered.
Before The War Z was pulled, Kotaku reported that a patch had upped the respawn time to four hours and added microtransactions that would let players pay to circumvent it. Players took to Reddit to express their anger.
It feels like this story still has a long way to run. In other news, Bohemia Interactive continue to work on a standalone version of Arma 2 mega-mod, Day Z.