Crunch, harassment and death threats.
A new video has shed light on what it was like inside BioWare during the Mass Effect 3 ending controversy.
The video below, from People Make Games, includes a raft of interviews with former BioWare developers who discuss the events leading up to the release of Mass Effect 3 in March 2012, the backlash to its ending, and the decision to update the game to address the complaints.
Mass Effect 3 contained one of the most controversial endings in video game history. It presented players with three choices – each resulting in a different end state for the galaxy – but in gameplay terms there was little difference between them.
The developers speaking to People Make Games reveal the human impact of the backlash that followed, including harassment and death threats. The developers also talk about how they felt about the decision to quickly turn around a free update that fleshed out the original endings with new cutscenes and added a fourth ending to choose from.
Importantly, the developers reveal that the team crunched hard to make this update happen – a prolonged period of extreme difficulty that bled into the making of BioWare’s next game, Dragon Age Inquisition.
BioWare is a studio that has been plagued by crunch over the years. In a wide-ranging interview with Eurogamer, Mike Laidlaw, ex-creative director of the Dragon Age franchise, spoke about the brutal crunch that went into the making of Dragon Age 2 – a game was built in little over a year, suffered a backlash, and which preceded the release of Mass Effect 3.
More recently, an investigation by Kotaku revealed many BioWare staff suffered brutal crunch while working on the ill-fated Anthem and Mass Effect: Andromeda.
In April 2019, then-BioWare studio general manager Casey Hudson admitted “these problems are real and it’s our top priority to continue working to solve them”. Hudson and Dragon Age executive producer Mark Darrah both left BioWare in December last year. BioWare is currently working on the next Dragon Age and Mass Effect games.