BioWare Mondays

I’m going to change the format of these daily summaries of what various notable RPG-making companies are up to. Rather than post lengthy lists of links, I’m going to try and weave together all the interesting factoids I’ve collected — in this case since about this time last month — into a shorter format, involving fewer quotes and heavier use of paragraphs.

So of course, the big news last month was the controversy over the ending to Mass Effect 3. Fans rose up in protest — something about cupcakes — while others started looking at earlier entries in the series to see if the ending had been telegraphed in any way. Some such analysis have been generally positive in nature, others rather more negative. Some fans even made use of rather amusing pranks to speak their minds about the series, while a bureaucrat at the Better Business Bureau opined that BioWare might be guilty of having falsely advertised the game and overstating the role that player choice would…er…play in its outcome.

BioWare didn’t exactly help things when one of their people mis-spoke about what sorts of modding might get a player banned from EA’s Origin service and potentially locked out of Mass Effect 3. It would seem he meant to say that using mods which impacted multiplayer gameplay could result in such penalties, but his word choice made it sound as though modding the single-player game would also result in a ban. Which, we’ve since learned, is not the case.

More recently, others have begun to argue that this whole controversy might just be good for the industry. And to be fair, many fans are still very much in love with the Mass Effect franchise, and are still doing the usual tribute-minded things that fans are wont to do. BioWare continues to demonstrate pride in the game, and has posted profiles of — and interviews with — some of its artists, designers, and writers in recent weeks.

BioWare did concede some ground to upset fans; by now, I’m sure everyone has heard about the extended cut of the game that will be released this summer, which will apparently flesh out the ending to explain some of the more egregious “what the?” aspects thereof. They also released the multiplayer-targeted Resurgence DLC for free, and I gather that it has in general been warmly received. I don’t know if their intent was to release it as a freebie, but it won them some PR points regardless.

And because the world keeps on turning, focus has now shifted away from BioWare’s science fiction franchise to its fantasy franchise; Dragon Age 3 is starting to pop up more and more often in the newsfeeds of gaming websites. Indeed, there was a panel at PAX East concerning the game, and some details about it have been leaked or released. For example, Dragon Age 3 won’t heavily re-use levels, something its predecessor was guilty of doing. And it will bring back party customization in a big way, apparently. All of which is good news for RPG fans.

Star Wars: The Old Republic is losing subscribers for various reasons, many of which have to do with the fact that once you’ve reached the end of a character storyline and maxed out in levels, the game really doesn’t leave you with a whole lot of places to go. BioWare is of course trying to entice players — especially players with high-level characters — back with free game time. Which, if my somewhat limited understanding of MMORPGs is at all correct, isn’t really a good sign, and isn’t likely to be a hugely successful strategy. Part of me is beginning to wonder if The Old Republic won’t be flipped over to a free-to-play model once it has made back its development costs.

Some things, however, don’t change. Everyone still hates Kaidan Alenko even after the third installment in the Mass Effect series. Heck, even I’m starting to sour on the guy. And everyone still loves Jade Empire and wishes it would make a comeback.

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