(Note: If you don't want to know anything about Mass Effect 2's story, don't read this).
The Mass Effect 2 demonstration at E3 was phenomenally impressive, largely because BioWare decided to not only reveal the player's actions in Mass Effect 2 could result in the death of Shepard and his crew but BioWare showed it, too. Upon reflection, though, I've come to wonder about the implications of that decision. Had gamers not known about that possibility, it would have made an incredible surprise. Now, when you boot up Mass Effect 2, that knowledge will affect the decisions you make. You know about the doomsday ending. Why would BioWare do that?
I asked BioWare co-founder Ray Muzyka over e-mail to explain BioWare's decision making process. For a company with so many secrets, why disclose this major spoiler?
"It's complicated and not all is as it might seem at first glance," explained Muzyka.
"Mass Effect 2, like other BioWare titles such as Dragon Age: Origins, is full of awesome twists and turns, so even discussing the premise of the story is tricky," he continued. "We have to remain fairly cryptic about what we’ve shown and what it meant. The reason we showed what we did at E3 was to illustrate the concept of the game while leaving as much as possible 'unspoiled.'"
Muzyka appears keenly aware that having players know about the possible consequences for Shepard and co. will affect their decision making process. If anything, revealing this scenario at E3 was BioWare showing a card from its hand to prove a point.
"Ultimately it comes down to the fact that the core idea of the story in Mass Effect 2 is the fact that you know from the start how dangerous the mission is at the end, and that much of the story is about how you prepare for it," said Muzyka. "To be serious about the suicide mission concept, we’ve implemented the possibility that Shepard and team could die in the end – thus elevating the importance of powerful choices and emotionally engaging consequences."
The way Muzyka describes the scene's narrative context provides some insight into what BioWare has set up and its knowledge of the potential impact. We are BioWare's puppets. Muzyka told me the scene where Shepard and others met an untimely fate is not the "actual ending" to Mass Effect 2 and was merely a "pretty dramatic scene" meant to underscore the stakes of the game.
"It’s a fine distinction we’re drawing here," he said, "but when people read about what was shown at E3, we think it’s a good thing since it helps capture the concept of the game and shows we’re serious about creating an emotionally engaging experience."
His final words on the subject get to the heart of the matter.
"We’ve intentionally left many things unclear," he said, "such as *when* that scene takes place and *how* it fits into the overall story. Lots more to reveal still!"
Like I said, we're puppets. Expectedley, the scene should make sense once we know more about Mass Effect 2's large story and less of a spoiler, once the pieces are in place. Hopefully.