For me, there’s nothing more damaging to the credibility of a universe than a rewrite. Though there are those who simply enjoy being taken on an adventure through its backwaters and thoroughfares, there are also a core that will invest. Designers who build a world prey for this; that their hard work pays dividends and it draws players in deep enough to want to know more.
This was how I originally found the lore wrapped around the Halo series. Though the game itself only scratched the surface of an intergalactic war, the books that came with it spoke of races brought together through religion, a human civil war, and the series of unfortunate events that bring the UNSC and Covenant to blows. Far too much to sum up in the inter-level cutscenes.
Come Halo: Reach, however, that all went out the window. What had in the texts been a surprise and comparatively swift and brutal attack on humanity’s primary military world was depicted as a slow, drawn out campaign in the game. Large swathes of the core of Halo, such as how Master Chief had received his Mjolnir armour and link up with Cortana, were shoved to one side.
Fair enough, you may say. If it made a better game, so be it. But I counter: why upset the invested when the rest of your audience don’t care enough to notice?
This reared its head again this week with the announcement of the inclusion of a fourth ending in Mass Effect 3’s expansion. Though they brand it as an Extended Cut, it seems the pressure from a very vocal minority has told and Bioware has created a new ending.
Though they may not have been overly enamoured with the original ending, it was still the intended send-off. Consideration for such a climax cannot have been taken lightly by the vast team responsible for the trilogy. They will have been every bit invested in the universe and its outcome as its fanbase, if not more.
When such epic adventures are tweaked and changed however it brings to question not just the resolve at those behind the story, but a large one involving the genre as a whole. Some strive for our hobby to be recognised to be as equal an art form as cinema, comics, or television. A medium that can support epic tales sitting alongside casual affairs, just as Pride and Prejudice may be scheduled after Hole in the War on BBC 1.
Viewers may have opinions on how Mr Darcy reacts and behaves, or even ponder the merits of throwing those responsible for the latter out of Auntie all together, but all they are are opinions. No matter how many people write in, chances are that nothing will be reshot. Television and cinema are not mass collaborative media, they come from a creative core; someone has an idea and a team brings it to fruition to promote a reaction in you.
If you like it, fantastic. If you don’t, then hopefully on the journey you felt something, anything. Even a negative reaction shows you were engaged.