While the Mass Effect Trilogy remains one of the most beloved trilogies in all of gaming, the ending of Mass Effect 3 is still as divisive today as it was in 2012. Now, certain members of the development team at BioWare have spoken up and shared a bit about what the original ending plans were and why they may have used those controversial color choices.
These developers who worked on Mass Effect 3 were part of a People Make Games video titled ‘The Inside Story of Mass Effect 3’s Endings, Finally Told,’ and they were very open about not only the game’s actual ending and what could have been, but also the reception to it finally being out in the wild.
SPOILERS AHEAD for Mass Effect 3.
When people talk about the endings of Mass Effect 3, they usually always bring up that they were more or less boiled down to three choices – represented by the colors blue, red and green – that were all very similar to each other and didn’t quite factor in the player’s choices as was expected.
According to ex-BioWare Montreal animation director Dave Wilkinson, these color choices were used early on to help him differentiate between his work on the multiple endings and he didn’t think they would actually make it into the game.
“According to Wilkinson, he chose these three colors as an easy way to differentiate between his work across the three endings and hadn’t necessarily expected them to end up in the final product,” People Make Games’ Chris Bratt said. “In fact, he picked blue and red because they referred to what was originally being talked about as the ‘Paragon’ and ‘Renegade’ choices, and the green was just… the other one.”
Wilkinson continued to share a bit more about his early work on Mass Effect 3’s ending, including his original plans for them. While they are not radically different from what ended up being part of Mass Effect 3, one of the big changes did involve the Queen of the Reapers confronting Shepard at the end as opposed to The Catalyst/Intelligence/Star Child.
He shared the original plans for the Paragon, Renegade, and Synthesis endings and how it all began by Shepard plugging himself into The Citadel.
“At that point, Shepard was so augmented with like electronic bits and all the rest of this s***,” Wilkonson said. “I actually had him just plug himself into the Citadel, and then within a virtual world he has a conversation with what was described as a god of the Reapers. I think it was a queen? And he had this conversation with the queen, and the queen basically said, ‘the way the Reapers keep going, this isn’t sustainable, blah blah blah blah blah blah, we have to evolve, but we’re incapable of evolution because of the limitations of our AI and stuff like that.’
“She was their queen, but she proposed things the Reapers didn’t like so they basically just locked her away inside the Citadel and just never ever listened to her again. So, then the conversation was really like her going, ‘This is the chance to evolve everything, we can move everything forward.’”
After this initial conversation, Shepard would have some choices, much like those found in Mass Effect 3. However, the outcomes were a bit different.
“And so the Renegade option was like Shepard just goes, ‘Go f*** yourself,’ and he rips himself out of the thing and he starts blowing up the f******… the room in the Citadel where the stuff is kept, which then causes the Citadel to detonate, because it was in the middle of doing something and he f**** it all up,” Wilkinson said. “And then the whole Citadel basically blows up and wipes out the Earth, but in the process, he’s now destroyed the Reapers and he’s given organics a chance.”
The Paragon option was a little more hopeful, and it also had the benefit of turning Shepard into the “big king Reaper.”
“The Paragon option was like, ‘I’m so awesome, that I can take control of these Reapers and I’ll use them for the right reason.’ So, then Shepard turns into kinda like the big king Reaper,” Wilkinson continued. “You still said, ‘f*** you’ to the queen, but you did it because you became the reaper and you could lead the reapers to be a power for good or whatever the f*** that meant.’
The final option, Synthesis, was available to everyone and has an ending that is similar to what is seen in one of the final scenes with the Stargazer.
“And the ending that everybody could get was Synthesis, where the queen was like, ‘we’re going to use space magic and we’re going to combine the best parts of you and the best parts of me and we’re going to send it out through the universe and it’s going to change everything. Everybody’s going to get affected by this, and everybody’s going to change,” Wilkinson shared.
“There was an ending where there was a mom and a daughter, and I had them sitting on a hill, and I shot in with us drifting through stars and the stars get blurry, we then we re-focus and it’s like little like dandelion fluffy things floating on the wind, but everything’s got this weird green like circuitry coating stuff on it, like it’s just an effect on it.
“And then we would be drifting and we’d follow them and we’d hear this woman explaining to her daughter how we came to this place, and we reach them and they’re like Asaris but they’re Asaris who are a little bit different, and she’s just telling the story about how Shepard made everything better and saved everybody from the Reapers.”
It was also explained how the endings happened very late in the development cycle and that they were very expensive to make, which may have led to the reusing of some of the assets seen in-game. Additionally, cinematic designer Zachariah Scott shared that, while they should have expected the reception of some to the ending, they simply didn’t.
“You know, it’s Scorpion and Sub-Zero,” Scott said when comparing two of Mortal Kombat’s most iconic fighters to the color choices of the ending. “It’s two ninjas that are two different colors. Look, it’s not a good fix, but we didn’t expect it to blow up as… I mean we should’ve, we completely should’ve, but we didn’t expect it to completely blow up.”
This inside look at Mass Effect 3’s endings is well worth a look and dives into much more about the fan’s reception to the ending, how the team was split about the Extended Cut DLC that was released, and how the team was even sent green, red, and blue cupcakes with the letters a, b, and c on them following the release of the game. The kicker? The cupcakes were all the same flavor.
For more on Mass Effect, check out our review of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition and the latest news on the next entry in the franchise that very well may see the return of Liara T’Soni.
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Adam Bankhurst is a news writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBankhurst and on Twitch.