Mass Effect’s original writer discusses alternate ending plans

Wednesday, 19th June 2013 23:27 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 writer Drew Karpyshyn has detailed the vague plans he had for the ending of Mass Effect 3 before exiting the project. Some Mass Effect trilogy spoilers follow.

Speaking to Video Game Sophistry, as transcribed by Eurogamer, Karpyshyn said he hadn’t fully fleshed out his plan for how to end the trilogy but that it hinged on the concept of “dark energy”, which is mentioned in Mass Effect 2 but not explored in the other two games.

“Dark Energy was something that only organics could access because of various techno-science magic reasons we hadn’t decided on yet. Maybe using this Dark Energy was having a ripple effect on the space-time continuum,” he said.

“Maybe the Reapers kept wiping out organic life because organics keep evolving to the state where they would use biotics and dark energy and that caused an entropic effect that would hasten the end of the universe. Being immortal beings, that’s something they wouldn’t want to see.

“Then we thought, let’s take it to the next level. Maybe the Reapers are looking at a way to stop this. Maybe there’s an inevitable descent into the opposite of the Big Bang (the Big Crunch) and the Reapers realise that the only way they can stop it is by using biotics, but since they can’t use biotics they have to keep rebuilding society – as they try and find the perfect group to use biotics for this purpose. The asari were close but they weren’t quite right, the Protheans were close as well.

“Again it’s very vague and not fleshed out, it was something we considered but we ended up going in a different direction.”

That different direction proved quite unpopular, with BioWare eventually adding an extended ending to Mass Effect 3 in response to outcry, and still drawing heavy criticism from some fans.

Other story ideas which Karpyshyn and the team considered include having Shepard turn out to be an alien, and for having Shepard become a cyborg – a bridge between organic and synthetic – instead of being resurrected by Cerberus at the start of Mass Effect 2. Interestingly, this idea was later recycled in Mass Effect 3, both in one of the game’s three endings, and in optional story content exploring Shepard’s semi-synthetic nature.

Karpyshyn said that the abandoned plot elements are a bit like “vapourware” in that if it had actually come out it might not have been as good as people hoped for.

Karpyshyn left the Mass Effect team just before Mass Effect 2 wrapped and was replaced as lead writer by Mac Walters. Series executive producer Casey Hudson is said to have had major creative control over the trilogy’s ending, though.



  1. AmiralPatate

    I played Mass Effect 3 and didn’t bitch about the ending. Should have get an achievement from that.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. jamesx

    I didn’t even finish ME3. Could only stomach so much of the crappy story. So I never bitched about the ending either.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Osric

    @1 I actually liked the ending. It’s not the typical Hollywood ending nor the forced intellectual ending others like Human Revolution tried and failed (IMO).

    @2 You never played a Mass Effect game before.

    I think the trilogy closes pretty much well with this third game. I would even dare saying there’s no need for more Mass Effect, unless a new trilogy with a great story comes out. And about a Mass Effect movie… well, this was more like a AAA TV series format.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Mr Sparkle

    @1/3 It was the finality of it that bothered me, but other than that i felt it was a fitting(i.e. inevitable) end to the series. It WAS short though, that was unfortunate.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. DSB

    It’s hard to believe that the same guy wrote one and two. The first one was off to such a promising start and then the second one just threw it in the dirt.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Sanwiches

    That Dark Energy talk sounds like lame magic stuff, I don’t know. That kid at the end was weird, but all in all MassEffect was pretty good, and I’m looking for the next game. I have to say, I’m glad Shepard won’t be there anymore. That heroic figure is interesting for just about the first game, after that it became tedious.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. TheWulf


    That’s exactly what I liked about it. I was terrified that they were going to force me into a Star Wars ending and I was genuinely bothered by that, to the point where I actually put off playing it for a little while. I had a friend, at the time, urging me to complete it and telling me I wouldn’t be disappointed. I still went in with very low expectations, but I was surprised.

    The last thing I expected was a symbolic, romantic take on futurism and posthuman societies. That’s just something you don’t actually see a lot from videogames. Usually, a game like Mass Effect has the Space Invaders plot. Let me lay that out for you…

    1. I’m the spectacular GOOD GUY. You’re the BAD GUY! We exist in binary opposition to each other.

    2. You are always BAD GUY, even if for vague potential reasons. You’re the BAD GUY because you’re not me, I’m the GOOD GUY.

    3. It’s okay for the GOOD GUY to mercilessly slaughter all of the BAD GUYS because the GOOD GUY is a GOOD GUY.

    4. Once all of the BAD GUYS are dead, the GOOD GUY will receive a ceremony.

    That’s what it seemed like the rather wanting, challenged fans expected. A simple, popcorn-munching bonanza of explosions and celebrations.

    That’s exactly what I was dreading.

    I just had this creeping sense of fear that it was all about to go so very Michael Bay — and hate me if you will, but I think that Michael Bay fans are mouth-breathers. I despise his films. I want my entertainment to actually have some worth. I don’t like completely shallow entertainment. So like I said, I didn’t see the endings coming at all.

    Both Control and Synthesis were pleasing in their own ways. But as a philosophical transhumanist, I choose Synthesis. It seemed like the most exotic, exciting, and unique future for humanity. And like I said, it’s where we’re heading anyway. It’s just a more poetic, symbolic look at it. (It’s a shame that so many people didn’t understand that it was meant to be symbolic, and thus not to be taken literally.)

    So I’m glad it went the way it did. It has the explosion bonanza for the popcorn-munchers, it has Control for people who’re a little smarter than that, and for a more intellectual crowd it had Synthesis.

    I’m okay with that.

    Even Refuse was nice.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Joe_Gamer

    Drew Karpyshyn is a giant among sci-fi/fantasy writers, Mac Walters tried to stand on that giant’s shoulders to finish the story, unfortunately he fell off and landed on his head, Bioware then scooped up the mess that dribbled out of his ears and that’s how we got ME3.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. jamesx


    I finished ME1, 3 times. Plus a lot of semi-finishes to see branching results.

    I finished ME2, ONCE. No desire to play thorough that ever again.

    one thing about sherpherd that is always true (Be you follow the good path of the evil path) is that he is a man of action.

    But ME3 for the sake of drama made him/her a slack jawed idiot standing on top of a warship not doing anything but to watch the devestation unfold.

    That signals the type of writing that will be prevalent throughout the rest of the game.

    So I stopped playing. Based on the conversations I read about the rest of the story it was the right choice for me. At least I manage to salvage some good memories of the trilogy instead of foaming at the mouth at how they gutted one of the few good franchise left.

    #9 2 years ago

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