“Not Fucking Da Vinci”: Changing the Ending of Frozen Synapse

"Not Fucking Da Vinci": Changing the Ending of Frozen Synapse

One week ago I changed Frozen Synapse’s ending from this…

…to this.

Today, as planned, it will change back.

I was inspired to do this by a couple of comments I read on Twitter about fans asking Bioware to change the ending of Mass Effect 3.

My intention was not to comment on that situation specifically:  only to explore the idea of changing the ending of games in general.

Changing the ending of a game that has already been released is a fascinating prospect to me because it is such a complex proposition. Could it make any sense?  What happens to the previous ending?  How can a story have two endings?  I thought I would conduct an experiment…

Aims

I decided to change the ending of Frozen Synapse for several reasons:

– I wanted to see how it felt and experience the process of doing it

– I wanted to see how existing fans of Frozen Synapse would react to it, as well as including a couple of community memes and suggestions to amuse them

– I wanted to play around with the idea of a stupid ending for the game, something I had initially considered but then rejected

– I thought it would get us some attention and some sites might cover it as an interesting experiment

– I wanted to encourage other developers to do the same thing so that we might gather more data about changed endings

Method

My method was to collect suggestions from the community, insert the new changed ending into the game as a temporary update and then watch the responses.

The suggestions from the community which made it in were:

– “Moar ponies”
– “Moar dinosaurs”
– It should be silly but still make sense
– It should have the words “moist” and “dolphin-proof” in it

I definitely took community suggestions which aligned with my own desires in this instance, but it seemed like people were on the same page as me: this was to be a playful and silly ending.

Initially, I thought I would only change the text, but then I couldn’t figure out how to work ponies and dinosaurs in, so I asked Rich to draw a picture…

 

(THIS IS THE ENDING OF A COMPUTER GAME)

Here were some of my goals when writing:

– Parody the original ending

– Create a “ludicrous” ending – the kind of ending that would leave you totally bemused if you finished the game and encountered it

– Play around with the idea of taking community feedback in an overly literal way

– Play around with the ideas of expectations and ownership concerning endings

It turned out that changing the ending wasn’t too hard technically (thanks to Jimmeh) and we even found an annoying audio bug in the process!  It was also a good test of our updater, through which we are planning to roll out all kinds of things (including two much-requested community features) fairly soon.

Results

How Did this Feel?

I described the process of doing this as “vandalising my own work”.  Replacing something you’ve slaved over with something completely daft, written in about twenty minutes, is a kind of mindless vandalism, but it was certainly enjoyable.

I didn’t mean this to imply that changing any ending in any way is vandalism.

During beta, I changed quite a few things about the Frozen Synapse narrative based on community feedback: certainly the opening went through a few iterations.  I generally feel that adapting things with targeted use of feedback can be really helpful, especially if you’re starting out writing game narratives.

This definitely made me realise quite how pompous the previous ending was, and that some of that slightly tongue-in-cheek pomposity would have been completely missed by many players.

The Reaction

I’ve decided to approach this section of the results by categorising reactions and giving each category a representative name…

Ponies and Dinosaurs

This was just a straightforward appreciation of the new ending as a joke, or an engagement with the concept.

Sample comments:

“I for one enjoy this new ending. Originally i was disappointed to find no ponies and dinosaurs were present in the ending sequence, even though they were alluded to several times during development….Great work mode7!” (John)

“I am also very entertained by this. I very much enjoyed Frozen Synapse from beginning to end, and find this new and temporary social experiment ending as very entertaining. Most people are taking the temporary change as a direct attack against them for wanting the ending to Mass Effect 3 changed.

What is interesting is how many of you people are taking this so seriously, as if it were a direct attack upon you for not liking the ending to ME3 and wanting it changed. I too would like something done about that, but I do believe you are all missing the point. I don’t see how what the devs have done to FS should really upset you that much. They’ve definitely found out something through the social experiment.” (Fireflash)

“Eat a Dick”

At the opposite end of the spectrum, these are just straightforward insults and simple expressions of hatred, usually focussed at myself, the story or the game; or a breed of comment which implied that I had wrought commercial failure for Mode 7.

Sample comments:

“Eat a Dick, Paul. Just eat a Dick, okay?” (AnotherFan)

“I hope your company goes under.” (Kyle Kelly)

“No one played your game for the story. No one cared about the characters. The ending was irrelevant.” (BillyBobSnortin)

“Frozen Synapse Used Publicity Stunt!”

Naturally, there were people who only focused on the publicity-stunty (stunted?) nature of our actions…

Sample comment:

“Frozen Synapse used publicity stunt!  It’s not very effective.” (HarmoniaDiscordia)

Insulting Customers

A few people told me that I was directly insulting my own customers with the changed ending.

Here’s a good “Insulting Your Customers” / “Eat a Dick” combo:

“I was following your studio with interest, and bought two copies of Frozen Synapse. You’ve misrepresented and insulted me as a customer. I will never buy a game from Mode 7 again – and what’s worse, this was a totally pointless excercise. No one played your game for the story and thus the narrative was absolutely unimportant.” (A Former Fan)

Another “Eat a Dick” / “Insulting Customers”  variant…

“I’m a developer in the industry and I have to say that I would never want to work with you or your ilk. You have proven to have no respect for your customers(free or not) and would sooner alienate a large disenfranchised group than try to understand them. I will never hire any of you.” (Tarage)

“You’re Not Fucking Da Vinci”

This brand of comment expresses the opinion that indie developers (especially small ones) should avoid “art” and focus on the straightforward development of entertaining products.

Probably best summed up by this anonymous email I received…

“Hey bro, just wanted to let you know that me and my friends won’t be buying any of your games after your shit about the ME3 ending.

When did indie developers stop becoming real people and start becoming elitist pricks who think they’re gods gift to gaming? You guys, you and that Fez creator, are acting worse than Bioware.

Wake the fuck up, you’re a fucking small game developer, you’re not fucking Da Vinci.

PS: Read Totilo’s article on Kotaku you fucking moron, this is a good thing, and if you weren’t so fucking stupid you’d know that. Don’t bother responding, this isn’t my real email.

Sincerely, Someone smarter, more artistic, and all around better than you.”

(Anonymous)

Here’s another comment which is somewhat similar:

“What a pretentious statement that you’re making about something you probably know little to nothing about. I’ve never heard of you before this but now I know to avoid you and tell my friends the same. There’s a reason you’re an indie studio without a large following and it probably stems partly from being rude and self-righteous.

If you want to produce art produce art and advertise it as art. I BUY games and I am a CONSUMER of a PRODUCT. They are not poems for me to ponder over unless that is what I was promised. If I was told I would receive something it is my right as a consumer to get what was advertised.

That said games can still be art and video games are still an art form, but the art is achieved in a dialogue between developer and player and the “artist” must still appease the customers by at the very least not lying to them.

If Michelangelo told the Pope he would paint the ceiling and painted it blood red with a five pointed star on it he wouldn’t have received complaints he would have been executed. Here consumers are angry that what they were told they were getting wasn’t what they expected in the same why the frieze Michelangelo painted was art but he still had to conform to expectations because he was being paid for it.

So all you people using the art argument…nuff said”

(Kirival)

Biowhere?

One group was adamant that I was commenting on Mass Effect 3, but disagreed as to which side of the argument I was apparently on:

AGAINST THE FANS:

“Way to be a jerk to all the Mass Effect fans out here.” (Jethal)

“What an ass, I have bought your game at full 25$ price and you put insult people you have no clue about.  I will not buy your game ever again. (doomleika)

FOR THE FANS:

“Oh, I get it! THIS ending is like that steaming pile of nonsensical garbage that BioWare slapped onto Mass Effect 3 at the last minute. And when you guys go back to your other ending–you know, the one that makes sense and works as a climax to the game–that will be like when BioWare finally fix their incredible fuck up and revise the ending of ME3 so that it makes sense, too. Well, played, fellahs! gg xD” (Recentio)

“Why is everyone so insulted over this? I feel its displaying that Bioware thinks it can peddle polished crap to you as an ending and can get away with it, because *Bioware* thinks the consumer is a moron. Not these guys. These guys have just scraped the poo away so you can actually see what you got with ME3. Its hardly an “insult to consumers” (Mip11111)

Conclusions

– Changing the end of Frozen Synapse was most frequently read as a comment on the Mass Effect 3 situation, despite:

a.)  this genuinely not being my intention
b.)  my repeated assertion at every possible opportunity that this was not the case
c.)  there being very little evidence in the actual ending itself to justify that reading

Whenever I defended myself, I was told that I was lying:

“Please don’t try and twist what you were originally trying to do, which was patronize those of us who have problems with the mass effect 3 ending. Quite frankly, it’s even more embarrassing than the childishness you’ve already displayed by doing this in the first place.” ((Previously) A fan)

“They claim to be defending the “artistic integrity” of Bioware and their choice to fuck up the ending of ME3. So they made this ending to spit in the faces of the Bioware community.” (Vapsyyvox)

Incidentally, I challenged Vapsyyvox to provide evidence of where I had claimed this and he did not reply.

I made some efforts to reply to comments which I found interesting or which I think represented a particular viewpoint well.  Overwhelmingly, people did not want to engage in this discussion, but there were a few incidences where they did….

I think people are quick to label “rage commenters” as idiots or “typical [INSERT POPULAR GAME NAME HERE] fans” but actually I think there is something a bit more sinister here.

A lot of these people are fundamentally intelligent, but they act in a stupid way because they are rushing.

If they had actually spent time playing through Frozen Synapse (of course I didn’t expect this in most cases), or reading about the ending, or even just thinking about what exactly they were looking at, they might not have gone to the fastest explanation they could find (“This is about the thing which happens to be on my mind RIGHT NOW and I feel strongly about that!”) and may have been more open to nuance.

It was genuinely worrying to see people who inferred from a news item that I was responding to the Mass Effect 3 situation (which is not what I was doing) launch their pitchforks at me without slightly engaging with anything I was saying.

This controversy totally overshadowed all of the original intention behind the change, such is the power of mass knee-jerk responses.

– Reasonable commenters comment less and comment slowly

There were some people who took a much more measured view of things, and they were among the last to respond.  I think this is a trend that is probably well known but it’s something important to bear in mind if you are being bombarded.

– Many people want to take everything literally, and they do not want to think about voice

This is related to some of my earlier points: nuance is generally completely lost in the storm.  If you are writing anything which may seem inflammatory on a purely literal level, be sure that many people will respond only to that content.

I would be genuinely afraid to publish anything with even slightly controversial content for that reason: writers who dare to do that are extremely brave, especially within the conservative world of mainstream gaming.

I am never going to forget Ramcat, someone who very generously helped us test the single player out a lot.  The first line of text in the single player campaign is:

“Welcome to Markov Geist.  It’s easy to forget there have been other cities.”

His verdict?

“Improbable.”

Now, a line from the new ending:

“We can’t expect the endings of our stories to conform to our own preconceptions.”

The fact that intelligent people can take this statement as an emphatic assertion of my personal beliefs, and also as an insult against fans of a particular game, is completely baffling to me.

Here are some reasons why I believe this line is problematic, and I apologise if this is just pointing out a set of blindingly obvious things…

– Who are “we” and to whom does “our” refer?  This line could easily relate to a writer, a reader or even a character.

– “Preconceptions”: doesn’t this entirely depend on who we are and what our preconceptions might be?

– The context of this line is troubled to say the least: it comes just after a pink picture of a pony and dinosaur who are rocking rather spiffy top hats and dancing.  To my mind, I would probably take that as a cue that not everything is being spoken in earnest.

– The narrative voice:  SPOILER ALERT (as if that even matters any more): as is clear from the previous ending, the voice at the end of the game is that of the player, speaking as his own antagonist.  Since that’s already a fairly complex relationship coupled with the fact that the things we tell ourselves often don’t tend to be completely factual, surely that might cast a bit of doubt on this line?

– The tone: I thought that most readers would take the intensely ludicrous preachiness and self-importance of this line as a clear cue that it was, perhaps, not to be taken in earnest.

– What was that about actions and words again?

Most of the new ending, with its not-so-subtly wrought references to Streets of Rage and House of the Dead 2 (!), as well as its gentle mockery of the original ending, was glossed over in favour of a reaction to the simple action of changing it.

People saw the trolly pony and assumed that I was trolling pro-change Bioware fans.  In fact, I was trolling endings and our players in a way that I thought would be amusing.

I was definitely intrigued about the attention this would get: not because I was stirring up controversy, but simply because I was doing something weird.  I sent out no press releases – I only contacted one journalist because he had previously asked me to do so, and responded to (I believe) two emails from different sites.  I didn’t want to push this because I wanted to let the actions speak for themselves.

– Fucking Da Vinci

There is a healthy and supportive audience out there for intelligent, nuanced games.  I would encourage them to be louder, to reason with the angry ragers (it does work sometimes!) and to keep trying to be nice.  The ragers get all the attention, but you guys are the reason that we bother to put any effort into games beyond the bare minimum required to ship the things.

People who rail against pretentiousness and elitism are generally scared of being left out.  They don’t like the idea that people are making things they don’t understand: this makes them feel insulted.  I just feel genuinely sorry for anyone trapped in that state: if you are that threatened by art then I can’t imagine how you deal with any group of people.

I regret being a bit snappy with some of the commenters; it is hard to avoid snark when someone has just told you to consume a phallus or they have blindly flailed at everything you have done in order to make themselves feel better after unjustifiably getting very angry.

Some people would say that I shouldn’t have responded at all, but I feel that’s the equivalent of leaving a comment and then running away.  I thought I would show my feelings openly and also challenge people when they said something I didn’t understand or believed was unjustified.  The amount of people who said things like, “I find this insulting” and then refused to tell me why was another disturbing trend.

TLDR: I changed the ending of a game.  I thought it would make some people happy and it did but it also made a lot of people angry.  The angry people made the dino sad:

(Thanks Rich!)

I hope you enjoyed the changed ending and the responses to it.  It will be changed back today and the things I’ve learned will hopefully help me to write better stories for games in future!

26 Responses to ““Not Fucking Da Vinci”: Changing the Ending of Frozen Synapse”

  1. Brownd:

    Wow… I’ll need time to read all of this…

    Btw, I still hadn’t made it to the end of the game, will the modified ending be still available? (as through console or something)

  2. Paul:

    Yep, the alternative ending will be available as an easter egg in future. In the updated build (out today) it is available from the console with:

    playCutscene(alternate);

  3. Cheshyr:

    Yeah, I guess I should have been more vocal. It’s hard to address the ragers when their points are so irrational. Where do you even start?

    It was an interesting experiment, and I certainly learned a lot. Thanks for taking the time and putting up with the flak.

    (Still a Fan)

  4. Phokal:

    – Who wouldn’t want Da Vinci sketches of dinosaurs?

    Your fans helped create the ending, and people uninvolved (yet assumed themselves integral) took it as a slight.

    You may feel pity for them; I just feel depressed.

    “The ragers get all the attention, but you guys are the reason that we bother to put any effort into games beyond the bare minimum required to ship the things.”

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

  5. Craig:

    “The ragers get all the attention, but you guys [the healthy and supportive audience out there for intelligent, nuanced games] are the reason that we bother to put any effort into games beyond the bare minimum required to ship the things.”

    This is my new favourite piece of industry text ever.

    In fact I think it reaches above and beyond ‘games’. It’s poking at the soul of the instant gratification, light-speed response, internet generation.

    @Cheshyr “Yeah, I guess I should have been more vocal. It’s hard to address the ragers when their points are so irrational. Where do you even start?”

    Exactly right, but perhaps this is why we’re faced with the online comment lunacy in nearly every comment enabled outlet online?

    Perhaps this is related – I nearly deleted this comment because I thought:

    “I have grown to value this discussion and I just clicked on the link in my twitter feed as it caught my eye. From something so very throw away, so casual, I’ve learned something that I think is meaningful. At the same time, I may not check this comment page ever again (this is the nature of the beast) – I’m fashioning a throw away comment. I’m putting thought into it sure but I’m throwing it away. If I create a response to something I think is important then I can’t just throw that away can I?”

    Then I thought about the level of ownership and, even, selfishness in my own thought process and decided to post anyway.

    Thinking about it again – if we, all of us who might fit into the audience who ‘gets things’ fight the trolls, how many comment sections/forums (fora?)/and message boards will we need to bookmark and check regularly?

  6. Paul:

    “This is my new favourite piece of industry text ever.”

    Wow, thank you sir.

    I also am guilty of not commenting many times because I think, “Well, the quality of this debate is already in the toilet: how could I possibly fish it out.” Actually, in some circumstances, maybe that’s a bit presumptuous.

    I mean, also, it’s probably a tad silly to expect people to comment with things like, “Well, I don’t feel particularly strongly about this issue and I can see both sides.” Naturally, people are mostly going to be moved to say things from a standpoint of high emotion. What I sometimes find difficult to understand is how people reach that emotional pitch in such a short space of time.

  7. Craig:

    There’s something deep and ‘knowable’ here about psychology and the internet. I assume someone smarter has already covered it somewhere:

    If a gamer, or online commenter of any persuasion, spends 10 minutes (really, a short space of time compared to some of the lengthier posts I’ve made in my day) explaining why they think A in a thread where a lot of users think B, and then in the same 10 minutes 60 users have the time to skim read, assume and rush out replies along the lines of: “lol you’re wrong, gtfo” – then who won? Is ‘winning’ important? Is emotion or logic the deciding force? Does swearing = emotion?

    You don’t often see a debate in the street between someone who enjoys words and logic with someone who’s pissed and loves trainers (even though they probably both love trainers, but they’ll never meet over that common ground).

    Maybe the fact that there’s genuinely no point in trying to save some discussions from trolls (simply because of the inequity in time invested) is why the dominant form of discourse online is four-lettered or just a link to a picture of an animal looking upset.

  8. Hd:

    mode 7 should really get out of the dark ages

  9. AlyerMacGyver:

    I can’t see how any rager could have interpreted the ending in those ways. I happened to finish the game during the update, but I expected it due to viewing the Facebook post asking what it should include. It’s things like this that make me lose my hope in Humanity. You made the game, and for one week, as an experiment, you took some artistic license. They hated it- with no good reason behind their rage. I feel sorry for you. You’re the one that had to attempt to quell their rage and irrational arguments. Personally, I found the ending quite humorous. And refusing to play a game because you don’t like one action the creator took? That’s just childish.
    I do, and always shall, support you, Frozen Synapse, and this experiment. With good reason, too. It’s exquisitely crafted, has fantastic mechanics and a great multiplayer system, with an awesome soundtrack. What’s not to like?

  10. Alex:

    Reading through this post provides me with strange bitter feeling and emptiness inside, together with some sort of satisfaction.

    Some reactions on the situation are just the perfect indicator that for someone it’s not just the water under the bridge. People, actually, don’t want to remember about Thanatos and take stuff way too serious. But Don Juan was telling this to Carlos hundreds of times^^

    This article only is valuable enough to buy a game at a full price. Actually, awesome enough to buy the article itself.

    Thank you for this experience from one grateful customer.

    Good luck,
    Alex

    P.S. Say hello to dino from me.

  11. badger:

    Eh, FS is a great game, the alternate ending was a good laugh, who cares. Cheers.

  12. Zounds:

    Do whatever you want, I say. Even if it was a poke at ME3 ending (which I know you say it wasn’t), so what?

    You have a great game here, and people who say things like, “I will never buy your games again” are liars. Can you honestly see these people not buying a high rated game (hopefully) in the future because of some personal boycott? No.

  13. dawmail333:

    Eat a phallus.

    I’m joking, I’m joking. Seriously though, why would anyone get mad about this? Tell me, who was mad when the ending to Portal 1 changed? Why is this different? I think this comes back to the same old ‘egliocentric’ issue (Earth revolves around me), indicating that the commenter thinks that everything that happens in the world around them is specifically linked to their issues, in this case, either their explicitly stated views of art (all puns intended), or their hatred for the Mass Effect 3 ending.

    I for one approve of what you did – for science, for yourselves and for the community. It was an experiment, which sadly mostly says bad things about our society 🙁

    You’ve achieved art, in it’s own form. Just because it doesn’t meet the definition some people have of ‘art’, doesn’t mean it isn’t. It just means they’re ignorant to insult you about it. I don’t think an orange canvas with a few stripes on it is art, but I appreciate this. Yet, I don’t insult the people that like orange canvasses, so why do they insist on insulting you?

  14. dawmail333:

    Also, of course you’re not fucking Da Vinci, that’s just disturbing! 500yo corpses are way out of bounds, and I don’t know why that idea would even cross their filthy minds!!!

    😉

  15. Paul:

    Cheers for these comments.

    In my mind, people spend far too long arguing about what art is and isn’t supposed to be, and not long enough about what “good” art is and isn’t supposed to be.

  16. subedii:

    A pretty in-depth post, and I think it hits all the notes.

    However, there is one thing I’d like to take issue with:

    “The fact that intelligent people can take this statement as an emphatic assertion of my personal beliefs, and also as an insult against fans of a particular game, is completely baffling to me.”

    Be honest. 🙂

    It’s not that baffling and I suspect you know it’s not. The impetus for the ending change was the storm brewing around ME3, it’s a natural conclusion to draw that there is comment on at least SOME level regarding it.

    As much as you would have liked for this to be taken as an experiment in isolation, the fact is, you were inspired by a sequence of event surrounding Mass Effect 3, you said as much, and you released this altered ending whilst the arguments were still raging on. Honestly, I’d be MORE surprised if people didn’t see a connection between the two.

  17. Paul:

    I am being totally honest. I would expect an intelligent person to be able to read that line as ambiguous. If it is a comment on the Mass Effect 3 situation, then what is it saying, precisely? It’s in a complex fictional context – I think it’s very naive to read that and say, “Well that’s clearly what the author believes and it’s clearly a comment on this one specific thing”.

  18. subedii:

    Fair enough then. I guess it’s more appropriate to say that I didn’t find that correlation surprising, it seems like “We can’t expect the endings of our stories to conform to our own preconceptions.” would imply that people shouldn’t have had preconceptions about the game would end. My reading on that anyway.

    Separate from that, there’s another thing I wanted to comment on, which is the amount of upset going on.

    Whilst part of it is a case that people were lacking for time and having to post rapidly, If you view this event in context of the wider debate about gamers and their relationship with developers, there’s one word that has consistently come up again and again, from both developers and the gaming press. That word is “entitled”, and it’s a pretty hefty sore point.

    Personally, I don’t have a stake in the whole ME3 ending thing, but I’ve seen that term thrown around a ridiculous degree by now to describe anyone who dares comment that things could be different.

    A sideways but related example is what happened to the “Call for Communication” guys, and what happened to them is fairly similar. This is Valve related, but all they basically did was play Half-Life 2 for approximately 1 hour at a set time, in order to raise its profile and as a message to Valve asking them to be more open with what may or may not be happening with Episode 3. They were not asking for Valve to rush the title, or anything else, merely asking for feedback, and doing so in a constructive manner.

    The response? Stuff like this

    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-02-11-why-devs-owe-you-nothing

    Now let me run through a list of all the things that happened here, because it’s identical to what happened to the ME3 guys (and it’s useful for understanding the response that you got).

    – Very deliberate misquoting of the group objectives to leave out all reasonable aspects of the request and to mis-characterise them.
    – Various degrees of insult, including “self-entitlement”, “self-absorption”, “naivety” and calling them the “X-Factor generation” (this is, bear in mind, a fairly major gaming site where the article will be read a lot).
    – Deliberate comparison and equivocation of this group’s behaviour with DDOS attacks, server hacking, death threats, and review bombing, all as a way of castigating and dismissing said group of individuals.

    Add in all the comments jumping on the bandwagon to applaud speaking for “common sense”.

    We had a pretty massive debate about it in the RPS news piece where it was posted.

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/02/12/the-sunday-papers-205/#comment-page-2

    And a decent rebuttal as well

    http://www.merseyremakes.co.uk/gibber/2012/02/insert-entitlement-exit-stage-left/

    But that’s besides the point.

    Now all this also happened to anyone talking about the ME3 ending as well.

    So when, let’s say, another dev makes a change to their game and appears to be doing so purely in order to make fun of them as yet more loudmouthed, mouthbreathing idiots, it’s not unsurprising that they feel as if they’re being unfairly castigated. Once that perception’s established, rage follows.

    I guess you could call it a big misunderstanding, but the upshot is that a lot of both gaming development and gaming media has been castigating these guys for behaviour which, for the most part, has been benign. Yes there are people that will rage incessantly, but then there are others who simply play a game, or in the case of ME3, donate to charity, to raise the profile of what they’re asking.

    In a sense you sort of walked into the middle of that because you appeared to be one more dev casting stones (and the responses you got along those lines would seem to bear out this impression) at fans without really thinking things through.

    I’m not justifying the rage, but I think it’s useful to know where it’s coming from.

  19. Paul:

    Interesting comment, thanks! I will definitely have a read through the things you linked, as this is obviously a pretty complex issue.

    Just want to point out again:

    “We can’t expect the endings of our stories to conform to our own preconceptions.”

    When I wrote this line, I believed that it was very ambiguous. It could be addressed to writers, telling them to expect stories to get out of their hands once players are involved. It could, as per your reading, be addressed to players. It could also be addressed to characters. It’s ambiguous!

    The fact that a lot of readers chose to ignore nuance and read it as an insult is, as I mentioned, quite telling about the way people read when under time pressure or when in an emotional state.

  20. subedii:

    Well maybe you should have done it today, April 1st. 🙂

    Re: The rage thing:

    I think now that devs and their audience are just far more connected now than they’ve ever been in the past. That, and the internet allows the loudest, angriest and most petulant voices to come to the fore, whether it’s forum posts or review bombing. At the same time though, that counts just as much for developers as it does for the fans, because naturally when a game developer or even just a critic writes something controversial, it goes out EVERYWHERE in minutes.

    So just like how developers can feel as if they’re sometimes being attacked by their fans, sometimes the fans can likewise feel that way. In either case it leads to people feeling as if their trust has been betrayed, and then well, ‘Things Get Said’.

    I guess that’s why I’m commenting here, because I felt you actually took the time to address all of that and did so sensibly and with thought, and without any unnecessary angst. I’ve seen it a dozen times before where people have tried to interact with their community but didn’t have the kind of thick skin, or just “signal to noise ratio” filter in their personal toolset, and things just get worse from there.

    I mean it would have been very easy for you to post some of the more belligerent and nasty e-mails you received, and then mock and castigate them publicly as representative of the whole, but that’s now what you did. And I think everyone can appreciate that.

  21. BillyBobSnortin:

    Paul
    “Its ambiguous!”

    As many politicians have learned, it’s not about what you meant to say, it’s how it can be interpreted. The problem is you jumped into an insanely acrimonious debate armed with little more knowledge than a few twitter posts and a sense of whimsy. Are you truly surprised that much of your content was considered a thinly veiled attack? Because that’s how a lot of people, including myself, interpreted it.

    First consider that the “fix ME3” crowd has circled the wagons after dozens of articles from the mainstream gaming sites basically misrepresenting their demands (saying they want a happy ending) claiming they’re a vocal minority (despite polling indicating the opposite)and basically summing us up as entitled whiners. You, Paul, basically dove into this firing in all directions and hitting only your own customers.

    From reading your recent blog and comment posts, its clear that you’ve learned nothing from this. You could have apologized. For your ignorance or apathy you were wrong to make a product I paid for a testing platform for your social experiment. Its violation of basic customer trust and a black mark against you as a developer that depends on word of mouth from networks of consumers like myself. That you have developed no humility or common sense enough to admit your mistake or at least say that you won’t do it again is the final straw for me to avoid your future products or anything associated with you.

  22. Paul:

    But…I didn’t jump into the debate: to jump into a debate, you have to express a view on something. You’ll note I haven’t done so.

    If you are determined to take genuine ambiguity as a “thinly veiled insult”, then there’s little I can do about it. Apologising won’t help, because you could just as easliy take that as an insult as well.

    As I keep saying, If you are reading the new ending as a comment on ME3, why are you so convinced it’s taking a pro-Bioware stance? Isn’t that a bit defensive? You could just as easily read it as supporting your pont of view!

    If i wanted to express a view about ME3, why would I do in such a vague and complex way? Why would I write an ending that people seem to want to interpret as both pro- and anti-Bioware? Isn’t that somewhat inefficient?

    How have I violated customer trust by adding content to our game that was requested by customers? I won’t apologise for doing this, but I will tell you again that I didn’t intend to anger you.

    I think you’re completely determined to only accept one possible interpretation of my actions, and that in itself is an interesting and valid consequence of this test.
    I have definitely learned something from this, if that is the case.

  23. Diego:

    I really believe subedii’s comments were the most constructive, specially after reading the links.
    I also would like to register that i believe both points of view presented in his links have some merit, although i agree that ragers are usually a minority (thank the gods).
    Paul, i would like to ask you to pay attention to the fact that when someone does intentionally say something ambiguous, her purpose is not to be understood or to generate a clear interpretation.
    I don’t blame you for using this. After all it was a hell of a funny joke, but i believe you should be prepared to read trash like phalluses being forced in any place.
    Or seeing people talk about other games or even being angry, after all, we do know that enraged people tend to see the object of their rage everywhere, even when it’s not there.

    As a sidenote it would be nice to look at the ragers and classify them, like: were they an active part of the community before? Did they suggest changes when you asked on fb? How do they feel about the ending changing back? Did they care about Frozen Synapse story at all?

    Well, that’s all for now.
    I haven’t finished the game yet and i did not give any ideas on fb (i decided i wanted to be surprised), but i did think this was a very interesting experiment and i hope you get solid knowledge that can be used on your future games/endeavors from this.

    Btw, i do care about the game story and i think it’s really nice =)

  24. Paul:

    Thanks Diego!

    “…i believe you should be prepared to read trash like phalluses being forced in any place.”

    That’s…truly amazing.

    “Paul, i would like to ask you to pay attention to the fact that when someone does intentionally say something ambiguous, her purpose is not to be understood or to generate a clear interpretation.”

    I think that’s a fairly limiting view of ambiguity to be honest.

  25. Jimi:

    This post has inspired a few thoughts that I would like to share:
    – I’m really surprised that people responded like this. I first typed “people are stupid”, but I don’t think that all those people really are stupid. I don’t understand why they reacted like that. It’s a shame, though!
    – Having been aware of the ending of ME3 as a topic of conversation, and having seen the FS alternative ending, I can DEFINITELY see why people saw it as a comment on Mass Effect, whether it was intended to be one or not (and I believe it was not, from the fact that you’ve said it was not). Even if it had been an intentional comment on the situation, I don’t think the reactions were justified. Making the connection is just how brains work, though, I reckon. For instance, I support Liverpool FC. I’m not really too big on the whole ‘sports’ thing, but when I was 12 or so I was a very enthusiastic Liverpool supporter. One day I spent ages reading up on the Hillsborough disaster, and the related LFC fans’ boycott of The Sun ‘news’paper. My mind was full of pictures of signs that said ‘BOYCOTT THE SUN!’. I was being told by people I respected that The Sun was bad. I was also into Rage Against the Machine, but I started skipping their track ‘People of the Sun’ whenever it came on, because even though I knew it obviously had nothing to do with The Sun, it just made me think of The Sun. I think what I’m trying to say, other than “I should be asleep”, is that people often see/hear what they’re expecting to see/hear.
    – I don’t think it’s right for me, as someone who has been literally paid in good old games for writing and recording a song about how old games are better than new games, to say this, but: if you ask me, Streets of Rage is crap.

  26. Visiting the Village: The Mode 7 Games Blog and Podcast » Blog Archive » How to Be an Indie Game Developer:

    […] Be aware that many people will take any text in your game completely literally, irrespective of context. […]