It's becoming an annual circus that we all have free tickets to. A new BioWare game is released, and there's a catastrophic fallout of complaints, accusations, and histrionic rage. Some of it's ridiculous, some of it's justified, but all of it can prove entertaining for the spectators.
Mass Effect 3 may have been the wildest attractions yet, with metabombs, photo scandals, and now this -- an accusation that BioWare lied to the faces of its fans when it claimed that the game's "From Ashes" DLC had been developed separately, after the game shipped.
You don't tell fans something like that without expecting them to go digging in the game's files after it's launched. Obviously, that happened.
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An article on the Crystal Prison Zone blew the lid off the controversy, posting a mass of files that seem to prove that the launch day DLC's content is safely stored on the Mass Effect 3 disc. Had the content been separately developed after the game went gold, this shouldn't be possible.
"For instance, the build which leaked in November, the official demo, and now the standard retail release of Mass Effect 3 all contain voice files for the Prothean squad member," writes the Prison Zone. "There's also a full set of model and animation files for the Prothean, but file encryption makes it impossible to open these for further inspection. These files are just as big as they are for other, non-DLC characters, suggesting that the art, animation, and voice assets for the DLC character were developed at the same time, not after the completion of the project.
"If these assets were developed after end of development, they would have to be downloaded - not unlocked directly from the disc."
The evidence is being used to suggest that BioWare lied to its fans. For example, producer Michael Gamble stated that "From Ashes" had been developed by a separate team, and was "not completed until well after the main game went into certification." This statement was echoed by executive producer Casey Hudson on two different occasions.
I contacted Electronic Arts and was told, "We've already made our comment on the matter." I was linked to a forum thread which reiterated Gamble's statement that the DLC was made separately.
That explanation has not been good enough for a number of fans, who believe they've been deceived. The file for the DLC is around 560MB, implying that either there is plenty of content still left off the disc, or that it's mostly fake dummy data used to pad out the numbers. That all depends on what you want to believe, really.
It's important to note that BioWare never said "From Ashes" was started after the main game went into certification. They only said it was finished after that time. It is not unreasonable to assume that the DLC was worked on by a separate team while Mass Effect 3 was still in development, and that part of the content was stored on the disc, to be completed via download later. Yes, it's still possible that BioWare is lying through it's teeth and had the DLC finished well in advance, but that's not to say it's the only viable answer on the table.
Of course, one can also consider that the Prothean character was leaked over a year ago. If there were plans so far back, exactly how long did it take to make this DLC? Those who choose to believe they were lied to certainly have some things to be suspicious about, at least.
With EA still standing by BioWare's statement, this is very much a case of one side's word against another. Whatever the truth is, this is yet another bitter chapter in the story of the BioWare fan community, and the combative relationship between the studio and its followers.