Mass Effect 3, By The Numbers

In light of recent discussion regarding metrics fetishism, I’ve tried to parse Destructoid’s newly revealed Mass Effect 2 statistics with some perspective. We all know these numbers aren’t just random trivia: they will be part of the basis for changes in Bioware’s game development. Some numbers of note, along with complete speculation for what these numbers might mean or imply, as well as questions they elicit. I will state in advance that I will happily take being proven wrong on some of these speculations–designing solely by the numbers is stupid. But, let’s indulge in this thought experiment for a second.

  • 82 percent of players play as a male character

Despite Jennifer Hale’s critically acclaimed performance as FemShep, the likelihood of us seeing any marketing campaign giving FemShep the limelight is slim. This, too, holds true for other Bioware games: we see Garrett Hawke’s face plastered everywhere, not…whatever FemHawke’s name is (I don’t even know her name!) One part perpetuation of our little boys club, one part “catering to your audience.”

Moreover, it may influence how much effort is put into love interests–the vast majority of players are maleShep/maleWarden, so the love interests need to cater to them. I can’t be the only one that feels like the females in Bioware games get slim pickings for love interests, while the males get highly eroticized, completely idealized versions of women (who are literally perfect–like Miranda).

  • Garrus is one of the more popular choices for squad members

This one is a toughie: does Bioware bring Garrus back as a party member by virtue of popularity? Does Garrus even warrant the attention of three games? Do they take this, and instead of bringing Garrus back they form an archetype around him, since he’s proven to be a favorite (and we all know Bioware loves it some character archetypes)? Do they bring him back simply for fanservice, but don’t make him a party member (think of how they handled love interests from 1 in 2)?

  • 50 percent of players have fully upgraded the ship by the end of the game

Where some RPG aspects of the ME franchise were stripped back, streamlined, or removed, the upgrading of the ship was one of the only new additions with an RPG-like aspect. So, here’s another toughie: what does Bioware do with a stat like this? Do they keep building more systems which are governed by the same principles (upgrading vs resource management), or do they see that sort of thing as a waste of their time because only half of the users took complete advantage of it? Sure, we might not see ship upgrades in 3, but the numbers attached to the “success” of the ship upgrade system may influence how other mechanics work–most likely, in regards to their complexity. The issue here would be evaluating the statistic in a wider context: just why did only half of all players fully upgrade their systems?

  • 14 percent of all crewmembers die at the end of the game

I’m glad to hear that, for the most part, players tend to experience at least one death in their suicide mission…but then again, we must also remember that this 14 percent only applies to half of all ME2 players, since only half ever finish the game. Anyway, experiencing the death of a crewmember is paramount toward showing just how dangerous the mission actually is. After all, just how much of a suicide mission is it if most players manage to get all the crew back? Still, this means that most players only had one or two characters die out of about a dozen: does this mean Bioware made the suicide mission too easy? Do they think players actually get the gravity of the situation with that number of casualties?

This statistic is interesting to think about in the scope of ME3, if only because 3 will be when (ideally) everything falls into place. Players will, hypothetically, engage in situations that are equally high risk, if not more so. This statistic may be useful in determining to what degree Bioware molds the experience. To what extent do they give players control over their fate? How do they balance their vision and message for the game with player control? 14 percent can either be seen as a failure to properly balance player control versus vision–the player has control over too much of the system–or a success, because most players experience a death no matter what they do.

  • 36 percent of players choose the renegade option at the very end

A statistic like this might dictate how Bioware chooses to unfold the story. Yes, they will probably not issue a ‘canon-choice’ but if an overwhelming number of players choose the paragon option…well, what do you do? Do you put an equal amount of effort into crafting the consequences for both options, despite the fact that one will hold the most relevance to most people? Do you cast the importance of this choice aside because of how uneven the turnout is?

And then, the real biggie: only 50 percent of all players have finished ME2. This is probably the trickiest of them all, and perhaps the most controversial of the stats. You’ve got to wonder, just what is causing this? Disinterest? Difficulty? Both? All one can hope is, they don’t take this as an opportunity to make the game further streamlined, if not easier.

We’ll have to wait until ME3 is released to see just how much, if at all, Bioware worships the numbers. If 2 is any indication, it’s probably quite a bit.


  1. David

    I don’t have any statistics to prove this, but considering the length of ME2, I thought 50% was actually pretty high. Keep in mind that at least some of the people who haven’t finished just haven’t finished it yet, plus people who borrowed the game from a friend–and thus have the game show up in their list–but haven’t had the chance to fully play it yet.

    One thing I hated about ME2 was that they go on and on about “oooh, this is going to be SO hard to do this” yet if you make the right choices, only one *might* die. Also, the deaths feel pretty cheap/random rather than truly powerful.

  2. Tom

    We can see the metrics fetishism of these statistics in Dragon Age 2. We don’t even need to wait until ME3.

    I mean, most people play your game as the simplest class, and even some of them don’t beat the game (I’d like to see metrics split by what type of character was played; did more Engineers beat the game than Soldiers, percentage-wise?). There are few casualties (stat I want: who died the most!), which, combined with the mass hysteria early in launch about how to avoid party death, leads Bioware to think people don’t like watching their party members die.

    So let’s look at Dragon Age. DA2 is immensely simplified, to make it more “soldier”-esque. You get to stab people, not make massive plans to kill others. Things are made simpler, because people chose simplicity in ME2. People don’t like their character dying, so DA: Awakenings let you play as your Warden even if s/he died (which is weird). I doubt anyone will die randomly in DA:2, which is a shame because it is perhaps the only reason ME2 will remain in popular myth.

    Basically, it sucks.

  3. I disagree that FemShep gets slim pickings for love interests. Perhaps in ME1, where FemShep had to choose between the wishy-washy Kaiden and Liara, who was more impressed with your Prothean experience than anything else.

    In ME2, it’s the complete opposite. ManShep has to choose between Miranda, an egotist who spends most of her time complaining about her daddy issues; Jack, whose “I’m a bitch, deal with it” attitude is the closest we’ve ever got to a Guido Spacer and Tali, who was a Tech geek in ME1 and now became a Shepard groupie. From the three, I chose Tali mostly because of pity.

    Meanwhile, FemShep has Jacob, who has the coolest loyalty mission and the only sensible opinion regarding his presence within Cerberus; Garrus, who still has the coolest voice acting and feels like the only other character equal to Shepard in capacity and the one who truly gets him/her and Thane, who is the mysterious guy. Thane is a cliché, sure, but at least his visual is unique.

    I think the ball is with FemShep this time.

    • I will note that i said FemShep and FemWarden, as in, between them.

      Personally I found Jacob and Garrus boring and Thane creepy. None of these are as bad as Tali, whose character got destroyed…she feels like an insecure 14 year old, in comparison to what she seemed like in 1.

      • Tom

        I HATE how Tali got destroyed. Worst part of ME2, by far. Seriously, she was enough of a badass to mouth off to the human ambassador in ME1, and now…she worships Shepard. Really? Fuck.

        I don’t care about the romances, because my female Shepard doesn’t have time for them. She has more important things to do. In fact, that’s what I hate. I hate that I cannot play a not sexually interested Shepard without, like, trying. How their conversation trees gets co-opted by sex when you do the loyalty mission.

        Really, I just hate Bioware’s preocuppation with sex. I had to try, man, to not have sex in ME1. It sucks. Why can’t I not give a fuck?