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Bioware Clarifies Mass Effect 3’s Galactic Readiness

Last night, while recording Jumping the Shark, Brandon and I went about seven rounds over my utter disdain for Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer being connected to outcomes in the single player game. That show will be posted Sunday night. Bring popcorn.

As we argued over finer points, we found it impossible to reach a consensus, but one thing we did agree on (I think) is that we really had no solid grasp of to what degree this game balances what happens in multiplayer with what you do in single player and how the game ends. Yes, we’re all aware you can get the Uber Mega Happy Ending if you do some chunk of what sounds like “everything” the single player game has to offer. And, believe me, it’s not about whether it’s easy to get such a Super Duper Let’s See Young Anakin’s Ghost at the End of Jedi victory, but whether getting that is in any way harder for pure solo players than it would have been if multiplayer Galactic Readiness weren’t there. As I noted in yesterday’s post, my casting stones and auguries say it probably is harder because I think that’s how EA/Bioware roll these days. It would be in no way surprising were I to be wrong about this.

That said, at the crux of it all, is a distinct lack of understanding of just how all this Galactic Readiness and Effective Military Strength work together. Mr. B and I could blame ourselves for not digging further into that, but it’s so much more fun to blame Bioware for not making it clear in the game. (Or maybe I just haven’t properly read my Codex entries. I’ll have to check that when I get home.) Fortunately, Brandon today did dig up this nugget from Bioware’s forums

Your ending(s) are determined by your “Effective Military Strength” (let’s call it EMS for now) bar. Focus on that bar – that is your indicator of how well you will do in the end-game.

You can maximize your EMS just by collecting War Assets in the single-player game. There is a certain threshhold of these you would need to exceed (I can’t get too specific) but I can tell you there are MORE than the required amount that can be gathered in the single-player campaign.

“Galactic Readiness” is a modifier you can improve by playing multiplayer. That is to say, if you play a lot of multiplayer, you will need less War Assets from single-player to fill up your EMS bar (ie it will balance out the requirements to account for you playing in both modes). Single-player game play does not impact that bar.

EMS = success. EMS can be maximized via collecting war assets alone, even if your Galactic Readiness is 50%.

That’s the word from Jarrett Lee, Bioware’s Senior Marketing Manager.

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I can tell you that before this I had no earthly idea that Galactic Readiness only changed via multiplayer/iOS app and that EMS changed only by single-player campaign actions. Again, maybe I should have read my codex entries before getting in a huff. So, if nothing else, this provides some understanding of how they actually function. Nonetheless, I don’t think this changes my argument against, or Brandon’s argument for, these systems. I fundamentally don’t think this story’s conclusion should be at all affected by what you do or don’t do in multiplayer, regardless of what’s possible with the endings. Brandon thinks it’s a galactic-wide conflict and, given that, it’s being done here in a way that makes perfect sense. All fair arguments as far as I’m concerned, even if I’m little bit more right than everyone else. (In truth, Brandon pretty much wipes the floor with me on JtS this week. By all means, enjoy yourselves.)

Todd Brakke

Todd was born in Ann Arbor with a Michigan helmet in one hand and a mouse in the other. (Never you mind the logistics of this.) He grew, vertically anyway, and proceeded to spend over 16 years as a development editor for Pearson Education, publishing books, videos, and digital learning products under the Que and Sams Publishing imprints. Because that wasn't enough of a challenge, Todd has also been a 20-year part-time snob about video games, writing reviews, features, and more for multiple outlets. Follow him on Twitter @ubrakto or check it out his website at ToddsFoolery.com.

24 thoughts to “Bioware Clarifies Mass Effect 3’s Galactic Readiness”

  1. My main issue with this is that up until now, there hasn’t been any multiplayer. Yeah, I get the galaxy-wide conflict thing, but ultimately, this breaks my expectations about the ME experience in a fundamental way, and not a good one. I don’t have a problem with the multiplayer portion influencing it, as long as it’s totally and completely optional. Reportedly, this is the case, but the question is not just whether it’s possible to get the best ending without multiplayer. It’s also a question of how difficult and time consuming it is. This is my main issue. Is it harder, or does it take longer to get the best ending without the multiplayer part? How long do you have to play multiplayer to raise your galactic readiness or whatever the hell they’re calling it? If the multiplayer is a short cut to the best ending, I call bullshit.

  2. I think a lot of this could have been avoided if they had started you at 100% multiplier and let you work up to 150%. Or even just starting at 1x and go to 1.5x. The way it is set up without outside knowledge the game only counting half of what you earn in single player makes you feel as though you are missing something by not playing multiplayer.

    Then again, I don’t know if I believe that no one at Bioware would notice this. So maybe it’s deliberate.

    1. That’s exactly the problem, though. I am 100% confident that this was an intentional move, implemented in order to take advantage of the same kind of psychology Mr. Barnes was talking about with regard to the DLC.

      You look at the number. “50%?” you ask yourself. “I’m only getting 50% of the points I could be getting? Whoa. I want to get at least 100% of those points. I should really play multiplayer to up that.”

      It’s the psychology of incompleteness pushing users to pursue completion. It’s presenting a lack in order to manipulate you into trying to fill the void.

      I don’t find the multiplayer and its effect on the single player anywhere near as offensive as does Mr. Brakke. But it does bother me that, aside from the mere existence of the multiplayer and its connection to single player, there are many manipulative techniques geared to push you towards playing the multiplayer (and, in turn, hopefully spending money on its microtransactions). Bad form.

      1. I really don’t think it’s as bad as it’s made out to be.

        I have sunk, happily, over two hours into multiplayer and my readiness is at 64%. I have leveled up several times, purchased boosters with credits and made tons of money. Compared to money grabs like, say, Farmville or something in that vein there is nothing compelling me to spend more money and I have no trouble killing things or contributing to a match.

        The money option is there if you want it, but the game in no way shoves it down your throat

        1. I’m a weird guy. I don’t like it when a game flagrantly displays its cravings for the money in my wallet…but you know what? At least that’s honest.

          I really, really don’t like it when a game is subtly, or seemingly subtly, designed to manipulate me into forking over money.

          I find the 50% starting place for Galactic Readiness to be just such a subtle, manipulative move. Why else start it at 50%? Why not just start it at a 1x multiplier, as McHoger suggests? It’s functionally identical. The difference is that one is an attempt to push you into feeling the need to lift it up, while the other is not.

          Full disclaimer: I’m really enjoying the game. I’ve played a few sessions of the multiplayer and I find it pretty fun, and I’ve bought a Veteran’s Pack with the in-game spacebucks (sorry Bioware, no way you’re getting to my Microsoft spacebucks). I do not think the game forces you to spend real money. I simply think that it’s trying to manipulate you into doing so.

          Maybe I am making more of a big deal out of this than I should. I don’t quite think so, though. Like I said, I’m a weird guy.

          1. OMGWTFBBQ are all you people talking about? ME3 lets you *for-really-real buy* some form of Get the Best Ending Points?

            This does not bode well at *all*. If I’m understanding this thread properly, the true danger is in the precedent. If you can use real money to buy the space bucks or whatever-the-hell, that will move from optional to intentional. As in, the designers will add time-consuming grinding to single-player games, just to incentivize players to spend more money to walk around it.

            When I buy Mass Effect 3 – after I can get it used or on a price drop – that’s it. It may come back, but BioWare is dead to me.

        2. I agree completely with you Mark, if anything the amount of complaining and arguing about this implementation is almost on the level of space sex and lesbian blue girls. It’s insane, it’s clearly stated, if you don’t want to play online, you don’t have too; if you like to shoot people and or horde type mode then go nuts! Bioware implemented a unique and engaging multiplayer onto an amazing rpg which up until ME3 came out I would’ve said is impossible. Call of Duty kids can play it and get into the story that way; you rpg kids with your books and pocket protectors can enjoy a single player and completely shun the added benefits. (I am in no way saying RPGers are nerds) dictated but not read by, Mr. Azure.

  3. (Can’t reply to the above! Gah!)

    Oops, I think I may have misrepresented the situation with incensed rhetoric. My apologies.

    If you play multiplayer, you will increase your Galactic Readiness percentage. This percentage starts the game at 50%. I am not certain of this, but I believe the increase of Galactic Readiness depends also upon your success in multiplayer. The more you win in multiplayer, the faster it will rise. But I think it will rise regardless of your success.

    The 50% starting point for Galactic Readiness seems to me to be a move designed to get people to play multiplayer through manipulation.

    In multiplayer, you can pay real world money for some of their “booster” packs. These packs will give you additional options in multiplayer, and can potentially make multiplayer matches easier (though many of the items in the packs are one-use only, so they’re of limited utility). You do not have to pay real world money for these packs, not at all. You can earn them entirely through playing multiplayer. Needless to say, real world money is faster.

    If I am correct that succeeding in multiplayer raises Galactic Readiness faster than simply playing but not succeeding in multiplayer, then yes, you can potentially increase your Galactic Readiness with greater ease by paying the money for the best packs and making multiplayer easier on yourself.

    All that said, it was an exaggeration when I implied that this tactic is meant to get our money. The direct connection is weak at best, and I shouldn’t have implied that. It’s more that Bioware is trying to subtly manipulate players into playing multiplayer…where you can then spend further money. If this particular technique is an attempt to get you to spend more money, then it is only by virtue of there being a way to spend money on the multiplayer, and not through direct manipulation to get you to spend money.

    And again, you need not spend any money at all to get the best ending, nor to enjoy multiplayer, nor to raise your Galactic Readiness all the way to 200%.

    This has been your daily “Oh shit I’m an idiot for implying what I did so I have to make up for it with mounds of text” moment. Please continue with your lives.

    1. Speaking just for myself, gaming-to-win has never quite been enough. I have always needed to either feel like a stylish badass, or feel like a narrative was unfolding.

      Grinding has always been, in my mind, a negative label I put on parts of a game where time, and not skill development or narrative, is the only barrier to progress. Thus, I’ll grind me some SP Dark Souls all day. Being told what a winner I am (3 enemies defeated! 200 XP and 50 GP! Yaayyyy!) while replaying a map doesn’t do it for me.

      In that light, all of these tweaks between ME2 and ME3 have been the exact opposite of why I game in the first place. I can only interpret the real-money booster packs as a form of Pay to Skip, which begs the question of why it’s there in the first place. YMMV.

      Dead to me. DEAD.

  4. My personal problem with this is the fact that for the Galactic Readiness thingy to rise, and thus not forcing me to completely harvest the universe for stuff (aren’t the reapers the one supposed to be harvesting all the planets? Unfortunate implications for Shepard:P) I have to play with other people.

    I don’t like playing with strangers. And everyone I know who plays ME3 plays it on a different platform than me. I’m sure not everyone playing online is an asshole, I’ve just had bad experiences with MP matches. I’ve tried to play some of the MP maps alone, but it’s kind of impossible.

    Now there are some arguments on why it makes sense that it affects SP like this. The whole galaxy is at war and all, and Shepard can’t fight every battle. But how is having four people fight several waves of random enemies going to change that?

    That last part got a bit ranty, sorry.

  5. My anticipation for this episode is easily over nine thousand. Just thinking about it makes me want to douse my head in peroxide, hover eighteen inches above the ground, and fire beams of energy out of my palms!

    I couldn’t be less interested in playing Donkey Kong Country Returns, Crusader Kings II, or Two Worlds II for myself, but I *love* hearing the podcast get really emphatic about them. Channel that into a game I really am invested in, like Mass Effect 3, and those episodes are just the best!

  6. Okay, when all y’all were already able to discuss this, I wasn’t able to form an opinion yet, because for us off-worlders (read: non-US gamers) the game only released on the same day Todd… my apologies, Mr. Brakke, posted this article.

    I just finished the Single Player (a cozy 20 hours). My Galactic Readiness was at 50%, my military strength bar all maxed out. Now what I would like to know – the ending(s) I got, are they different from what I would get if I had a higher Galactic Readiness?

    1. All the endings are pretty much terrible and exactly the same, so there’s no real point in worrying about it. In about 20 years of game playing, I can’t remember when a game has left me feeling so disappointed.

  7. As someone who does read all the codex entries (or at least, all the ones that seem different from ME2) I fell confident in saying that this information was not made clear in the single player campaign. Well, at least as of my current progress (ca. 24 hours in). It could be inferred from staring at the War Assets summary screen thing in the war room, but I don’t believe they have ever come out and said this.

    On the multi vs single player thing, I really don’t see what the big deal is. Yes, the 50% number is underhanded, and yes its a setup to sell map packs later on. But, ignoring the 50% number when you know you can get the best ending anyway isn’t really that hard. It still functions as an independent single player campaign, you just have to grind sidequests. Which you also had to do in ME2. So, its not really a change in single player behavior.

    1. Fair. The “you were grinding already” is something I wasn’t thinking about.

      Maybe the Pay for Fast Forward feature, and all the rest, have simply drawn my attention to something that I’ve always disliked in RPGs, but up to this point have ignored: grinding itself.

      Can anyone remember an absolutely grind-free combat-based RPG? And was it any good?

      Anyway, I’ll pull my Dead to Me marker off the table, and replace it with a Never Again on Day One marker. Meanwhile, BioWare and EA can continue showering themselves with sweet, sweet cash.

  8. I actually like the multiplayer. It is fun, and thematically it supports what is going on. I think this is the rare instance of somebody tying in their MP effort to the SP game. I hope to see more of this in the future!

  9. From what I’ve read, “galactic readiness” has absolutely no reason to affect what choices you’re offered in the end. That is to say, it affects what endings are available to you, but there is no specific reason stated within the game as to why this “galactic readiness” level unlocks certain ending choices for you.

    Anyone who has read the spoilers, or finished the game already will likely understand what I mean.

  10. And if you think any of these arguments meant a damn thing in 2012, you should try picking up the game in 2016 when there isn’t a single human on Earth still playing ME3 PvP… There is no option/hope for me to ever destroy enough of these bastards, or to collect enough troops, to see the last fleeting breath of a character I’ve been with for over a decade. For my character, for all my time in this realm, my choices are limited to “SCREW YOU LITTLE KID” or “SCREW ALL OF YOU.” I’ll never join with the reapers. I’ll never mix my essence with them. I’ll never force Joker to “upgrade his chassis” just to be well again, even though that was the prevalent thought in my head when the choice was presented. They all die, or we all die. That’s who my character was and who it will be. Forever.

    1. Weird, I’ve been playing ME3 multiplayer on the PS3 the past couple days and there are still some people. You can also visit the n7hq.masseffect.com and once you link your account, you can real time increase your Galactic Readiness with time-based missions. Takes time but…it is what it is. You can increase it over 3% every 5 hours so within a few days, you could have high to full galactic readiness.
      Good luck decimating the Reaper menace. It is still possible, I promise. I hope this helps.

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