'No Comment' From BioWare On The Mass Effect 3 Indoctrination Theory

BioWare is planning to flesh out the existing ending of Mass Effect 3, but that doesn't mean fans haven't already done some fleshing-out of their own.


The much-discussed "Indoctrination Theory" floats the notion that Shepard in fact didn't make it to the final decision at all, and that much of the controversial ending took place in his/her mind. The decisions at the end (or at least, two of them) are controlled entirely by the Reapers.

There are many variations on this theory out there, each supported by a ton of clues gathered from the game. (This one from the BioWare forums is a good example, and there's also this video that breaks it down.)

But what do BioWare's developers think? At a PAX East panel today attended by Kotaku's Kate Cox, one of the panelists allowed that the indoctrination theory "illustrates how committed the [Mass Effect] fanbase is," but said that while "fans will interpret it in their own way", they didn't want to comment either way for fear of being "prescriptive".

Plus, they've got that "Extended Cut" DLC to make. "We want the content to speak for itself, and we'll let it do so."

That response gives me the impression that BioWare didn't expressly intend the Indoctrination Theory's interpretation. But who knows? It's always possible that they've got a suuuuper good poker face and are really going to blow our minds this winter.

Check out Kate's full liveblog of the Mass Effect panel here.


    It will be good to see if something comes of this but the ME series is pretty much dead, pointless beating a dead horse

      "Dead" and "complete" are two different things.

        Not when you complete something, by killing it.

    Not smacking the speculation down out of a fear of being prescriptive is silly, it just encourages fans to ever greater heights of delusion. I thought the ending was abysmal, but it was planned and intended. I entirely don't support the artistic vision they were going for, let alone the way they went about it, but to suggest it was all an ulterior motive to sell a different ending down the line is absurd.

      There is a LOT of evidence for the Indoctrination Theory though. It's clever, but a terrible marketing idea and I doubt anyone will try this again.

        The fact that evidence exists doesn't make the theory true - if anything it just shows the ending is so full of plot holes and inconsistencies that a bunch of fans who desperately hope the final ten minutes of the game is a trick can convince half the internet that it is. It's also a fascinating example of not liking something so much that the only way to deal with it is to deny that it ever happened.

        Nothing except fan conspiracy theories suggests the 'indoctrination theory' is true. Every reputable source we have for information about the ending, including Geoff Keighley's feature on Bioware's behind the scenes, suggests that it's not. I don't believe for a second that Bioware or EA are crafty enough to deliberately design a fake bad ending only to release vastly changed content down the line. It's a monumentally stupid strategy, and the publisher isn't that risk averse. It's fine to idly talk in forums about analysing the ending frame by frame to suit a theory, but nothing in the 'real world' suggests any sort of extra content, and a cover-up that big is laughably ridiculous.

        Could it be true? Sure. I can't rule that out, except to say the theory is nonsense. But talking about certainty is a bad idea, not least because you'll only set yourself up for disappointment.

          i agree that the series have a lot of plot holes that is still unexplainable till the end, but i have to admit i just finished watching the video and realized that last night when i actually finished the game, i did see those bushes and trees near the beam.

          whether this is a way of bioware trickry to lure us to buy mass effect 4 in the future, i dont know, but hell...if the indoctrination theory is correct...what an ending

          if by any chance that it's just shitty writing and lazy story writers way to deliver a deadline, well...i'll be very afraid of what would happened with dragon age 3

            Explain to me how the ending is shitty and lazy? It might be really far out, strange, weird, bold, out of left field or innapropriate but I didn't think it felt lazy or shitty.

            Either show me in the script or a time stamp on a YouTube video which exact parts are shitty or lazy writing

            Also, when people talk about an ending being bad because a team was short on time you make the hilarious assumption that a video game is created chronologically, that the dev tea, beings programming the title screen and finishes with the last level. Devs normally work on the ending and beggining first, if they run short on time they usually scoop content out of the middle.

            This is what happens when people dislike a game and slap the old 'lazy dev, ran out of time' reason a video game.

              Anderson being on the Citadel with you is pretty lazy and shitty. I can brush off or explain away the majority of supposed plot holes but that one is fundamentally wrong. Anyone proof reading the script had to have went 'wait, how did he make it up there unscratched? Did he just walk on up after everyone else went home? Even if this is all inside Shepards head he's thinking too clearly to accept it'.

              I don't have as much against the ending at face value as some people but mistakes were made.

                That's a very good point to be honest. I'll add that to one other section of the final act that I personally thought was a little lazy (the final friendly encampment you visit before the ending to be precise). But apart from that, I can't think of any other part of the ending that wasn't polished and well written.

                I can completely respect that people think the ending is just loopy, strange and ill fitting. But to chalk that up to laziness or bad writing is just very immature critique.

                  There's other examples but now I think about it if you haven't noticed them yourself and like the ending, I'm really not helping you out by highlighting the problems and risking ruining it for you. I say run from the comment sections on ME3 endings before you encounter a bullet point list of everything that's wrong with it. =P

                  I've read about the indoctrination theory and can see a lot of people buying into it but it just feels like desperation to make sense of what I see as a very crappy ending.

                  Was it well written and clever? Not in my opinion - but to each their own.

                  Throughout the series I've always wanted to have the option / possibility of beating the reapers and saving the galaxy. As it stands, there's zero incentive to replay the series and even less to go and purchase any DLC. Why spend money on DLC when I'm going to die and many of the species are screwed?

                  There are still heaps of people discussing it but I already know a lot of people that are just completely turned off by this as well - and that translates to lost customers. I pay for enjoyment and the ending was un-enjoyable to me so I won't be supporting EA/Bioware in the future. That's not 'nerd rage' either - it's me saying I don't see enough value exchange for my money. They can keep their artistic vision.

          I love the indoctrination theory BUT it doesn't make sense to make a fake-ending without telling you it was fake in-game.
          What so customers are expected to go online or download dlc to know the real ending? That's bullshit, my PS3 isn't connected to the internet, so I miss out?

            Well they do sort of tell you it's a fake ending. If your Effective Millitary Score is 5000+ and you choose the Destroy Synthetics option you get a secret cutscene that shows Shepard is still alive and on Earth, as if waking up from something.

          You should look up what the word "confirmation" means. Confirmation is the idea of Shepard being indoctrinated supported by evidence that the game provided. You don't need Bioware to confirm it. The game does it for you.

          Bioware not only indoctrinated Shepard, but the players themselves. You have been indoctrinated by Bioware into taking the ending at face value and causing a huge fuss over nothing.



          Watch this.

      I agree. It's mostly just fans searching for ANY sort of explanation as to why they got such a shite ending. You can explain A LOT of things in life with pseudo facts if you are desperate and look hard enough. It really would be nice if Shepard wakes up and realises that he suffered a nasty blow to the head but given the statements given by bioware about what they're going to do with the ending, the theories just aren't true.

        Uhh, ok, I did not mean to reply to you 4len, was supposed to go under Aiden's comment.

    After playing through each of the 3 endings and being quite disappointed by an otherwise amazing series... The indoctrination thery holds a LOT of water.

    Hell, even the tiny thing about in green/ blue ending Shephard's eye become that of an indoctrinated being and in the red he takes a breathe (if you did enough work in the game)

    They may be little things, but if they were purely unintentional etc... Then ME3 was put TOGETER VERY last minute and very poorly with much disregard to a clear and plothole

    After playing through each of the 3 endings and being quite disappointed by an otherwise amazing series... The indoctrination thery holds a LOT of water.

    Hell, even the tiny thing about in green/ blue ending Shephard's eye become that of an indoctrinated being and in the red he takes a breathe (if you did enough work in the game)

    They may be little things, but if they were purely unintentional etc... Then ME3 was put TOGETER VERY last minute and very poorly with much disregard to a clear and plothole free ending

    So people have stopped trying to guess when HL3 will come out, just to make sense of ME3's ending ? ;)

      I'm not sure which one is more annoying. :p

        I used to think about the Mass Effect 3 ending but then I took an arrow to the knee.

    I think some fans are reading a little too much into Bioware's responses so far. Claims that they're 'arrogantly defending their shitty ending' and 'completely ignoring their fans'. But they aren't ignoring their fans at all, or else they would never have decided to make something like this. And they've been relatively simple statements so far. Comments about how the team are proud of what they've accomplished, and such. I'm not reading any real malice in there.

    The other problem is that there are simply too many groups of fans who want something different from the ending. Even the Retake ME3 movement seems to have splinter groups; ones that want an entirely rewritten ending with the kid, others that want more closure, and more that love the Indoctrination Theory. And then there are those who are happy with the ending. Fact of the matter is no matter what Bioware did here they were going to make a portion of the fanbase, however significant, unhappy.

    I'm not a big fan of the endings, personally, but I've discussed that before and I don't think Bioware should change it because it is their work, whatever the quality. I love the Indoctrination Theory. It's exactly the kind of conspiracy theory, with so many little clues in dialogue and level design that fit together so perfectly, that excites me. But I don't really harbour any belief that it was Bioware's plan all along (okay, maybe for a brief moment I hoped it was :p). Some people have really run away with the idea though - it's like their personal canon, which is cool, I guess. And in that regard, being somewhat vague towards questions about this theory seems a bit silly, like they're stringing along fans for several months before releasing the extended cut that has nothing to do with the IT. The fan backlash is already pretty absurd, I hate to imagine what it might be like several months down the line.

    That DLC better give the ending a lot, I do mean a lot more clarity. I feel they should replace the endings, I view the game as un-finished.

      If Indoctrination Theory turns out to be true, then they essentially are rewriting the endings, because it was all in Shephard's head.

        Bioware won't rewrite their ending but they will deliberately leave some ambiguity in it.

        They want people discussing it long after the game has finished as Casey Hudson has said in interviews. I personally think the indoctrination theory is grasping at straws and reeks of the desperation of the fan base trying to make sense of the rubbish they were presented with.

        They tried to be clever by creating an 'artistic' ending to spark discussion and polarise fans however I'm not sure this reaction is what they had in mind.

          You sir are spot on. Couldnt have said it better myself.

          I had a vision and think bioware should include this into their story... after a mass gathering sharpard picks who he whats to live with, with alot of renegade/paraagon options to choose from; shoot him, shoot her. after chosing who to kill or not kill sherpard will shoot the ones you chosed. after they are dead. sharpard will think "what should I do with the bodys" then a bunch of renegade/paragon choses will show up. romance them/ throw them of a cliff/ bury them/ poop on them. evey chose will be performed on someone slightly alive. if you pick poop on them shepard will whip out a newspaper in front of him and mockingly poops on his face causing his death. After you decided what to do with the body's a cut scene will go on showing sharperd enjoying time with the people he didnt shoot, and shepard will learn that four people have a solution to the mass relays. After the cut scene sherpard's in "rpg mode", and can explore this massive futuristic earth created; with a indicator showing the location of the first guy with a solution, sharpard goes there to solve the mass relay problem, or to shoot him. if you shoot him then the indicator points you to the 2nd guy with a solution, and so on. if you get to the fourth guy and shoot him then you get the renegade ending, where someone really close to you, or your love interest kills you, and civillians and eveyone is heart broken in disbelief, and the credits go on. when the credits are done, something will pop up, asking you if you wish to continue sherpards jouney. if you said yes, then the credits rewind extremly fast to the part where you and the fourth guy are still alive, if you kill him this time then it'll say critical mission falure, you cannot continue dead. then you'll have to go with fourth guy's solution in order to continue the jouney. when you do the solution, a cut scene showing the relays being fixed appears. after cut scene your in "rpg mode", and can travel anywheare on eath; drive mako and hammerhead to travel faster/ see what happened after the main quest. what should be in this rpg world is being able to play any sport you can think of with a group of people at the park [ maybe even applie the kinect in this "part"] and an asari that suffers the same disease as morinth. If you dont kill the fourth guy then a cut scene showing the relay problem being fixed appears with the solution you chose. then credits. then after selecting "continue sherpards jouney" the credits rewind to the last few seconds of that cut scene, then your in "rpg" mode. this will make mass effect 3 appeal to rpg fans and to people who just whant action. because the rpg elements are at the "end" and "after" of the game. this idea can make mass effect 3 the game of all genres, because of sports being involed. therefore I think bioware should make it required to download, in order to play single player. this download should be free, and downloadable to any one who doesnt have xbox live, and always available to download. Thus if your reading this, I give you full authority to send this to bioware or anyone. and as to bioware; I give you full permission to copy this idea, and if you want to give me credit or not i dont care.

            In the "rpg world" maybe if you talk to the people you saved; war assets, etc. the people you talk to can give you their story while allowing the player to get cinamatic scenes while their giving you there side of the story while you were busy.

              ps: marauder sheilds vs "the anonymus fan"... last post

    Indoctrination Theory has quite a bit of proof. People have gone into the PC copy's texture files. One has the green plants from the ending. They're called something like "Dream_Foliage" or similar.

      Ooh, that reminds me of something I saw once similar to that. A model of the 'star child' at the end with the file name 'Harbinger'.

      That'd be from the... actual dreams Shepard has during the course of the game. That feature plants and trees.

        He didn't explain that very well. He meant a few of the assets used in the sequence of Shepard approaching the beam are from the dream sequences. They're only there after Shepard is hit by Harbinger. Not supporting IT, just explaining

          None of you are correct. I said GREEN plants. Not BLACK. The bright green plants from the planet in the ending. :P

    Hold The Line!!!! Fight for a better Gaming Industry!!! Show EA that We, The Gamers will Humble those who would dilute our Passions...Prepare the Gallows...

    It Exists because We Allow It.
    It will End because We Demand It.

      Wow, what a fool. Please don't ruin our industry.

        Your industry? As in you work in it?

        Or are you a customer? Because as customers we have the right to ask for (not necessarily demand) better. ME3 should have been better than this.

        he has a point even if its a little melodramatic. without us their would be no industry. we shouldn't accept anything that is compromised. we wouldn't anywhere else

      This whole 'hold the line!' thing is one of the lamest things I have seen to come out of the gamer community.

    Mass Effect fans make me appear less geeky, so I thank them for that

      He's entitled to his opinion. We are consumers and no matter how much 'ART' video games are, they are still a consumable product marketed to us.. End of story.

      The industry will change like all do. Can't exactly sit here and claim the Game industry is in a great place when every other studio is closing slowly pushing to a 'Big 4' of companies... so to speak

        FAIL Kotaku.. I was replying to SCOTT

    We all cool with people coming up the wish that the ending of the game didn't happen and they would get a do over on the 'terrible' ending and then worked backwards to find the proof for this theory right? We are?


      Does it affect you? No? Righto.

    As Gamespot said, if the game ended with you sitting next to Anderson, and just had comm chatter saying "The reapers blew up!" or whatever, people would be totally fine with it. It doesn't need choice, it doesn't need an epilogue, and it doesn't need a stupid fucking starchild to ruin the entire bloody game.

      I don't think it's needs to be a happy ending to be a good one that will be accepted by fans just one that shows how the characters we spent 90+ hours getting to know and growing a relationship with ended up. A simple but coherent ending would have been ideal in my opinion.

      It would have been sad if Bioware settled for such a typical ending.

    The theory is fantastic and makes a lot of sense. That alone should tell anyone that it isnt what Bioware intended. The series as a whole, well written for the most part, never truly contained much subtlety. Its entirely more believable that Bioware simply lost their shit in the final moments. No doubt they wanted a controversial ending to keep people talking. They wanted The Sopranos but ended up with Lost.

    At The end I saw "Death and Transfiguration" themes (not indoctrination). Shep is in a "purgatory" and he says good bye to his human corporal body - in speaking to his "father figure", then is taken up and given insight and a choice. How do you want the Galaxy to be after you? If something's happened that the "star child" itself doesn't anticipate I would hope for something even more open ended, not 3 banal choices. Three choices does remind me of The Merchant of Venice. "Choose me and hazard all you have." I actually anticipated a little more on disintegration and reordering. A new ordering will arise - is not predictable and can not be "controlled". I admit to a desire for a human/organics exceptional survival. I would like to wonder about how - if any survive - remaining characters deal with inevitable disintegration of the Galaxy and what of a possible renewal?

    Just a thought of the poor ending compared to the steller game... maybe the addition of the Kinetic controls at the last minute took away funding and resources from the ending which was ultimately shortened and ruined an originally well scripted and well rounded final sequence. I can imagine that they would be under a lot of pressure from Microsoft to add the new controller considering the Wii's dominance....

    When something speaks for itself, it means that it doesn't need an explanation, it was meant to be pretty obvious.

    That's what Mike was talking about. In other words, the ending being indoctrination was meant to be obvious. Bioware would never use the words "yeah, it's true". They've been very subtle about stuff, and that was the subtle confirmation of the theory.

    People need to read between the lines.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now