A trio of articles from our sister blog Gamertell bring up an interesting situation with at least a bit of relevance to e-books.

The popular BioWare video game series Mass Effect has had a series of spinoff novels, depicting events that take place elsewhere in the game universe simultaneously with the games. The first three of those novels were written by one of the games’ writers, Drew Karpyshyn. I’ve read them, and they told some very interesting stories, part of which formed backstory that was brought up in the first game.

But for whatever reason, the most recent novel, Mass Effect: Deception was farmed out to William C. Dietz, a writer who seems to write a lot of video game tie-ins. And all indications are that he did a poor job—fans of the game have compiled a 13-page list of inaccuracies, some of them rather major—in addition to inaccurate depictions of various alien worlds and species, one character entirely loses her autism, and another changes sexual orientation.

Subsequently, Christ Priestly, community coordinator at BioWare, issued an apology to fans for errors in the books. “We are currently working on a number of changes that will appear in future editions of the novel,” he wrote in a post to BioWare’s Mass Effect forums.

Though how they will do that without totally rewriting the book from the beginning is a headscratcher. As Gamertell writer Jenni Lada points out:

I honestly have no idea how Del Ray and BioWare are going to make this right. It’s not that there are just a few factual errors. There are whole scenes that would have to be rewritten to make things right. Gillian’s character might have to be re-examined in every scene to adjust her behavior. Either that, or a more plausible explanation will have to be provided for why she’s suddenly a normal teenager. I do get the feeling that it will be the last Mass Effect book written by Dietz.

As Lada notes, whatever BioWare does, the errors won’t be fixed until the next printing of the book. Of course, for the e-book version, those errors could be corrected as soon as BioWare finishes correcting them, by re-issuing the e-book—they wouldn’t have to wait for the book to sell enough to merit another printing. (Indeed, with the negative publicity and rash of one-star reviews, it’s hard to imagine anyone being willing to buy it now.)  It could even replace the erroneous versions customers already have, as was done with Neal Stephenson’s Reamde. It’s not clear when or whether BioWare will do this, however.

It’s really puzzling how a book with this many errors made it past BioWare to begin with. Even if Dietz couldn’t be bothered to do his research, didn’t anybody in BioWare familiar with the game world background actually vet the thing? Or was it treated more like a movie novelization where the important thing is to get the book cover out there to advertise the impending new game? Regardless, with BioWare already having to push the release date of Mass Effect 3 back repeatedly, the company probably didn’t need this additional black eye.


  1. Argh this thoroughly sucks. I bought the ebook (kindle version) as a preorder due to the previous three books by Drew Karpyshyn. I did notice that the author had changed but thought it might not be a major thing.

    Now I find out that some writer couldn’t be bothered to do some research (I haven’t read it yet), this actually makes me a bit bitter.. It does not necessarily have anything to do with the EA tie in, but BioWare seems to be rushing out some of its projects lately. (An example would be their Dragon Age 2 game).

    I hope they end up fixing the book if it is as bad as the other fans say, and I somehow hope that Dietz does not get to write a tie-in novel for any respectable firms.

  2. I’m not really sure if I like the idea of “new versions” being something that comes to the written-media world. It’s already become accepted practice for game producers to release laughably-broken versions of things into stores and patch it into actual operation later. Now we’re gonna do that with books, too? “We know this book stinks right now, but you give us a few versions and we’ll get something that’s *awesome*!”

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