Interview With Gerry Pugliese for Mass Effect 3: Vindication

Earlier this week, Alissa covered the fascinating story of Gerry Pugliese, who rewrote the entirety of Mass Effect 3 in a giant 539 page PDF project named Mass Effect 3: Vindication. Gerry was gracious enough to take some time out of his schedule to answer a few questions I had after hearing about and reading it.

What made you want to create Vindication? Was it something that snowballed into this huge effort or did you have it all planned out from the start?

The endings were the biggest driver behind creating Mass Effect 3: Vindication, and, which has been widely covered by now, I want to work in the gaming industry. I felt I had the skills to create something Mass Effect super-fans would really enjoy, and simultaneously create a piece of work that might intrigue a gaming company enough to take a chance on me. But honestly, what really kept me going was the desire to put something out there that fans would appreciate, and hopefully like.

To say ME3V snowballed would be an understatement. I fell into my own trap. If I changed one thing, I often had to changes a series of things to keep it consistent. Best example I can give is making Khalisah a romance option. Sure, I had to add all the romance content for her, but I also had to make her fill Allers’s role on the Normandy, i.e. get her on the ship, doing news reports, interviewing Shepard, random comments, and conversations with Traynor. Nine times out of ten, one change meant fifty billion more changes.

How long did it take you to get all of your ideas together and written down to the point where you felt it was done?

I started ME3V in July 2012 and published it January 2014. Writing ME3V was never linear, I bounced around constantly. I would burn out on one section and jump to another, and back and forth, until I finished. Landing on earth was actually the final part I wrote, which isn’t quite the ending-ending.

Artist Jenny Burkhalter's take on Tali's face.

How did you see the series progress as tones shifted from game to game?

Mass Effect 1, if you get past the cumbersome gameplay, is amazing. ME1 is filled with intrigue and suspense – the sense of urgency never leaves you. Mass Effect 2, which I think is the best in the series, is a bit of diversion from the main plot, and definitely slowed things down. ME3 is somewhere in the middle, despite being in the middle of the war to end all wars, it never felt overly urgent, or desperate. The Reapers are killing everyone, but you (the player) still maintain a lot of control over the pace of the story. ME1 had the strongest feeling of impending doom.

How do you play the game personally? Male/female shep, classes, etc. What is your play style?

My main character is a male Shepard, default look, Sentinel, paragon. I do have a bunch of renegade playthroughs, but paragon suits me best. I have a hard time being a dickhead to people.

I like the Sentinel because of the versatility. Overload and Warp are good for taking down barriers and shields, and the Power Armor makes you tough to kill. However, the Power Armor is much better in ME2. I used it as a backup shield. In ME3, it doesn’t work as a backup shield and slows down your power recharge too much. I actually abandoned the Power Armor for the Defense Matrix. Again, I like a backup shield, mostly because I play like a maniac and throw myself into the thick of it – right up close and personal!

Jack and Shepard by Kelly Arnold

What are your favorite pairings out of the possible romances (and those you’ve outlined in Vindication)?

I’m a Liara fan. I even held out hope throughout ME2. I never strayed from her (with my main play-through, that is). I’m a sucker for awkward, nerdy, cute girls. However, my fem-Shep romanced Garrus. Garrus is probably my favorite character in the series. I relate to his character the most. So yeah, my fem-Shep loves some Turian booty.

I also applaud the Traynor and Cortez romance options. I fully support gay rights, and the inclusion of these romances shows how fair-minded and progressive BioWare is. I could go off on a tangent here. Gamers come in all shapes, sizes, and sexuality, the inclusion of same-sex romances is necessary. I will always tip my hat to BioWare on that.

Did you ever have ideas of including new, main characters into the story?

I backed off adding any new characters to the game. I felt that would be too pretentious – not to mention extremely difficult to write. ME3V works within the confines of the original game, a new character would likely end up feeling out of place. Making Primarch Victus female is the closest I came to a new character. That’s not to say I don’t have my own original ideas for games and characters.

Reaper Shepard by Tim Cutler

Do you think that there’s a way to redeem Mass Effect in the eyes of all those who were disappointed? This is speaking as though there will be another Mass Effect.

Mass Effect isn’t dead. Of course I think ME3V “saves” the series, so to speak, but if Mass Effect 4 is a solid game that stays true it its roots, and is comprehensive and rewarding, the series will be in good shape. But that is on BioWare; they have a brand image, both their own and the Mass Effect series as a whole, to rebuild. BioWare needs to pull out all the stops for ME4, or risk maligning a lot more of their fan-base.

What if players, such as myself and a good portion of the Twinfinite staff, liked the way ME3 ended? Do you think you can win us over?

If you like Destroy, Synthesis, and Control, there’s no reason not to like what ME3V does with the endings. I take that original dynamic and push it further. ME3V adds all sorts of variable-dependent outcomes onto the original system. It’s hard to compare ME3V’s interpretations of the endings with the original dynamic. BioWare offers a tiny seed of an idea with little exposition, whereas ME3V goes further – a lot further. ME3V gives you more. Who doesn’t like more?

Reaper Liara by Rebecca Weaver

Have you read the Indoctrination theory that was floating around and if so, what do you think of it?

The Indoctrination Theory is very, very interesting, and if it were true, ME3V wouldn’t exist. The Indoctrination Theory delivers a powerful dose of shock and awe, and would make for a chilling end to the series. So yeah, I think it’s cool. But I believe BioWare went on record and said that Shepard wasn’t indoctrinated, so that shoots the Indoctrination Theory to shit.

A lot of works of fiction are branching into transmedia and releasing canon plotlines through books or comics. Do you feel this adds or detracts from the overall experience of Mass Effect?

I think ME3V adds to the Mass Effect fan experience. ME3V is a huge book; there has to be something in there that might inspire someone else to write a piece of fan-fiction, or maybe their own original story. I’d be pretty damn humbled if it did. 

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What do you say to the people who are calling you arrogant for saying “I make ME3 a far better game than what the entire staff at Bioware spewed forth”?

I don’t pay attention to negative comments. Constructive criticism I love! But people being nasty, mean, or contrarian just for the sake of being outrageous, I could care less. If I wasn’t thick-skinned, I would have never started ME3V. Call me what you will, I don’t care.

Why title it Vindication? Are you just a huge Dashboard Confessional fan?

“Vindication” is an awesome word – just the sound of it! But seriously, I picked it because I set out to put ME3 right. I wanted to redeem the story. I think it evokes a feeling of coming back from the ashes, or maybe even a Rocky Balboa-type story. I like that.

 Now that you’ve finished this huge project, what are you going to be spending your time on? Any other game rewrites?

Well, I’m not quite done with ME3V yet. I still have the next phase of the project to finish. So I’ll be neck-deep in document formatting for the next week or so. And no, no plans to rewrite any more games – at least I hope not! As for the new found free time, not sure. This weekend I plan on watching the World’s End again.

You can download a copy of Mass Effect 3: Vindication HERE and follow Gerry and the ME3V team on Twitter.

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