BioWare staff writer Patrick Weekes has defended the way the developer structures stories in its games, picking apart a tongue-in-cheek, fan-made "RPG Cliché Chart".
"So I'm supposed to believe someone is smart enough to do a big Excel spreadsheet with colour coding and stuff but not smart enough to know about Campbellian archetypes," Weekes wrote on the Mass Effect forums. (Joseph Campbell wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces - coincidentally a book David Cage talks about in our freshly-published interview)
"Yeah, guys, every BioWare game has the same plot! See, things are kind of normal, and then things change and you have to go out and do stuff, and you go to crazy weird places! Aaaaaand so yeah, totally the same story."
Weekes said the "intro, four planets, finale" structure familiar to BioWare games is picked for a number of good reasons.
Firstly, it's "easy" in the sense of QA, as areas can be culled if they're not ready in time for launch with minimal impact on the final product.
Secondly, "players understand it". Weekes explained that four is a golden number of objectives for an area that may confuse, overwhelm and frustrate once exceeded.
Thirdly, "There's nothing wrong with it."
"It's a structure, like any other," he wrote. "Humorously snarking that our games have a beginning part that is streamlined and introduces you to the game, a middle that allows you the freedom to go to several places and have adventures, and then a tightly focused ending is like riffing on how romance novels generally start out with two people being attracted to each other but having emotional issues, then gradually building trust, then having a complication that splits them up, and then in the end they get together and are happy.
"People who create fiction in any form use a structure appropriate to that form. They do it because their audience understands and responds on an emotional level to that structure," he concluded.
Website Hellforge compared the plots of the Baldur's Gate series, Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Be warned, spoilers are rife.