The Xbox Live leak of Mass Effect 3 DLC From Ashes posed a dangerous question: did BioWare snip the extra squad member from the full, finished game in order to have something to offer Collector's Edition owners - and something to sell - on launch day?
According to Mass Effect series overlord Casey Hudson, and ME3 producer Michael Gamble, the game was - for all intents and purposes - finished before work on DLC began.
"It takes about three months from 'content complete' to bug-fix, certify, manufacture, and ship game discs," explained Casey Hudson on Twitter. "In that time we work on DLC.
"DLC has fast certification and no manufacturing, so if a team works very hard, they can get a DLC done in time to enjoy it with your first playthrough on day one.
"On ME3, content creators completed the game in January and moved onto the From Ashes DLC, [which is] free with the Collector's Edition or you can buy it separately."
Producer Michael Gamble explained on the BioWare forum that a "separate team" made From Ashes after the "core game" was finished.
HERE BE SPOILERS.
The From Ashes DLC contains a Prothean team mate, an adventure on Eden Prime, a new weapon and an alternate appearance for every squad made. It costs 800 Microsoft Points.
Protheans are vitally important to the lore of Mass Effect 3. They built the Mass Relays that fast-tracked humankind's science programme and enabled them/us to live in space. Protheans built the Citadel, and they're central to the storyline of Mass Effect 2.
Understandably, some fans are irate they'll have to pay money - either buying the Collector's Edition (sold out in many places) or paying for day-one DLC - to enjoy what they see as a key piece of game content.
Michael Gamble (no relation to Dumbledore) discussed: "The Collector's Edition has been advertised from the beginning as containing a bonus character and mission, but we were not at liberty to provide the details.
"The Prothean is optional content that is certainly designed to appeal to long-time fans, which is why he is part of the CE offering (the version many fans would be likely to purchase). Mass Effect 3 is a complete - and a huge game - right out of the box.
"[All] I can tell you is that a team of us poured our heart into this DLC after we had given all we could to finish the the ME3 game. We pushed hard because we wanted people to be able to experience this adventure on the first day, rather than day-30 or 60. We're proud of it, and if you choose to play it, I think you'll see that."Michael Gamble, producer, Mass Effect 3
"The Collector's Edition has been sold out in most places for some time now, and is becoming very hard to find (many players prefer not to purchase the digital version). As such, we wanted to make this content available so that Standard Edition buyers could also incorporate the Prothean into their game."
A paltry 96 pages later, Gamble reappeared (no not in a puff of smoke).
"I've read all 96 pages of this thread. Contrary to popular thoughts, we really do care what you guys have to say," he wrote.
"Casey [Hudson] and I have explained how the development time-line on these DLC go, and in order to have our DLC flow with the main game, we do have to integrate the voice over into certain places in the core product - certain ME2 DLCs followed this same pattern. But there's a lot of work to crafting a great DLC, outside of the VO and script.
"That said," he added, "[all] I can tell you is that a team of us poured our heart into this DLC after we had given all we could to finish the the ME3 game. We pushed hard because we wanted people to be able to experience this adventure on the first day, rather than day-30 or 60. We're proud of it, and if you choose to play it, I think you'll see that.
"I really do appreciate every person who wants to give ME3 a chance (even if you're not happy with me right now!), and even without 'From Ashes', I think you will be blown away."
BioWare will be releasing some images and a video for the From Ashes DLC "in the coming days".