Mass Effect 3 beta leaks online

Xbox Live gaffe exposes single-player, multiplayer details for BioWare's upcoming sci-fi role-playing game; Microsoft issues cease-and-desist order.


Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3 is due for release on March 6, but over the weekend, a number of gamers got an unintended advance look at BioWare's next sci-fi role-playing game. On Friday, the client for Mass Effect 3's beta surfaced on Xbox Live, offering gamers a look at the single-player and multiplayer component of the upcoming game.

Commander Shepard is not yet ready for primetime.
Commander Shepard is not yet ready for primetime.

Though the beta client was quickly removed from Xbox Live, its contents were posted to Internet message forum NeoGAF. Of the more interesting details revealed in the leak was a new single-player option that lets players progress through the game in Action mode, Story mode, or RPG mode.

The beta version of Action mode sees story progression handled automatically, with combat progressing at a normal difficulty. Story mode lets players manually select their dialogue options while combat difficulty is tuned down. Lastly, RPG mode offers selectable dialogue options with a normal combat difficulty.

Other tidbits to be gleaned from the post reveal integration of EA's controversial new social platform Origin. The NeoGAF forum post, which has been preserved through Google cache, also contained a host of screenshots from the beta.

BioWare acknowledged the leaked content shortly after its appearance online, saying that a Microsoft employee inadvertently published the beta for those who had signed up to test the fall Xbox Live dashboard update.

"We'd like to stress that the leaked code is in a rough, unfinished state and was not meant for public release," BioWare producer Jesse Houston said. "The content is not final and is not reflective of the quality of the finished, polished game due for release on March 6, 2012 (March 9 in Europe)."

Houston also addressed the aforementioned new modes, saying that they are "still in the early stages of development and will receive considerable iteration and refinement." He also emphasized that Mass Effect 3 will support ways to play the game that cater to those interested in just the story, just the combat, or both.

And though BioWare's response to the leak could be seen as conciliatory, Microsoft's was decidedly less so. After the aforementioned NeoGAF thread disclosing details on the beta was deleted by forum administrators, a second thread questioning this move was created. As part of that thread, NeoGAF message board owner EviLore disclosed that his team had decided to remove the original, spoiler-rich thread after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Microsoft.

"We've gone through this sort of thing hundreds of times, and sometimes action is taken and sometimes it isn't, based on the circumstances, but it's dealt with internally," EviLore wrote. "This time Kagari apparently decided to leak news of the incident on Twitter without consent after I notified the team of what was going on, so now we have a scandal (perhaps justly) and now everyone gets to ask why I'm so Soft On Terror."

"It's handled in an informed manner in the best interests of the site on a case by case basis and is not up for debate or pending approval of a committee," he continued.

EviLore did not post the contents of the cease-and-desist letter sent by Microsoft and had not responded to a request for comment as of press time. A cease-and-desist letter serves as a warning of sorts, and it is not a formal notification that legal action has been initiated.

One way in which a cease-and-desist action would be enforceable is if the individual who posted the content were directly responsible for its initial leak. Alternatively, if the leak violated intellectual property rights by exposing trade secrets, a court could order its removal. The cease-and-desist letter does not need to state the grounds for the legal action.

BioWare expects to officially release the beta to a wider audience in January. Microsoft had not responded to a request for comment as of press time.

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