Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spoken to quite a few people who have, at some point, worked on the Mass Effect series at BioWare. Several of these developers now work on completely different projects at other studios, although I thought it would be worth asking them if they’d ever return to Mass Effect. In most cases, the answer was yes – but it often came with the same condition.
While almost everyone I spoke to answered with some variation of “yes, if…” three different developers specifically mentioned that they’d love to work on a game like Elite Dangerous, but in the Mass Effect universe. For what it’s worth, these answers all came independently of one another – none of these developers knew that their former colleagues had the same idea in mind.
“Under the right circumstances, yes,” Mass Effect 3 senior gameplay designer Patrick Moran tells me after being asked if he’d return to the series. “The technology exists now to really connect the world seamlessly, with examples like No Man’s Sky, Elite [Dangerous], and even Everspace 2. I’d love to have a more seamless transition through the world than navigating a map.
“I also believe AI is a big unexplored area for triple-A gaming. Rimworld is a great example of tracking history between characters, having personality traits, and allowing the player to develop deep connections to those characters. I’d love to explore a similar system for generic NPCs, so they are more than vending machines and dialogue tree bots. I believe the next 20 years will result in NPC AI which will dwarf anything we thought possible.”
Funnily enough, Moran wasn’t the only dev who has been thinking about these ideas since leaving BioWare. At the time of writing, two other ex-BioWare developers have echoed his thoughts – again, without knowing that they are all on the same page.
“I would work in the Mass Effect setting again,” Mass Effect 2 and 3 writer Jay Turner tells me. “It’s a fun setting to think about and populate with characters. I’d love to see an open-world game where you’re a trader/pirate type, like Elite Dangerous but in the Mass Effect universe.” You’ll probably be interested to know that Turner was the writer who created Kasumi, and also worked on Omega alongside Neil Pollner. What I mean is, he’s definitely qualified to write person to write a “trader/pirate” narrative in Mass Effect.
It’s worth noting that we recently reported on a Han Solo-inspired Mass Effect spin-off that was cancelled prior to Mass Effect 2, which would have likely fit this mold perfectly. But, as Moran says, the advancements in tech and AI mean that a modern or future game based on a similar concept could be much better, meaning that the fact this game was never actually made could be a blessing in disguise.
Dorian Kieken, who was development director on Mass Effect 2 and 3, before becoming franchise development director in the early days of Andromeda, also said he’d return to the series. He said after a decade working on Mass Effect, he developed a certain kind of franchise fatigue – but now, enough time has passed that he’d like to work on a new adventure in this universe.
“I like the idea of exploring a ‘grayer’ character, akin to a smuggler/pirate type in the Mass Effect universe,” Kieken says. “It also allows [us] to see the world from a different point of view than the one of the chosen super soldier. It’s a bit like exploring the Star Wars universe without being a Jedi or the Warhammer 40k universe without being a Space Marine.”
When I told Kieken that other devs had mentioned similarly grey, smuggler-esque characters, he said he wouldn’t be surprised if these people were on the team that explored the Han Solo concept.
“I think having ‘grayer’ types of characters, defined as not being aligned with the universe’s good or bad guys, and also not attached to any major factions like pirates, allows you a large breath of exploration that you don’t have when you are the savior of the galaxy,” Kieken explains. “Think of the story freedom you have in TV series like the Mandalorian or FIrefly thanks to mercenaries or smuggler character archetypes.”
So, there you have it. As it stands, none of these three people work at BioWare – however, all of them have said they’d be more than happy to return under the right conditions (as many other devs have also told me), and they’ve already got an idea for the exact kind of Mass Effect game they’d like to make. I’m not sure about you, but I’m 100% here for “Elite Dangerous, except it’s Mass Effect.”
Hell, you could even model it on Cowboy Bebop – now there’s an idea that could live up to the original trilogy..
Next: A Mass Effect Multiplayer FPS “Similar In Scope To Battlefield 1943” Was Cancelled A Decade Ago
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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
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