Watch it again, because it's awesome.

The Big News

It started with a tweet from Executive Producer of the Mass Effect trilogy, Casey Hudson:

You can spot my quick response in the 3rd and 4th responses, more on that later.

Then studio director Yanick Roy of Bioware Montreal, a close but separate Bioware studio from the makers of the original trilogy, confirmed in a blog post that they were in the very early stages of working on a new Mass Effect title. He makes it clear in the blog post that the studio started by filling in the gaps and helping out with the productions of the second and third Mass Effect titles: cinematics, the one-off N7 missions, and post-release downloadable content. Presumably the main Bioware studio has switched to working on Dragon Age III, and passed the Mass Effect franchise onto the Montreal studio.

Given the popularity of the series it came as no surprise that Bioware was going to work on another installment, despite the storyline being wrapped up in the third game. The trilogy was always about the main protagonist, Commander Shepard, and his fight against the impeding doom of the Reapers, but the universe that Bioware created is so rich and interesting that I can't help but feel incredibly optimistic about any future games set in the best science fiction universe created since Star Wars.

Angry Nerds are Angry

I'm not going to spend this blog post discussing the beaten-to-death Ending Controversy, but suffice to say that Bioware took their licks after gamers, riding high on the incredible choice driven and life or death ending of Mass Effect 2, felt utterly let down after the much hyped up ending of the trilogy ultimately came down to a relatively monogamous A, B, or C choice of an ending. For a series built on choices and consequences carrying over from one game to the next, it was understandable that anything short of a giant multi-faceted web of ending sequences would come across as a disappointment. I believe its a testament to how beloved the franchise had become when people used words like "hurt" and "betrayed," though much of it was the very annoying sense of gamer entitlement that we all become guilty of to some degree.

The hope, of course, is that Bioware listened to the feedback. It would've been impossible not to. They were vocal during the whole release period and the aftermath. They even released a free Extended Cut add-on to better explain and extrapolate some of the ending cinematics, which this writer is sad to say he still has not played (but according to friends it didn't add all that much). Bioware has stayed committed to releasing free multiplayer content for months after release, as well as some additional paid single player adventures.

Despite any misgivings over the ending, Mass Effect 3 was a fantastic experience and the trilogy as a whole is unlike anything I've ever played both in its unique combination of third person shooter and role playing mechanics and its epic, grandiose, cinematic style story telling and incredibly detailed and interesting universe. (see my previous write up of the game and the trilogy) So what does this mean for the future?

The Future of the Franchise

The Mass Effect Trilogy is Shepard's story, and his or her story is finished, along with the conflict with the reapers. The problem arises from the myriad of choices the player can choose along the way, the different events that spawn from those choices, and ultimately how the reapers (and entire races and civilizations) are dealt with. It would be incredibly difficult for Bioware to set the next game directly after the events of ME3 taking into account the state of the universe and the differences depending on the game state the player left it in.

Nobody, however, wants a prequel even though it's the easiest way to go. There are some interesting stories that could be told, like the First Contact War between humans and turians, or the galaxy-wide war between everyone and the rachni, or the subsequent krogan rebellions that took place afterward.

But prequels are dumb. We know how these events played out, and picking up with a new superhero-like protagonist that was never mentioned before would ring hollow. There is another option in time period: you could set another game during the events of the Reaper Invasion. The Invasion lasts throughout all of ME3 and involves most of the known universe. While Shepard does his or her thing, running around various homeworlds and solving centuries old conflicts between races, the player could control any number of characters fighting their own battles. You could set it on an apocalyptic Earth and control a squad of heroes designed to rescue people and fight off the invaders, ultimately buying time until Shepard can return.

Or what about borrowing inspiration from the beginning of Dragon Age: Origins? If Dragon Age 2 essentially took the story mechanics from the Mass Effect franchise in building a singular, fully voiced protagonist, then a future Mass Effect game could do the opposite. Use the character creator from Dragon Age: Origins to craft a protagonist that is entirely our own. Allow us to choose from one of the many interesting and diverse races of the ME universe; let use dictate their back story and their skills and abilities, then have all their stories eventually intersect into a great story that the franchise is known for. Apparently many other fans agree.

Playable asari, krograns, turians, salarians, hell even volus, hanar, and elcor would make for an incredible gameplay opportunity. The problem with the silent protagonist that DA:O suffered from would rear its ugly, awkward head here, and it might be too much of a pipe dream to wish that each of these race/gender combos could be fully voiced.

What about an entirely different genre? Nothing says that every Mass Effect game need be a shooter/rpg hybrid. As I mentioned earlier, what about a tactical squad-based game like XCOM? Or a sweeping real time strategy game involving grand space battles and planetary conquests? Or an Adventure/Survival game where the crew of the crashed Normandy attempt to discover answers on their unknown planet at the end of ME3. I know a lot of ME fans might cry foul at a shift in genres, but I truly believe that the world of Mass Effect is so awesome that it shouldn't be limited to just one type of gameplay. Think of the myriad of Star Wars games we've experienced over the years, from pause and play RPG Knights of the Old Republic to pod racing games to action games like The Force Unleashed.

Every Mass Effect game should continue the trend of rich, diverse characters


I'm prepared to take a lot of flak for this, but after sinking 100 hours into just the multiplayer component of Mass Effect 3, I'm confident that a multiplayer focused Mass Effect title could be really amazing. Setting it during the reaper invasion already gives you the perfect us vs them co-op dynamic. I can also envision a battlefield-like ME game with vehicles and squads, and its here where a prequel title could work really well as the wars are already there to be fought. Player vs player combat would need to be carefully balanced with all the biotic powers capable of throwing players around like rag dolls, and vehicle combat would have to be built from the ground up as Bioware took some missteps with the Mako and Hammerhead. And what about using that unique opportunity to add in some awesome multiplayer space battles?

I want to stress that any multiplayer focused titles should not come at the expense of more great singleplayer entries into the series, however, and should be considered off-shoots, preferably subtitled instead of part of the numbered series.

It's pretty popular.

Have Faith

Whether you've been cringing at my rambling ideas or fist pumping, we must have faith that Bioware Montreal can handle the franchise with the love and respect it deserves. It took a lot of beatings in the aftermath of Mass Effect 3, and Bioware now feels like they have a lot of goodwill to gain back. Ultimately, Mass Effect will be considered one of the greatest new gaming franchises created this generation, and the trilogy changed how we look at video game storytelling forever. We can only hope that distinction is not sullied by future entries, and Casey Hudson's tweet fishing for fan input is a step in the right direction.

I'm pressing all the keys!