Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mass Effect 4: Wishlist

What we know: Development progress, release date, engine and more

Although both EA and BioWare have confirmed a new entry in the Mass Effect series is in development, the game has not yet been officially revealed. As such, we're very light on actual details.
Luckily BioWare's developers are quite chatty and have given us some tiny morsels of information to use as jumping off points for wild spectulation and fantasising, which is what we do best here.
So, what do we know so far? Well, we know that it actually might not be called Mass Effect 4 and BioWare really doesn't like it when people call it that (for now, we're going to continue calling it that until there's an actual name, sorry BioWare).
Speaking to fans via the official BioWare forums, community manager Chris Priestly said that calling it Mass Effect 4 was doing the game a disservice.
"To call the next game Mass Effect 4 or ME4 is doing it a disservice and seems to cause a lot of confusion here. We have already said that the Commander Shepard trilogy is over and that the next game will not feature him/her," he said.
"That is the only detail you have on the game. I see people saying 'well, they'll have to pick a canon ending'. No, because the game does not have to come after. Or before. Or off to the side. Or with characters you know. Or yaddayaddayadda. Wherever, whenever, whoever, etc will all be revealed years down the road when we actually start talking about it."
Confirmation of a new Mass Effect project was first given in September 2012, when BioWare said it is in development alongside a new IP for "built from the bottom-up with all new gaming technology".
"The Mass Effect universe is vast, and [Executive Producer Casey Hudson] and our teams have plans for another full game," confirmed BioWare Edmonton and Montreal general manager Aaryn Flynn Flynn.
The sequel/prequel/whatever-it-is was teased in November 2013, when key staff, from series producer Michael Gamble to executive producer Casey Hudson and BioWare Montreal studio director Yanick Roy, took to Twitter to post a number of images of staff at work on "the next chapter of Mass Effect".
EA has said BioWare Montreal is principal developer on the new Mass Effect, with original developer BioWare Edmonton now working on a brand new IP.
Interestingly, Mass Effect game will share "core systems" with Dragon Age 3: Inquisition, which will launch on October 7. While the release of a new Mass Effect is like some time away, the similarities mean that the next Dragon Age could be a good indication of what to expect.
In December 2012 it was reported thatMass Effect 4 release date will fall in the 'late 2014 to mid-2015' release window, but BioWare quickly debunked the rumor and branded the reports as inaccurate.
Although BioWare has since updated us to let us know the new Mass Effect is "somewhere in the middle" stage of development, we still haven't heard a peep about gameplay, story, setting or much of anything else for that matter.

What we want: Returning characters, multiplayer, more RPG hooks and more
While it was great to see Mass Effect go from a risky new IP to one of the most beloved properties in gaming, the growth in popularity was a bittersweet pill to swallow for fans of BioWare's classic games and RPG purists.

With each new entry, the gameplay elements that got cranked up the serotonin levels in RPG fans were progressively stripped away, leaving a streamlined, action-focused experience that - while no doubt impressive - lacked the extra depth of stat-driven role-playing.

If we're being realistic, the Mass Effect fanbase is probably too broad to re-introduce those elements. and such elements could risk alienating them, but games like Fallout 3 and Skyrim are evidence that there's still demand for honest-to-goodness, number-crunching, equipment-managing role-playing.

We'd love to see some of those classic RPG mechanics re-introduced for the next Mass Effect.

Although it's a big ask, we think the solution is creating two versions of the same experience, one where the intricacies of weapon and ability stats are exposed and open to fine-tuning by the player, and one where the game takes care all of that behind-the-scenes for the noobs casual players.

Even in Mass Effect 3 it felt like the game was crunching those numbers under the hood, it was just that none of us got to see it. In our ideal world we can select the hardcore mode and see how powerful each weapon is, and upgrade them as we'd like. We'd be able to fiddle with individual character stats and - yes, organise our massive inventory (we actually miss that).
A strong argument could be made that Shepard is in fact the least interesting character in the Mass Effect universe. This is more a compliment to BioWare's ability to create fascinating secondary characters than a slight against its leading man or woman.

Although BioWare wants a clean break from Shepard's story we think there's still a good opportunity to delve into the history of supporting characters such as Garrus, whose days in C-Sec are referenced numerous times during the main trilogy but never really explored.

Wrex is a fierce Krogan Battlemaster and supposedly the most famed bounty hunter the battle-bred humpback warrior race has ever produced, but we've never been privy to the exploits that earned him this notoriety, and would very much like to experience them ourselves.

Perhaps Saren who, before the age of Commander Shepard, was held up as the most acclaimed Spectre of all time could take centre stage. It would certainly be interesting playing the character while knowing corruption and indoctrination lies in his future.

Similarly, Thane is an intergalactic hitman. A character - to steal that wonderful line from Blade Runner - who has seen things you people wouldn't believe. Imagine a Mass Effect type experience combined with Hitman: Blood Money-like gameplay, where you've got to scope out targets, figure out the various ways of taking the mark out and then executing the best one.

The Mass Effect universe is overflowing with characters that deserve some time in the spotlight. That's a testament to the game's fantastic writing. Perhaps BioWare can delve deeper into its own characters.
Alternatively, the fourth entry in the series could jump into the future and let players experience the consequences of their actions first-hand, but through the eyes of a character that was born many cycles later.

It would be very fitting of a BioWare game and, with some creative writing, could be a great way to carry forward all the decisions players have made in the trilogy thus far, as well as trade off the hundreds of hours of investment players already have in some of the characters.

At the end of Mass Effect 3, the entire mass relay network is heavily damaged. Although it would be interesting to see how the various races adapt without functioning relays, lore boffins will know that damaged relays could potentially devastate nearby planets and wipe out life. From both angles, the impact of the relay system's destruction could yield some fascinating stories.

The Mass Effect 3 ending left a number of questions BioWare could take a crack at addressing.

We'd love to see BioWare explore what happens to cultures and social hierarchies when the relay system collapses. What does everyone do with all that defunct technology? What happens when formerly warring races and factions are forced to live side-by-side? How did people come to terms with and handle something like synthesis?

We want answers, especially since that second question could result in the creation of a bunch of new races.
Mass Effect 3's multiplayer was a pleasant surprise for us.

What we expected was a tacked-on multiplayer comprised of the usual team deathmatch, free-for-all and capture the flag gameplay modes. But what we actually got was a honest-to-goodness horde co-operative multiplayer mode based on the wave-based survival mechanics of Gears of War 2 (and others). And best of all, it could be played co-operatively online.

Going online with a group of friends, each playing as a different class, and then working together to wipe out increasingly difficult enemy waves using the key strengths of each class had the same kind of feel as playing Team Fortress 2 with a group of buddies that know what they're doing. It was an exhilarating experience that was difficult to step away from thanks to a drip feed of new DLC.

We'd love to see BioWare expand on the multiplayer, and take its cues from games like League of Legends and Monday Night Combat. Players could group up and then attempt to fight their way through massive maps with the goal of reaching the other side and destroying a key area. Like creep mobs in a MOBA enemies would endlessly respawn, with harder varieties entering the fray as the game progresses.

To keep things interesting, each kill would be rewarded with experience and, at milestones, a new ability in the skill tree could become available. Of course, the player would be able to pick their path of progression to suit their playstyle or the needs of their team.

We'd also be up for a competitive mode that uses the same format, but also drops in another human-controlled squad that will inevitably clash at some point during the battle.
CUSTOMISATIONWe played through each Mass Effect title three times. The first time was as a good character, the second as a bad character and the third as a fugly character.

Yes it's a silly thing to want, but some our fondest Mass Effect moments were going into matters of life and death, or engaging in diplomatic discussions with aliens with our deformed, discriminatingly ugly character.

For the next Mass Effect we'd like to see BioWare give us more customisation options, both for our equipment and our characters.

Games like Forza have shown that, when given the opportunity, the variety of customisations the gaming community is able to create is absolutely stunning. We'd love to be able to draw up our own armour sets, or download some from an in-game store of some sort. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has an entire economy built around users creating and selling weapon decals, BioWare could have the same.

On top of that, we'd like to be able to create our own character from scratch and pinch features from other races. Of course, it'd be mad to ask for the ability to play as a Hanar character - combat would be out of the question, but we would kill to have our hero speak using the Hanar voice (maybe he/she has some Hanar ancestry, who cares, what ever it takes to make it happen!).

Basically, just let us create horrifying looking main characters for lulz, alright BioWare? Thanks.

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