According to a BioWare Pulse interview with Mass Effect 3 Lead Writer Mac Walters, the next installment in the Mass Effect series is going to be the biggest. Walters states that one of the developer goals for the game was to treat it like a movie, making a much larger point of developing story and characters, especially the character of Commander Shepard.
Walters is quick to note that even though there is back-story to the game, whether you know about it or not isn’t especially important. ME3 still allows first-time players to jump in, while allowing veteran players to dig deeper into the story. Walters promises an experience with a story like no other, asserting that the development team has gone all out with regard to the depth of writing and the emotional impact. He notes, “When a video game can make you feel something but also be fun and entertaining, then I think we’ve done our jobs.”
As for Commander Shepard, Walters hopes that players can establish more of an emotional connection with their in-game surrogate. He states, “In ME3 one of the big things we want to be able to do is to really deepen Shepard as a character. So you really get to express what your Shepard is feeling and going through throughout the war.” This time around, it’s not all about awesome guns and fighting aliens – Walters truly wants to stress the humanity that the writers want to put into the game.
Yeah, it’s a war, yeah it’s got giant robots we get to shoot in the face, but there is a human side to the story. You are role-playing, and you are role-playing as a human. Why shouldn’t that human have an emotional component throughout the game?
One of the big draws for Bioware games, however, has been that the player can decide how their character “feels” about things; their character can be a blank slate that they can imaginatively mold into whatever kind of person they want. Maybe the Commander Shepard I want to play takes a cue from honey badger and just doesn’t care. Will this new focus on Shepard’s humanity shift the control of defining who he is as a person from the hands of the player and instead has the writers predetermine it?
Walters does seem to say that decision-making will still play a big role in this new installment, but we’ll have to see how that plays out with this new re-imagining for Commander Shepard.