BioWare: Mass Effect 4 Not Related to Shepard Events “Whatsoever”

There’s painting yourself into a corner and then there’s killing off your franchise’s lead character with an out-of-left-field twist that not only doesn’t make sense, it completely ruins any future storylines you want to write in that universe.

That worse-than-painted-into-a-corner spot is where BioWare finds itself, but it is still plodding ahead with Mass Effect 4.

Complex Gaming caught up with BioWare scribe Mac Walters at NYC Comic Con over the weekend, and the inevitable topics of Mass Effect 3′s ending and where Mass Effect 4 will possibly go came up. Here’s what Walters had to say about ME4:

“Well, I can’t get into details, but the idea is that we have agreed to tell a story that doesn’t relate necessarily to any of the Shepard events at all, whatsoever. Beyond that, that’s what we’ve been deciding for awhile. But throughout it all, one of the key things is that it has to be Mass Effect. It can’t just feel like a spin-off. It has to feel like a Mass Effect game at its heart, at its core. Just without the Shepard character or the Shepard specific companions.”

Here’s the thing, though. No matter how much it doesn’t relate to Shepard “whatsoever” it’s still a Mass Effect game, and after the ending of Mass Effect 3, it’s pretty well buggered. Create a prequel, or even set it in a completely different, unknown part of the universe with all new races, religions and tech, and fans of the franchise will know that the Star Child is out there somewhere, waiting to step in and render moot absolutely everything that takes place, even if he’s never so much as mentioned. Set it in the future, and the whole Control, Destroy, or Synthesize decision would have a massive impact on how the universe evolved.

Bottom line: there is simply no escaping the Star Child, and I have no clue how BioWare can pull off another Mass Effect without major issues unless it is willing to completely alter canon.

How about you? Where would you like to see Mass Effect go, and how do you think BioWare could do it?

And if you’re just catching up with this and wondering what a Star Child is, get up to speed with Game Front’s thorough Mass Effect 3 ending coverage.

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26 Comments on BioWare: Mass Effect 4 Not Related to Shepard Events “Whatsoever”

fethski

On October 15, 2013 at 10:02 am

I’d go the route Obsidian did with KOTOR 2 and set it in a future where the previous game didn’t need playing. I haven’t played KOTOR2 in a long time but from what I remember they mentioned that your character from KOTOR disappeared and nobody’s sure where they are at. Also set it far enough in the future so that even Liara and Grunt are dead. The Geth can still be in the game just retcon their deaths like they did with Leliana in DA2. Then as a personal favor to me keep the Reapers out of the game and keep all references to them to a minimum. Whatever mystery or mythos they had was destroyed by the end of ME3 and they just came off as lame.

Hanq

On October 15, 2013 at 10:55 am

BioWare has shot itself in the foot massively, and their little fantoys and media champions have ensured the series dies with the third game. ME4 can only ever be Mass Effect in name only, not just because of the fallout of the ME3 betrayal, but also on a purely practical level.

With the Extended Cut finally making it clear how each of the choices had different consequences other than the colour of the explosion, the game needs to either factor that into the beginning of ME4 – which is a logical nightmare – or set it so far into the future that Shepard’s choice no longer matters, which of course would mean the entire first three games don’t matter. If they retcon the ending completely then fans will ask why they couldn’t have just done that with the Extended Cut, plus it will be the final nail in the already tenuous but still clever and popular indoctrination theory; either way basically punishing the gamer for understanding the story better than Hudson and Walters did. If they set it parallel to what’s happening here or set it during the Geth/Quarian war or First Contact War or whatever, it doesn’t matter because we know it’s superseded by the reaper threat anyway. There’s no point in progressively making the stakes larger and larger only to reign them back in the third sequel to less than they were in the first game. And if they go millennia back then, again, it’s not important – we know that the ultimate fate of these people is either annihilation by the reapers or, at best, the events taken place at or near the start of Shepard’s cycle, in which case it’s still a massive step back from the original story.

BioWare’s butchering of a once-respected franchise is based purely on greed, stupidity, and a complete lack of regard for their most loyal and dedicated supporters in order to chase Johnny Fiveanddime who doesn’t care about the story that much anyway and just wants to shoot stuff. It’s supposed to be the other way around, a shallow IP can take on more impetus and more intricacy (e.g. GTA), but in this case all we have left is a corporate shell game that might as well be developed by the same team that makes Fifa or Madden.

The sooner this company finally dies, the better. It’s just so painful to watch.

Michael

On October 15, 2013 at 11:00 am

Why do they even bother. SWTOR is a failure. Dragonage will soon be as well and its all because they destroyed the Mass Effect franchise and there fan base. Who else is left to buy this game?

Underlaw

On October 15, 2013 at 11:12 am

Im from the future…and this will be the last game Bioware will produce. Even this “new” Dragon Age will not make a good impact…..time is running tick….. tack

GazH

On October 15, 2013 at 11:21 am

Where would I like to see the Mass Effect franchise go? Straight into the bin. They must be on something to think that a new Mass Effect game is going to score well with the fans. It’s certainly not something I’d be buying and I bought every game and every DLC, to the exclusion of ME3 DLC as that game basically killed the whole trilogy for me.

After the botch job of the ME3 ending, there’s no way I’d trust them with another story, the writers just aren’t up to the job. They did some great things with the Mass Effect games, but a great story deserves a great ending and they just weren’t capable of writing one. So why get invested in anything of theirs if the end is going to ruin the whole experience?

ted

On October 15, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Definitely be interesting how they set this up. If this is in the future there is no way the events during Sheperd’s wouldn’t have relevance to the ME 4. Literally was universe changing.

bigthegangstercat

On October 15, 2013 at 1:17 pm

You cannot have Mass Effect w/o Shepard. Shepard has been the key ingredient throughout the entire series. Taking out Shepard is just setting ME4 up for a a fail. Seriously it’s like trying to take out Master Chief entirely out of Halo and focus on Noble Six. It simply can’t be done, the people have incorporated Shepard into the Mass Effect series and now that Shepard is history the series itself is history. There cannot be a sequel no matter how hard they try, brace yourself people Bioware has dug their own grave and now it is up to us to bury them.

Maay

On October 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm

What I’d like is for Bioware to rewrite that ending properly, so any prequel, sequel, or alternate story not only makes sense, but get me back on the franchise. Sure they could make another FPS and some people would be dumb enough to buy it, or try setting a story without any of the characters we know (without reapers, star child, geths, etc…) in a different galaxy, and start from scratch, build a solid story and innovative RPG gameplay, but then why call it Mass Effect…
I personally WANT other games in that universe. I’ve loved that game so much, up to the point where we meet the Star Child. I’d be ready forgive, to happily forget about a massive blunder of unprecedented scale, to pay for many other well written stories, but on only one condition : rewrite that ME3 ending ! Fire Walters and Hudson if necessary, hire the writers of the better fan-made alternate endings, go on a soul searching meditation marathon, anything ! but please, please rewrite that ending !
Yes, rewriting an ending so long after the game release would also be remembered in gaming history, but that would at least show that there is courage left in that company, and some of that “we listen to our fan base” bull would finally make some sense. Better late than never !
Now, the fact that Walters and Hudson are still around, and that they are still not talking about rewriting that ending, makes me lose hope really really fast.

DinahtheCat

On October 15, 2013 at 1:29 pm

BioWare: Mass Effect 4 Not Related to Shepard Events “Whatsoever”

Me: Still not interested. /Cheer Cyberpunk 2020, Witcher 3!

Seriously did Mac Walters skip 9th grade Lit?

Kyle

On October 15, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Ten of thousands of people made it very clear that the standard of the writing to ME3′s ending – and the multiple PR attacks made by BioWare and the mainstream outlets – are not acceptable and that we’re not as stupid and apologetic as EA and BioWare would like to believe. Some of those stuck around after the DLC came out but they won’t forget how badly BioWare messed up to begin with. Many of us have also not forgotten that Mass Effect was promoted for a long time as being a trilogy, yet just months after the ME3 debacle (and without any apology or even a direct acknowledgement of the reasons for the backlash, rather a snobbish attempt to spin the DLC as great customer service when all they were doing was retroactively adding something they said would be in the game to begin with) they announced ME4, once again proving that they can’t be trusted.

People who still support this gang of liars and spivs while attacking those who don’t conform are the same types who’ll stubbornly defend their abusive partner and disown family that tries to intervene. I urge anyone in the company that still has a shred of self-respect and business ethics to leave and try to fund an indy dev of your own. It’ll be slow to start but the disenfranchised former BioWare fans will flock to your company while the blind hangers-on and casuals will eventually get bored of Hudson/Walters melodrama and leave them in the dust.

Franklin

On October 15, 2013 at 2:56 pm

And the slow realisation that in life your choices really do not matter

AxΣtwin

On October 15, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Before I get to my thoughts on the story, there is one other aspect that I feel needs to be addressed. They keep saying “it has to feel like a Mass Effect game”. The problem with that is the first three games were, from a gameplay standpoint, tonally different from one another. They have yet to establish a proper genre for the franchise, let alone “the feel”. The first game was very heavy handed with its RPG mechanics. The second, removed nearly the RPG side of things and wanted to be more straight up TPS. The third tried to bring back the RPG side of things but without sacrificing the TPS side, and it feel like a constant struggle for one or the other to be the dominant feature. So they can’t say the next game has to “feel like a Mass Effect game” when we as the players don’t know how the game is supposed to feel.

Moving on to the story side. There is, in my opinion, only one way they can go with the story. However, this one way does have two paths they can go, the second is a bit scary (not in a good way). They only way they can go is back. If they’re saying the next game won’t involve “the Shepard story” at all, then that means the next game is a prequel. Oh, also, because IGN at one point kept going on and on about how the next ME game needed to be a prequel. Since that site reads from the gospel of EA, we can expect them to have an inside track on things.

I digress. First of all, they can’t call the new game Mass Effect 4. Having a 4 there implies a direct sequel. Since they’re saying the next game isn’t a direct sequel, the next game will have a sub-title, like the new Dragonage game. Oh, also because a while back they said the next game wont be called “Mass Effect 4″. So what are these two paths I mentioned?

Well, the first path is a straight up prequel, probably involving the First Contact War. By straight up, I mean no twists and turns. Think Halo: Reach. If they go down this route, then I’m inclined to suspect they’ll also be cutting all RPG aspects out of the game so it’ll appeal mostly to TPS players and they can stand as a united force when the RPG players go “wait, where are the story choices to be had here?” and the defense can be “well this isn’t a RPG anymore, and TPS games rarely offer any alternate story based choices”.

The second path is the game starts off as a sequel to 3. Set sometime in the future, after a lot of technobabble between the Geth and Quarian’s, they discover time travel. One thing leads to another, and the player is sent back in time, probably to the start of……you guessed it, The First Contact War. HOWEVER, story based choices will still be intact which means it’ll be completely possible to alter history. Which also means, EA could use this as an opportunity to completely retcon the original trilogy and start fresh again. I know many of you are thinking that would be so incredibly stupid, they wouldn’t do that. However, you are forgetting that Casey Hudson, by this point in time, has his head, shoulder deep, squarely shoved up his own a$$. EA is so out of touch with the gaming community, they wouldn’t understand how this would be a bad thing.

Vazgen

On October 15, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I have posted this in the comments of the Facebook post but want to post it here as well.

“I’ll probably be in a minority but I really enjoyed the ending. That said, I completely understand the concerns of other fans. You see, I played the game for the first time with Extended Cut already installed and didn’t experience the BS that was the original ending (watched on YouTube). The only explanation I have for that is EA rushing Bioware to release the game. The game launch was delayed several times and it is possible that the publisher didn’t want to wait any longer. From the information they released about Dragon Age: Inquisition development so far I’m quite positive about the game, it seems they took into account all the numerous flaws of Dragon Age 2 and improved that areas dramatically. They have also make it open world, use Frostbite… What I’m getting at, is that aside from that original ending there is nothing to indicate that Bioware regressed as game developers (at least for me). The fact that they give information about new Mass Effect so early in the development speaks of their desire to keep in touch with the fans. I’m interested to see what they can come up with. I’ll be extremely impressed if they actually release a sequel and take into consideration the decisions in previous games. Inquisition will be using a separate online program – Dragon Age Keep, for setting up choices from previous games; they can use it in new Mass Effect as well. I think saying than any new Mass Effect game is destined to fail is wrong, the company released few of the most emotionally engaging and enjoyable games ever and disregarding them completely because of that original ending failure is not fair. For any game I wait some time after the launch to get user opinions on it and only then decide whether to get it or not. I think it’s only fair if I give the same chance to the company that created games that I enjoyed (and still enjoy) playing for 5-6 years.”

Guest

On October 15, 2013 at 4:01 pm

I’d argue actually that the only possible way they can make a credible fourth ME game is to go WAY back, perhaps even as far back as when the reapers were created or at least to the point where the mass effect fields were first created. However, EA and Hudson are so far removed from what Mass Effect originally was (I doubt they even know what the mass effect is, and neither do their new target audience) that there’s no reason to even call it Mass Effect apart from to try and profit from a franchise that’s already damaged goods. They would be much better off creating a whole new IP set in the same universe but that isn’t called Mass Effect. Sadly, that would require creating a cast of new characters and lore as opposed to leeching off the work of more talented writers in order to pedal prescriptive emotional dirge. I’d rather play another Alone in the Dark game than another Mass Effect game.

Ebalosus

On October 15, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Nice to know that I was right:

https://www.facebook.com/RetakeMassEffect3InitiativeLog/posts/444058675648470

To quote myself:
“Bioware will basically handwave the endings away into the backstory of the next game. No, really, that’s what they’ll do. Everyone will become unsynthesised, and the shepard controlled reapers will disappear. Sure, some minor backstory and universe features will be different depending on what you choose, but nothing substantiative will be different.

Think about it: how else would they write themselves out of the corner they wrote themselves into, while taking the endings into consideration? (Assuming ME4 is a sequel, of course)”

Roy Batty

On October 15, 2013 at 4:59 pm

It could work if the game is a comedy/parody of the ME universe which is what Biowaste turned it into – a joke.

Perhaps it will have Commander Casey Stupid and his merry band of bumbling sycophants wreaking havoc and derestriction. They will offer the mortally wounded game critics a box of Band-Aids as they explain “it’s art! So what if it is devoid of a coherent plot!”.

John

On October 15, 2013 at 5:33 pm

I personally didn’t like the ending to ME3, and won’t bash others that did like it……..At the end of the day there will be people who will try the game…….I won’t be one of them, but wouldn’t want to begrudge anyone from trying out the series. I had bought all the DLC and games made by Bioware until ME3, and then my interest tapered off so much I couldn’t even play SWTOR (which I kept to a one night a week maximum anyways), my whole psychology went from playing all the great games to only a few games, like Beyond Two Souls, as my latest example…..I will probably try out Star Citizen, but that and MWO are the only MMO’s I will make time in my life to play, unless the industry really comes out with a mind blowing concept down the road, which is generally few and far between anyways.

R.J.

On October 15, 2013 at 7:35 pm

I don’t think I can really trust them to make anything that “feels like Mass Effect” when apparently that ME3 ending must have also “felt like Mass Effect.” Either Mac Walters and Casey Hudson thought that three colors slapped on the same thing felt like Mass Effect or they thought everyone was stupid enough to accept that. Either way, their understanding is clearly lacking.

Aedelric

On October 15, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Not going to buy they destroyed the franchise, none of my friends will buy it either.

Also, Mac Walters? The most hated writer at Bioware? They should have fired his ass for alienating half the Bioware fan base with his dire writing skills. Knowing how they handled previous Mass Effect games, their idea of making it “feel like Mass Effect” will be just including a Liara cameo. If ever a character never needed to return for the third game, it was her.

Just thinking about Bioware and what they did to Mass Effect gets me seriously annoyed after all this time, that is some testament to their writing right there.

psycros

On October 16, 2013 at 11:19 am

Bioware is now to RPGs what CCP is to MMOs.

SweetPea

On October 16, 2013 at 2:34 pm

@Aedelric
Hey, don’t say that. She’s one of the few things that were good in ME3. Plus, Liara is one of the most loved characters, it would’ve been a bad idea not to include her.

Aedelric

On October 16, 2013 at 11:58 pm

You may not be the main reason why Bioware are going down the crapper SweetPea, but your type of mentality is certainly helping it happen.

Forcibly bringing back a character regardless of it making any logical sense stifles creativity as it forces writers to come up with a convoluted plot line to include them. Liara should not have been in Mass Effect 3 beyond a cameo, she was the Shadow Broker and as such had no sensible reason to be so heavily involved in Shepards story, beyond the fact that some fans like her. If they wanted he in three, then they should not have written her story arc into a corner and kept her as a simple archaeologist instead.

Same with Dragon Age, I see no reason as to why Liliana was in Dragon Age 2, especially since she was killed in one of my playthroughs. Bioware seem to be happy to -retcon player choices- to force these characters back into a story they should not be part of, it comes off as artificial and illogical.

It is essentially dreadful writing, something all too common with Bioware these days.

BioCunts

On October 17, 2013 at 3:35 am

Agreed, there were other characters who would have been much easier to bring back to Shepard’s crew than Liara, who was just about the last person who should have gone back given her newly established commitments as the Shadow Broker. The only reason she’s on the Normandy is fan service. Ironic really, given how much BioWare ended up disrespecting their fans with that sham of an ending.

The only way I can see a sequel being possible is if BioWare ignores the whole brainfart synthesis/destroy/control thing and sets the game after Shepard’s chosen to refuse all options – the only decent addition to the extended cut and one that should have already been present in the ending to begin with – and the next cycle has found Liara’s diary hologram thing (that’s how BioWare likely refers to it internally, so why should I bother learning what it’s really called?). The only problem then is that there was that stupid additional part about ‘the Shepard’ which gives away the fact that this new cycle ends up beating the reapers.

But hey, who cares about logic and literary credibility when there’s so much phantom money left to make?

SweetPea

On October 17, 2013 at 4:50 am

Yes, bringing Liara back doesn’t make a lot of sense story-wise. But who cares about Liara’s reason to come back, when the main plot is just so ridiculous? There are far bigger problems with the story than this.

They screwed up the main story, but Casey and Mac didn’t write the whole game. I believe Bioware can still write characters. There were some great dialogues. The crew interacting with each other was a great addition. There were great little side-stories, like the PTSD asari. At least I could enjoy these, unike the rest of the game. Note, that I’m saying these things AFTER playing the game, after I know how bad most of it is. I just don’t care about logic anymore, that’s why I also liked the Citadel DLC (youtubed it)

And no, my mentality doesn’t help Bioware going down the crapper in any way. I haven’t bought anything from them since ME3′s release and I certainly won’t buy ME4. I feel the same way as everyone else here.

Petyr

On October 17, 2013 at 6:31 am

There’s a certain amount of silliness that BioWare or any story-writer can get away with. Look under a microscope at even the best fiction and you’ll find mistakes or things that could have been done better, Citizen Kane being a prime example. So if the issues didn’t extend much further than a character being somewhere that maybe they shouldn’t be, it wouldn’t be a big deal especially if – as is the case with Liara – it’s there for well-intended reasons. Same goes in fact for one element of the ending that usually gets forgotten about because it takes place before the Catalyst is introduced – that being the presence of Anderson and the Illusive Man on the Citadel when it doesn’t make any logical sense whatsoever. Again though, if these were the only problems with the ending then, while they’d be laughed at, they’d be forgiven as having Anderson and TIM involved in the climax feels right. In fact, when the far superior MEHEM (Mass Effect Happy Ending Mod) was released for the PC, they didn’t bother changing that part. They just ended it with Shepard and Anderson sitting down, then added some action scenes with Joker and finally had the Destroy EC ending but with Shepard placing Anderson’s name on the memorial wall (which genuinely sent shivers down my spine) instead of a teammate placing Shepard’s name on the wall (which gave me no emotion whatsoever). So clearly you’re right in that individual errors or contrivances aren’t a big deal. The problem is that in the case of Mass Effect 3 there’s so many of these ridiculous mistakes in such a short, concentrated period of time that meant so much to the total product that everything else about it is suddenly enhanced and emphasised much more than it would be otherwise, so BioWare really only has itself to blame. In fact, Mass Effect 2′s writing looks even more suspect now as well, especially the pathetic Shepard death/resurrection plot point that received no development or focus whatsoever until a few passing comment in the third game, when that sort of technology (unseen in the rest of the trilogy) should have played a pivotal role in the series. Mass Effect 1 probably has its share of weaker moments as well, but it’s managed to come out of this moreorless unscathed, not least because it was before EA’s takeover and subsequent bastardisation of gameplay and story.

Aedelric

On October 17, 2013 at 6:59 am

You are right SweetPea, Bioware do have wonderful character writers, Mordin , Legion and many of the others were exceptionally well written. But then you get characters like Liara who have a complete change in personality between games are not their finest work. First game she is all innocent and the second game when you first meet her she inexplicably acts out of character threatening someone “Either you pay me or I flay you alive… with my mind.” Such a change was forced into the game to liven up a boring yet favorite character, Garrus was kinda boring in the first game, second game he became a badass best friend forever.

They have a problem with inconsistency, perhaps due to different writers taking over different characters over different games probably no coincidence that during that time Casey/Walters receiving ever more prominent roles at Bioware, bring back Karpyshyn, it only ever went down hill since he left.

As for Mass Effect 3 ending and forced drama… urghh. Their is a reason as to why I only have Mass Effect 1 is still installed on my hard drive since 2007, its squeal lasted till the end of the DLC releases and the third game was removed a minute after completing my first and only playthrough.

I am still bitter after all this time, I love Mass Effect so and it irks me that they ruined it.