The realm of Mass Effect is vast, immersive, and full of lore that fans love to cling to. It’s also home to a lot of controversy over the last couple years the largest of which involving the ending of Mass Effect 3. But concept artist at BioWare, Matt Rhodes, has taken to his personal blog today, and shared some never before seen concept art and discussed some motivations behind the team’s decisions.
Beyond this point lie spoilers for all three games in the trilogy, so if you haven’t completed them, best look away right now.
One of the first controversies he tackled was the Human-Reaper at the end of Mass Effect 2. “The Collector ship and the Human-Reaper both took a very long time to design,” Rhodes said, “This biggest challenge was communicating the immense scale. These concepts were all part of the long discussion about scale, but also how abstracted the Human-Reaper would be. Early experiments leant more towards a fetus, others towards adult skeletal and muscular systems.”
In the slideshow above, you can see even more behind the scenes looks at various aliens from the franchise, including the infamous Shadow Broker and some Reaper enemy designs that “remain [his] favorites to this day.”
All of that pales in comparison to his thoughts on the ending of Mass Effect 3 which he prefaced with a good explanation of why the company has remained relatively tight lipped.
Okay, admittedly, I’ve kept these drawings far away from the internet for a while. That’s because they’re connected to controversy in one way or another. Please take them as they are: drawings done during development, posted for interest’s sake. I’ve been asked to comment on these subjects in the past but will continue to let the work speak for itself.
These were some of the first images drawn for the finale level. The original thought was to create a serene space in the middle of a pitched battle. I thought it would be interesting to create this golden lotus flower out of panels and protective foil.
As a fan of the series, the information up to this point couldn’t get much juicer. But then it did. Rhodes shared early concept art of Tali’s face. “Versions of her [Tali] were being worked on fairly often. These were three that I thought worked in their own way. Personally, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to push players to the edge,” Rhodes continued.
Tali was like a pen pal, or a friend you’ve only ever known online. Depending on how attached to her a player was, how well could they handle her appearance challenging their expectations? If she looked a little too alien, just a little too repellant, would they still feel the same way about her? Or did her personality and your history together trump appearances? It’s an interesting area to explore and I hope we can find other ways to ask that question.
But to him, Tali will always identify with the first concept that the team came up with. “To me, this has always been (and always will be) Tali. This was drawn during ME1 when she was first being designed, and when her appearance under the mask wasn’t a big deal yet.”
Rhodes goes on to discuss some of the concepts behind Dragon Age as well. If you’re interested in seeing more, and there’s plenty more to see, make sure to check out his blog!
Make sure to share you’re thoughts in the comments below, we’d love to converse about some of the revelations!