Hypothetical ME4: What Not to Do

By Bob Case Posted Saturday Mar 7, 2020

Filed under: Mass Effect 103 comments

Before we get into what to do we have to get into what not to do. There are several ideas that I bet the head honchos at Bioware are currently considering, and before I do anything else I have to talk them out of them, because they’re bad. Let’s go through them in order.

“Let’s reboot Mass Effect and make it an MMO/MOBA/Battle Royale/whatever”: Let’s do this one first, because I know you have to be thinking about it. Your thinking is probably a combination of “if the problem is the ending, let’s just rewind the timeline” and “MMO’s make lots of money.” First of all, the ending isn’t really the problem. You sent players to a whole other galaxy in Andromeda and the game was still a disappointment. We’ll try to nail down the real problem later, but it’s not the ending. Second, World of Warcraft made a lot of money. League of Legends makes a lot of money, Fortnite makes a lot of money. And for every one of those, there are a half-dozen flops.

You should know this. The Old Republic wasn’t exactly a flop, but it didn’t make the dent in the market you hoped it would, even with the Star Wars license. Anthem did worse. Announce a Mass Effect MMO and everyone will brace themselves for disappointment, including me. Instead, I declare that you must spend forty years in the wilderness of single-player, to rediscover the virtues of peasant labor. Or if not forty years maybe thirty-six months or so.

“Let’s hire a bunch of twentysomething writers for cheap”: You really have to stop doing this so much. You know I’ve noticed about Bioware’s writers, and game industry writers more generally? They’re young. Patrick Weekes was one of the writers on Mass Effect (he now works on Dragon Age I believe). He’s older now, obviously, but I remember seeing a picture of him back during the ME2 days. He looked like he would get carded at a Starbucks, and he’s not alone. The industry habit is to hire a bunch of fresh-out-of-their-creative-writing-majors, because they’re so eager and they’ll work for peanuts. You can hire some of those, but you need to also hire some people experienced enough to get hangovers, and pay them a fair salary too.

Some of you are already hearing the galaxy map music in your heads.
Some of you are already hearing the galaxy map music in your heads.

This is important. The assembly-line, do-it-for-cheap approach to games writing is a direct contributor to its overall poor quality industrywide. I’m a fiction writer myself, in that I write fanfiction and show it to no one, and I can tell you that I often wince when I read things I wrote in my twenties. Writing is like any other skill, you get better with practice. You understand this in other parts of game development; programming leads seem like the types of people who know about high-end scotch or use standing desks for their back problems. And you know what? I’d say the quality of programming in the industry is pretty good overall. Games are sometimes buggy sure, but they generally work. I wish I could say “games are generally well written,” but the truth is they aren’t, and I doubt they ever will be if you keep trying to write games on the cheap.

Don’t think of it as spending, think of it as investment. There’s a game columnist called “The Spy” (they don’t reveal their real name) who summarized the Mass Effect formula as “space plus feelings equals dollars.” Half that equation is feelings! Invest extra into writing, and you’ll get good returns. Keep in mind that if you don’t I’m not legally liable, but still.

“Let’s spend years in preproduction!”: I’m not entirely sure how something like this happens, but apparently it does for some reason. If, after one year, you’re still not sure what kind of game you want to make, you probably never will be.

“Let’s crunch!”: And now for the opposite problem. Stop fucking crunching so much! Are you not aware that that overworking your employees will backfire in the end? It’s not just me saying this, it’s the Harvard Business Review. They’re not the only ones either. I found that article by googling “studies on overwork,” I could probably find five similar ones in just a few minutes. The consensus is pretty strong: overworking doesn’t. It leads to burnout and turnover, and offices staffed almost entirely by the equivalent of entry-level employees. If you’re going to ask to people to do a complicated, difficult thing like making a videogame, you need to make sure they have some room on their schedule for sleeping and downtime. Also, EA: aren’t you at least a little bit sick of people not liking you? Start treating your employees better and you may be surprised at how much good publicity you get.

You know what Bioware's still good at? Making cool looking stuff. The armor, ships, and environments were all strong. Some of their artists are holding it down up there in Canada.
You know what Bioware's still good at? Making cool looking stuff. The armor, ships, and environments were all strong. Some of their artists are holding it down up there in Canada.

Downtime is not wasted time in a creative endeavor, and game development is a creative endeavor. Even things like programming and managing a pipeline are creative endeavors on some level. Ease off on the crunch, and give your people full time and a half for it to keep yourselves honest.

If you don’t, you’ll keep having Andromeda-style polish problems like the near-identical alien faces described here by a poster called “biscuitsntea.” Look upon the wages of crunch, and despair.

“Let’s go back to what works. We’ll just do all the stuff fans haven’t complained about yet over again.”: This is a dangerous game to play. The Mass Effect formula is starting to creak. You’re even running out of names. You keep using “conduit” for things and it’s only a matter of time before you call something a “catalyst” or a “crucible” again, hoping we won’t noticeWhat is it with Bioware and c words?. “Meridian” made me roll me eyes a little and I’m pretty sure it’s the first time you’ve used it.

I can already picture the protagonist in my head: a power fantasyAt one point in ME3 Shepard headbutts a Krogan and it works. with a two-syllable last name or nicknameShepard, Ryder, the Warden, I guess Hawke was only one syllable so he’s off the hook. who gets some kind of technobabble sci-fi based powerThe Prothean Cipher, the Darkspawn Taint, SAM. in the first act. I can go on. Cass Marshall of Polygon wrote about Anthem:

“…an endless stream of incoherent lore. I’m a Freelancer, working with Cyphers who are aboard Striders heading into a Cataclysm caused by Shaper technology that harnesses the Anthem of Creation. I must get past the Titans to find the Cenotaph at the center of the Heart of Rage. Later, I will have to contend with Scars, Arcanists, the Monitor, and Corvus.”

Some of you are hearing Garrus's voice in your head now too. Isn't it a relief?
Some of you are hearing Garrus's voice in your head now too. Isn't it a relief?

This leads nicely into the next thing you shouldn’t do, which is:

“Let’s make everything bigger and more epic”: Us nerds don’t want big and epic as much as you think we do. Over the last ten years I’ve been utterly bombarded with epic. The Hobbit trilogy is one of the most epic things I’ve ever seen. It ain’t any good though. The Marvel people snapped away half the damn universe trying to get me to feel something, and I only cared a little bit because I knew there was no way Spider-Man was actually dead. Only copyright disputes can kill a character that lucrative. Thanos never stood a chance.

Unless you’re willing to get ridiculous with it, like the Fast and the Furious movies, epic is a quality whose returns diminish sharply the more you use them.

So I think that covers all the major things you shouldn’t be doing, though I’m sure more will come to me as I write. Next we talk about opportunity. Did you know that the Chinese character for “opportunity” is a combination of the characters for “stopping” and “IP depreciation”?

 

Footnotes:

[1] What is it with Bioware and c words?

[2] At one point in ME3 Shepard headbutts a Krogan and it works.

[3] Shepard, Ryder, the Warden, I guess Hawke was only one syllable so he’s off the hook.

[4] The Prothean Cipher, the Darkspawn Taint, SAM.



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103 thoughts on “Hypothetical ME4: What Not to Do

  1. Olivier FAURE says:

    I’ll be blunt, that article seems kind of terrible as far as actionable advice goes.

    1. Higher_Peanut says:

      To be fair this part focused on what not to do. Actionable advice comes in the next part/s when what you can do is discussed. Considering we’ve seen companies make these kinds of mistakes over and over they could probably do with the advice in this part too.

    2. Asdasd says:

      The actionable advice is for EA not to do the things he advises them not to do, for the reasons he advises them not do them.

      In other words, it’s the whole article.

  2. Syal says:

    and I can tell you that I often wince when I read things I wrote in my twenties.

    Lucky. I’m trying to get back into writing, and I’m wincing at things I wrote five minutes ago.

    1. Fix it in editing. Sometimes you have to get the words down before you can make them pretty.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      This is why God invented the actions “revision”, “change”, and “modify”. :P

  3. Thomas says:

    I hadn’t even considered the curse of a Mass Effect MMO/battle royale and now I’m terrified

    1. Freddo says:

      I think studio execs will interpret that as “everyone has a phone and we are really clamoring for a Mass Effect mobile game, preferably very grindy so we can play it every commute”.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I was going into the comments with the intention of writing something like “Battle Royale? MMO? Nah, let’s make a phone game, it worked so well for Dungeon Keeper… oh wait” and now I’m worried the joke might be on me…

    2. John says:

      There will not be a Mass Effect MMO or battle royale. Not any time soon. The IP still carries the lingering scent of shame and failure. But about ten years or so from now, there’ll be some hot new genre and somebody at EA, probably somebody who joined the company after Andromeda and doesn’t care or even know anything about Mass Effect will decide to make a Mass Effect-branded game in that genre.

      1. Asdasd says:

        I have a feeling they’ll see the coming generation of consoles as an opportunity to go back to the well. If they’re want to make a cheap buck they’ll ‘remaster ‘the original trilogy on the quick, but given the success of Resident Evil 2 and the hype around Final Fantasy 7, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a series of full-on remakes. In either case I expect a conscious ‘electric fencing’ of the single player experience to keep fans happy, with any additional monetisation reserved for a new multiplayer mode.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          In either case I expect a conscious ‘electric fencing’ of the single player experience to keep fans happy, with any additional monetisation reserved for a new multiplayer mode.

          That’s…hopeful…of you. Remember the ‘optional’ Mass Effect 3 multiplayer that affected your single player game? Where you couldn’t get the best single-player ending choice until you earned points in the multiplayer*?
          And the most interesting new character being fenced off as day-one DLC in the third game?
          And the ‘optional’ DLCs (Arrival and Leviathan) that contained key plot points so you could practically see where someone had cut out part of the story so they could charge extra?

          Remember, this is EA ‘the customer is a cash pinata’ Games…

          *Yes, yes, it got patched after complaints so you didn’t need to play the multiplayer. And maybe the multiplayer was fun (I wouldn’t know). There’s just the minor consideration that both of these answers are missing the fundamental point.

          1. RFS-81 says:

            Remember the ‘optional’ Mass Effect 3 multiplayer that affected your single player game? Where you couldn’t get the best single-player ending choice until you earned points in the multiplayer*?

            As someone who stopped after ME2, what is this “best ending”? Is there a secret fourth color filter?

            1. galacticplumber says:

              Nah. There’s minor differences within color filters based on number of points.

              1. BlueHorus says:

                Originally, you couldn’t unlock the Green ending without playing the multiplayer, which to me seems better that the Red (blow up all the Mass Relays as well as killing EDI and the Geth) or Blue (become a supergod-who-totally-controls-all-the-Reapers-at-the-same-time-and-isn’t-indoctrinated-at-all-honest-I-swear).

                Of course, that’s ‘better’ by the standards of this story…and as Galacticplumber said, the only difference in the ending cinematic is the colour of the Space Magic Explosions.

            2. Ninety-Three says:

              If you pick the red ending while having enough points, you get a one-second cutscene of Shepard lying in the rubble and taking a sudden breath to indicate he’s not dead. Because I guess how many ships you recruited to shoot at the Reapers determines whether or not the red space magic kills him?

              1. shoeboxjeddy says:

                Blue yoinks Shepard’s mind out of their body to become the controller of the Reapers. No revival is possible there because Shep’s consciousness was removed from their body. Green disintegrates Shepard to create the unique mingling of organic + machine to spead to everyone else… by force. (I hate green). Since Shepard is pureed, obviously they die. Red is just an explosion? It makes no sense WHY it’s an explosion, but visually that’s what it is. Presumably war assets save Shepard because the war assets specifically refer to, among other things, a better made Crucible, so the best possible version of it doesn’t explode hard enough to kill Shepard.

          2. shoeboxjeddy says:

            “And the ‘optional’ DLCs (Arrival and Leviathan) that contained key plot points so you could practically see where someone had cut out part of the story so they could charge extra?”

            Arrival came out years after ME2’s release and was obviously produced to create a marketing tie-in to 3. It was in no way cut out of the main story, it was invented well after the fact. Leviathan you have a stronger case with.

            1. BlueHorus says:

              Yeah, you’re right. Arrival wasn’t really plot that was cut out, more shoehorned in. Shamus summed it up pretty well with ‘sentenced to plot-jail‘; Shepard starts the game on trial for some thing that the player may or may not have played, so the –
              Oh look out, the Reapers are here. We fight or we die!

          3. baud says:

            Well, the multiplayer was fun: a bit like GoW horde mode, four players playing coop against wave of enemies and then you had to evac at the end. You could choose from loads of classes from all major races (including the Volus); with many weapons options. Though to unlock anything you had either to grind or pay for the loot box. Well I had fun, I must have played maybe 120 hours.

            1. Gautsu says:

              ME 3 multiplayer had more hours from me than all of the other games I played put together for my 360. I haven’t played in about 5 yeara and still in the top 2% worldwide

      2. Lino says:

        It’s depressing how realistic that sounds. A couple of years ago, I would have thought this opinion was too pessimistic, but after I saw what they did to Command and Conquer, I’m just hoping EA somehow forgets Mass Effect exists at all…

        1. stylesrj says:

          Uggh don’t remind me about what they did to C&C…

    3. beleester says:

      The Mass Effect 3 multiplayer was actually pretty fun and didn’t take itself too seriously, especially in the later patches that introduced so many oddball character classes that even the Volus got a turn.

      It would be an utter waste of Bioware’s talent in story writing, but if they decided that they wanted to take all those zany characters and drop them into an arena for a battle royale, I think it would be reasonably fun.

      (Although even better would be to not chase trends and make a Left 4 Dead style campaign of multiplayer missions, which would let the executives have their live service while letting the game be something that it’s actually built to be – a squad-based, mission-based PvE shooter.)

  4. Wolf says:

    In this article the writing seemed to be a little unpolished.

    1. Adam says:

      It’s written by Bob, not Shamus. Which caught me by surprise too, and I had to double check the byline. So I think that’s why it feels strange to read, it’s like critic ventriloquism.

  5. Basshead says:

    Who is this columnist “The Spy”? I can’t find any of his work, the quote you wrote only links back to here on google. Not doubting you just am interested in reading some of his stuff.

    1. Talent says:

      I was wondering the same until I realized he’s probably joking/referring to himself.

      1. Liessa says:

        The print version of PC Gamer here in the UK has a columnist called The Spy, IIRC.

        1. Mattias42 says:

          Could be that one then, but thought of Ask A Game Dev myself.

          https://askagamedev.tumblr.com/

          Either way, highly recommended. The forced (though understandable) anonymity is a bit grating at times, but there’s some juicy insights.

  6. Vinsomer says:

    I’d also add one more thing:

    Ditch the open world.

    Bioware have had 2 bites of the cherry as far as open world games have gone and both have been poorly designed. Dragon Age Inquisition managed to be good in spite of that due to stellar writing. Andromeda, however, did not. While a lot of people rightly discuss the bad storylines, characters, setting and the abundance of glitches, to me the killer is the bad open-world quests that just drain any enthusiasm I have as a player. Boring quests badly presented that don’t reveal anything interesting about the world or have interesting stories of their own.

    I’d also say go back to actually framing conversations as conversations. To me, the Bioware philosophy has always been to mix old-school RPG sensibilities with action gameplay and cinematic presentation. The way that so many conversations don’t focus on the person speaking, which subsequently means that those characters don’t feel like characters but rather quest givers really contributes to the ‘single player MMO’ vibe. Not only that, but they don’t have anything in the way of expressive animations which really undercuts the potential some of these quests have. I honestly feel like this one change in representation, spurred either by laziness, overwork or the godawful frostbite engine hurts the games massively, and if you agree with the linked thread from BSN then you probably feel the same even if you don’t realise it.

    1. Thomas says:

      This is all good advice. Bioware need to make missions feel like missions again. I was shocked in DA:I and Andromeda by the lack of anything happening – what feels like key story beats would be told by a couple of diaries and some awkward NPC barks.

      Good Bioware is also transgressive. They break the boundaries of how you think a game should work. The Iron Bull thing in Trespasser is a perfect example of that. As is having your crew die in the Suicide Mission.

    2. Hector says:

      The idea of open world is good. However, too many companies have gotten into that pool not realizing how much work it entails. Big, open world games add immense complexity to the quality parts, because you need to think very carefully about placement, progression, challenge, and how these systems interact with the environment. Hence why so many of those end up feeling bland with endless filler content.

      I also think it not a good fit for big space scifi stories, just because technology has such an impact. Open worlds work best when the player builds a close relationship to the game world. But that’s hard to do when you’re constantly blasting off for other planets.

  7. trevalyan says:

    I’ll be honest: one of the first things I was hoping would be on that list is “don’t make a new Mass Effect game.” One more failure could put the franchise beyond repair. Use the Star Wars license! Hell, Mass Effect was conceived as a way to do space opera when Bioware couldn’t do new KOTOR.

    Honestly, we’ll be lucky if the suits don’t immediately make a card game/ MOBA/ MMO.

    1. GoStu says:

      But if you never make a new Mass Effect game, then the value of the IP is irrelevant. You’ve killed the IP through neglect.

      1. Higher_Peanut says:

        Big companies seem to be fine with that just as long as no one else uses the IP, including fan projects for some.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          ‘The important thing is that no-one makes more money out of it than we do!’

        2. trevalyan says:

          You can eventually resurrect the IP, but first you need a quality team focused on RPGs. I still can’t believe I’m saying this, but that is no longer Bioware. Star Wars still has some fan interest, and they’re using games and TV to keep interest alive while they reassess their movie strategy. It could absolutely happen, if Bioware has even started learning lessons from Anthem.

          1. Liessa says:

            Unfortunately they don’t appear to have learned anything from Anthem, given that their current plan for DA4 seems to be ‘more of the same’ (even cancelling their original vision of the game in favour of more live-service crap).

          2. stylesrj says:

            Resurrect the IP…
            Dungeon Keeper and Command & Conquer would like a word with you…

            1. trevalyan says:

              VtMB: Bloodlines, Tomb Raider, and XCOM are saying “ayyy.”

              Granted, EA is a turnaround artist only so far as they cripple incredible success, but I take your point.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      You could totally have a Mass Effect-themed card-came, if you did it right. Just style it as different aliens playing cards in a seedy space-bar, between galavanting through the galaxy. The menus show different angles in this smoke / space-drugs / alcohol-hazed pub of debauchery, and at the edge of the playing-area, you can see they’re playing on one of the roughed-up tables. The game could play like Hearthstone, Magic: The Gathering, chess, snakes-and-ladders, and poker all combined! :)

      1. RFS-81 says:

        “Irritation: How did I draw no ocean planets in this entire game?”

        I don’t feel any burning need for a Mass Effect card game, but I wish Race for the Galaxy or Star Realms would steal your idea for a menu. I like that Mass Effect was a science fiction game with good world building, and I want more of that, but I’m just not all that attached to the Mass Effect universe itself.

  8. Gurgl says:

    What they should do before a hypothetical ME4 is a remaster of the original trilogy with actual coop for the campaigns.

    And before you grill me about MMOs and coop looter shooters, there is an ocean of difference between them and a true cooperative campaign mode.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Adding co-op to the whole trilogy is way more work than merely remastering. There’s a whole lot of rebalancing that needs to be done. They’d have to remake the whole thing from the ground up.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Would they, though? If the game was easier from having a few humans instead of dumb-AI side-kicks, you and your friends would just complete the game faster. Just give the players sliders for enemy health, armor, firepower- etc, and call it a day!

        1. Syal says:

          Fights are free if you’re okay with letting fights be super easy, but a dialogue-heavy moral choice game would have scripting issues. What happens if both players pick contradicting moral choices at the same time? Or will you lock one player out of choices so they’re just watching the other one talk? If one player talks to a shopkeeper, can the other player shop there?

          1. Echo Tango says:

            The story already revolves around one leader (Shepard), and a squad of up to three goons. Local multiplayer or multiplayer with voice-comms (aka Discord, or a horribad built-in thing) would work, since the players could bicker amongst themselves over what way they want to play the game. It would be relatively easy (compared to the rest of the game), to just add a vote-option for all major plot points, or allow Shepard to call a vote at any time. Left 4 Dead had good controls for voting quickly, and you could use that here. Shepard picks a “call a vote” option, with some Mad-Libs style thing, where they pick words like “should we”, or “how much” to start, some nouns like “civilian”, “krogon”, etc, and some actions or end-statements like “kill”, “ally”, “help”, “deceive”, etc. The voters get options like, “yes”, “no”, “your call, boss”, “kill them all”, “murder the lot of them”, and “steal all their loot”. Done!

            1. Ninety-Three says:

              You overestimate how much communication happens in multiplayer: unless it’s between friends, the default in every game I’ve ever seen is silence. Even if you somehow implement a really good voting system, there’s still the unavoidable problem that the minority voters are stuck getting dragged through story choices they don’t want. Actually it’s worse, because no one’s going to be in the majority on every option, so you end up with a Shepard whose actions don’t reflect anyone’s desired roleplaying experience.

              And of course there’s the fact that co-op action is fundamentally anathema to dialogue-heavy cutscene experiences. You know how some MMOs try to put plot development in their raid dungeons, and it’s always at best awkwardly executed? One experience will always end up stomping the other, and it’s indicative of market forces that the developers keep choosing to prioritize fighting over listening to the Lich King’s evil monologue.

              1. Chad Miller says:

                Yeah, I’d go so far as to say that multiplayer Mass Effect wouldn’t even be Mass Effect, so much as a Mass Effect spinoff.

              2. shoeboxjeddy says:

                Yeah, I’m picturing one of the choices that made a player stop and think (kill the Rachni or let them escape, possibly to be a threat again, etc) in a multiplayer context. Somebody slamming the “kill them!” choice over and over again and yelling over the mic to kill all the bugs! Surely that will improve the experience…

    2. Gurgl says:

      I’ll reply here because there were several answers, and as usual most objections to coop have a simple solution: stop playing with uncooperative assholes or wannabe youtubers.

      I could have sworn I had almost the exact same dumbfounding discussion about Dead Space 3. Out of curiosity I want back to read it and indeed, same commenter, same argument:
      “I can’t fathom coop unless it’s with someone who mimicks i-r-phoney-youtube-guy#738, behaves like a confrontational asshole, always goes in the wrong direction, yells “TL;DR” each time a character says something, and never discusses anything with me so we can coordinate; obviously this means coop is bad and ruins story-driven games”.

      Yes, that’s your problem right there. If only we knew a solution to avert this, if only there was a way. Sadly, a mystery lost to the ages.

  9. Scerro says:

    Strangely enough, there’s room for a big MMO to show up. While EA follows trends, so it’s impossible for them to make another MMO, WoW is played out (story is re-hashed and utterly broken), and it’s competitor (FF 14) survives well. Not enough to cause any sort of influx to the genre, but enough to satisfy it’s fans. Fans are so happy with it that the Main villain of the recent expansion hit #6 for Top FF characters( https://www.dualshockers.com/final-fantasy-nhk-fan-poll-results/ ). Not just Villians, Characters. They are catering to the FF fans and doing it right.

    Anyways, back to my point. To suggest that EA would be anything other than a trend-chaser is sort of silly. BRs and role based shooters have been the big trends, those are what they’d be. It’s like you’re living in 2010. MMOs/MOBAs are firmly established but forgotten. WoW lives on in shambles with a 1-2 month revival every new expansion, and it’s primarily the community base that keeps it going otherwise. DOTA2 and LoL live on, but they’re nothing new and hot. Both formats are 15+ years old. EAs not gonna hop on those bandwagons.

    Column Series suggestion: Games that are doing things right, and going against the grain to make games for certain fans. Dark Souls is the poster child for this, but FFXIV is one that also does great. Escape from Tarkov has done a great job of allowing different playstyle options (Action seeker, camper, slow but methodical player) while keeping it mostly hardcore (Death = Lost items).

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I think BRs are still considered “the big thing” by CEOs, unless we’re catching the tail end of a several year long development cycles. Plus I don’t think anything very particularly noteworthy has appeared to replace the MMO/MOBA/BR trifecta. Autochess seemed like a thing for a little while but I think the lack of kinesthetic aspect made that somewhat peter out. I may be underestimating Tarkov seeing how it doesn’t carry the aspects of DS that I enjoy but I was not under the impression that its hardcore nature is taking the world by storm.

      The thing is I absolutely agree that the multiplayer scene is stagnaged and badly needs some new ideas. Ideally fun ideas rather than artificially engineered FOMO moments and season passes meant to force players to spend even more time with the game. But if development on ME4 started today than as you say yourself it is highly unlikely for EA (and by extention a studio they own) would be that innovator and they’d fall back on one of the tried genres (my bet for MEMMO would be something Destinylike, seeing how they have a bit of experience through Anthem and ME is a sci-fi shooter with some space magic) and probably try to shove it down players’ collective throat by overspending on marketing.

      1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

        …my bet for MEMMO would be something Destinylike, seeing how they have a bit of experience through Anthem and ME is a sci-fi shooter with some space magic) and probably try to shove it down players’ collective throat by overspending on marketing.

        I doubt it. They desperately trying to turn Anthem into next big IP, ME-themed game in a similar genre would deal a final blow to Anthem. I believe more in a theme-park MMO in ME franchise, but I’d not bet on it, because it will have the same problems as any hypothetical next ME entry would have, no mater multiplayer or singleplayer. Without good writing it will be doomed, and without retcon of the ME3 ending chances to write something coherent and compelling would be poor.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          That is a very good argument. Though to be honest I was operating on the assumption that by the time anyone would start developing MEMMO in earnest they’d either scrap Anthem entirely or it would be obvious to everyone that the projest was on life support maintenance only to be shut down soon. Although according to press releases they are trying to redesign it so eh, who knows.

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            I’m not saying Anthem is on life support, but if it was, which would you expect: An honest announcement that the game was a flop so they’re ending development, or vague promises to customers and investors that they’re going to somehow fix everything at an unspecified point in the future?

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              Considering the track record? My best guess would be desperate floundering with not even the people actually making the announcements being sure if there is some kind of redesign going on or if they’re just blowing PR smoke to cover cutting losses through discarding the roadmap. Accompanied by demotivated and confused dev team that are told making the game a hit is company priority one week, then next week see half of their staff being moved to another project, spend a month designing new content then are told there is no money to implement it until the point where someone mercifully pulls the plug.

  10. Dreadjaws says:

    I can tell you that I often wince when I read things I wrote in my twenties.

    Only often? Amateur. I’m a professional self-writing wincer. I can wince at stuff I haven’t even written yet. You think wincing is your ally, but I was born in it; molded by it. I didn’t even write a comment I wasn’t embarrased of until I was already a 35 year old man.

    1. Higher_Peanut says:

      I wonder how much global productivity is lost due to people wincing at that email they’re about to send and going back to rewrite it? I’ve definitely overthought what should be a simple message before.

      1. Hector says:

        I can’t speak for you, but I often feel that electronic communications are the equivalent of walking on eggshells with broken glass underneath. I end up acting obsequious just to avoid conflict.

        It “helps” that people are allowed to blame me personally no matter how badly they eff things up.

  11. GoStu says:

    In my eyes, Andromeda was a failure of lack of interest (and presumably, time/budget crunch). Either nobody had the excitement and interest or just the time to really explore their setting. Combine that with a fearful adherence to the series’ past conventions.

    What struggles, conflict, and kind of story do you think you could tell about exploring and trying to survive in a completely-new unexplored frontier? I seriously doubt anyone with more than ten minutes to think about that question would first say “what if the area was just full of ancient terraforming technology but it wasn’t working so good, and there’s also some guy who wants us for our DNA”.

    The Archon feels more forced than a laugh at gunpoint. He’s there just because someone pinned that the main conflict should revolve around… some kind of ancient alien artifacts and technology, and some antagonist that… wants to control it? (Insert lip-flapping sound and hand-waving here). Because That’s The Kind Of Plot A Mass Effect Game Has. So the villain’s origins and real motivations firmly not-very-well established you can then go on to do vaguely opposing actions by Pushing The Buttons first.

    It’s not Details First, Drama First, or even good Gameplay First. It feels like Genre-first: we must make a game that’s like the others, has the same combat and iterations on the mechanics… and our setting is an entire galaxy away because that’s Minimum Safe Distance to avoid the fallout of the ending of the last game in the series.

    1. Gethsemani says:

      The post mortems of the game that has been done all point towards the developers envisioning a very different game and trying for something like 2 years to make that game before realizing it didn’t work and having to do a BioWare and re-tool the work they had done to fit with a new design document that would allow them to push the game out the door. More specifically, Andromeda was initially intended to have much more of a Virgin Lands/Colonizer vibe and the devs tried, in vain, to prototype a random generator that would allow for a seemingly endless string of explorable planets. When that failed, along with several other problems with the design and prototyping they had been doing, they were forced to re-tool Andromeda into something they could crunch out in something like 1,5 years.

      So a lot of what is bad about Andromeda is probably so because it is the fall back ideas, the convenience solutions and the compromises forced by budget and time restraints. If you play Andromeda you can almost feel it, how the first few hours of the game are all replete with the Explorer theme and mood and how it is quickly churned into one of the blandest, worst paced Sci-Fi stories in gaming in the last decade. The Angara and Kett are atrocious, but they are not helped by having to take center stage in a game where they were once intended to just be one of the major side quest chains.

      1. Thomas says:

        I think the random generator for world’s was a bad idea to pursue, and was a failure of the design leads. On the surface you can understand colonisation = randomised worlds theme, but almost nothing of the Mass Effect franchise or Biowares core strengths suit that kind of game. Randomised worlds will have less world-building, meaningful quests and story by default.

        Even if they did succeed in making No Mass Effect Sky, no Mass Effect fan wants that.

        1. GoStu says:

          Mass Elite: Andromeda Dangerous is so very against Bioware’s (former?) strengths that it makes me scratch my head.

          Did nobody realize the amount of work they were trying to bite off and chew? Galactic-scale space-game has been done, but not with any sort of planets beyond “lifeless rockballs” (Elite) or “everything in the galaxy is the same few hundred parts” (NMS) or “we’ll get it working some day!” (Star Citizen)

          1. shoeboxjeddy says:

            So some things to realize about Mass Effect Andromeda’s original direction.
            -The team making it was not the veterans who were fresh off Mass Effect 3 or Dragon Age. Those people were on the other Dragon Age or Anthem. No, this was the team behind Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer. So they weren’t thinking about how exploring randomly generated planets would patch into the ME formula, they were trying to make a brand new kind of game. They had no attachments to the old style and apparently no fondness for that either. And as a spin off, that would honestly be fine if it was good! If they made a really good, but really different Mass Effect game, many fans would be disappointed but the game could have become popular and well liked anyway.
            -The team was probably working off the buzz of No Man’s Sky and Star Citizen and so on without knowing ultimately how those projects would turn out. Designing a concept based on “exciting new indie smash surprise” No Man’s Sky is A LOT different from avoiding the flaming wreckage of controversial (fraudulent?) indy game No Man’s Sky.
            -It’s sometimes hard to know something is a bad fit until you’ve done it. A lot of fans were THRILLED with the concept of Mass Effect 1’s unknown worlds… the game. That’s no doubt what the devs had in mind they just couldn’t make certain aspects of it work well as a game.

      2. GoStu says:

        That in turn makes me think that procedural generation (in that case) was a solution looking for a problem. Nothing about the Bioware-RPG formula needs nigh-infinite planets. Even if you flip it to a “colonize and explore” type thing, you don’t need arbitrary numbers of planets.

        The Heleus Cluster is only so big and there’s only going to be so many points of interest within it. I suppose in-universe it’s possible to zip outside that with ‘conventional’ FTL but there’s only so much space that’d count as ‘defensible’ so that’d make a good enough soft boundary to keep the scope manageable.

        What gameplay loop did they envision that required that much space? Also, what manager lets their team dawdle for two years on that?

  12. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Ooooh, you wanna talk about poor ME writing and the use of Proper Nouns? Let’s talk Arrival!

    Seriously, I have not played Andromeda but compared to everything else in the series the writing in Arrival is consistently atrocious. Yes I’m including everything that TIM says. Yes I’m including every “but what about Earth” and “some kid died” of ME3. The thing about Arrival’s writing is that it really feels like it’s been given to someone fresh out of creative writing (for the record I did not check the credits), they did a draft and then that draft was used with even a polish run. Spoilers for Arrival I guess.

    Admittedly it’s been a while so I won’t be able to do lenghty quotes from memory but even the first half when you’re making your way through the Batarian prison facility has a gem of conversation along the line “I like making prisoners scream” “And I like watching them bleed to death” lest we forget they’re evil. The real offender though is almost every single line once you get to the bloody asteroid base. You know how there is this countdown to the exact moment (to a second) when the Reapers… uhh… Arrive? “We call it The Countdown” announces the NPC. You know how they found a Reaper relic? “It’s The Object” says the same person brimming with pride at their creativity (later refered to as Object Rho in the fight. Why Rho? Because it’s an underused Greek letter I guess). The entire operation? The Project. I kid you not. It’s like someone was using placeholder names and they somehow made it into production.

    In other circumstances I’d be willing to (and I know some fans actually do) lean into the writer being clever, signalling that these people are indoctrinated and that has affected their creativity. Except pretty much everything related to ME2 main storyline and Cerberus has already undermined my faith in the writers and the dialogues are also attrocious, the main reason why I don’t quote them is that it’s been years and I absolutely refuse to touch the DLC again.

    1. Kestrellius says:

      “We call it the Countdown.”

      Excellent: another C word we can add to the list. I’d overlooked that one.

      (I’d also forgotten that Cerberus was on the list until you mentioned them. I guess my brain tried to erase them from my memory?)

      1. BlueHorus says:

        I’d also forgotten that Cerberus was on the list until you mentioned them. I guess my brain tried to erase them from my memory?

        So you think! But the truth is, TIM is such an underrated genius that he can make you forget about him and his organisation.
        Just as planned.

    2. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

      Though my brain erased Arrival from my memory, I still think, that Leviathan can compete with it. Leviathan had somewhat better writing skill-wise, but far more idiotic story-wise. And I think, essentially, Arrival is a pinnacle of writing quality decline in ME2, because, obviously it was made after the main game. I put the blame on lead writer of ME2 and 3, Mac Walters, who was also creative director of Andromeda.

    3. Chad Miller says:

      I thought this sounded familiar until I remembered the original version of your critique…

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        To be honest I kinda forgot it myself, but yeah, that sounds like me only more angry because the thing was still fresher in my mind. Quite amazed you not only remembered it but also felt like hunting it down. I’m honestly surprised with how divisive ME2 is and with just how much bad press ME3 got that Arrival doesn’t come up more often in these conversation.

  13. Asdasd says:

    What is it with Bioware and c words?

    Is nobody really going to make the obligatory Miranda joke? You’re all too classy by half.

    1. Geebs says:

      You’re right, she is pretty damn conceited.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        A conceited Cerberus crone, crowing about the crowning glory that is her curvaceous ass.

  14. Ninety-Three says:

    Start treating your employees better and you may be surprised at how much good publicity you get.

    HAH! Have you seen how the internet talks about EA? People are still attacking them for “killing singleplayer” based on one comment in a seven year-old article that wasn’t implemented. Right now EA could solve world hunger and people would find something to criticize.

    1. Thomas says:

      Their long strong LGBT support has never won them plaudits. They won awards for ‘Best employer for LGBT equality in 2014’.

      People who play games are concerned with the games they play. Crunch is a theoretical concern, but messing with their Red Alert is what we’re actually concerned about. It shouldn’t necessarily be like that, but it is.

  15. Mako says:

    I will maintain that the only way to do ME4 properly is to start over right after ME1 and redo ME2 and 3.

    1. RichardW says:

      Remaking the first game seems like the only way to go as far as I’m concerned. There’s nothing to be gained by trying to expand a universe that’s already depleted, and you can’t redo the sequels without starting with the least fun and least well regarded game amongst the general public first. Long enough time has passed that we can have meaningful improvements in gameplay and graphics. Explot nostalgia of the superfans, reintroduce the franchise to a new generation, and hopefully streamline some of development by essentially already having a basic blueprint to follow.

      The question is how far they’d take it, if it’d be pretty faithful in the style of Black Mesa or a complete reboot that just shares the same characters and rough main story arc. One wonders what the EA execs must think after seeing Activision release Modern Warfare remastered, then barely a couple years later release Modern Warfare rebooted. I honestly haven’t played the latter so can’t say how different it is, but that stuff might have started some wheels turning in Android Wilson’s brain.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        I would love for someone to start Mass Effect over, as new sequels from the original game. Erase all the nonsense that got introduced, and make some more games that (like the original) had care, attention to details, and interesting alien conflicts to ponder about. :)

      2. Mako says:

        Chasing after mass appeal is a big part of what killed Mass Effect (no pun intended), and it’s generally precisely why we can’t have nice things (not in the big budget game space anyway, with some outliers).

      3. INH5 says:

        The big problem with this idea is that by this point the only thing that the general public remembers about the story of the original Mass Effect trilogy is that the ending was really bad. That is going to kill public interest in anything that revisits the original trilogy, no matter how many press releases you put out saying that you’re going to get it right this time, you promise.

        Stranger things have happened, but if we do get more Mass Effect, my money is still on it being a continuation of the Andromeda storyline in some form (even if does a second reboot by jumping ahead several decades or centuries). I simply don’t see any other way to go from here.

      4. Trevor says:

        I can see there being a market – and I would count myself among them – for a remake version of ME1 done with the ME3 or ME:A system.

        The script and music can stay (it’s what makes this the best entry in the series), but the grainy finish on the camera, the trashloot avalanche, and the weird skill system where you use 8 skill points to raise your damage with shotguns by 8% make revisiting the game an unwelcome adjustment from modern gaming.

        I mean, what I would love is a new game based on new IP, even somewhat derived IP (Mass Effect and Dragon Age both owe a lot to Star Trek and D&D respectively), but I don’t think that’s coming out of Bioware any time soon.

    2. GoStu says:

      I’d be tempted to pull an XCOM 2 gambit: set the sequel after an implied defeat in the first game. Evade the ME3 ambiguous ending by never letting the ending actually occur. Shepard dies when Harbinger laser-beams him, or he survives and tries to activate the Crucible but it doesn’t go how anyone thought it would.

      Maybe all the Crucible did was mess with the Reapers’ schedule and kick them a hundred years down the road, sending a sort of virus via whatever FTL-comms the series has. Maybe piggyback it off the Paragon endings but Shepard’s ghost-in-the-machine only bought time, and wasn’t his ascension to divinity.

      If you really want to buy yourself narrative time, keep the idea of the Crucible having damaged some or all of the Mass Relays. Isolate the game to a single star cluster and end the game with you fixing it or re-establishing contact with the rest of the galaxy.

  16. Scourge says:

    Lets make things more epic.

    Its ok to make things epic. ME1 – 3 made things epic.

    In ME1 you start out with a conspiracy of a renegade Spectre who is controlled by a Mecha Squid whose true motives we do not understand.
    ME2: The Mecha Squid is not alone and now wants to call in his friends to carry out some plan. We are not sure what it is, but according to our first meeting it can’t be good.
    ME3: The Mecha Squids are back and now we have to fight back against them!

    This is an ok Epic storyline, sprawled out over 3 games with an arround gametime of combined 90 to 160 hours or so.
    Now imagine all of this was crammed into 1 game that is 30 hours long. It doesn’t quite work the same.

  17. CloverMan-88 says:

    “Let’s spend years in preproduction!” – it seems to me like people have a wrong idea of what “preproduction” is.

    It’s not some vague conceptual state. In movies, “pre-production” is casting actors, polishing the script, building sets, creating costumes, lending the space etc. Production is the actual filming process. Post-production often takes years (the first Lord of the Rings spend more than 3,5 years in post-production. Filming takes weeks to months (LOTR took 7 months if I remember correctly.)

    It’s similar in games development. Usually, you leave pre-production when you have a playable level of the game. All core mechanics are locked down, you have some shipping-grade animations, effects, and models. You know what your game will be. The production is more like an assembly line – you simply make more of everything – more levels, more models, more missions, more skills etc.

    The last game I worked on spent 3 year in pre-production, with a team of 4 working on a playable vertical slice. Then the team expanded to 13 people and the game was finished in 8 months.

    Pre-production is where the hardest part of game development happens. It’s not weird that a team spends so long in that phase. In case of Anthem the problem wasb’t that pre-prdoduction took 7 years, it was that a bunch of people with no leadership faffed about for years. But

    1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

      I think Bob referenced Adromeda’s case and lack of prototyping in development cycle in EA studios. Still, the reason behind it is lack of clear direction. So I don’t know how to call it better, “initial stages of pre-production” maybe?

      1. CloverMan-88 says:

        I think it all comes down to weak leadership. If I remember correctly, Andromeda’s team didn’t have a vertical slice of the game for a very long time, because the environments in the game were supposed to be procedurally generated. They kept on waiting for that technology, instead of actually creating levels even though the team responsible for procedural generation had very little to show after years of working on that technology.

        If I had to guess what’s the root of all problems in Bioware nowadays, I’d say that there’s noone in the leadership role who feels confident enough in their position to make the really hard decisions – those that scrap months of progress, or arbitrarily lock down core mechanics. Until they have to make ANY decision, or everyone’s fired. It’s a very common problem in corporate culture, where no-one is finally responsible for anything, so no-one takes the blame for anything but nothing really gets done.

      2. Karma The Alligator says:

        Pre-pre-production.

  18. pseudonym says:

    It’s been almost ten years since I first played Mass Effect. It was great. Back then I was almost twenty, and had ample gaming time. Now I game about 2-4 hours per week. This means I am way more picky. I’d rather play something new and imaginative than something rehashed.

    As a Mass Effect fan, I don’t want a new Mass Effect. I want a different game where they put as much thought, attention to detail and love for the world it created in. So I can immerse myself in that world, discover new things in conversations, codex and pieces of information around the world. Where you grow to love the characters because they make feel the world even more real.

    For me, that was the charm of Mass Effect (the first game, not the trilogy). And the only way I will probably feel the same about another game is if the game is not set in the Mass Effect universe but a new one.

  19. Sartharina says:

    Two comments:

    1. Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem were situations where EA couldn’t win, and they’re getting unfairly blamed for doing exactly what gamers have wanted them to do – Trust the studio to create a quality product as long as it has the timeframe and funding it needs. And even with the pre-production issues, Inquisition was proof that Bioware could pull it off and EA shouldn’t have been concerned about the development taking so long.And from what I hear, EA is actually one of the better companies to work for in terms of crunch – Instead of perma-crunch, you only get stuck with it at the final push (Which is inevitable due to feature creep and human nature), and it’s preceded by poor time management early on. So it was really a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.

    2. The Hobbit Trilogy were the best Warhammer movies to ever grace the silver screen. They’re awesome and great.

    1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

      2. The Hobbit Trilogy were the best Warhammer movies to ever grace the silver screen. They’re awesome and great.

      It’s the best description of Hobbit movies I ever saw.

  20. GargamelLeNoir says:

    Jason Shreier’s article showed us their biggest problem by far : they are pathologically unable to listen to feedback. He made an entire article about the widespread problems in Bioware leadership, and they answered that he needed to stop singling out specific people in his articles…

    Of course this means that any and all articles are videos with constructive advice for them on how to improve themselves won’t change a thing…

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      they are pathologically unable to listen to feedback

      My take on it is that they have a bumbling, Mr. Bean level of aptitude for listening to feedback and learning the wrong lessons. When Dragon Age 2 came out, people complained about the plot’s overall structure and the lesson Bioware took away, reflected in every game since was “Players want to be a big damn hero who saves the entire world” instead of “don’t stick random years-long time skips in the middle of your plot”. They hear “We want the game to be bigger” and make open world collectathons padded out with bland map markers to clear. They get polling that people don’t want a Mass Effect prequel so they set Andromeda in an entirely new galaxy, achieving even less continuity with the stuff people loved than a prequel would.

      It feels like almost everything Bioware has done wrong in the last decade is a mistaken response to some specific piece of feedback they received.

  21. Hal says:

    “an endless stream of incoherent lore.”

    Honestly, this is how I feel playing Destiny 2. The gameplay is fun, but every bit of dialogue hits me as blatherskite.

  22. Wolle says:

    As far as I can make out, Patrick Weekes was 31 when Mass Effect 1 released. That’s not that young, and he wasn’t the lead writer. He was 8 years out of the Masters at the time.

  23. Khazidhea says:

    Let’s make everything bigger and more epic

    I’m a big fan of smaller, self contained stories that know what they’re doing and utilise the play-space well, rather than the next big spectacle. Ant-man, Dredd, Attack the Block, the CoR game Escape from Butcher Bay.

    If we had a Mass Effect game situated in the outer edges of the galaxy with all the familiar races but the stakes are more personal and immediate rather than end of the universe as we know it I’d be sold.

    Start it as a small crew, plotting a heist or smugglers running from pirates, introduce a danger that cuts them off from outside help where they have to survive on their own against insurmountable odds, with the stakes being their family/colony/world (but no greater galaxy-wide implications).

    Can still have most of the Mass Effect elements, but zoomed in. Instead of galaxy hopping, have inter-planet space travel etc.

  24. jurgenaut says:

    1. Stick to your antagonist(s). Don’t supplant them with humans. Cerberus taking front and center of Mass effect 2 and 3 was terrible. It’s just as bad as the Matrix switching out the machines for Agent Smith as the main adversary – which incidently made the entire trilogy pointless – status quo.

    2. Stick to your protagonist. Shephard and crew were robbed of agency in the last minute and a half of the game. A rogue AI we never heard of before made the final decision.

    3. Write the entire plot arc throughout the planned series – at least the major points – before starting to build the first game. You can’t build game 1 setting up a plot for game 2, just to then toss that in the bin and come up with something new. Then you can’t foreshadow the bigger-threat-behind-the-immediate-threat in game 2 just to toss that in the bin come game 3.

    4. Explore the other species – the interesting ones. Humans are Americans, Asari are French and Turians are German – all boring. I’d love to play as the “unterspecies” – Geth, Krogan, Volus, Hanarr… This is why we have science fiction after all – to explore today’s problems without the yoke of today’s prejudice. What does it mean to be Geth? Do you struggle against the consensus or become its champion? How much do you trust yourself in the company of other units of Geth?

    1. Lino says:

      While I completely agree with you – especially point 4., I just don’t see a AAA game having a non-human as the main character. Not only is sci-fi a hard sell as it is, but having a main character who’s not a human could have a very negative effect on the average Joe who hasn’t heard of Mass Effect. If he’s not familiar with the universe, it could be very hard for him to care about the game…

      1. jurgenaut says:

        Yet most fantasy games allow you to pick your race among elves, dwarves, halflings, half-elves and half-orcs. My DAI inquisitor was a Daelish Elf mage, and she faced tons of suspicion, from humans, templars, other mages.

        It would be enough to have a racial origin story and allow for some race specific missions. Of course, the story itself would have to be written differently to allow for a pick-your-race scenario, but that should be doable.

        The only drawback of this is that you lose the marketable main character.

        1. Lino says:

          Yet most fantasy games allow you to pick your race among elves, dwarves, halflings, half-elves and half-orcs

          Which is why I said it’s a tough sell for a sci fi game. Most people have watched Lord of the Rings, and even those that haven’t have had enough exposure to media to know what an elf or an orc is. They have a general frame of reference for what they look like, what they stand for, and what they represent. They may differ from author to author, but the general framework tends to stay the same, and as an author/filmmaker/game designer, you can leverage that audience knowledge, and use them as central characters. You can essentially say “This character is an Elf!”, and based on his general appearance the audience can intuit whether you’re going for a Tolkien-esque High Elf, a Sapkowski-like Elf-gypsy or anything in-between.

          Sci-fi authors don’t have that luxury. Even if you’re going for an audience who’s read a lot of sc-fi novels, watched a lot of movies and TV series, played a lot of games, and is generally very genre-savvy, you can’t just say “You’re playing as a race of Klingons, except they’re like turtles!” Yes, your race might really be space-turtle Klingons, but in order to establish that, you need to spend quite a lot of time describing their appearance, general mentality, culture, history, etc. before the audience can start immediately associating an alien race with something. Unlike elves and orks, you can’t draw from widely-recognized pop culture imagery, because if you do, that will somewhat invalidate the main draw of sci-fi, namely – creating your own unique world full of colourful, weird-looking aliens. Of course, you will inevitably touch upon an appearance similar to what’s already out there, but unless it’s a Gray-looking creature, you can’t expect for the audience to immediately recognize whether you want them to hate or like the character they see.

          Of course, some people would jump at the opportunity to play an alien-looking, non-human character (I know I do, whenever I have the chance!). But the mental capacity needed to engage with that type of sci-fi is more than what most people are willing to do…

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            unless it’s a Gray-looking creature, you can’t expect for the audience to immediately recognize whether you want them to hate or like the character they see.

            Objection: Stargate’s Asgard were classic Grays and they were humanity’s faithful protector. The first time we meet them in person the atmosphere is one of wonder with their appearance playing into the show’s fondness for exploration and the desire to meet strange new creatures (until that point pretty much all the aliens had been humans, lacking even Star Trek’s customary plastic forehead bits).

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