Same-sex romances have been part of previous BioWare games, but until now, these romance-option characters could be attracted to a player character of either gender. Mass Effect 3 characters Samatha Traynor and Steve Cortez represent the first time BioWare has written full romances that are exclusively for same-sex characters. Patrick Weekes and Dusty Everman wrote these relationships and talk about their experiences here.
Although our main job focus is developing plots and characters and writing dialog, most writers at BioWare also work on other tasks, such as galaxy map logic and planet descriptions (Chris Hepler), enemy combat barks (Jay Watamaniuk), or embarrassing me at Vanguard (Sylvia Feketekuty). One system I’ve worked on over all three Mass Effect titles is the reputation system – and, like most of our systems, it has found some improvement in Mass Effect 3.
What is it?
Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Over the course of a war raging across the galaxy, you are going to do a few things that catch people’s attention. And if your reputation gets impressive enough, people who would otherwise ignore you are going to take you seriously when you say something like, “I will wipe out your entire species unless you put the gun down.” Having a powerful reputation unlocks dialog options that wouldn’t be otherwise available, usually with better results than the normal options would offer.
Sometimes, Reputation carries a Paragon or Renegade connotation. Paragon actions are usually about building alliances, obeying galactic law, and basing decisions on sympathy and trust. Renegade actions usually involve a pragmatic, results-focused approach, breaking laws or taking extreme steps as required to get the job done.
Point: Oh Crap, a Turret.
by Chargina McCharge, Alliance N7
CHAAAAAAARGE! Aaaaand Nova aaaaand Melee and wooo, how do you like that, Cerberus flunkie? Oh man, I am CARRYING this wave. I am in the ZONE. I just wish I weren’t halfway across the map from those goofballs riding my coattails, because it’s sad that they can’t see how well I’m doing right now.
Well, looks like they disabled Device Number 3. Man, we’ve only got a minute left. Maybe I should stop drawing aggro and help out. Hey, the last one is right over there just across the street. Cool! All right, guys, no worries, I’m on this one!
Oh crap, a turret.
No no no ow crap stop YES I KNOW MY BARRIERS ARE DOWN, okay, cooldown done, let’s take this thing out! Chaaaaaaarge! Nova!
Oh no, it didn’t go through knockback. It’s still firing. And I don’t have any barriers MELEE MELEE MELEE–
Oh no. It’s all red. The little health countdown is ticking down. Looks like I’m sitting out the rest of the–
Wait, who is that? Don’t come over to revive me! Take out the turret first! Don’t you see the – stay away, IT’S A TRAP!
No, the team hasn’t flatlined! Don’t say that! Maybe someone’s got some medigel, or…
Damn you, turret. Damn you to hell.
Counterpoint: Hello, New Friends!
by Archon V Automated Sentry Turret, SN# CERB-1337
Hello, new friends! I’m a turret!
I am the Archon V Automated Sentry Turret! My creator calls me AVAST for short. He says that it sounds like a pirate! Do you like pirates?
My creator used to carry me on his back. I was up so high, but I could not say hello to any new friends. Then he put me down and told me that it was time to grow big and strong and say hello to anyone I see who doesn’t have a Cerberus-authenticated friend-or-foe combat VI signature.
I am very small, but even small things can make a big difference. I am a good helper.
I love saying hello to all my new friends!
My purpose is to say hello to them at approximately 1200 rounds per minute until they fall over and go to the happy place. My creator went to the happy place shortly after he put me down. He went around a corner, and a new friend ran into him very fast.
Now that new friend is coming toward me! Does she want to be my friend?
I am feeling shy. I will sit here very quietly. Maybe she will go somewhere else. I will be sad if she does, because I love saying hello, but I don’t want to hurt her feelings. She might have other things to do besides making friends with such a small thing like me.
Maybe she does not even like to say AVAST like a pirate.
Oh, here she comes! She DOES like me! She wants to be my friend!
Hello new friend! Hello new friend! Hello new friend!
She’s charging at me! Her hugs feel like sunshine! Hello new friend! Hello new friend! And now she has fallen over and gone to the happy place! Yay!
I am good at making friends! I don’t have to be shy at all!
Here comes another person who lacks a Cerberus-authenticated friend-or-foe combat VI signature! He is running toward my new friend! I bet he is saying, “She has gone to the happy place already! Who is the nice person who helped her do it? I wish I could go to the happy place!”
He is running so fast that he doesn’t even see me!
Hello new friend! Hello new friend! Hello new friend!
Now everyone is happy! Avast! Arr!
Team Vanguard & Happy Turret by Sara (aka Mwar).
So Your Friend is a Vanguard
You’ve finally gotten your hands on the Mass Effect 3 demo, including the new and exciting multiplayer. You start a match, invite your friends, and get ready to lay your enemies to waste with an awesome four-player combination of skills — overloading their shields, blasting through their armor, biotically tearing them apart at the molecular level, or, as in my wife’s case, clubbing them to death with your rifle.
You’ve taken a defensible position. A Singularity is blocking the side doorway to keep you from getting flanked. Everyone is ready to turn the street ahead into a veritable killzone as soon as the enemy comes around the corner.
And then your friend zips halfway across the battlefield in a burst of blue light like Leroy Jenkins and you’re all left sitting there going, “Umm… so… should we run after her?”
Don’t panic! Everything is going to be fine. You’re just experiencing a common condition known to the BioWare Dev Team as “Someone’s Playing a Vanguard.” And we can help you through it.
Step One: ABC: Always Be Carnaging
If you’re a polite and respectful player, as I assume that anyone playing a game in the Mass Effect franchise is, you likely frown on firing weapons at your allies. So when you’re hosing down a Warp-stunned Cerberus trooper with an assault rifle, it can be disconcerting to see your friend suddenly rocket into your line of fire as she charges your target. Your first instinct might be to go, “Whoah, sorry, Sylvia, I’ll stop firing!”
Do not stop firing.
In the technological era of Mass Effect, the same advanced user interface that highlights enemies and displays your squadmate’s names automatically adjusts weapons fire precision targeting to prevent inadvertent friendly fire incidents. Or in layman’s terms: you cannot hurt your friend by firing at her. (We verified this fact when my friend insisted that my wife try to Warp her, to no effect.)
In fact, given that she may have charged into a group of four or five heavily armored Cerberus troopers, your friend might even appreciate a hail of gunfire coming her way.
Once you get used to this, you can even start using your vanguard friend as an advanced targeting system. Can’t quite see where the enemy is off in the distance? Cerberus shock troops obscuring the battlefield with smoke grenades? Well, if you’re having trouble seeing the enemy, remember that every time the vanguard charges, she’s charging at an enemy. Therefore, logically, wherever she ends up, there must be an enemy nearby.
So just keep shooting at your friend. It will work out for the best.
Step Two: Wakeboard the Rhinoceros
Having a vanguard in your squad completely changes the nature of the battle. As an infiltrator, you’ll find that a lot of formerly hunched-down enemies now have a tendency to stand up with startled exclamations of “My goodness, where did she come from and why is she elbowing me in the kidney?”, offering you a chance for an easy head-shot. As an adept, you’ll find that the vanguard tends to attract enemies into nice Singularity-able clumps. As an engineer, you’ll find it easy to think of your vanguard friend as a slightly less-controllable version of your combat drone, annoying your enemies and getting them to shoot at something that isn’t you.
However, you will also notice that your vanguard friend, in her enthusiasm at charging headlong into the enemy ranks, may have left a few things unresolved back behind her. Things like the assault trooper who still has a bit of health left, or the sniper who just took down your shields, or the three guys with riot shields who have you surrounded and are giving a Taiko drumming demonstration with their shock batons.
In these cases, remember that your friend is essentially a charging rhinoceros. She is wreaking havoc upon the enemy ranks, disrupting people who might try to set up turrets or find a perfect cover location, and generally being the most shootable thing on the battlefield.
Your job is to follow along behind that rhinoceros (as closely as you can given your inability to instantly charge to the nearest enemy) and clean up these little straggly bits. Kill anything she can’t reach, and as noted above, keep shooting at the things around her. Abilities that stun enemies also offer the vanguard a fun and easy charge target, and a charge target lets her refresh her shields and continue her quest to be the thing that enemies shoot at instead of you.
Stay too far back, and you leave her exposed to enemies that can target her at long range, like snipers. You also risk being too far away to help her if she goes down. You also also risk letting her kill all the bad guys herself and mock you.
Step Three: It’s Not Kill-Stealing, It’s Kill-Helping
At some point, you will be good enough to be concerned about the fact that you had finally gotten that sniper’s shields down and were about to unload a Warp bomb of epic proportions only to have your friend charge in and shotgun them to death before zipping off to a few assault troopers that will be dead by the time you reach them.
For right now, just say “Thank you,” and move along.
Watching your friend play a vanguard will always raise questions. Questions like, “You’re aware that the Atlas you just charged still has shields, right?” or “Did you not see the turret over there?” or “Do you seriously expect me to get past two snipers, a phantom, and a guy with a riot shield and revive you?” But with this helpful guide, it can nevertheless be a fun and worthwhile experience for everyone.
Until she zips out and leaves you surrounded by husks. That’s just uncalled for.
Playing the Vanguard: A Measured Counterpoint
Sylvia Feketekuty, Vanguard Expert
Hahaha I don’t know why you haven’t tried Vanguard yet, this is awesome. Watch, you can solo an Atlas if you don’t get too close to it when it
Right by the atlas and turret
My squad piles into the shuttle at the end of a tough mission. A turian squad got pinned down by Reaper forces after their mission went horribly wrong. My team and I saved as many as we could.
After a quick debrief with my superiors, I, Commander Shepard, am officially off duty.
Diplomacy and De-stress
First things first: we’ve got some important diplomatic visitors aboard the Normandy as we try to coordinate war efforts between the Alliance and the Turian Empire. I talk with each of them, and hear their reactions to what happened on our latest mission.
While they’re important to the war effort, these kinds of talks always stress me out a little — a galactic war will do that. I head up the Normandy’s cockpit to see Joker. He tosses off a sarcastic remark about the turians I saved on my last mission, which at least lets me know that somebody else understands what I’m going through.
As I’m leaving, the comm specialist tells me I’ve got new messages. I check my mail and read a thank-you from some civilians we rescued. I also get a note from someone who wants me to come visit them on the Citadel, as well as something from James saying he’d like to talk in private. I file that away for later, then chat with the comm specialist, a technical expert who doesn’t have much experience serving on the front lines. After making sure she’s doing all right, I’m ready to see what’s happening on the rest of my ship.
Crew and Quartermaster
I head to the lower decks to check in with the crew. I talk with Garrus, who’s understandably upset about the turian soldiers who didn’t make it on that last mission. I then check on Liara, and find her chatting with Joker over the intercom. At least I think they’re chatting — she seems pretty frazzled, but that happens to most people after they talk with Joker. After getting him to lay off her, I head out.
I stop by the quartermaster and my work bench. I really liked how my assault rifle handled on the last mission, but my shotgun felt weak. I buy a new weapon mod that should give it more stopping power, along with another upgrade mod that should improve its penetration next time I’m up against something with heavy armor. I tinker a bit more on some pistols — I don’t use them, but Liara does — and buy a few cheaper things from the store. I make a note to buy a few expensive things next time I’m on the Citadel — it’s cheaper to buy direct when I’ve got the time. Then I tune up my armor a bit; I’ve been getting up close and personal on recent missions, so I add some armor pieces that’ll help in close combat.
Home Sweet Home
Finally, I head up to my cabin, turn on some music, and check on my fish. James wanted to talk, so I invite him up, and we shoot the breeze about something he understandably didn’t want to discuss in public.
Where to now? I could head to the Citadel and meet that contact. I could explore a system that recently fell under Reaper control; if I’m lucky, I could evacuate more civililans from enemy territory. Honestly, though, all that will still be there after the next mission, and I’m really ready to check out that new shotgun mod.
Looks like I’m back on duty.