Our Lonely Wall Needs Your Help

In a quiet corner of a small studio in the city of Montreal, there lived a sad wall of little importance. Neither load-bearing nor fanciful in material or design, the wall simply stood where it was put, as walls are wont to do. And though standing still is an admirable trait to have in a wall—indeed the one thing that’s expected of it—this wall dreamed of more.

It was tired of the blank, expressionless faces on the game developers walking past. It was tired of sectioning space into rooms and hallways. It was even tired of being red. And as days turned into weeks that turned into months, the wall grew more morose.

Then a funny thing happened. It seemed the sadder the wall got, the more people noticed it. They would pause in the hallway and say things like, “My word, is that ever a sad looking wall.” Others would agree, “Dreadfully sad.” Soon it was hard for anyone to even think of the dreary patch of drywall without weeping with abject sorrow.

“This damned wall is ruining our day,” they said. “Something must be done!”

Of course, you can’t just paint a wall and expect it to be happy – and hiding it behind drapes would be rather silly. After much debate, it was decided that the best way to cheer up the weepy, old wall would be to cover it with joyful things: art and letters and photographs from Mass Effect fans who want to share their love for the franchise with the studio.

And so, in a rather roundabout way, we’re asking you, the Mass Effect community, to send us things to cover our wall. Send us pictures and postcards and paintings. Send us weavings and writings and watercolors. We’ve got a wall to fill, and we want what you make.

The saddest wall you've ever seen.

The saddest wall you’ve ever seen.

To partake, send your Mass Effect creations along with a signed release to:

BioWare Montréal
3, place Ville Marie
Suite 200
Montréal, Québec, Canada
H3B 2E3

You can also submit print quality work to fanart@bioware.com

*All fan art must be your own original work, and cannot contain any images from third parties. For photographs, please include a signed release form for all parties involved.

Valentine’s Day: I Was Lost Without You

Imagine that you’re sprinting across Firebase White during a Mass Effect 3 multiplayer session. Wave after wave of Reapers fall at the hands of your friends and an unknown N7 Slayer. Now imagine that several months later, you’re walking down the aisle, about to marry the person behind that N7 Slayer. For Jameela Cameron, that’s exactly what happened.

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Jameela still clearly recalls the night of April 13, 2012. She received an invitation to play Mass Effect 3 with her friends Sean and Estevan, but wasn’t really in the mood. After some consideration, she decided to join them.

A couple of games later, another player joined their session: Tyler, a mutual friend of Sean and Estevan. “I was really quiet at first,” Jameela remembers. “I figured he’s probably a friend of theirs, but I didn’t want to talk.”

Tyler, on the other hand, had no problem breaking the ice. After engaging in a deep discussion about Mass Effect lore with the group, Tyler joked about their having nothing better to do on a Friday night and mused, “Man, we are, like, undateable.”

Little did he know that it was his sense of humor that first attracted Jameela. “I liked the fact that he could make fun of himself,” she says. “He was obviously smart, and he was very witty.”

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Picking up on the brewing chemistry between his two friends, Estevan seized the opportunity to play matchmaker in between waves of Geth Primes and Rocket Troopers. He encouraged Jameela to connect with Tyler through Facebook and sent them each text messages of praise about the other.

The two bonded quickly, and it wasn’t long before Jameela made the first move. She started signaling her interest by always being the first to revive him after he fell in battle, a luxury she did not extend to her other teammates. Eventually, she came right out and told him he was “gorgeous.”

“I don’t know what came over me that night,” she laughed. “That is not how I normally work.”

The two played until the sun came up the next morning, leading to a discussion about their options. A month later, Tyler and Jameela met in person and knew they wanted to be together. Unfortunately, a Harbinger-sized roadblock stood in their path: over 2,000 miles of distance.

As luck would have it, plans were already in motion for Tyler to move back to Michigan, a six-and-a-half hour drive from Jameela’s hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the meantime, overcoming time-zone differences and conflicting schedules put a lot of pressure on the young couple. They combatted those challenges with Skype video chats, playing co-op games, and texting.

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Tyler proposed to Jameela on June 22, 2012, and they set a wedding date of October 26—news that their friend Sean took to PAX Prime later that summer. While visiting the BioWare Base, Sean met lead editor Karin Weekes and shared the couple’s story.

“Sean is the nicest person, and I was so touched that he took the time to come and talk with me and tell me Tyler and Jameela’s engagement story,” Karin said. “It was the coolest feeling to have been a tiny part of the stage for the early part of their relationship (plus, I’m a complete sucker for weddings). When Sean told me their favorite characters were Garrus and Tali, I thought, ‘OK, we must have a screenshot of the Tali/Garrus hookup scene somewhere…’ Back at the studio, I tracked one down and got it printed out—the team loved the story, and everyone was really pleased to sign and send the poster to Tyler and Jameela (through Sean, the best best man ever!) for their big day!”

The gift arrived at their hotel just in time for the wedding and now hangs above the TV in their living room.

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Twenty of their closest friends and family attended the wedding that fall. Jameela walked down the aisle to Sam Hulick’s “I Was Lost Without You” (she also had the song title engraved on Tyler’s wedding ring as a surprise). For the reading of vows, they selected the accompaniment of “I’m Proud of You,” also written by Sam for the Mass Effect 3 soundtrack.

In preparation for PAX Prime in 2013, the couple got Mass Effect tattoos, paying homage to how the series had affected their lives. For Tyler, Garrus was an obvious choice. “In the Mass Effect games, I always took Garrus with me in my party,” he said. “He was a symbol of true loyalty and friendship.”

Jameela identified with Tali’s loyalty to her father and her people, even in times of disagreement. She also appreciated the quarian’s “nerdy” side, as she refers to it. “She’s cool. She can handle her own,” Jameela said of Tali. “She’s extremely smart and honorable, and that always stuck with me.”

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Nearly two years have passed since they first met, but Tyler and Jameela still make time to play Mass Effect 3 multiplayer together. In fact, they plan to celebrate the anniversary of their introduction by getting the original group back together, a tradition they hope to continue every year in addition to their wedding anniversary.

“We’ll probably celebrate both of those dates forever,” says Tyler. “Two anniversaries.”

Why Do Nugs Suddenly Appear?

Love is in the air, spring is on the horizon, and birds sing their special song of promise.

Or maybe love is on the ground, winter is still here, and it is dark, and it is cold, and you are eating from the can because who can be bothered with bowls?

Either way, the Valentine’s season stirs the soul.

Perhaps your appreciation of the occasion is ironic. Maybe the anxious hectoring of your mother  drives you forth into the world, in pursuit of fanciful fineries with which to woo your special friends or prospective partners. You might just like video game references.

To help in any case, we offer these sweet nothings to lay bare your feelings and win some hearts.
So from us to you, and then from you to them, a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Want to print them out at home? Download them here

DA_VivienneDA_CassandraDA_Dragon_DA_NugDA_DogDA_ArishokME_Paragon_ME_RenegadeME_MordinME_MakoME_NormandyME_Collector

Paragon and Renegade now for PC. My apologies.

Happy N7 Day!

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Hey Everyone,

We’ve got plenty of great things going on this N7 Day, and we welcome you to join in the celebration.

Play with Devs!

Starting at 2pm MST, our developers are going to be jumping on ME3 multiplayer and playing along with fans. We’re set up on PC, PS3, and Xbox, so keep an eye out for the BioWare banners.

Our very own Bryan Johnson will also be running a twitch livestream of his games. Be sure to check it out!

We’ve also added a second livestream from the BioBridge that you can check out as well.

Want to friend us? Go right ahead.

Our Gamertags on Xbox are:

PC
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BioWareDev5
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BioWareDev10
BioWareDev2
BioWareDev7
BioWareDev6
BioWareDev8
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BioWareDev12

Xbox
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PS3
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Deals, Deals, Deals

Our partners are just as excited as we are about N7 day, and to celebrate they’re offering tons of deals on N7 goods. Check them out!

-          Stock up on official N7 gear and get 20% off all purchases of $50 or more at the BioWare store!

-          This Child’s Play Charity auction is a chance to get your hands on an original piece of Salarian concept art, signed by Matt Rhodes.

-          We created this limited edition reversible N7 shirt specifically for N7 day. You can find it at the BioWare Store for a limited time only.

-          Black Milk Clothing is holding a Mass Effect contest for N7 Day. Send in your best selfies in Mass Effect cosplay for a chance to win one of three $100 vouchers.

-          20% off Cooke and Becker art gicless

-          Walls360 wall graphics are 27% off for N7 Day only. Make sure you use the coupon code: N7DAY

-          TriForce are holding a 77 hour sale offering 25% off the Carnifex Replica

The Effect on Us

Femshep (1024x1024)When he began working on the ending of Mass Effect 2, lead cinematic animator Parrish Ley felt like a fraud.  There were so many issues to sort out, he didn’t know where to begin.

By the start of the Suicide Mission, there were hundreds of player choices to account for that resulted in thousands of possible scenarios. As work on the mission progressed, it was like trying to unspool a spider web.

“It was the kind of thing where you think, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing,’” Ley said. “It was a complex piece of branching narrative. We wanted to make sure it felt right for the players who did it, but at the same time, under the hood there were a lot of things running.”

Because they couldn’t say for certain which characters the player would have in their party, how many of them had completed loyalty missions, or which ones might die, even the most basic questions like who would deliver what lines became a nightmare.

Unfortunately, in situations like this, there’s no real Eureka moment or a silver bullet to take the beast down. In reality, there’s a group of people in a room who’ve missed a couple showers and skipped a few meals, working on the problem over and over and over until it’s solved.

“It started out utterly broken to the point where it was totally unplayable and we looked at each other and thought, ‘I don’t know what’s going on. We’re not going to be able to ship this game. This is crazy,’” Ley says. “And we would play it and go back to our desks and work on it. And every day it would get a little bit better, and a little bit better.”

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While players remember the emotional moments and intimate scenes, it’s often the hours that went into crafting them that stick with developers. Creating games is an intensely personal experience, says lead level designer Rick Knowles. You help a game develop over months and years, forging it into something you’re proud of.

“As developers, we’re also gamers, and I feel privileged to make games we want to play,” Knowles says. “I think we’d feel we failed if we built a game that we didn’t want to play.”

How you end up can often be miles from where you start out, he says. This was the case with ME3’s multiplayer. The original idea was to have a co-op mode. But the more they tried to hammer out the dents, the worse it felt.

“It took a very long time to settle on a model that we felt worked well. We tried out different layouts, different creatures, different settings,” Knowles says. “We were very conscious from the beginning to not just make a straight-up multiplayer experience. It had to have some narrative context.”

They addressed this by creating objectives, which gave weight and purpose to each mission. And though the stories are smaller and more contained, Knowles and his team built internal narratives into each map that would later inform design decisions. This is why the hazard version of Firebase Dagger features a sandstorm, for instance. It doesn’t just make the map more difficult; it makes sense in the context of downed satellite dishes.

Earth DLC BannerBut while you could put a lifetime of hours into developing a game, eventually it has to ship, and developers then must sit back and watch as players take over and experience it.

The day ME2 launched, Kris Schoneberg and her fellow level designers crowded around a computer screen, watching a live stream of an early playthrough. They were eager to see how the player would react to certain plot points, and how they would handle the challenges the team had so lovingly devised.

“They got to the Warden Kuril boss fight in the Jack mission,” Schoneberg says, laughing. “And I watched the guy just die over and over again, and I thought, ‘I’m sorry. I hope you’re having fun.’”

Patrick Weekes, a writer on all three games, had a similar experience on ME2. “I was watching a playthrough of a super-renegade player doing Tali’s loyalty mission. He was about to finish the trial, and after all his renegade decisions, I really didn’t want to watch him break Tali’s heart. Then he pauses the playthrough, goes to the chat box, and says, ‘I don’t know what to do, guys. I don’t wanna hurt Tali.’ Seeing that something I was part of connected with a fan deeply enough to affect his decisions made me realize how special this series really was.”

As time goes on, the series becomes more and more the property of fans, and they begin to develop their own ideas about what makes and defines Mass Effect, says executive producer Casey Hudson. And while this can at times cause resistance toward new ideas, ultimately it’s a sign that the characters and stories the developers created are resonating.

“You can have characters in a story, but that’s kind of different from building memorable characters that transcend the story,” Hudson says. “These characters that we have in the Mass Effect series, people want to takes these characters further out of the story and see them in comics and books and they want to know more about these characters.”

SquadDLC is among the many good ways to tell new stories, says producer Mike Gamble. Here in these smaller, more contained adventures, the team can take more risks and explore ideas that just couldn’t fit into the main game.

It also gives members of the ME team a chance to get back together with old friends, Gamble says—a big part of what made the series great in the first place.

“When we first start to make games, we have everyone from different departments each with an idea of what the game looks like,” he says. “Being able to work together for a long time, you start to develop trust, and those walls go away and you can drive toward a singular purpose.”

While the Citadel DLC was a farewell to Shepard and the crew of the Normandy for fans, inside the studio, the developers said their own goodbyes.

“We were sad when Shepard’s story was over. There was definitely a solemnness in the room,” Schoneberg says. “The last thing I worked on was the party in Citadel, and the party ends with a group photo. I manipulated my save file to show the guests I’d have on my game at home. When that last screen came up with that group photo, I got a little choked up and a little teary eyed, because I realized, ‘Well, this is it.’”

Weekes has a different memory of the party. “I’d always told fans that the one thing we’d never do was a cocktail party, because how could you handle that much conversation? How do you let the players feel like they’re chatting with people and moving around in a natural way with so many possible permutations? And then on Citadel, our lead, Mac Walters, said, ‘I think we need to do a party,’ and sure enough, he and Kris and some of the other writers actually came up with a structure that made it work. It’s just one more time that people on the team proved me wrong and did the impossible to make something really special.”

Though that party in Citadel may mark the end of Shepard’s story, it’s far from the end of Mass Effect. As the fourth title in the ME universe begins its development, the team is carrying forward all the things that made the Shepard’s trilogy so memorable.

“It’s the idea of exploring a vast universe: going out and seeing amazing new things. It’s scale: seeing new planets, new species, and having choices that matter. Because it’s a story, and one that you care about,” Hudson says. “It’s going to continue on, and the things people love about Mass Effect they’ll see even better in the next generation of games.”