Tag Archives: Mass Effect

Fan Blog: Andrew Ryan, Artist

Hey fellow BioWare fans,

My name is Andrew Ryan, and I’m a freelance artist based in New York City that loves doing fan art for BioWare’s Mass Effect and Dragon Age titles. Here’s how I got into making fan art, why I enjoy it so much, and what my general process is.

I’ve been a huge Mass Effect fan since its 2007 release. I fell in love with its stylistic approach to the universe and with the option for each of us to craft our own individual narrative within the confines of the overarching plot. It reawakened within me the drive to be a more creative person. I’d always loved science-fiction and fantasy art, but I hadn’t really been drawing much since graduating from high school two years prior.

During this particular time in my life I was basically just playing a bunch of video games in my mom’s basement and working menial jobs. Inspirational games like Mass Effect gave me the motivation to start seeking out art schools where I could foster my desire to be creative. After a couple of rejections from other schools, I got into the School of Visual Arts in NYC. It was there, during my sophomore year, that one of my instructors introduced me to Dragon Age: Origins.

Fast forward to 2012 and my senior year of art school. I made the decision that year to go digital rather than traditional. Unfortunately, my classes didn’t offer much in the way of using Photoshop as a painting tool, so I figured the best way to learn was just to paint with it as much as possible in my spare time. I also figured that the best way to keep myself motivated was to paint something I really cared about. In 2012, that was Mass Effect 3.

Okay, so I wasn’t too fond of the original ending and the destruction of the Mass Relays. I wanted to know that my favorite characters weren’t forever stuck on some remote planet, so I started painting epilogue scenarios. I had Garrus and Tali retire to Rannoch, Wrex rejoin EVE back on Tuchunka to lead the krogan to a new age, and Kaidan, my love interest and favorite character, return to the Citadel ruins to search for Shepard. These were my attempts to get the closure I felt was lacking prior to the release of the Extended Cut—which thankfully remedied the business with the relays.

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Around this time I also got to thinking how fun it would be to evolve my skillset by depicting some of the hypothetical enemy forces we didn’t get a chance to see during the Reaper War, such as the Reaperized hanar, volus, and drell. Looking back, I’m not too happy with them. I could have pushed them to be a lot more grotesque, but I had a blast making them and enjoyed sharing and discussing my concepts with other fans.

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My next fan project, Dragon Effect, was inspired in part by the existing blood dragon armor set that already served as a bridge between the Dragon Age and Mass Effect franchises. I planned to just do Shepard originally, but then I started drawing parallels between the two worlds by comparing biotics to mages and synthetics to golems. This led to rendering almost every Mass Effect character in a DA-inspired outfit. I’m currently working on bringing the Dragon Age cast into the Mass Effect universe, which has been equally challenging and entertaining.

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When determining how a character should look, I consider several things: I gauge the overall aesthetic appearance of its genre and how to transfer it to the other. I find similarities in personality to another existing character. I think about how to make the final lineup more interesting. For example, I’ll try not to make every single mage a standard biotic adept but instead make some of them vanguards when it better suits their DA fighting style.

Miranda, for instance, had certain traits in common with Morrigan: a confident attitude, a desire to keep others at an emotional distance, and parental issues. There’s also the obvious biotic-mage comparison, so I took elements from Miranda’s Mass Effect outfit (Cerberus insignia and honeycomb patterning) and implemented them in Morrigan’s staff and skirt. I also traded color schemes as it’s an easy and obvious way to change someone’s look but retain the overall feel of a character.

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As for my process, it’s always changing. I’m still relatively new to digital painting, but generally I start with a solid line drawing followed by layering in separate solid dark colors underneath. I then add various textures on top of that to give the image a bit of “tooth” and so it doesn’t look quite so digital. Once I lay in the textures, I move onto the face. I use a lot of reference to nail down as close of a likeness as I can to the character. I’ll use the lighting direction in the reference photo so that I can render out the rest of the body. At a certain point, when I am happy enough with the direction, I combine all of the layers into one and start doing little tweaks to make certain forms read better. On the final pass, I add custom features like tattoos and buttons.

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Although I’m never really happy with any of my art—I tend to only see the flaws—my fan art has been a great way to expand on the intrinsic love and admiration I feel for these games. I look forward to bringing you guys more in the future!

Please visit my site to follow my future projects or to view my past works:
http://andrewryanart.deviantart.com/

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BioWare Down Under at PAX Australia

BioWare has taken part in Penny Arcade Expo (or PAX) events before. Whether it’s Boston PAX East or the Seattle PAX Prime conventions, BioWare enjoys the chance to get our staff and development teams out with our fans. This year marked the first ever PAX outside the United States, and we were excited to send a team down under to Melbourne to meet our Australian fans.

BioWare sent a team made up of Cameron Lee (Dragon Age Producer), Patrick Weekes (Senior Writer), Karin Weekes (Lead Editor), and “Evil” Chris Priestly (Community Specialist) to the other side of the world to talk to fans that rarely get to see our game developers.

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We spent the first day of PAX Australia scanning the convention hall for fans wearing BioWare clothing or cosplay to give them exclusive BioWare pins and to discuss our games with them.

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We held our panel on Friday afternoon in front of almost 300 fans who lined up for two hours! Our apologies to those who didn’t get in.

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We had a great time talking to everyone in attendance. While it was a little too early to reveal new information about Dragon Age: Inquisition, we did talk about the Mass Effect series and other past BioWare games. If you didn’t get to attend the panel, you can watch it here.

That night, after getting trapped by a winter rainstorm, we hosted a gathering of 100 guests and Community VIPS. We had snacks, beverages, and a great time talking to our guests who all went home with a signed Mass Effect or Dragon Age lithograph.

On Saturday we hit the convention floor again to find more fans and giving away our BioWare pins. It was a wet day, so it was great to see that many BioWare fans had made it out. The day was capped with Patrick & Karin taking part in a panel where they discussed why mainstream media portrayals of gamers matters.

On Sunday, before heading back to PAX, Karin, Patrick, and Chris went to the Healesville Sanctuary to see Australian wildlife. They saw wombats, Tasmanian devils, koalas, platypussesses… platypi… more than one platypus, and a host of other indigenous animals. Here’s Patrick and Karin meeting a mob of kangaroos.

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The team returned to PAX where the enforcers kindly set up an autograph station for the team to meet fans and sign autographs. Spending face-to-face time with our fans was a great way to end our first visit to PAX Australia.

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A big thank you to all of our new friends who made us feel so welcome. We hope to see you all again soon. Too right!

Fan Blog: The RC Mako

Hi, everyone!

BioWare knows that we have some very creative and talented fans out there. Whether you are a cosplayer, an artist, a baker or something similar, we know that our games have helped spur your imaginations and skills.

We want to help recognize you and your creativity here on the BioWare Blog by letting you blog about your creative outlets and your enjoyment of our games. If you are interested in blogging about your art, cosplay, creations or similar, please let us know by emailing Community@BioWare.com We hope to hear from you.

Now please enjoy the first BioWare Fan Blog: The RC Mako.

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In a small farming town in northern Louisiana, I terrorize the plains, scurrying through the tall grass in search of any miniature thresher maw predecessors and waiting for the chance to survey uncharted worlds. I may lack micro-thrusters and an element zero core, but my pilot will find ways around this. I am the RC Mako. (https://www.facebook.com/RCMako)

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Hey, everyone! My name is Laura Ducros, and I made a remote-controlled version of the M-35 Mako from the original Mass Effect. I consider myself a jack of all trades, being primarily an artisan crafter and cosplayer. I’m a huge Mass Effect fan. I have cosplayed as FemShep and made a few weapons from the game—including a Nerf Recon transformed into an M-920 Cain. I’ve even carved Mass Effect designs into a few pumpkins. My creations are all on my Facebook page: Rebel Among The Stars Studios (https://www.facebook.com/RebelAmongTheStars) or on my DeviantART (http://xrebel66x.deviantart.com/).

The idea for the remote-controlled Mako started after I attended DragonCon 2012. I have been to conventions across the US, including SDCC, but nothing prepared me for DragonCon. It was my first time attending, and I expected just another run-of-the-mill convention. I quickly discovered how wrong I was. The variety of unique costumes and the dedication I saw to people’s crafts put all of my past conventions to shame. Even though I was only able to spend one day there, it left a real impression on me. All I could think about was returning next year and bringing along something that would add to its vast geeky diversity. I spent the entire eight-hour trip home brainstorming. My mind was filled with ideas, but one stood out: an RC Mako.

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I remember thinking, “I see at least one R2-D2 or K-9 being operated at these conventions. Maybe I can do something that is remote controlled, too.” I immediately knew I wanted something from Mass Effect, since the games are very dear to my heart. This also meant I could bring my creation along with me whenever I was dressed in my FemShep attire. The first vehicle that popped into my head was the Mako. Even though some people hated it, I absolutely adored it. I consider myself to be pretty darn good at maneuvering that monster around. Exploring uncharted worlds, shooting at thresher maws, driving over geth armatures and watching them wobble back upright…all the good memories I had with the Mako sealed the deal.

I had a general idea of how I wanted to execute it—something similar to the one an avatar on XBOX 360™ could have, but with my own flair added. I began scouting for ways to make this dream a reality. The first obstacle was the base. I contemplated building something entirely from scratch, but I lacked the funds and resources. I searched, and stumbled across a 6-wheeled truck in the toy department of my local Target™ that had a base identical to the Mako’s. It was exactly what I needed to start this journey.

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As soon as I brought that base home, the Mako became my main project. Even when I wasn’t physically working on it, I was constantly thinking about it. It consumed six months of my life. There was a lot of trial and error—and countless messages sent to friends asking for advice or suggestions. I’d never tackled anything like this before, and it was a fairly challenging project, but I was determined to make it happen. It took me four attempts before finally getting the body perfect. (I nicknamed it “Bruce.”) I still keep the failed attempts as keepsakes to remind me of how I didn’t give up.

The end result was a body made entirely of craft foam, one dowel, and a few bottles of superglue. I used a papercraft model created by ThunderChildFTC (http://thunderchildftc.deviantart.com/) as a base for the final design. I enlarged the original model, made modifications to the design, cut out the new pieces in the foam, and winged it the rest of the way. Measuring 19.5″ long, 8″ tall, and 7.5″ wide, he’s no shabby little RC. The most difficult part was getting the cannon to turn on command, especially since I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. When I finally managed to get it working, my squeal was loud enough to startle my dogs. After 6 months, the finishing line was finally in sight. I couldn’t sleep during those final days.

I didn’t know what kind of reaction to expect. There are a great many professional remote controlled toys and props out there, and I was just an amateur with a big dream. My main goal was already accomplished, and that was rewarding in itself. But the positive response my Mako got makes me want to blush. I honestly never imagined it would be so well-received. Pictures appeared on Kotaku only a few hours after I posted them on DeviantART. The wonderful people at BioWare shared the video I created on Twitter and Facebook. I’ve even inspired others to make their own RC vehicles from Mass Effect, like Ammnra’s Kodiak (http://fav.me/d5vojhehttps://www.facebook.com/AmmnraCreations).

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People immediately recognized my Mako when he made his first public appearance at MomoCon 2013. Many came up and expressed their strong love or hate—some even joked that he handled better than the in game version (which he doesn’t). I loved driving him around and hearing people call out, “It’s the Mako!” But nothing could compare to the reactions I received from Chris Priestly, Keith Hayward, and Mark Meer when they took him for a test drive. It was truly overwhelming.

So what lies ahead for the RC Mako? I plan to take him to every convention I attend. I’m really looking forward to bringing him to SDCC and DragonCon. I’ll be driving him around during the parade while I’m marching with my fellow N7 Elite’s (https://www.facebook.com/groups/N7Elite/). I see myself continuously upgrading and improving my Mako for many years to come: I already have a very long list of things I want to add, including lights, a functioning cannon, and eventually having him jump around like he’s on thrusters. This whole process is still very new to me, so the more I learn, the more I can implement. One day, he’ll be crawling up 89-degree cliffs—and then I become an official member of the Mako Mountain Climbing Team.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story.

Laura Ducros

Rebel Among The Stars – https://www.facebook.com/RebelAmongTheStars

RC Mako – https://www.facebook.com/RCMako

BioWare at the San Diego Comic Con

Hi Everyone,

BioWare is pleased to be visiting San Diego once again to be part of San Diego Comic Con. This year, BioWare will be part of the Dark Horse Comics booth inside the exhibit hall; as part of our booth presence, Community Manager Jessica Merizan will have members of the Dragon Age and Mass Effect teams, along with special guests.

Come out and meet Jessica, along with Mass Effect producer Mike Gamble, Dragon Age editor Ben Gelinas, and Dragon Age artist Nick Thornborrow. Ben and Nick are the creators of the Dragon Age: The World of Thedas lore book, and will be on hand at the BioWare section of the Dark Horse Comics booth to sign autographs with fans; they look forward to talking with fans in attendance. We are also working to have some special guests visit us; we’ll update everyone when they are confirmed.

Visiting the Dark Horse booth is your only chance to get your hands on the San Diego Comic Con exclusive, the Bronze SR-1 Normandy. There are only 300 of these available and are limited to two per person, so make sure you come to get yours before they run out.

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We hope to see you at the Dark Horse Comics booth at San Diego Comic Con!

Blog: Mike Gamble

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Written by: Producer, Mike Gamble (@GambleMike)

Post launch support is something that we’ve taken very seriously at BioWare. Since ME2, we’ve worked hard to make our DLCs special, and expand our worlds in fantastic ways – long after the game has been released. DLC gives us an opportunity to try new things (Lair of the Shadowbroker car chase, Citadel party), but also gives us an opportunity to tell interesting stories that, while related to the core game experience, are fun and unique in their own way.

Downloadable content at BioWare also gives us the opportunity to use our extremely talented team, and further develop their skills. To provide good post launch support, there’s sort of an ebb and flow to things. We have to balance between teams in BioWare Edmonton and BioWare Montreal. Focus on supporting single player adventures, as well as multi player expansions. All the while, we need to maintain a consistent level of quality in these packs, while listening to our fans for feedback and support.

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When I was first asked to be the Producer for the ME3 DLC plan, we were somewhere in the twilight hours of development on the ME3 base game. Of course, at that time, the entire team was desperately trying to pack as much quality into the remaining time– so I can easily admit my focus wasn’t yet on the year *after* we shipped the game. We just needed to make sure we released an awesome game. Besides, I thought, I had been the Producer for most of the ME2 DLC…what could possibly go wrong or be different?  Fast forward to the day that we submitted the main game to certification. Many cheers and high-fives were given around the office, but for me and the first DLC team – work was only really getting going.

From the beginning, the objective for us was clear. We wanted Mass Effect 3 to be a game that people loved for the entire year, long after they had finished it the first time. We wanted to broaden the story that we had produced in the main game, deepen relationships, add new characters and amazing missions, and support this little feature called Multiplayer the best we could. These were the key pillars of the plan, but of course, plans are built so that they can change…and I’m glad they did!

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As soon as we completed the main game, we moved onto From Ashes nearly immediately. From Ashes was a tough one. The team had been pushing pretty hard to complete the main game, and everyone deserved a nice break. Well, everyone except for the From Ashes team! We had learned a lot from our previous character DLCs, and decided to ensure that we focused our development on broadening Javik as a character, and fully integrating him into the ME3 story. Doing that is a huge task, and it involved a bit of planning and foresight as you need to put certain hooks into the main-game for it to connect to the DLC content properly.

We also needed to make sure that Javik felt just as fleshed out as the other squad mates. We learned what we did right and what we needed to improve with previous characters like Zaeed and Kasumi. For Javik, we ended up writing numerous character moments for him, making him part of squad banter, and developing his personal story throughout the large arc of ME3.

After From Ashes launched, we were inspired by the amount of great feedback we had received regarding the character. People found him strong, intelligent, and humorous. It was positive and reassuring to know that the fans loved him. We were, of course, seeing feedback for other aspects of the game too – interpreting the feedback on the endings of the main game became a strong focus for the ME3 team, and helped us to shape the direction of DLC in the coming months.

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The Extended Cut was an extremely challenging but rewarding experience. On one side, we wanted to ensure that we put the Extended Cut out as soon as we could for the fans to enjoy with their playthroughs. To that end, we reprioritized the DLC team to put the Extended Cut first on the schedule. On the other side, we wanted to make sure the extended cut answered a lot of the questions that the fans had as well as provide additional clarity and closure. The core ME3 leads and DLC team sat down together for nearly a week and charted out the entire ending sequence on a giant flow chart, with a consolidated list of fan feedback up on the projector screen to ensure we were capturing the right goals.

We made additions, tweaks, and adjustments to the flow, and built in the expanded depth that you see in the Extended Cut. We tried to account for as many characters, plots, and variables as we could fit into the DLC – constantly battling the download size, with some platforms having an upper limit of 2 GB (a technical limit we eventually solved for the Citadel pack).  With the Extended Cut’s size and complexity, it was sometimes a dice roll whether or not the build would succeed. It was a hard push to the end… but the team enjoyed the opportunity to spend a little more time resolving the end of the trilogy.  When the Extended Cut was released, there was a unanimous breath of relief from the entire DLC team. Onward to our next DLC.

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Next for us was Leviathan. Because the extended cut reprioritized our time, we were able to spend some more energy on the ideation process around what we wanted Leviathan to be. Interestingly, it took us some time to actually figure out what we wanted to cover in our first ME3 story-based DLC. Was it a story that was parallel to the war, or tangential? Did it focus on the Krogan? Or perhaps the Salarian STG groups? As we went through this exercise, we eventually solidified on one thing.

We wanted the DLC to be about exploring the galaxy, and giving the player a mystery to solve. The fun part, for us, was to see how we could make that work within the framework of ME3. Our fantastic writing team took that concept, and worked with a number of ideas that they were tossing around at the time (Leviathan of Dis was one of those!). In the end, the story of Leviathan, and its connection to the origin of the Reapers was one that we were all excited for.

After the initial concept, the development process for Leviathan went fairly smoothly, and we made sure we included a lot of existing elements that we knew the fans would enjoy (squad banter, deep character interactions, etc). Of course, while the BioWare Edmonton team was working on Leviathan, the team in Montreal was cooking up something special as well.

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Omega was different for us for a variety of reasons. First, it was developed primarily by the team at BioWare Montreal, and it had begun development shortly after the release of ME3.  Second, Omega gave us the ability to return to a much-beloved area from ME2, and really flesh it out like we had never been able to do before. What does Omega look like underneath the shopping district you saw in ME2? How far would Aria go to reclaim it? What other interesting enemies and friends called the space station their home? The focus for the team in Montreal was to really answer some of those questions, and to create new places and characters that broadened the series.

Of particular note, Omega also gave us the ability to explore a new character by the name of Nyreen. She was a female turian, and while we had alluded to female turians before, we had never shown one. Of course, a lot of the driving force behind that came directly from the fans and their feedback. I don’t think we could have predicted how popular Nyreen ended up being with the fans, but we’re glad she did. We were recently discussing some of the amazing cosplay we recently saw at PAX, and were proud that she was an inspirational character for some.

Citadel

Our final DLC for the trilogy, Citadel, was a real treat for us to do, and personally it was my favorite DLC to work on since Shadow Broker. It allowed us to close out the trilogy while adhering to the pillars that Mass Effect has become known for. We’re very much aware that Mass Effect is driven by the incredible characters which incorporate the galaxy, so even our earliest plans for ME3 DLC had us ending on one last adventure that focused on memorable moments with favorite characters. Of course, with the Citadel being an iconic location for us, we also wanted to showcase some of the areas of the space station that players had previously only wondered about – but without a doubt, our focus was on the characters.

That’s why, when we started production on the Citadel, we ensured that the writing and cinematics teams were well equipped to bring our characters to life in new and exciting ways. A tango for Garrus? A music performance from Tali? All of these scenes worked into the larger theme of the pack – a love letter from us, to the trilogy and to our fans. We wanted to round out the pack with some amazing additions (such as the Casino Hub area and the Combat Simulator), in order to add additional value to the pack, and to give us an opportunity to bring in some of the gameplay advances that we’d been pushing in multiplayer over the past year. Now that it’s all completed, we’ve been humbled by the fan reaction to it.

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Of course, no discussion of DLC would be complete without talking about our multiplayer content as well. Originally, we didn’t know what to expect from players regarding multiplayer. We had never done a feature like this in Mass Effect before, but we hoped that it would prove itself when the game released. Needless to say, we were pleasantly surprised. From the beginning, we had always planned to support the MP feature with free DLC. What we didn’t plan for is how much we would end up doing!

We wanted to keep the player-base from becoming splintered (those who did download the DLC vs. those who didn’t), and we wanted to make sure that everyone had access to the content. Once we saw that people were playing (and loving) multiplayer, our imaginations went wild. What other features could we add? How many more kits would the engine support? Could we give players access to new challenges, and have their progress reflected on the web? We were able to do all of that, and more.

We have an extremely talented levels and gameplay team who have been tasked over the past year with making multiplayer an ever-growing service.  Our only constraint has been how quickly we were able to get the content out. Since we’ve always been developing a story-based single player DLC, it normally meant that we had to develop the multiplayer content at the same time. That was a bit tough on the team, but we have an extremely experienced team, and they were able to deal with it. A full year and 5 multiplayer expansions later, we’ve packed the game to the gills, and it was only possible thanks to your support.

I sincerely hope that we’ve been able to entertain you over the past year, and I’m glad we have such an amazing fan base. You’ve been great. You tell us what works and what doesn’t, and you’ve helped to make this year one of the most rewarding of my life. Thank you.

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