Paragon or Renegade? An Interview with Mass Effect’s Mac Walters | NYCC 2016
As any gamer would tell you, there’s a universe of choices in the Mass Effect franchise. So, it’s no surprise that we have a million questions for the game’s creators! At NYCC this year we got the chance to fire off a few at Mac Walters.
A member of the series’ writing team from the first game, Mac is most known for his leadership on Mass Effect 3, as well as the upcoming Andromeda, the anticipated continuation to the series. Mac was on site to promote the release of Mass Effect Omnibus Volume 1, a collection of the comics that expand upon the lore of this signature Sci-Fi series. Published through Dark Horse Comics, the company was wonderful enough to help make this interview happen.
GEEKPR0N: You’ve worked on Mass Effect through various channels. There’s the franchise’s own ‘expanded universe’ with novels and comics, as well the games themselves. How do you find the writing process compares, between book format and a game script?
Mac Walters: When we’re writing the video games, we’re taking things into account like player agency and choice. We do things that are unique to the games, like branching narrative. When the players make their choice, they want to feel like there’s consequence in the world. It has it’s own unique set of challenges. The other thing is, the game is a human perspective and story, with a human protagonist. But when we dive into the comics, I would say it’s freeing. I can go into anyone’s head and make them the protagonist. We went back and did The Illusive Man at one point, so we can do things like look at how our villains have developed. There’s a lot more we can do with the characters, because we’re seeing the world through their point of view. As for the writing process itself, I wouldn’t say its simpler, but it is a linear narrative compared to the game’s scenarios. And with comics you have to be graphically-minded. There’s narrative, and dialogue but you also have to describe the scenes in your mind when you’re doing them. I quite enjoyed the learning process.
GP: What’s been your favourite story to write?
MW: Well, it’s hard to beat the first Mass Effect comic. Telling the story of Redemption was where I found that learning process I mentioned, and I love challenges. The whole process was really enjoyable. Doing the story and writing for the Homeworlds comics was fun – we were doing these one-offs with different characters and shorter arcs. The challenge there was: “well you got 22 pages, what are you gonna do with it?” For me those are the ones that stick out.
GP: With each Mass Effect game, BioWare really increased your responsibilities and now you’re overseeing Andromeda. What can you tell us about that game that we can get excited about?
MW: Without getting into too many details before N7 day coming up, I think people should be excited about the same things we as developers are excited about. We wanted a fresh start, not just for story and game, but for ourselves. A lot of the magic of developing the first game was that we didn’t have a background on Mass Effect yet. So, what can we do, that will surprise and delight the players? That’s what I think people should look forward to – all the elements you’d want of a Mass Effect game, of course they’ll be there. But we try to have a forward-looking mindset and imagine new things. What better way to start anew than by going to a new galaxy? We hope it feels fresh for everyone, whether you’ve never played before or played a hundred hours.
GP: There were a lot of mixed reactions at Mass Effect 3’s ending. Is it a situation where you feel pressure to make fans happy again?
MW: I don’t think it added any more pressure. I mean, BioWare has a fantastic community. We take what our fans like and don’t like about the games into account all the time. I think we always want to improve, and we are our own worst critics. Everytime we finish a game, there’s a whole bunch of things that we wish we could have done. For me, with Mass Effect Andromeda being a fresh start, our first game on the Frostbite engine, our first new Mass Effect game in 5 years and on the current gen consoles, that’s where the challenge is.
GP: Paragon or Renegade?
Thanks to Mac and Dark Horse Comics for taking time to chat with GEEKPR0N. Keep an eye open for announcements from BioWare about Mass Effect Andromeda next month on November 7, aka N7 Day!