017: N7 – The Holy Day of Mass Effect

Upon entering the castle our heroes are instantly transported to a universe of advanced technologies, odd alien species, and sentient artificial beings. Could this be home to the most usable game?

Games talked about in this episode:

  • 0:50 Mass Effect
  • 7:54 Until Dawn
  • 10:27 Call of Cthulhu
  • 13:20 Final Fantasy
  • 16:50 Starfinder
  • 20:42 The Witcher
  • 31:40 Mass Effect 4
  • 33:27 Pokemon
  • 34:19 Mass Effect 5e
  • 36:23 Legend of Zelda

Introductory Guy  

Welcome to Design Thinking Games, a fantasy and user experience podcast. Each episode, your podcast hosts, Tim Broadwater and Michael Schofield, will examine the player experience of board games, pen and paper role-playing games, live-action games, mobile games, and video games. You can find every episode, including this one on your podcatcher of choice and on the web at designthinkinggames.com.

Tim Broadwater  

This episode is brought to you by listeners like you at patreon.com/designthinkinggames.

Michael Schofield  

If we do this right, we’re releasing this before November 7. That is N7, the holy day of Mass Effect. And all throughout this series or throughout this season, I have frequently brought up Mass Effect this, Mass Effect that. I am a Mass Effects fanboy. We talked about Mass Effect, the Legendary Edition, and at some point, if folks ever have the inclination to go and listen back, you can hear as I gradually talk you, Tim, into sitting down and trying to play through what I think is one of the greatest series of all time. At this time, you have made it through, shoot, like 100 hours of gameplay between Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 3.

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah, so it was released – just some context. We couldn’t get it until the Legendary Edition, which is the reboot, it didn’t come out until May 14, so I’m sure I bought it that day. And I’ve been playing it for what, five months? Six months? It’s big, it’s a lot.

Michael Schofield  

Well, I think the idea here is that with the rest of the last season, like in the back of our mind, we have introduced some concepts that I think the other gaming podcasts haven’t. These are things about games in terms of their usability, their design choice, user experience stuff; we talked about character, class, and customization, and the impact of those design choices on the player experience. So with all that in mind, this will be my opportunity to pick your brain about the Mass Effect universe. And we’re gonna weave in some of these concepts as we go. So Tim, tell us about Tim Shepard, captain of the Normandy.

Tim Broadwater  

Did I tell you I named him Tim Shepard?

Michael Schofield  

I think you did. You may not have, and I may have just assumed. Maybe before you were like, “I name all my people, Tim.”

Tim Broadwater  

I think yeah, it’s Tim Shepard. And it’s that through 1, 2, and 3. Okay, so Tim Shepard is a soldier who is halfway between good and evil. I guess they call it Paragon – and what’s the evil label?

Michael Schofield  

It’s Renegade. But Is Tim Shepard a spacer, a colonist, or earth-born? Tell us your story now. So you’re a soldier, Tim Shepard entered into the Alliance at an early age. And you picked Soldier and …

Tim Broadwater  

I was a sole survivor of a massacre.

I went dark. It just seemed the most interesting like, you know, and then the first Mass Effect starts out you’re kind of ushered into like, your place, your potential as an important person in the human race as a Spectre.

Michael Schofield  

Right. Like early on in our season, we really talked about the importance of your ability to customize a character to your liking, where I think you and I actually took sort of, or like, slightly different stances where I prefer to be more on rails than not. You prefer freedom. I think Mass Effect does an interesting thing here where you have some amount of choice. There are some RPG elements, but as you set up your Tim Shepard for the first time, start fleshing him out as you accrued XP, you have classes. Then you have the whole morality train. How do you feel about your ability to customize Shepard to your liking?

Tim Broadwater  

So I’ve never played the originals, so I can only speak to, of course, what’s in the Legendary Edition. I mean, all you’re really doing is you choose sex and then essentially then kind of make up the face and voice, right? If I remember correctly, because it’s been a while since I set that up in the beginning, I remember thinking there are not many choices and there are not enough big beards. So I got the biggest beard that’s possible on a bald head because that’s my go-to in any game. So it’s like, I guess it’s just myself.

Michael Schofield  

Yeah. What about your ability to choose a class? In Mass Effect, you are given a choice of, I think, six classes. Off the top of my head, they are Soldier, Adept, Vanguard, Infiltrator, Engineer. That’s five. I’m missing one. But yeah.

Tim Broadwater  

So let me go ahead and put it at the beginning. It’s like Soldier was an easy class for just wanting to experience a story. And I’m like, check. The gameplay difficulty was just like, oh, just passive story, check. You know, because I, you know, I am not like a first-person or third-person shooter, typically. And I find that I toggle back and forth between Long Distance aiming and sniper aiming as well as like, I come from, like, MMO RPG. So when I navigate the world, I’m one of those people who always invert the y axis because I’m thinking, like, a plane or a cockpit to where I want to look down if I’m pressing forward.

Michael Schofield  

Yeah, you are piloting your Shepard and not becoming your Shepard. Correct?

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah, and then the Soldier was the easiest. And I didn’t really know at the beginning, what biotics were, and all of that. So I kind of just went very simple. And that’s kind of, yeah, that was kind of the setup.

Michael Schofield  

So generally, what happens is you kind of pick your prequel, like you’re a lone survivor, earth born. And it suddenly puts you over the shoulder of Commander Shepard walking briskly through the Normandy where you are set to drop down on, I think the colony Eden Prime. And throughout this, like, you know, it’s teaching you some of the controls, this is how you jump, this is how you duck, this is how you aim – dah dah dah – and also, I think, gives you your first introduction to a conversation and how they handle choice. And I’m curious what you think.

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah, so the conversation piece reminds me a lot of like, Until Dawn, or maybe Man of Medan, to where it’s like, there are certain things, you can just be like, okay, screw this and just in the conversation, or you can delve deeper and ask questions. And then at a certain point, you could ask things that have an emotional probe to him to where it’s like, are you kind of an ass, are you being like, nice, and then certain options are kind of like disabled. And I guess you can only do those if you either a have information or behave access that through the conversations kind of query or tree, you know, kind of progression, or you have to be like a paragon or renegade to ask worth a certain amount to be able to say something good, or as something to be evil, if so, very much. So I don’t know if it was anything new. But I mean, I never think about that. I never played this the first time around. So I don’t know if that influenced other games. 

Michael Schofield  

Yeah, I think at the time, this was super interesting, right? If you imagine traditional PC RPGs, where you have, say, three sentences at the bottom of the screen, and then you pick one, you don’t actually hear your character say them. You only have the response of the person you’re talking to. In this case, not only does your character veer a little off-script, so you might say, like, Sure, why not. And then your Shepard is going to put that in their own words. But it’s also one where you actually like, you know, you have a voice that you choose. How much control do you feel over that, or did you feel like this was railroaded? Was this, like, did you feel like you could take the conversation in a particular way or make choices in a particular way, or Were you pulled along magnetically without much? Was the choice only like an illusion?

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah, I mean, that’s a good question. So if I’m thinking of this right, Mass Effect came out in 2007, right? So the first one, like, I’m not sure.

Michael Schofield  

Yeah, yep.

Tim Broadwater  

And so in games that I’m thinking of, like Call of Cthulhu, or Until Dawn or other games that have this narrative kind of concept. I mean, that definitely came afterward. So it is totally possible and probably is that it’s kind of gathered from Mass Effect. And I think you suggested that to me, originally, because like, Mass Effect won Game of the Year, I think, or maybe not the first one, but the second one did, definitely, right. So I didn’t feel constrained or anything. I never experienced it for the first time. It’s kind of like when you think of interaction models. And in user experience, it’s like, this is kind of what people come to expect after a while, you know, you can sort columns, you know, that’s just kind of something that people expect to do. And so like, dialogue, in games, I think, at some point, you know, I don’t know if it’s Elder Scrolls, or if it’s, you know if it’s a New World, or you know, or whatever the game is, per se, but at some point, you know, you feel like, you need to have options in conversation. And things you can say, and so, you know, I felt that mechanic is just has been adopted by games in general now, so, so not really felt restricted or anything, but just didn’t know that that’s exactly kind of, or most probably where that came from. 

Michael Schofield  

Something you said yesterday made it seem like you didn’t realize how many different directions everything could go.

Tim Broadwater  

So like, yeah, you know, the first game, the major thing that I’m hit with is like, and spoilers from, you know, 13 years ago.

Michael Schofield  

Yeah, we’re gonna, we’re gonna spoil everything. Yeah, absolutely everything.

Tim Broadwater  

13-year-old spoiler here, but for a game that came out before the sequel, that won Game of the Year. In general, like there are choices, like in the first game, that it’s not until the end of the first game, where you start realizing like, oh, Wrex, Ashley versus Kaiden, do I save the Council at the Citadel, you know, these things? And then it doesn’t really hit me until the second game, which is the one the won Game of the Year that, oh, these actions have major consequences. And then the game is so epic. And it is, I think what I told you is like, it makes me feel like, Mass Effect 1, 2, and 3 remind me very much of like, the Lord of the Rings like it is this huge fantasy epic about the point in time where everything is at the risk of being toppled or destroyed by evil, and then all of everyone has to come together to save it. So it’s like the Final Fantasy moment, for lack of a better term. Because Final Fantasy, the game is always at the end of a world at the end of the brink of its destruction, you know what I mean? It’s always at that precipice. And so, the three trilogies like this trilogy here, I did not realize like, comparatively, like, Oh, if you let Aragorn die, he can’t save Minas Tirith. If you don’t like the surly space dwarf, you know, I mean, like, you’re not gonna see it’s not going to help you out in the next battle. And it’s like, Oh, crap. And so, having said that, now having played it and knowing that there is a 4th coming at some point, I would have to. I think I would be happy with what I did in 1, but I would definitely need to replay 2. Because of those choices that I’ve made in 2.

Let’s talk about the narrative of 1, there are many things you can do in Mass Effect 1, but you have the main thread. And then you have a variety of side quests like I don’t know if you drove around in your Mako and found the space monkeys, but there’s a lot that.

And that’s why I was telling you like when I was started just looking on YouTube, and it was like, Oh, you could get this, or you can see Tali’s face or, or you there’s an ending that does this, or you can have like, relationships between these people and, and I didn’t even romance anyone. I didn’t even try because I didn’t even think he could. And then I turned it down. So it’s like no, everyone could be romanced, everyone’s like you could have interspecies relationships, and I had no idea.

Michael Schofield  

Well, Mass Effect did something that made Fox News angry back in the day. because you could, you can have like, same-sex relationships. (Oh, yeah. Yeah. I remember) and, and the Mass Effect got like, I can’t say that Mass Effect got dragged by Fox News because I don’t think it had a significant impact. But there was a whole thing where, like, oh my god, there’s porn in Mass Effect.

Tim Broadwater  

Porn you don’t actually see, really. It’s just kind of like nudity, but nudity in porn.

Michael Schofield  

Do you know what I mean? We’re super desensitized and 2021, but perhaps 2007 was a genteel time.

Tim Broadwater  

I always think of it like nudity, and like Schindler’s List, I’m like, It’s not porn. It’s nudity.

Michael Schofield  

Exactly, exactly, no. Okay, so in Mass Effect, one, I kind of want to talk about the structure of how a basically like a three clue rule like structure or something similar about how, once you hit the title screen, you are given a variety of different paths that you can choose in any order that ultimately guide you to these observations. Oh, shit, Reapers. Oh, shit. Saren. And I’m curious how you think, the flow of the game, the kind of like, you know what I mean? Like your ability to like, navigate that narrow narrative, and whatever path, and I was curious kind of like what you think and like, I’m really interested in what you think of like the story, but also how you think the story was designed? 

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah, so I think the universe is wonderful. The character species, and the down to the idiosyncrasies of them interacting with each other, you know, on the Citadel, and all that. So it’s amazing. It reminds me, honestly, of Starfinder, the role-playing game, right? Yeah. It reminds me of the depth of the universe like that Tolkien created with Lord of the Rings, and I maybe didn’t get that until two going into three. It was like, wow, this is really just its own universe, its own thing. And I understand. And I didn’t understand that going into it. Do you know what I mean? Probably, like Bilbo Baggins didn’t understand. Or like Frodo, like, just like, what is this ring? Okay, I’ll take it. And then you kind of realize how it affects everything, and destiny and all that. The game is 14 years old now. And so I don’t know if the story is. I don’t know if the story actually keeps pace over time regarding the three clue rule, right. Everyone’s seen Star Wars. Everyone’s seen many episodes of Star Trek. And so there’s a lot of this you can see coming in, I believe, and I know nothing about it. I’m just playing the Legendary Edition of the first one. And I think and most like the three clue rule, kind of like giving you like fleshing out the story.

I just kind of could guess at the story. Super soon now, by the time I get, but that ended abruptly at two to completely like, but I think a lot of that is like the onboarding of you have to spend so much time with character development and universe development. Right? And the first one that it’s not, you can kind of go and drop on planets and explore like in your Land Rover and like find cool monsters and, and interact with aliens. And then you kind of find happenstance, like, Oh, crap, here are people who are slaving or here’s someone in the Citadel who’s doing something illegal, which I can bring up to him. And then you just kind of get this mountain of fluff that you’re like, Yeah, well, this is like the day in day out. Space police kind of deal with this.

I’m not. I feel like I’m a Spectre. I have been empowered by all of the races of the Council, and I can or are the species, and I can literally just go and act with impunity. And so that’s kind of how I took it in one in two to where I was like, I don’t have time for this. I’m saving the universe. This is beneath me. You need to keep going. But I came to find out later that by not helping anyone or like doing that stuff and skipping that kind of stuff. So you eliminate contacts and opportunities, and stories change, and what happens changes. But conversely, if you wait too long, and you do too many side stories, and you do too many side quests, another consequence happens over time, which you can kind of see in the second one when you actually go through the red Mass Effect portal?

Michael Schofield  

Yeah, the one that takes you to the Collector ship (Correct).

Tim Broadwater  

I can’t think about what. But if you wait too long on that, right, more of your crew can get killed. So it’s kind of like, Here’s reality, suck it up, any choices you make or don’t make, anything you do or don’t do will affect the world in the story. And I will say that I’ve never experienced anything quite like that magnitude in any other game Except Mass Effect.

Michael Schofield  

It’s, it’s fascinating to hear, because the other thing that not to put like words in your mouth, but at one point, there’s like a player choice that you could just totally divorce from the narrative that says, like, I kind of just want to do the main quest, and I’m just going to do it, but as and that’s always fair, that’s how I feel about the Witcher way too many side quests can’t do, I’m just gonna follow the story, or whatever. But I always kind of distinguish that as you know, that’s a choice that I’m Michael in playing and not me, The Witcher. the way you described it, it is very in character, both to like I think the general Shepard umbrella, but also to like Tim Shepard, that like, Yo, the galaxy is about to end, being nice, and like, you know, helping this gentleman retrieve his wife’s ashes, or whatever is totally in conflict.

Tim Broadwater  

I’m saving all sentient life. I’m sorry that you need to deliver something. Yeah.

Michael Schofield  

Let’s talk about how that’s like that serious take affected your narrative story. So What was your choice with Wrex?

Tim Broadwater  

So I will say this. I found a YouTube video that said Mass Effect trilogy: All squadmates and crew die in the worst playthrough ever. And I was like, I feel attacked. Because I lost the majority of my crew in Mass Effect 2 when I went through the mass relay. I think that was it. It was the Omega 4 relay. I think it’s what it was called. I lost my entire crew except for Zaiid.

Michael Schofield  

Wow, and Zaiid is like a side character. 

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah. I lost every single crew member. People from one who made it over to two people who are new in two. Because it was, I mean, in. So for me, when I say to answer your question, I specifically focus on Listen, we’re here trying to save all organic and non-organic life. And that’s one of the things I actually like about the game as well. But to do that, we have to defeat this kind of foe. And there’s no time for, you know, what you’ve signed on for, you know what I mean? So one of the things that maybe I didn’t understand so much about the second one is you are kind of putting together this crew on behalf of Cerberus, and so so essentially, I was kind of like, you’re just gonna lose, people die. That’s what the life of being a Spectre is and saving the universe. It’s a suicide mission. Yeah, so I went on the suicide mission, and everyone got killed. And then I was like, holy shit. And then I started to realize, like, oh, no, you could have saved them. You just had to do this, or you had to do this. But if you did that, the doctor on the ship or the pilot, or like other people, like NPCs, you’re gonna sacrifice NPCs for PCs. And it’s just like, oh, (fascinating). Yeah, so then when I went into three, it was really dark. And you don’t have anyone. I was all on board for the quest to save the universe. Find out who’s controlling the Spectres and the Geth, and find out the Reapers and what they’re doing and what’s their plan and what’s the rationale? And then doing that. And then saving, you know, all of sentient life, essentially. Well, there were a lot of losses. So mine was tragic, like the ending of two for me was very tragic. It was very sad. And then the ending of three also was that as well because of 2.

Michael Schofield  

No, it’s thematically interesting, though, because you had chosen a lone survivor type of character for whom this wasn’t their only tragic event. And in a way, you opted for, like what I think is really kind of interesting about like, the story is that you made choices for the greater good at personal cost, right at the cost of people, you know, at the cost of the Council. Right. Because I think your choice to save the Council or not?

Tim Broadwater  

Oh, they just keep throwing it up into your face, through 2 and 3. Well, you didn’t save the Council. And it’s like, come on, because for people, I mean, I know the representatives of these races. (Yeah. But choose just four more people.) Exactly. That’s how I was looking at it, but no, like, they did not like that.

Michael Schofield  

Like as you experienced and kind of like waffling between Paragon and Renegade. Like, what do you think of those systems?

Tim Broadwater  

Um, I think they will be subjective based on what you as a player are tired of dealing with or want to do. So there are times where you want to be nice. And you’re like, I don’t care. But there are other times where you want to choose that option. Like the alien, like not the alien, but then, the little angel and the devil on your left and right shoulder. And it’s just like, they just pop up for a second. They’re like, Well, you could be nicer here. Or you could be more chivalrous or do something more honorable or responsible. Or you could be like, I’m tired of this shit. Let it be over, or like, I’m gonna throw out a threat. I’m a Spectre; you don’t know who I am. You know. And so it’s kind of, they give you that and then I think it’s up to you like how you want to deal with it or not. I think in most instances, I never have. It was always like a 50/50 with me. Depending on how mouthy some of the characters got, and I was like, you’re getting Yeah, you’re getting some Renegade, you know,

Michael Schofield  

Did you punch the reporter?

Tim Broadwater  

I did not punch the reporter. But I probably ended many relationships that could have been better just by being dumb to question my authority. I’m the captain of this ship, that kind of stuff. So when it came to my crew, I was just like my way the highway, you’re my crew, I can drop you off the next planet, you know. So I was definitely in Star Trek terms. I was more of a Janeway and less of a Picard if that makes sense. There are all these different types of artificial intelligence, synthetic life, or whatever you want to call it. And they all have different philosophies, and what I really like about the Geth, and probably Legion, is one of my favorite characters in the game. And if I actually went back and redid, the changes I would make would be to still let the majority of my crew die. But, to be honest, I wouldn’t be like, Oh, but I saved them all. But I would save Legion. And I would definitely save – not Rex, but I think Grunt, you know.

Michael Schofield  

That’s interesting because they’re both kinds of like, almost like infant-like characters, right? Grunt is literally like a test tube Krogan. And Legion is an unshackled AI who kind of discovers, I think, Shepard’s armor if I remember right. And starts modeling itself after the standard that Shepard set. And both seem like, ultimately, incredibly innocent, in a way. So that’s why I love the Geth. At first, you’re like, Oh, my God, they’re all bad guy robots. But the reality is, it’s fascinating because they are synthetic life that achieved a kind of consciousness and discovered very Matrix-like that they were enslaved. Right.

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah. And they are still unique, and individuals and their experiences are that, but they also connect and share one another. Yeah. I like that a lot. And then it sucks that Joker is such an NPC, but I understand why he can’t go into battle and why.

Michael Schofield  

Joker played by Seth Green. 

Tim Broadwater  

he did a great job with that voice. And I would say that apart from I would say the only other person I really had the feels for would be interested enough in saving, I think, is Jack.

Michael Schofield  

I love Jack Yeah. Jack’s amazing. 

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah, so I feel like those are the characters that I would want with me in the end. But, um, you know, if, unfortunately, like if Frodo had to choose like, Okay, this is the Fellowship of the Ring, but you can only keep three at the end who you got to keep, like, I know that’s kind of a stupid way or maybe a morbid way to think of it But that’s how I would think it was like I want Legion. I want Grunt, and I want Jack. 

Michael Schofield  

I feel like it’s totally realistic. There’s so much in general that I want to ask you around, like sequelization and how you think the Mass Effect 2 played against Mass Effect 1 played against Mass Effect 3 played against Mass Effect 2. Because the sequels were a deliberate choice, they’re supposed to model space operas where the second one is always the darkest timeline. And then the third one is redemption or saving and stuff like that. But there’s also like, just like narrative questions that I’m really interested in talking to you about, like, you know, gosh, what’s like, what’s like the saddest moment.

Tim Broadwater  

The saddest moment, really?

To answer your specific question, that note at the beginning of three, just like the hopelessness of sentient life and innocence, just knowing that it can do nothing except being destroyed or harvested. I mean, that is, that’s pretty sad, you know, and that’s pretty potent. Now. Of course, I will say, the second to that before, to answer your question is that when Tali and Garus bite the bullet at the end of 2 for me, yeah, that was like, oh, I kind of knew you are more. I’m sorry. That really hurt a little bit more. And then when Legion died, that was the worst. So having watched the trailer for Mass Effect 4, it gives me chills, but then it makes you wonder like wild crab, depending on anything you chose, in three houses 4 even going to work. But if Cerberus does have this technology as we know the Reapers do, that allows someone to be brought back from death? Because it’s already happened? Sure, then is all not lost? I mean, can we save the entire crew? Are the Reapers even a problem anymore? You know, so I have a lot of questions. Of course, that will not be answered until it’s out. But, you know, I believe that trailer came out this year, right? But there’s a lot of things online too where people are like, hey, the reason why the Legendary Edition is dropping is that they want people to play through the three again for that save game file to be important.

Michael Schofield  

 I think that’s what it is. I’m sure they’ll pick up a canonical ending, right? Because one of the things that like Casey Hudson I was, I was doing a little bit of like reading Casey Hudson was like the head of Bioware at the time. And one of the things that he said is that Mass Effect 3 was a lot easier to write than one or two because you didn’t have to think about continuing or continuity after Mass Effect 3. So I wonder if they’re going to do something where they’re gonna pick like a canonical choice. Or they’re going to like, not reference it at all. Right?

Tim Broadwater  

You play a Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition game that’s modded for Mass Effect, right? (Yes.) Yeah. So I’ve played one for Pokemon to where you can be a trainer, and as you level up, you can control more Pokemon or own more and have them there, they get powers, and then you can eventually like more higher-level stuff and, and so I know that dungeon dragon mods are fun now having experienced Mass Effect, one, two, and three, I see how this is like a huge, like, a world or galaxy of fiction. Just like, you know, like I said, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Star Trek, Star Wars, whatever. And so I guess I’m just wondering, like, how long have you been playing it? And is it an official one, or is it fanmade? One?

Michael Schofield  

It’s fanmade. One, it’s at n7.world. The world is the domain. And it’s a fanmade Mass Effect homebrew (Oh, wow). And I think I’ve been playing it for like a year now. (And it’s 5e, so that’s pretty recent.) And it’s 5e. My friend Sopher is the Dungeon Master. So I’m usually the Dungeon Master. So I’m actually a player. I play a Geth named Myriad. Myriad contains multitudes, and I think Myriad’s a cool ass character. Myriad is a philosopher unshackled from – he’s an unshackled AI interested in identifying self from the cornucopia of his personalities. So how, like, his entire journey is like, how does he turn we into I? And, honestly, we’re a bunch of like murder hobos.

Tim Broadwater  

I mean, that’s pretty much all.

Michael Schofield  

And we’ve sort of become like pirates, right? Like, like in a weird like way. And I believe we are adjacent to the or just a little bit before the beginnings of Mass Effect because we haven’t encountered Reaper or anything like that. We are legit just going through a pretty cool narrative. That is, I mean, kind of mundane if you think about like, it’s like all the Reapers are when the gods arrive, or whatever is like this is like, you know, pre that or pre Sauron. Right? Yeah, this is like Second Age middle earth. There are still bad guys and stuff.

Tim Broadwater  

I wanted to play or experience more about the Elcor. I actually thought that that race was super cool.

Michael Schofield  

So in the homebrew, you can play as an Elcor.

Tim Broadwater  

Like, this is gonna sound weird, and I’m not saying it’s gonna happen. But I feel like there are some times with Legend of Zelda, right? And I’m going somewhere, so follow me. But Legend of Zelda was like a universe. It’s a myth, right? It has people and races and stuff because it’s become that way over time. So now we know that there are Gorons, the rock people, and these fish people on the planet. And there are these bird people. And then there’s the ancient Hyrulean and the bloodline and Ganon and evil and everything. Okay, so if you just step back and look at the universe, when they made it into Breath of the Wild, and it was a 3d game that you can play that’s open world expansive. It got people’s brains thinking. So what I’m wondering is, does Shepard matter so much in Mass Effect? If Mass Effect was an MMO RPG?

Yes, to where you could make any race of characters you have a class, and then I’m not saying that there aren’t Spectres or Shepards. And those are important. Do you know what I mean? Or Spectres per se, and Shepard being like the Luke Skywalker of this one story or what have you. Like, the myth needs that like, and I know that Lord of the Rings has done something like this, where it’s like, Hey, you can just make a dwarf for halfling or, or Hobbit, I mean, or elf, and then you can kind of explore the world. It doesn’t have to be the main story, right? It doesn’t have to be you don’t have to be with Frodo or Gandalf. But I mean, you can still experience the world as any of the species that are there. And I was just wondering, like, that sounds cool. And from what you’ve been describing, as this fifth edition mod, I mean, that sounds like something that would be a lot of fun, but I don’t know if that’ll ever make it to do a video game per se. You know,

Michael Schofield  

it’s really neat. In my experience, the world is fine without Shepard, and I’m a Mass Effect fanboy. But that world is less interesting than, say, Middle Earth is without Aragorn, right. Like, like, it’s, it’s cool. But I think it really depends on the quality of the story, so I think if it were just like a half-assed MMO, it probably feels pretty bad. I feel like Star Wars online might have done that better. Anyway, like, it’s, it’s interesting. And so like, I know, there’s an entire world where Shepard did some Shepard stuff. But the galaxy is large. Liara ends up as the Shadow Broker. And has her own life and her own wishes. And, and the other thing you forget about is like Liara, and the other Asari live many human lifetimes. And like, I think it’s interesting, like when I think of like, playing like elves, or whatever, or shit like Superman, when I think of characters that are above and beyond, I care less about their powers and where they’re like, oh, like, oh, the dwarf can like swing a hammer or whatever. But what I really like, in terms of like, the narrative opportunity is like, Okay, what is it like being 2000 years old? How much do you care about anybody? And like, my suspicion is that like, the older you get, the less you care? The less interest there is, like with Geth, what is it like being multiples and freely going between individual and multiples or freely choosing a personality? That’s right for the situation. Like that’s kind of interesting. The other thing about Geth that’s really interesting is like you’re immortal, right? Like, you can clone your processes, your subroutines, and come back as long as you sync up to somewhere else. Right? So what is that like? And I find that really interesting. 

Tim Broadwater  

I guess I didn’t realize how much of the universe existed when you told me to check out Mass Effect Legendary Edition. I thought, Oh, this is a game, I’ll play it. It’s like 123. You’re packing together, whatever. But I guess I didn’t really realize going into it like, oh my gosh, this is a mythos this has all the way down. This is an epic space saga, but it’s also how did I not know about this? Do you know what I mean? Yeah, so I know about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I know what everyone knows about Star Wars and what Disney is doing with Star Wars, and I like trying to expand the universe and put in more stories and tell more, and fill in the gaps and then just grow it right. And Marvel’s been doing that forever. But I’m just wondering, like, do you see it this way? Because you also talked about fiction? Are there canon books that are written, not fanfiction? 

Michael Schofield  

It all starts with the Codex, too, right? I mean, you can dump hours into reading the Codex. They have a really interesting prequel, like, what was like early Earth civilization, like, around the time they discovered the Prothean ruins on Mars? And then we were introduced to galactic society, there’s like, shit like that. It’s really interesting to

Tim Broadwater  

Yeah, so I never considered it as a media franchise.

I didn’t realize it. I don’t know how a fandom and I say fandom instead of like, yeah, you know, kind of immediate franchise. Like, I just didn’t realize that there was art and novels and games and like, just all of this stuff. And then there are films, apparently. It has toy lines. It’s just like, it’s a lot, and I’m just like, how did I get to this point in my life? Like and I didn’t even realize that this cool and I love Starfinder and I and the reason why I love Starfinders, because there was no game or system out there that spoke to my sci-fi and I had giant hopes, like we talked, you know, before dystopian stuff like cyberpunk or whatever. But I mean, like, this has been here for a long time, and I just have never, for 13 or 14 years, I just didn’t even know about its existence. I’m very grateful that I now know, and I have a glimpse into this world that I’ve never done before. You know,

Michael Schofield  

just think about all of the other things that are out there in this wide galaxy of ours.

Tim Broadwater  

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Introductory Guy  

Thank you for listening to the Design Thinking games podcast. To connect with your hosts, Michael or Tim, please go to designthinkinggames.com, where you can request topics, ask questions or see what else is going on. Until next time, game on.

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