BioWare Artist Reveals Early Mass Effect, Dragon Age Art and Ideas

Andy Chalk

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BioWare Artist Reveals Early Mass Effect, Dragon Age Art and Ideas

BioWare concept artist Matt Rhodes has posted a treasure trove of early Mass Effect and Dragon Age art on his blog, along with some very interesting insights into their development.

"The role of a concept artist is the role of an explorer, tasked with charting a world without sunlight," as BioWare Concept Artist Matt Rhodes put it. In videogame terms, that means giving form to ideas that are often vague, incoherent or just flat-out bizarre, and that more often than not end up left behind on the cutting-room floor.

Among the images Rhodes posted is a "very, very early" concept for Commander Shepard, who's been forced to turn to Reaper technology to accomplish his goals, putting him in conflict with the new human Specter, Ashley. He also revealed some interesting work-ups of the Illusive Man and Kai Leng, a truly horrific alien doing its best to "come across as relateable" to humans and, among my favorites of the collection, a few work-ups of Tali that make her look truly, and shockingly, alien.

"I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to push players to the edge," he wrote. "If she looked a little too alien, just a little too repellant, would they still feel the same way about her? Or did her personality and your history together trump appearances?"

Rhodes also talked about some of his own early thoughts on what might work as the conclusion for the Mass Effect series, and they're intriguing to say the least. "I imagined the galaxy changed by the synthesis choice. Because life and technology were joined (and I didn't know the Mass Relays would be destroyed yet) I imagined that there would be no more need for space ships," he wrote. "Any creature could just link in with the nearest relay and jump to any world they chose, surface to surface. This would start changing the biology of every creature in the galaxy as they would no longer be limited to any one environment."

Not bad, eh? As Drew Karpyshyn made clear back in June [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/125213-Mass-Effect-Writer-Reveals-Discarded-Ending-Ideas], preliminary ideas like this are a long way from ready-for-prime-time, but as raw material, the idea of a "true" synthesis, supported by the continued existence of the mass effect relays, isn't a bad one at all.

[gallery=1654]

Rhodes has posted a pile of Dragon Age character concepts as well, that look at the visual evolution of characters including Hawke, Fenris, Merril, Flemeth and many others. Both sets are very impressive and well worth checking out in their entirety, which you may do at mattrhodesart.blogspot.ca [http://mattrhodesart.blogspot.ca/2013/07/concept-art-behind-scenes.html].


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synobal

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Honestly a lot of that stuff is pretty terrifying to me, do they look kinda terrifying to anyone else?
 

CyberMachinist

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Some of these ideas would have worked great for a game like say.......Metroid? or maybe Space rangers(a somewhat obscure space game). If mass effect had these i wouldn't know what to think, of course that's probably because i wouldn't be very phased by any of these ideas to have more than an easily accepting attitude...... Except the one involving the illusive man.
 

Upbeat Zombie

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I think I would like that version of the quarians then the one they ended up going with.
Altogether though thats some pretty interesting concept art.
 

Nuttydwarf

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me thinks this is for after everything went boom and we're seeing what x amount of years after, still in the rebuilding process, is
 

Amethyst Wind

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"I imagined the galaxy changed by the synthesis choice. Because life and technology were joined (and I didn't know the Mass Relays would be destroyed yet) I imagined that there would be no more need for space ships," he wrote. "Any creature could just link in with the nearest relay and jump to any world they chose, surface to surface. This would start changing the biology of every creature in the galaxy as they would no longer be limited to any one environment."
This right here is basically identical to Orson Scott Card's Children of the Mind, the 4th book in the Ender Quartet starting with Ender's Game (You could happily stop after reading the first book, the quality suffers after that).
 

Eric the Orange

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I like the original Tali compared to the one they ended up showing at the end of ME3 (Meaning she doesn't just look like a human).


FYI it's the white faced thing in the last pic.

EDIT: Though looking through the full catalog I think I prefer the slightly different original concept more (only nose holes, full black eyes and much less prominent lips are the main differences.)
 

Erttheking

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Wow, look at that, a design of Tali that took actual EFFORT! Fancy that.

Though on a side note...she does look a little scary
 

1337mokro

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I stupidly mistook this for Mass Effect 4 early concept art for some reason. It's 6 AM and I blame coffee cocaine buzz!

I still don't like these designs very much. Like I said we have a pregnant Krang wearing a shredder mask, a half robotic Shepard which I am sure is supposed to look tortured but just look like an 80's mullet version of robot superman. The art is a bit too ridiculous, though Tali is an actual alien here rather than a photoshoped model.

The fact she is what we would consider ugly and creepy would actually strengthen the character. This s an actual alien and not just an octopus sex doll.
 

1337mokro

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TopazFusion said:
These are not 'up-and-coming' designs, nor are they "redesigns".
They're merely concept art, from wayyyy back when the Mass Effect games were still in development.
Mesa so stupid! Mesa ashamed. Mesa will sit in corner and think about life!

Though seriously Bioware retcon Tali.
 

kael013

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1337mokro said:
Dude, calm down. You do realize this is [i/]early[/i] concept art for the games, right? As in, the art department's version of prewriting? And that these pictures cover the whole Mass Effect trilogy (that last Tali pic was designed for ME1) as well as Dragon Age 2? So ME3 messed up big, I agree, but it's been a year. Get over it.

OT: Quite a few of the designs are kinda awful in my opinion. Not as in poorly designed - well a few - but in that they don't fit well with the rest of their respective universes (the Cerberus and Shadow Broker stuff, for example). The Dragon Age character designs, on the other hand, are pretty amazing. I wish Merrill and Flemeth really had looked like that.
 

bartholen_v1legacy

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These look really interesting. I especially like the cyborg Shepard and whatever that terrifying, tumor-ridden, pregnant-looking alien holding a gun is. Also, image #5 reminds me very much of "It Lives!" from The Binding of Isaac. Anyone else?
 

Cabisco

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1337mokro said:
synobal said:
super snip
What in the world did I just read..?

Did you even read the title? It states that this is early art and ideas that weren't used, you know 'concepts'. I think you might have just gone on a rant by mistake my friend :/

Though I admit, I did like the fact you brought up their misuse of The Illusive Man, I loved that guy in ME2 but 3 felt like a different writer took over and didn't understand the character.

Anyway all this concept art is fascinating if somewhat disturbing, it's interesting to think what a different looking game mass effect could of ended up being.

Edit: Okay now I've noticed someone else has mentioned this and I feel bad, it's always sucky when multiple people pounce on someones mistake :/

sorry.
 

Eric the Orange

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bartholen said:
These look really interesting. I especially like the cyborg Shepard and whatever that terrifying, tumor-ridden, pregnant-looking alien holding a gun is. Also, image #5 reminds me very much of "It Lives!" from The Binding of Isaac. Anyone else?
If you read his bolg post you see that it was meant to be an alien trying to fit in with human culture. I can just imagine it'd be like,

"Hello fellow human. It is a nice day to be an upright biped is it not?"
 

RJ 17

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Nov 27, 2011
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Yeah...I coulda done without seeing a naked Michael Douglas today...xP

And what the hell was #4 supposed to be? o.o
 

Adam Jensen_v1legacy

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Sep 8, 2011
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Wow, I'm glad these didn't make it in the final game. Maybe if they were to make a survival horror set in the Mass Effect universe they could use some of that.
 

MetalMagpie

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RJ 17 said:
Yeah...I coulda done without seeing a naked Michael Douglas today...xP

And what the hell was #4 supposed to be? o.o
I think #4 is an early version of Tali. As mentioned in the article, the artist had the idea of making her look really repellent to see if players would still relate to her. It looks like only her strange legs and headscarf survived to the final design.
 

Eric the Orange

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MetalMagpie said:
RJ 17 said:
Yeah...I coulda done without seeing a naked Michael Douglas today...xP

And what the hell was #4 supposed to be? o.o
I think #4 is an early version of Tali. As mentioned in the article, the artist had the idea of making her look really repellent to see if players would still relate to her. It looks like only her strange legs and headscarf survived to the final design.
Nah Tali is the white faced one that one was to quote his blog post,

" An unused alien idea. Thank god. I wanted to design an alien that was completely horrifying and was failing in every possible way to come across as relatable to humans. If we actually went this direction I would have loved it if you could see constantly shifting eyes and teeth behind his ?Hue-Mon? mask. Just awful."
 

Bat Vader

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Out of all of them I think my favorites are 4,6, and 7. Would have been cool if they could have used number four as a different alien race. Shepard being half human and half Reaper looks awesome. Would have been cool if we could have gotten the option to do that. I think Tali looks really good in number 7.