Ten years ago, the first Mass Effect video game was hailed as the game that “Does For Games What Star Wars Did For Films”. It was that rare blockbuster event in gaming whose impact transcended the medium, a pop culture phenomenon in its own right: James Gunn, the director of the exotic planet-hopping Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy, has cited the series as among his “biggest inspirations.”
This week BioWare released Mass Effect Andromeda, which centers on an interstellar quest for habitable “golden” worlds beyond the Milky Way. The start of a new chapter in the series, Andromeda begins at the pointy end of a one-way, 634-year journey to a new galaxy, transporting players 2.5 million light years away from Earth. Here are three things to know about the making of this space adventure.
Mass Effect takes its science seriously
BioWare initiated meetings with the European Space Agency and crew members of the Mars-500 mission (“Those guys lived the story we’re trying to tell, so they’re a primary source of knowledge,” says producer Fabrice Condominas) and special care was taken to calculate a realistic length of time for the journey to Andromeda. “We can show you the math,” say studio director Yanick Roy.
Iceland, Hawaii and Utah helped inspired the alien landscapes
Teams of artists were dispatched to Iceland, Hawaii and Moab and Goblin Valley in Utah to gather photogrammetric data on other-worldly landscapes. “We don’t have the budget to travel to other planets,” says Roy. A couple of years ago, the team was alarmed to discover one of their more distinctive rocks appear in someone else’s game, Star Wars Battlefront – whose artists, it turned out, had also been sent on a scouting mission in Iceland. “It was a very good rock,” says Brown.
NASA’s announcement about Trappist 1 possibly being home to a “second Earth” made an impact
“I was just like – what?!” says Andromeda creative director Mac Walters. “It kind of felt like, that can’t be real. But there’s certainly a synergy with what we’re doing with the game in Andromeda and what’s happening in real life. The fun thing with doing something fictional is getting to ask, ‘what else?’ and ‘what if?’ on top of what’s happening in the real world. We’re exploring Andromeda in a time when people are once again looking at the stars. It doesn’t feel like since the ’60s have we had such a renaissance of stargazing and that wanderlust of what’s out there.”
You can read the full feature over on Glixel.