As a writer it’s easy for me to understand the concept of creating art. Art in any form tends to be a bit of a trial and error process full of mistakes, disappointments, and editing. Lots and lots of editing. So obviously there have to be discarded ideas that were once tied into the lush stories of video games we all love and enjoy playing. Mass Effect and Dragon Age were no different, but as a fan it’s nice to look at some of the early ideas that helped shape the final products that rest on my shelf.
BioWare artist Matt Rhodes posted up several concept art pieces of early designs and ideas that helped develop the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series. It’s incredibly interesting to find out that Commander Shepard’s story was initially completely different from the final draft. An early idea had Shepard turn to Reaper technology to accomplish his/her goals, becoming a character much like Saren. However in this story twist, Shepard would eventually have been confronted by the new human Spectre — either Ashley or Kaiden.
Tali’s appearance beneath her mask was also brainstormed, and it was a debate that “lasted a long time.” Different versions were developed often.
“Tali was like a pen pal, or a friend you’ve only ever known online. Depending on how attached to her a player was, how well could they handle her appearance challenging their expectations? If she looked a little too alien, just a little too repellent, would they still feel the same way about her? Or did her personality and your history together trump appearances?”
One of the most eerie concept pieces are the designs of the human Reaper that appears at the end of Mass Effect 2. One of them looks like an infant, a terrifyingly awesome concept that would have upped the grotesque fear and just plan “wrongness” of the Reapers in general. Is wrongness even a word? I’m keeping it.
“The Collector ship and the Human-Reaper both took a very long time to design. This biggest challenge was communicating the immense scale. These concepts were all part of the long discussion about scale, but also how abstracted the Human-Reaper would be. Early experiments leant more toward a fetus, others toward adult skeletal and muscular systems.”
In early Dragon Age 2 concepts, it seems that there were attempts to “flesh out” the city of Kirkwall, an idea they should have especially focused on since the final look was just static and boring. It’s still difficult to play through DA2 thinking, “How can this city never change?!”
One particular part revealed that interests me are Merrill’s first images.
“Designing Merril was a great exercise in Writing and Concept Art learning to speak one another’s language. In her early descriptions I picked up heavily on her willful dabbling with blood magic. On paper she was scary, so early drawings reflected that. After the writers understandably freaked a little, it was explained how those more deadly aspects of her curiosity would unfold and we reined her in a great deal.”
It’s interesting to see how the images of the characters transformed throughout the thought process, and it actually makes me wonder just how the writers first imagined them on paper.
Matt Rhode’s blog showcases several other interesting pieces of early concept art that you should definitely check out! It’s amazing just how different Mass Effect and Dragon Age 2 could have been.