Video: A chat with Mac Walters on the unsolved mysteries of the Mass Effect universe


Video shot by Justin Wolfson and Raoul Bhatt, edited by Aulistar Mark. Click here for transcript.

Our “War Stories” and “Unsolved Mysteries” gaming videos have gotten us some amazing interviews. We’ve talked to folks like Dead Space’s Glen Schofield; the power duo of Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III, who made Star Control and The Ur-Quan Masters; and even Lord British himself. But BioWare was one company that I never expected to actually answer our e-mails—until, one day, they actually did.

So, in early October, we loaded up our film crew and made the flight across the Canadian border to Edmonton, in the northern reaches of Alberta. Our mission: to visit the enigmatic studio behind the Dragon Age and Mass Effect franchises and to throw a bunch of Mass Effect lore questions at creative director Mac Walters—and to see what interesting information he’d be willing to let us have.

It was a special trip for me, as one of Ars’ two resident Mass Effect crazypants fans (the other being Kate Cox, a true BioWare aficionado). I’ve reviewed the series, talked about the best romance choices, and even snuggled a Garrus body pillow or two—but taking a pilgrimage to the Mecca of Mass Effect was a capstone experience.

A peek behind the curtain

Everyone in Edmonton seems to know what BioWare is, even the Canadian customs agent who greeted me after I’d picked up my bags at the airport. My entry into Canada went like this:

Him: “What’s the purpose of your visit to Canada?”
Me: “Business.”
Him: “What kind of work do you do?”
Me: “I work in media.”
Him: (Somewhat exasperated) “Fine, but why are you here?”
Me: “I’m going to talk to a company called BioWare—”
Him: “Oh yeah, OK, that’s fine, go ahead.”

The Uber driver that took me to the hotel knew BioWare. The hotel desk staff knew BioWare. Even the Starbucks folks knew BioWare. In Edmonton, BioWare is a homegrown institution.

The BioWare crew was still engaged in moving into their new offices when we rolled up for interview day, and the space—located across three floors in the shiny EPCOR Tower—was still going through the last round of setup and decoration. There were lots of bare shelves where awards would normally live and long rows of desks sat empty, awaiting eager developers to come and occupy them and spin us some new stories.

Still, even with the space unfinished, it was surreal to look around and see so much BioWare stuff. Full-sized Anthem suits were scattered around the office, and many of the conference room and hallway walls were plastered in floor-to-ceiling murals (which I’d love to be able to buy—hint, hint, BioWare—sell these things in your store). I even spied the elusive (though not illusive) Casey Hudson a few times as he walked through the lobby to places where we weren’t allowed to go, talking about things we weren’t allowed to hear.

And speaking of “things we weren’t allowed to hear,” alas, dear readers, I have no secret scoops or teases—beyond the answers to the questions we asked Mac, at least. Our BioWare PR handler (Chris Morgan, who displayed endless patience and cheer in the face of a tight one-day shooting schedule) was Johnny-on-the-spot with keeping us out of sensitive areas where real work was going on, so my plans of making like Kasumi and pulling off a Mass Effect info-heist were thwarted before they ever got off the ground. (Probably for the best, as I’m not really built for a form-fitting thief catsuit.)

But once we were set up, Mac did give us some info—more than I anticipated, actually.

To ask, perchance to dream

We’d gathered about 40-ish questions from Ars readers and the Mass Effect subreddit, and we threw them all at Mac, rapid-fire. Mac sidestepped many of them, of course, which we were expecting—we got no new info on the resolution of the “Ryder Family Secrets” quest, for example, nor did he answer many of the background questions we had about the Leviathans or go into details on how to square Mass Effect 2’s dangling dark energy plot threads with Mass Effect 3’s change in direction.

On the other hand, we did get him to talk a bit about an area where BioWare has been reluctant to tread: establishing a canonical ending to Mass Effect 3. The answer he gave us provides the first hint we’ve gotten about the shape of the Milky Way after the Reaper threat’s elimination.

There’s a lot of info in the above video, including a peek at the tools BioWare used to generate the properties of all the planets in the Mass Effect galaxy—and we hope it helps scratch your N7 Day itch.

As for any word on a new Mass Effect title—alas, we have no news. However, as we were reviewing our questions prior to rolling film, there were a number of topics where Chris and Mac asked us to do some rewording. There were lore questions, it turns out, that they wanted to stay away from answering.

Was it just because the questions were unanswerable, or was it because they plan to address those questions in a future Mass Effect game? When I asked that question, I was met with innocent smiles and polite redirection—which, to my mind, indicates that the answer is likely a little bit of column A, and a little bit of column B.

Hope springs eternal in this BioWare fan’s breast. Happy N7 Day, everyone!





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