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Mass Effect developers reminisce about the trilogy, the ending and the fans

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

As divisive as the original ending of Mass Effect 3 turned out to be last spring, the Mass Effect universe remains a series with which millions of players feel a deep emotional connection, and a few of the people who helped make it happen spent an hourlong panel at PAX East reminiscing about their work on the trilogy.

Much of the session played out with journalist Geoff Keighley, the moderator, asking the panelists to relate their favorite moments from the games themselves, or their work on them over the past eight years. The audience of Mass Effect fans who packed the convention's Main Theatre laughed, cheered and applauded along with each mention of a cherished memory they shared with the panel, and there was a palpable feeling of love for BioWare's creation in the room.

Discussing the inception of the Mass Effect universe prior to the announcement of the Xbox 360, executive producer and project director Casey Hudson said BioWare didn't know much about the platform, but had an inkling that it would allow the studio to better deliver believable digital acting.

"We thought, 'Let's build a science fiction universe meant to tell these kinds of emotional stories,'" said Hudson. "Everything that we do ... it's all about trying to create magical and memorable experiences for people."

"Let's build a science fiction universe meant to tell these kinds of emotional stories"

Keighley asked Hudson to comment on the controversy surrounding the Mass Effect 3 ending. Hudson stood up for his team — he explained that the game's developers had their heads down during the crunch period of developing the game — but also said that BioWare was happy to act on the feedback they received after launch.

"We had no way to sense what it's like for fans to go through that emotional arc and arrive at the ending," said Hudson. "We were actually really excited to build out some of these things that the fans were saying that they wanted to see more of, and so that kind of led to the Extended Cut."

Hudson also pointed out that even aside from deciding to built the Extended Cut, BioWare already had plans to tell a few additional stories through downloadable content.

"The other side of it is that we knew some of the things that were coming, like DLC," he said. "So we would have more adventures for Shepard, and then more time in something like the Citadel to spend with your friends and your squad members."

"Citadel is our way of essentially saying goodbye"

And it was the final scene of Citadel, with Shepard standing on the bridge of the Normandy, that senior writer John Dombrow singled out as his favorite in the series. Dombrow said he wrote the backbone of the scene, and the other writers filled in lines from Shepard's henchmen and love interests throughout the franchise. Then, lead cinematic director Parrish Ley put the visuals together. For his part, Ley also loved the sequence because he was the person who directed the opening for the original Mass Effect, as well as the final scene of the Citadel DLC.

"It really is our way of essentially saying goodbye to the trilogy [and] thanks to the fans," said Dombrow.

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