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A former Bioware lead writer has said the idea of a Mass Effect TV show makes him “cringe”.
David Gaider was the lead writer on all three games in the Dragon Age series, but left Bioware after 17 years at the company in 2016.
“I’m relieved to see that the Mass Effect / Amazon deal is for a potential TV series and not a movie,” Gaider said. “Even so, the possibility (and likewise for Dragon Age) makes me cringe just a little, unlike many fans who appear… excited?
“For starters, Mass Effect and Dragon Age have a custom protagonist, meaning said TV show will need to pick whether said protagonist will be male or female. Boom, right off the bat you’ve just alienated a whole bunch of the built-in fan base who had their hopes up.
“Secondly, those protagonists are designed to be a bit of a blank slate, one that the player fills out with their decisions. That’s not going to work for a passive medium. So, suddenly, the protagonist will have their own personality, and their own story. That will be weird.
“You think I’m wrong? Consider just how much of the story is off-loaded onto the companions. They are the cyphers through which the player gets most of their emotional engagement from. On their own, the Dragon Age and Mass Effect protagonists are… well, pretty boring. That’s not going to fly.
“And think of those companions. Think of how much the fanbase is attached to them. Now consider the fact that there is no way in hell any single story could encompass them all equally. Think of the howls of rage when companion X is relegated to a cameo, or not there at all.
“Having a TV show instead of a movie allows for more companion options, sure, but consider your own playthrough: only a handful of them had any meaningful presence in a single game. That will need to be the case for this story, to maintain coherence. A few companions, one romance.
“And that’s if the TV show makers consider the companions to be all that important. They might toss most of them aside in favour of the plot. In my mind, that would be a mistake. Both Mass Effect and Dragon Age’s plots were, at best, serviceable. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way.
“Those plots had to take into account the player’s agency. They were kind of the shell upon which that player’s emotional engagement was delivered – usually through the companions and the choices themselves. Choice heightened engagement. Interactivity was the star, not the plot.
“Take all that out, lose most of the companions, and you potentially end up with a pretty run-of-the-mill fantasy or science-fiction show, one where a lot of the built-in audience has possibly been turned into outraged, howling malcontents before it’s even released.
“All that is, of course, if the Dragon Age or Mass Effect series is mishandled. I can think of any number of ways it could be done better, but that involves doing more than a strict adaptation, and that comes with its own complications.
“Anyhow, good luck to the showrunners. They’ll need it.”
Deadline reported earlier this week that Amazon Studios, which is responsible for creating original content for Amazon Prime Video, is “nearing a deal” to develop a series based on EA’s best-selling sci-fi franchise.
According to the article, the deal is part of a push to create more ‘genre’ content for the streaming service, following the success of fantasy series The Wheel of Time and the upcoming Lord of the Rings series.