BioWare Artist Reveals Early Mass Effect, Dragon Age Art and Ideas

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BioWare Artist Reveals Early Mass Effect, Dragon Age Art and Ideas

BioWare concept artist Matt Rhodes has posted a treasure trove of early Mass Effect and Dragon Age art on his blog, along with some very interesting insights into their development.

"The role of a concept artist is the role of an explorer, tasked with charting a world without sunlight," as BioWare Concept Artist Matt Rhodes put it. In videogame terms, that means giving form to ideas that are often vague, incoherent or just flat-out bizarre, and that more often than not end up left behind on the cutting-room floor.

Among the images Rhodes posted is a "very, very early" concept for Commander Shepard, who's been forced to turn to Reaper technology to accomplish his goals, putting him in conflict with the new human Specter, Ashley. He also revealed some interesting work-ups of the Illusive Man and Kai Leng, a truly horrific alien doing its best to "come across as relateable" to humans and, among my favorites of the collection, a few work-ups of Tali that make her look truly, and shockingly, alien.

"I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to push players to the edge," he wrote. "If she looked a little too alien, just a little too repellant, would they still feel the same way about her? Or did her personality and your history together trump appearances?"

Rhodes also talked about some of his own early thoughts on what might work as the conclusion for the Mass Effect series, and they're intriguing to say the least. "I imagined the galaxy changed by the synthesis choice. Because life and technology were joined (and I didn't know the Mass Relays would be destroyed yet) I imagined that there would be no more need for space ships," he wrote. "Any creature could just link in with the nearest relay and jump to any world they chose, surface to surface. This would start changing the biology of every creature in the galaxy as they would no longer be limited to any one environment."

Not bad, eh? As Drew Karpyshyn made clear back in June, preliminary ideas like this are a long way from ready-for-prime-time, but as raw material, the idea of a "true" synthesis, supported by the continued existence of the mass effect relays, isn't a bad one at all.

Rhodes has posted a pile of Dragon Age character concepts as well, that look at the visual evolution of characters including Hawke, Fenris, Merril, Flemeth and many others. Both sets are very impressive and well worth checking out in their entirety, which you may do at mattrhodesart.blogspot.ca.

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Honestly a lot of that stuff is pretty terrifying to me, do they look kinda terrifying to anyone else?

Some of these ideas would have worked great for a game like say.......Metroid? or maybe Space rangers(a somewhat obscure space game). If mass effect had these i wouldn't know what to think, of course that's probably because i wouldn't be very phased by any of these ideas to have more than an easily accepting attitude...... Except the one involving the illusive man.

I think I would like that version of the quarians then the one they ended up going with.
Altogether though thats some pretty interesting concept art.

me thinks this is for after everything went boom and we're seeing what x amount of years after, still in the rebuilding process, is

"I imagined the galaxy changed by the synthesis choice. Because life and technology were joined (and I didn't know the Mass Relays would be destroyed yet) I imagined that there would be no more need for space ships," he wrote. "Any creature could just link in with the nearest relay and jump to any world they chose, surface to surface. This would start changing the biology of every creature in the galaxy as they would no longer be limited to any one environment."

This right here is basically identical to Orson Scott Card's Children of the Mind, the 4th book in the Ender Quartet starting with Ender's Game (You could happily stop after reading the first book, the quality suffers after that).

I like the original Tali compared to the one they ended up showing at the end of ME3 (Meaning she doesn't just look like a human).

FYI it's the white faced thing in the last pic.

EDIT: Though looking through the full catalog I think I prefer the slightly different original concept more (only nose holes, full black eyes and much less prominent lips are the main differences.)

Wow, look at that, a design of Tali that took actual EFFORT! Fancy that.

Though on a side note...she does look a little scary

I stupidly mistook this for Mass Effect 4 early concept art for some reason. It's 6 AM and I blame coffee cocaine buzz!

I still don't like these designs very much. Like I said we have a pregnant Krang wearing a shredder mask, a half robotic Shepard which I am sure is supposed to look tortured but just look like an 80's mullet version of robot superman. The art is a bit too ridiculous, though Tali is an actual alien here rather than a photoshoped model.

The fact she is what we would consider ugly and creepy would actually strengthen the character. This s an actual alien and not just an octopus sex doll.

Tali looks way to much like a danthomir witch for my tastes.

TopazFusion:
These are not 'up-and-coming' designs, nor are they "redesigns".
They're merely concept art, from wayyyy back when the Mass Effect games were still in development.

Mesa so stupid! Mesa ashamed. Mesa will sit in corner and think about life!

Though seriously Bioware retcon Tali.

1337mokro:
*snip*

Dude, calm down. You do realize this is early concept art for the games, right? As in, the art department's version of prewriting? And that these pictures cover the whole Mass Effect trilogy (that last Tali pic was designed for ME1) as well as Dragon Age 2? So ME3 messed up big, I agree, but it's been a year. Get over it.

OT: Quite a few of the designs are kinda awful in my opinion. Not as in poorly designed - well a few - but in that they don't fit well with the rest of their respective universes (the Cerberus and Shadow Broker stuff, for example). The Dragon Age character designs, on the other hand, are pretty amazing. I wish Merrill and Flemeth really had looked like that.

These look really interesting. I especially like the cyborg Shepard and whatever that terrifying, tumor-ridden, pregnant-looking alien holding a gun is. Also, image #5 reminds me very much of "It Lives!" from The Binding of Isaac. Anyone else?

1337mokro:
[quote="synobal" post="7.823099.19919815"]super snip

What in the world did I just read..?

Did you even read the title? It states that this is early art and ideas that weren't used, you know 'concepts'. I think you might have just gone on a rant by mistake my friend :/

Though I admit, I did like the fact you brought up their misuse of The Illusive Man, I loved that guy in ME2 but 3 felt like a different writer took over and didn't understand the character.

Anyway all this concept art is fascinating if somewhat disturbing, it's interesting to think what a different looking game mass effect could of ended up being.

Edit: Okay now I've noticed someone else has mentioned this and I feel bad, it's always sucky when multiple people pounce on someones mistake :/

sorry.

bartholen:
These look really interesting. I especially like the cyborg Shepard and whatever that terrifying, tumor-ridden, pregnant-looking alien holding a gun is. Also, image #5 reminds me very much of "It Lives!" from The Binding of Isaac. Anyone else?

If you read his bolg post you see that it was meant to be an alien trying to fit in with human culture. I can just imagine it'd be like,

"Hello fellow human. It is a nice day to be an upright biped is it not?"

Yeah...I coulda done without seeing a naked Michael Douglas today...xP

And what the hell was #4 supposed to be? o.o

Wow, I'm glad these didn't make it in the final game. Maybe if they were to make a survival horror set in the Mass Effect universe they could use some of that.

RJ 17:
Yeah...I coulda done without seeing a naked Michael Douglas today...xP

And what the hell was #4 supposed to be? o.o

I think #4 is an early version of Tali. As mentioned in the article, the artist had the idea of making her look really repellent to see if players would still relate to her. It looks like only her strange legs and headscarf survived to the final design.

MetalMagpie:

RJ 17:
Yeah...I coulda done without seeing a naked Michael Douglas today...xP

And what the hell was #4 supposed to be? o.o

I think #4 is an early version of Tali. As mentioned in the article, the artist had the idea of making her look really repellent to see if players would still relate to her. It looks like only her strange legs and headscarf survived to the final design.

Nah Tali is the white faced one that one was to quote his blog post,

" An unused alien idea. Thank god. I wanted to design an alien that was completely horrifying and was failing in every possible way to come across as relatable to humans. If we actually went this direction I would have loved it if you could see constantly shifting eyes and teeth behind his "Hue-Mon" mask. Just awful."

Out of all of them I think my favorites are 4,6, and 7. Would have been cool if they could have used number four as a different alien race. Shepard being half human and half Reaper looks awesome. Would have been cool if we could have gotten the option to do that. I think Tali looks really good in number 7.

Eric the Orange:

MetalMagpie:

RJ 17:
Yeah...I coulda done without seeing a naked Michael Douglas today...xP

And what the hell was #4 supposed to be? o.o

I think #4 is an early version of Tali. As mentioned in the article, the artist had the idea of making her look really repellent to see if players would still relate to her. It looks like only her strange legs and headscarf survived to the final design.

Nah Tali is the white faced one that one was to quote his blog post,

" An unused alien idea. Thank god. I wanted to design an alien that was completely horrifying and was failing in every possible way to come across as relatable to humans. If we actually went this direction I would have loved it if you could see constantly shifting eyes and teeth behind his "Hue-Mon" mask. Just awful."

Fair enough. I was assuming more than one of them was an early Tali idea, as the article does say "a few work-ups of Tali". And #4 has her legs and headscarf.

These drawings are terrifying.

Is the face-stealer pregnant? I'm very uncomfortable with the thought of it existing, the thought of it reproducing is causing the "NOPE" lobe of my brain to shut the fuck down due to overload.

Dodged a bullet there with the shitty female Normandy, I think I prefer ridiculous human EDI. Although the baby Reaper is a damn nice picture and would have looked good in-game, apart from the whole "Why the fuck is there a human reaper, not a cuttlefish spider like every other one".

Infant Reaper looks nice, definitely better than Terminator. GO FOR THE EYES, BOO!

The face stealer idea is brilliant, damn Bioware could have done a really awesome murder mystery/horror side mission with such a character. Hope it resurfaces in the new game.

Mass Effect could of had much better alien designs. This game has some of the most boring aliens in alien history, I would say. No originality or creativity, just re-skinned humans, that's all. Hopefully they will learn from it.

kael013:

1337mokro:
*snip*

Dude, calm down. You do realize this is early concept art for the games, right? As in, the art department's version of prewriting? And that these pictures cover the whole Mass Effect trilogy (that last Tali pic was designed for ME1) as well as Dragon Age 2? So ME3 messed up big, I agree, but it's been a year. Get over it.

OT: Quite a few of the designs are kinda awful in my opinion. Not as in poorly designed - well a few - but in that they don't fit well with the rest of their respective universes (the Cerberus and Shadow Broker stuff, for example). The Dragon Age character designs, on the other hand, are pretty amazing. I wish Merrill and Flemeth really had looked like that.

Demon ID:

1337mokro:
[quote="synobal" post="7.823099.19919815"]super snip

What in the world did I just read..?

Did you even read the title? It states that this is early art and ideas that weren't used, you know 'concepts'. I think you might have just gone on a rant by mistake my friend :/

Though I admit, I did like the fact you brought up their misuse of The Illusive Man, I loved that guy in ME2 but 3 felt like a different writer took over and didn't understand the character.

Anyway all this concept art is fascinating if somewhat disturbing, it's interesting to think what a different looking game mass effect could of ended up being.

Edit: Okay now I've noticed someone else has mentioned this and I feel bad, it's always sucky when multiple people pounce on someones mistake :/

sorry.

Yes thank you for pointing this out after I changed my post. It was such a huge amount of help that you point this out after someone else pointed this out to me already, I corrected the mistake and clearly state that I did make the mistake.

1337mokro:
Yes thank you for pointing this out after I changed my post. It was such a huge amount of help that you point this out after someone else pointed this out to me already, I corrected the mistake and clearly state that I did make the mistake.

Fun Facts of the Internet: Sometimes multiple people will respond to one of your posts. These responses will take differing amounts of time to write (when I wrote my response post 10 was the most recent). Sometimes people respond to your post while you are in the process of editing it. It happens to everyone at some point, but don't expect all your responders to go back and change their posts just to stay up-to-date with yours. Glad you acknowledged your mistake, but don't rag on the rest of who pointed it out just because someone was faster than the rest of us.

Honestly, the biggest disappointment to me in ME was that Tali WASN'T super alien. Fem Sheps had two very alien love interests via Garrus and Thane, the fact that male Shep had no distinctly ALIEN love interests was a huge disappointment. I would've been much happier with any of those designs for Tali than the one we wound up getting.

Though, admittedly, the one with the hair that looks the most human is ironically my favourite. Though that's probably because the 3rd and 4th Tali designs remind me too much of Jack (in that bald humanoid lady design) while the first one has a way too big chin for me. Though, make the chin smaller, and the first would've been awesome.

EDIT: Note, my comment is based on the 4 Tali designs present at the artist's actual blog, not the pictures posted in the article.

image
Wait, is that Kai Leng?

And what's that he's holding? Is it... a toothbrush?!

RUN FOR YOUR LIVES CHILDREN! HIDE THE CEREAL, KAI LENG HAS A TOOTHBRUSH!!

That image of TIM will haunt me...

kael013:

1337mokro:
Yes thank you for pointing this out after I changed my post. It was such a huge amount of help that you point this out after someone else pointed this out to me already, I corrected the mistake and clearly state that I did make the mistake.

Fun Facts of the Internet: Sometimes multiple people will respond to one of your posts. These responses will take differing amounts of time to write (when I wrote my response post 10 was the most recent). Sometimes people respond to your post while you are in the process of editing it. It happens to everyone at some point, but don't expect all your responders to go back and change their posts just to stay up-to-date with yours. Glad you acknowledged your mistake, but don't rag on the rest of who pointed it out just because someone was faster than the rest of us.

Fun fact #2 when you are too unobservant to notice that the post was changed before yours was even up. Try looking up and confirm if the original post you wrote a reply to was changed or not. Especially not when it takes you so long to write a reply that several people before you already pointed out the mistake, the post was changed and there was enough time for several comments to be made in between.

Fun Fact #3 when you notice that someone else has beaten you to the punch you don't make the same comment. It's just forum etiquette after all that you don't post 15 images with the same jokes or to open 15 discussions about the same subject. Observation is the key to avoiding unnecessary spam.

Though I'll basically drop this issue here because it is pointless to pursue further when we should all laugh at TIM's hilarious design. He looks like someone put him through a metal thrasher.

image
image

To me, this has always been (and always will be) Tali.

Me too Matt Rhodes. Me too.

I mean, seriously. ALL of the concepts for Tali's face (and subsequently the Quarian race in general) are better than what we got.
This wouldn't even be that hard. It's so basic, yet alien.
Not the crap photoshop job we got and labeled as "artistic vision".

AJey:
Mass Effect could of had much better alien designs. This game has some of the most boring aliens in alien history, I would say. No originality or creativity, just re-skinned humans, that's all. Hopefully they will learn from it.

That's not fair.
game restrictions play a lot into how the aliens have to be designed.

For instance, Turians are supposed to have longer arms (that reach a bit above the knees instead of mid thighs like humans.) however due to the fact it would cause coding glitches with the human base bone structures and actions and that it would take far too long for coders to make an "alien" bone base with each individual action, they have to resort to conforming some aspects of design to the human base. Adding only a few adjustments to the overall physique here and there.
I bet you the Yahg and the Salarians were pushing it.

Dragonbums:

That's not fair.
game restrictions play a lot into how the aliens have to be designed.

For instance, Turians are supposed to have longer arms (that reach a bit above the knees instead of mid thighs like humans.) however due to the fact it would cause coding glitches with the human base bone structures and actions and that it would take far too long for coders to make an "alien" bone base with each individual action, they have to resort to conforming some aspects of design to the human base. Adding only a few adjustments to the overall physique here and there.
I bet you the Yahg and the Salarians were pushing it.

That's true, but I would have thought they could have made alterations in the sequels. It might look odd, but that didn't stop them in dragon age 2.

No matter how much I wanted it to.

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