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.