Ex-BioWare animator Jonathan Cooper has said that the earliest design for Commander Shepard was female.
One of the core features of a BioWare RPG is the ability to choose your gender. It’s something the studio has included since its earliest day as role-playing developer and, as the years have gone by, the gender options afforded to players have only expanded. Despite this, there have still been arguable moment where playing as one specific gender made more sense. Case in point, the Mass Effect games. While a majority of players worked their way through the trilogy as a man, there was a consensus among many other gamers that Jennifer Hale’s performance as female Shepard was leagues superior to her male counterpart. To many, FemShep was the franchise’s one true protagonist.
It would now seem that that sect of fans might not have been too far off. While male Shepard would go on to become the series’ default, a recent Tweet from ex-BioWare animator Jonathan Cooper has indicated that the earliest design for Commander Shepard was “originally a woman.” Cooper offered as evidence a clip of the original animation test for Shepard. The clip showcases a gray female character model running forward before turning from side to side. In a follow-up Tweet, Cooper revealed that the animation was based on “repurposed mocap” from the studio’s previous RPG, the grossly underrated Jade Empire.
Now granted, when you get down to it, this revelation doesn’t mean all that much in the grand scheme of things. Even if this first bit of animation was modeled around a female Shepard, Cooper himself affirmed that BioWare had “always planned [for Shepard] to be both male [and] female.” Regardless, it’s still a neat fact about the game’s development, especially when you consider how long it would take for BioWare to make FemShep a bigger part of the series’ marketing.