One of the hallmarks of BioWare’s Mass Effect series was the morality system that allowed players to choose their reactions to certain situations by opting for either the good-guy ‘Paragon’ response or the bad-boy ‘Renegade’ response. Regardless of where you came down on Femshep vs. Manshep, it seems just about everyone agreed on Goodshep vs. Badshep, and Badshep didn’t stand a chance.
That’s according to John Ebenger, who worked as cinematic designer on the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series at BioWare. Since then, he’s directed cinematics for Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
A viral tweet last week made a wry observation about player behaviour in games that feature morality systems. In the tweet, an imaginary developer offers the player the alluring choice to play as the bad guy.
The author of the tweet responds by sparing and forgiving enemies, refusing to steal, and taking the friendliest dialogue options in conversations, dismaying the developer.
“This is supposed to be escapist fantasy about violating social norms,” the developer complains.
“I am a nice villain,” the author replies.
Ebenger noticed the tweet and responded with his observations from watching the data come back on Mass Effect.
Yup. Something like 92% of Mass Effect players were Paragon.
And we put a lot of work in to the Renegade content too 🙁 https://t.co/lywwx7n4Hy
— John Ebenger (@EbengerJohn) February 19, 2020
“Something like 92% of Mass Effect players were Paragon,” he said. “And we put a lot of work into the Renegade content too.”
Former Telltale narrative designer Matt Boland chimed in: “Same thing at Telltale,” he said. “People always want to be the good guy. The trick was always pitting what they wanted to do against what [they] SHOULD do. [Mass Effect] had a ton of these too.”
“Yup. We also always tried getting them [the players] to get attached to character with opposing needs and make them choose who they loved the most,” Ebenger said. “Direct conflict between beloved characters is great!”
We’ve been hearing for a couple years now that BioWare intends to make another Mass Effect game, and we know another Dragon Age is on the way too. Let’s all promise to be worse people when we finally get to play them.