Remember how the Grand Theft Auto series branched out into games the likes of Vice City and San Andreas in between full sequel iterations, regardless of the scale of each of those games? We likened every solid Grand Theft Auto title with a number next to it, as being set in Liberty City.
Likewise for other franchises we have the Halo series which has ODST, Wars and Reach, and each numbered iteration which follows Master Chief and his annoying AI sidekick turned lover… seriously, how does that even work? Most recently we have the upcoming Gears of War: Judgment, which is not related to the previous trilogy and is named that way to reflect it.
So by rights, when a statement came out of BioWare Edmonton saying that fans ought not to refer to the next Mass Effect title as ‘Mass Effect 4′ because it does “a disservice” to the game, then I for one believe that they were justified in saying so.
These words, and more, were from community manager Chris Priestly, who shared some words on the next Mass Effect game, which we know won’t feature prior series protagonist Commander [first name here] Shepard, via the BioWare Social Network. He stressed also that details beyond his words won’t be revealed until “years down the road,” which means expect a leak within the next few months.
“To call the next game Mass Effect 4 or ME4 is doing it a disservice and seems to cause a lot of confusion here. We have already said that the Commander Shepard trilogy is over and that the next game will not feature him/her,” he explained in his post.
“That is the only detail you have on the game. I see people saying ‘well, they’ll have to pick a canon ending.’ No, because the game does not have to come after. Or before. Or off to the side. Or with characters you know. Or yaddayaddayadda. Wherever, whenever, whoever, etc will all be revealed years down the road when we actually start talking about it.”
According to the Priestly, internal staff do not even refer to the project as ‘Mass Effect 4′ because, “that makes people think of it more as ‘what happens after Mass Effect 3′ rather than ‘what game happens next set in the Mass Effect Universe’, which is far more accurate at this point.”
He added: “Obviously fans are going to speculate content, character and story until we actually reveal details in the years or months to come as you have almost no actual details, just don’t get bogged down in ‘well how are they going to continue ME3…’.”
Once again we have some conflicting words after series producer Casey Hudson asked fans if they think the next Mass Effect should be a sequel or prequel, effectively placing it within the same canon Priestly spoke of. Apart from that, we have one more detail regarding the game and that’s that it will be developed using EA’s Frostbite 2.0 engine. So expect lots of lens flares and blinding laser-sights.
What do you think about naming conventions, though? Surely if this game has an entirely different setting, then it ceases to be called Mass Effect any more. The better question to ask, perhaps, is what exactly is in a name? We enjoy calling the next generation of Xbox the NextBox or Xbox 720 but what if Microsoft opts to call it the Xbox Carl? And even then, only because they cannot drop the Xbox name now that it’s so well-known, else they’d call it Officer Carl, or something.
We established right at the beginning that if a series takes a different direction then having a numbered iteration is usually not a thing. There are other games where this is not the case. BioWare themselves did this, with Dragon Age II, where they would have done the game a service to bastardise the above quotes, by calling it something else. Dragon Age: That Other Guy With The Blood Smear, perhaps.
So I think that while they, once again, need to look at themselves first (why is this always the case with them recently), they are within their rights to prefer fans not calling it Mass Effect 4, but then, what do we call it if not that? For many of us, myself included, it’s a naming convention that exists for ease of use, not to describe the product. Even if Mass Effect 4 is the next FIFA game, but in space, I need a way to distinguish it from other Mass Effect titles, at least until a title is officially released.
Nobody wants another Prince of Persia situation.