Mass Effect Andromeda Had Designs For Up To Ten New Alien Species, But They Were Cut For Budget, Scope, And... Cosplay
While we only saw two new species in Mass Effect Andromeda - which turned out to be the same species - the writers proposed up to ten more.
After speaking to various developers who worked on Andromeda - some of whom were there at the beginning, others who saw it through to the end - I’ve learned quite a bit about what happened here. First of all, there were several more species designed for this galaxy. One writer lists having proposed “five or six” new alien types, while another states that the ones BioWare opted for in the end were specifically chosen for being in “cosplay-safe” territory. Another dev mentions that an entire system was constructed just to facilitate communication between species who were indigenous to Andromeda and those who had arrived from the Milky Way.
The “species who were indigenous to Andromeda” part is important, given that there were also different ideas for how to handle first contact - making the Pathfinder a violent colonist who shoots first and asks questions later wasn’t something that was set in stone from the get-go.
“I think it was a project that couldn't have possibly lived up to expectations,” Neil Pollner tells me. Pollner was a senior writer on Mass Effect 3 before going on to write parts of Andromeda. “Not just the high bar of the original trilogy, but the logical expectations anyone would have of Mass Effect going to a whole new galaxy. Because the scope of [the first] Mass Effect was so incredibly massive, there was an inherent promise that you'd be getting a massive new experience with a ton of new things in [what was supposed to be the first] Mass Effect Andromeda - new species, new lore, an entire new galaxy at your fingertips, etc.
“But we were only given the budget for two new species, plus the Remnant. Not to mention that we couldn't even include all the Milky Way species. And we weren't going to be able to let you travel throughout the galaxy. This meant that we had to develop the story around some pretty glaring inorganic limitations. So, not only did you get something that felt (and was) much smaller than what you got before, almost everyone playing the game probably had something that they really liked about Mass Effect that just wasn't there.”
Pollner goes on to explain something I mentioned above - that there’s an inherent disconnect between making your character an explorer in a game where the vast majority of gameplay involves killing. “Ryder the explorer should have a challenging and dynamic first contact experience,” he explains. “Instead, you're almost immediately killing kett. So, some very basic pillars just weren't lining up.”
When I ask about the fact that several species had apparently been cut from the game - something I had already learned in previous interviews - Pollner assures me that I had “no idea” of what was dropped in the early days of Andromeda. He also lamented the iconic narrative and branching complexity of earlier BioWare games, stating that he wishes the team had been able to maintain the same level of variation, options, and consequences as the revered RPGs the studio was known for.
“The other BioWare Montreal writers and I were dreaming up and developing things for Andromeda months ahead of Edmonton officially starting the project - i.e. before the budget and scope had been decided/communicated,” Pollner says. “We just knew that we were going to Andromeda, with almost nothing else established, including even when in the timeline it would happen. And we set out to brainstorm and grow ideas that could organically serve that general premise.
Check the link for more.