Mass Effect concept art shows Shepard as a Reaper, Tali unmasked, and more

A whole new side of Mass Effect

Long before a game ever hits retail shelves, it comes into existence as an idea. That broad concept is then refined into a series of ideas, ranging from plot details to mechanics. Those designs are then formulated, refined, tested, and scrapped until only the strongest elements remain. We’ve never made a game before, but we’d wager that whole process is as exciting as it is exhausting. And it’s a process that every game, regardless of scope or budget, must go through.

Matt Rhodes, an artist at BioWare, recently posted some of his concept art of Mass Effect on his blog, some of which showcases his initial ideas for many of the series’ most beloved characters. He gave us permission to repost some of those images here, along with some of his words about the thought process that went into these early drafts.

You can find more of his work here.

Commander Shepard and Ashley

Matt Rhodes: This was a very, very early idea for Shepard. In this image he has been forced to turn to Reaper technology to accomplish his goals (*cough* Saren *cough*) and hes being confronted by the new human Specter, Ashley.

Cerberus troops

Matt Rhodes: When designing the Cerberus troops, there were a lot of requests for thickness. I tend to go thin by default (a handicap I have to constantly work to counteract). What I wanted to maintain was a slight goofiness to their appearance. I think that if you try to design something to be cool, it will fail. The best designs (especially designs for characters that are meant to be scary or intimidating) are ones that maintain a percentage of goofiness. Real world designs typically have this element because engineers and designers are concerned with function first. This tends to create unintentionally funny forms.

Cerberus troops

Cerberus troops

Matt Rhodes: Bubblehead here was meant to be the ultimate stress test for this concept. He would show up looking like an idiot, but once he murdered a prisoner in cold blood and then ripped your health down to nothing you would learn to fear that stupid looking shape. I believe that the juxtaposition between the goofy appearance and deadly menace creates an iconic, lasting enemy. That said, it still wasnt an idea that fit within the Mass Effect language.

Kai Leng

Matt Rhodes: Two early takes on Kai Leng. Playing with Ben Huens idea for robot legs, and a battle scarred version.

Kai Leng

Matt Rhodes: The scarred version was an attempt to create an evil Shepard (As though Cerberus had rebuilt him as well, but done a crappier job).

The Illusive Man

Matt Rhodes: Here were two early renditions of the Illusive man after he had overdosed on Reaper Tech.

The Illusive Man


Matt Rhodes: This was an early take on Ashleys costume. The idea was to create a hybrid of uniform and armor. Ive always been fond of the idea of futuristic wet-suit armor. I wanted to try a suit that was flexible, but sturdy and protective. Flexible, futuristic armor is a concept that requires too much in-game exposition though. At the end of the day it was decided that players need to see hard-shell armor.

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