Yesterday, the studio director at BioWare Montreal, Yanick Roy, stated that the next Mass Effect title is "somewhere in the middle of development" via Twitter. It should be noted outright that design for the new title started back around 18 months ago in late 2012. If Roy’s statement is taken quite literally, that would place a tentative release date around 18 months from now. Although there are yet to be any "official" announcements about the game per, over the past two years since Mass Effect 3, BioWare has made various less-formal clarifications about what to expect in the new game.
First and foremost, the game will not be called “Mass Effect 4,” namely because Commander Shepard will not be featured in the new adventure. According to Mass Effect 3’s lead writer, Mac Walters, it seems more likely than not that any character that was on Shepard’s team will not make a return either. This being said though, one can only speculate that various cameo appearances could somehow be made in the new game. Additionally, perhaps various events of the first three Mass Effect games will be hinted at in this new title. Even though characters from the first three games will probably not be directly involved whatsoever, Yanick Roy claims that the new game will be “the same type of game as the first three.”
With this being said, fans can hope for a new experience while at the same time look forward to enjoying the feel of the older games in the series. Although the release of this game seems far off, a playable version was actually achieved back in September 2013. Some would think that BioWare would make some sort of formal announcement when they achieved this milestone, but in fact, this news was brought out only through executive producer, Casey Hudson, and BioWare’s Edmonton and Montreal boss, Aaryn Flynn, via Twitter. In fact, they actually were able to play the build and seemed to quite enjoy it. Hudson said, "What's even more fun than working on the design of a new fictional world? Taking our first steps into it and looking around.” Flynn followed up a few months later by saying “Great time playing the next Mass Effect game in Montreal…Ambitious. Beautiful. Fresh but recognisable. And fun!”
Meanwhile, on BioWare’s yearly “N7 Day” (November 7th) of the same year, various images of both artwork and in-game captures were posted to Twitter via various BioWare staff members. Amongst these images of various landscapes and organisms which appeared to be not of this planet, one image featured the Mako vehicle from the original Mass Effect with the caption: “Inspiration for the future.” Perhaps this photo hints at the return of planetary exploration as we saw it in the first Mass Effect. Jumping ahead to the end of Mass Effect 3, however, leaves fans to wonder how this new game will relate to the originally trilogy as far as setting is concerned. During BioWare’s recent PAX East 2014 panel, a hint was slightly made suggesting that the new game could take place way after Mass Effect 3. The original trilogy featured the option of being able to continue with your character across each of the games. Mass Effect 3 does have multiple possible endings depending upon the actions and choices of the player. So, one can wonder about how all of their actions across the first three games, more-so the ending of the third game, will affect how the fourth game plays out even if there is no Commander Shepard and his story has simply become an (ancient) legend. When someone attending the 2014 panel asked about the reactions of Shepard’s actions immediately after they occurred in the game, they were told that BioWare "can't really talk about that at this time". This may suggest that BioWare did not have anything set up for what immediately happens in the series after the fact of Shepard's actions, because they planned on the fourth game being set many years later.
Perhaps the most interesting informal news surfaced just this past November when Reddit and NeoGAF began to spread around a post from a Mass Effect forum made by a claimed-attendee of PAX prime 2013. The producer of Mass Effect, Michael Gamble, made a tweet in August of last year encouraging Mass Effect fans to get into contact with him if they were attending PAX Prime 2013. Out of those who replied, 21 people were selected for a two hour presentation that was closed off to the public. Evidently, the content of this presentation was not supposed to be brought to the public, but the aforementioned forum-post may have leaked some interesting information from that presentation. Although no one could verify the contents of the post as legitimate for sure, including Eurogamer, the post and thread were shadily deleted without any sort of explanation after it was brought to the limelight. The post had been on the forum for months and was not deleted until it started attracting attention. This hasty and odd move suggests that either the information was false or that it was not supposed to be known yet. The poster claimed that two new alien races (including a glowing-eyed skeletal race and an “ancient, advanced guardian” race) as well as Mako-like land vehicles, and various environments were shown during the presentation.
All said and done, while we do know a fair deal about the next Mass Effect game, there is still much to learn and wonder about. Lately, BioWare has seemingly kept its focus on Dragon Age: Inquisition and tried its best to place it in on center stage. Former BioWare community manager, Chris Priestly, recently made some comments on BioWare’s forum regarding how much he feels the next Mass Effect will be promoted and/or hinted at in the months to come. “I think this year's E3 will heavily push Inquisition to the press and gamers. To announce whatever the next ME game is called at E3 would dilute BioWare focus.” He continues, "I do hope Aaryn or Casey drop a few hints, but I really doubt there will be any teasers, trailers or even substantial news interviews about MENext. Given that for some fans the last memory of the trilogy was a negative one, I think BioWare will want to really wow prospective ME fans to pay attention to a new title right out of the gate, rather than announcing a few details or teaser trailer, then going dark while DA:I takes center stage." After his previous statements, Priestly concluded that the next Mass Effect will probably be in BioWare’s focus come 2015.
Like DA:I, the next Mass Effect will make full use of DICE’s Frosbite 3 Engine. Like Priestly also stated, I feel as though there won’t be much official information released about the new ME title until after DA:I is released. At best, fans of the series should keep their eyes and ears open after DA:I’s release when “N7 Day” comes around and when the VGX Awards are held in December. After all, Mass Effect 3’s first trailer was shown back during the 2011 VGX Awards. Seeing what information we know already, I’m definitely looking forward to what the next Mass Effect will have to offer.