Community manager over at Bioware Chris Priestly posted on the Bioware forums in an attempt to clear up confusion regarding the next entry in the Mass Effect series. In a nutshell, he says that Mass Effect 4 would suggest a direct sequel, when Bioware has already gone on record saying that Commander Shepard’s story is over and the next game is going to simply explore the universe more, either before of after the original trilogy.

Here is the full post:

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. 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.

I do not call the game ME4 when I talk about it ever, 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. 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…”.

Studio director at Bioware Montreal Yannick Roy jumped in to add his two cents to the story, saying that they are working with a (fairly) new team, a new engine and therefore a new story seems to be the best fit, also implying that the next game takes place after Shepard’s story.

What Chris is saying is that thinking of the next Mass Effect game as Mass Effect 4 would imply a certain linearity, a straight evolution of the gameplay and story of the first three games. But because we are switching to a new engine and need to rebuild a bunch of game systems, we have an opportunity to rethink how we want these systems to be going forward instead of just inheriting them from the previous games. Story-wise, the arc of the first trilogy has also been concluded, and what we will do is tell a new story set in the Mass Effect universe. That doesn’t mean that events of the first three games and the choices you made won’t get recognized, but they likely won’t be what this new story will focus on.

If you had three games centered around a group of key soldiers in the US army during World War I and then decided to make a game about another group of people during the second World War, the games could have many points in common and feel true to one another, and you likely would have to recognize how the events of the first war influenced the ones of the second, but you would not necessarily think of it as a sequel.

This came about when fans were, quite rightly, wondering how on earth Bioware could go forward in time in the next game given the vastly different outcomes that could happen at the end of Mass Effect 3.

Bioware seem to be choosing their words very carefully at the moment, but it’s still nice that even after the backlash that Bioware have put up with, they’re still interested in entering into discussions with fans.