Bioware: Shepherd "is heterosexual by choice"

Written by Joe Martin

February 8, 2010 | 11:00

Tags: #dragon-age #gay #mass-effect #mass-effect-2 #origins #romance #shepherd

Companies: #bioware

11.02.10 UPDATE: This article has been updated since it was originally published. The quotes taken from Bioware's forum towards the end of the article were originally attributed to Dr. Ray Muzyka, but actually come from Bioware's Stanley Woo. The article has been amended to reflect this fact. Expansions have also been made to Muzyka's quotes at the start of the article, though the original comments are still present and the remainder of the article remains unchanged.

Responding to confusion over why gay relationships can be initiated by players in Dragon Age: Origins but not in Mass Effect 2, Bioware co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka has explained that Mass Effect's Commander Shepherd is heterosexual "through choice".

The fact that Shepherd is always heterosexual whereas the player character in Dragon Age is not was a story-telling decision that Bioware made very early on in the development of both games.

"Here's how the games are different: Dragon Age is a first person narrative, where you're taking on an origin and a role, and you are that character at a fundamental level. It's fundamentally about defining your character, including those kinds of concepts," Dr. Ray told IGN. "In Mass Effect it's more a third-person narrative, where you have a pre-defined character who is who he is, or she is. But it's not a wide-open choice matrix. It's more choice on a tactical level with a pre-defined character. So they're different types of narratives, and that's intentional."

"We're not saying that one approach is better than the other. In our previous games, as we did in Jade Empire, as we did in KOTOR, as we did in Baldur's Gate, and many games before and in the future, we enable those kinds of choices, whereas in Mass Effect it's more about Shepard as a defined character with certain approaches and worldviews, and that's just who he or she is. So we constrain the choice set somewhat, but enable more tactical choices and enable a deeper, richer personality, because it's more focused around defining one character, it's not as wide open. But that's by choice."

"It's first person versus third person narrative, and the types of choices you get to make within that are related to that, whether you've got a pre-defined character or a wide-open character. Some of our games have been wide open, and some have been more constrained, and we'll probably continue both kinds of character development in the future."

Bioware's Stanley Woo also addressed forum arguments over the level of sex in Mass Effect 2, where a number of fans are accusing of Bioware of self-censoring purely to avoid controversy. Woo claims though that the company has creative freedom to limit sex and violence, in the same way that Rebellion's Jason Kingsley argued for sex and violence when we interviewed him last week about Aliens vs Predator.

"Let me tell you, folks, that as a developer full of mature individuals, we are also free to not have explicit sex and/or nudity in our games, no matter what you, Fox News, the government, or Bunky the Wonder Clown has to say about it," Woo wrote on the forums.

"We have never considered it a 'problem', it is simply a choice we have made and we have every right to make that choice," continued Woo, who says he gets frustrated that "people who claim to be old enough and mature enough to handle sex and nudity in a game seem to believe that any lack of sex and nudity in the game is a sign of self-censorship."

You can read our Dragon Age: Origins review and our Mass Effect 2 review for more information on either game, or just let us know your thoughts in the forums.
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