Although the Mass Effect trilogy allowed players to create their own Shepard, the game had limited options for making non-white characters. Environment and character director Kevin Meek told The Verge that improving options for people of color was one of its top priorities when it came to Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, an upcoming remastered collection. “If you have type 4 hair or a really dark skin tone or if that’s the Shepard you wanted to play as, you just did not really have that option in the original Mass Effect,” Meek said.
Legendary Edition packages all three games with all of their corresponding DLC. Although the game won’t add new story content, it does overhaul its graphics and expand some gameplay elements to make them more modern. In returning to the series, BioWare had an opportunity to fix its shortcomings in the game’s original design. “There are certain hairstyles that just don’t work, especially for the female Shepards,” Meek said. “There was very little there that supported that at all. There was long flowing hair options, you can color it black, but those didn’t really work.” The team began by making a list of hairstyles it was missing, then working out textures. “You can’t put a really tight, really clean buzzed cut with shiny, shiny hair,” Meek said by way of example.
In deciding which hairstyles to incorporate into a modernized game set in the future, the developers aimed for more “timeless” options. “The difference between style and fashion,” Meek said. Part of the improvements to the game’s fade hairstyles, for example, includes “sci-fi futuristic patterns” buzzed into the sides. “You don’t want to grab people’s attention, you just want it to fit within the Mass Effect universe.”
In addition to new hairstyles, skin tones, and more, the game is also improving on its “iconic” FemShep — a player-voted model that didn’t appear until the trilogy’s final installment. The canon character model’s late inclusion was “really limiting” for many players. “It’s pretty unfair for the people playing as females, you go through all of these moments throughout Mass Effect 1 and 2 and then you get to Mass Effect 3 and you’re just given this choice of do you want to continue with your Shepard, or do you want to switch your visuals completely,” Meek said.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition will launch May 14th on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.