News has been slow out of Canada, and so we're reading forum posts from Bioware Community Leaders in order to gleam information on the future of the Mass Effect franchise. A couple posts, in particular, have leaked a little bit of information on a general direction of the next installment of the series.
Evil Chris Priestly posted a reply in a BSN forum thread around expectations for "Mass Effect 4", stating:
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, bucause 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...".
Ok, sure, in other words, calling it ME4 creates expectations that Bioware's not ready to stoke yet. This seems to be in line with what Bioware's stated before, such as focusing on not making a Shepard 2.0.
Yesterday, however, Yanick Roy, Studio Director from the Montreal office, posted in a separate thread discussing the place of the upcoming Mass Effect title:
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.
In other words, because the game takes place before of after the first trilogy does not mean it necessarily is a straight prequel or sequel.
Roy's point seems to emphasize that the decisions made throughout the original trilogy will reflect the state of the galaxy in future titles - a rather arduous undertaking if follow-up titles were meant to take place prior to Shepard's story. We knew already that Bioware was planning for your save files to be relevant in the future, so Roy's point does seem to nail that home. However, with the dodgy language used in both posts, clearly the Montreal studio (not the Edmonton office, as IGN's article suggests) is not ready to settle on an official declaration of where the next title will take us.
The good news is that I can keep my fingers crossed for an alternate timeline Mass Effect where Princess Zelda sends Shepard back to the past where he can enjoy his childhood before the slaver raid on Mindoir.