Anybody who’s played the Mass Effect series will tell you just how important the storytelling was to the overall experience. And the man behind most of that rich storytelling was Mac Walters. When he’s not helping to sketch out the future for the Mass Effect series, he’s working on a 13-issue Dark Horse comic called Mass Effect: Foundation. We caught up with Mr. Walters at NY Comic-Con where he talked about everything from the relationship between the comics and the video games to even relating the controversial ending of Mass Effect 3 to that of Breaking Bad.
Complex: Why did you decide to do a 13-part series with Foundation rather than do a 4 part series like you’ve done in the past with Mass Effect: Redemption and Invasion?
Mac Walters: I think a lot of that was that Dark Horse had been seeing a lot of success with the series, and they wanted to have an ongoing run. With Mass Effect ending, we knew we had a bit of breathing room, so I thought, okay, I’ll give it a try. And Dark Horse was all about it. It’s been a challenge, but in the end, I’m glad that we decided to do it. We were able to do a little bit more over the 13 issues than we were able to do in four.
Complex: So how does this expand upon the Mass Effect universe?
Mac Walters: If you’re familiar with the Homeworlds comics, the concept behind that, which we weren’t sure was going to fly, but the concept was, each issue focused on a single character. And to me, that’s the fun of the comics. They’re separate stories. These are Commander Shepard’s friends, and we get to explore their lives in the comics, usually through their eyes. It went over really well. But then you get people who ask, well, why didn’t you do Ashley? Where’s Rex? So Foundation is a way that we get to look at all of these characters.
Complex: In issue number 5, which comes out in November, you actually have a Shepard story that harkens back to Mass Effect 2. Can you tell us about that?
Mac Walters: All of the issues try to fit in within the universe somewhere. So as we go through them, you’ll see that some of them actually take place during the game as you said. And the farther we move along the series, the more we start to move Rasa closer to the point where we find her as Brooks in the Citadel DLC.
Complex: Will this comic affect the future of the series in any way?
Mac Walters: These were very much intended to be something that adds to the existing world rather than bridge into something new. Of course we’ve already talked about a fourth Mass Effect installment, and I can’t imagine that we wouldn’t want to use the comics as a companion. I mean, that’s where we have the best success, I think. When the comics themselves actually work with something directly in the game. Because we never just feel like, ‘this is just more Mass Effect stuff.’ We want it to fit in with the games. So I imagine that in the future, if everything keeps going well, we’ll be doing the same thing when the next Mass Effect comes out.
Complex: So with Commander Shepard gone, are you starting anew, or are you going to continue any of that story?
Mac Walter: Well, I can’t get into details, but the idea is that we have agreed to tell a story that doesn’t relate necessarily to any of the Shepard events at all, whatsoever. Beyond that, that’s what we’ve been deciding for awhile. But throughout it all, one of the key things is that it has to be Mass Effect. It can’t just feel like a spin-off. It has to feel like a Mass Effect game at its heart, at its core. Just without the Shepard character or the Shepard specific companions.
Complex: What are your thoughts on all the people who complained about the third game’s ending?
Mac Walter: It’s been 18-19 months since it came out and my thoughts on it are that we addressed it the best we could in the extended cut. We’re obviously not going to be changing anything now. We’re only going forward. But you know what’s interesting? The only view I’ve had on it was, well, I was watching Breaking Bad, and that deals with (spoiler alert) the main character dying. And in no way do I think that anybody was surprised that he died. It was set up, even from the get-go, that this was a character that was going to die. But the interesting difference there is that that’s not a character that people had control of. They didn’t have any say at any point at what would happen to Walter White. Period.
And I think that’s one of the things we really underestimated, which was how much ownership people would take over a character that they could do that. You know, you’ve been given free choice to make all these decisions with this character, with the fates of millions of people, and then, you don’t get to choose your own fate. And I’m not saying that our decision was wrong or right. I think we just underestimated the impact that would have on certain players. To be fair, I get people, especially at the Cons, who will say, “I loved it. It was heart-wrenching, but I felt it was right for my Shepard.” And to me, that’s why it was the right path. But because there was no choice, it was going to be right for some people, and for others, in the middle, and other people were obviously very upset about it. In hindsight, I don’t think there was anything we would have changed about that, but it is a really good lesson learned.