Mass Effect is one of the most cohesive video game universes ever built, as evidenced by the excellent worldbuilding that went into supporting its foundations in hard science-fiction. However, as is the case with all good writing, certain parts of Mass Effect were inspired by other stories. One location in particular, Omega, was specifically designed with Star Wars’ iconic Mos Eisley in mind.
The Cantina Band theme is stuck in your head now, isn’t it?
“Mass Effect locations, at least the ones I worked on, weren’t so much about being alien as fulfilling the sci-fi fantasy for the players,” Mass Effect 2 and 3 writer Jay Turner tells me. For example, Turner explains that Tuchanka obviously needed to reflect the krogan and their background, but also had to be relatable to whoever was playing.
“We did things there like a drinking contest, rat-shooting, and some very light political posturing, all to add a little more depth to the krogan,” Turner says. “For Omega, we were working on the ‘Mos Eisley’ fantasy, a shifty dive club where all the bad people go to celebrate being bad, run by an immensely old and powerful pirate queen.”
Turner explains that creating worlds like this means designing everything from the ground up in order to specifically reinforce the themes each location is supposed to convey. Every single side quest and conversation need to refer back to the area they transpire in for the worldbuilding to work, both in terms of the specific planet you’re learning about and the galaxy as a whole.
“Each location had a set of ‘rules’ to follow, as it were,” Turner says. “Omega was a shifty place where people might lie to lead you into an ambush, where criminals think they’re too powerful for Shepard to mess with, and where people poison your drink for the fun of it. I imagine that most players who pick up a sci-fi game like Mass Effect have some experience with those themes in pop culture.”
Turner goes on to explain that while Omega is intentionally supposed to be Mass Effect’s take on Mos Eisley, it’s also designed as that shady club on the very edge of the bad side of town, “Where you know the moment you enter that one wrong step could get you in trouble with someone secret and powerful.
“It was also a chance to show the criminal side of the Mass Effect universe,” Turner adds. “So we leaned heavily into including characters and plots that would shine light on those corners of the galaxy.”
Interestingly, Omega appears to have been particularly beloved among the writing team. In a separate interview, Mass Effect 3 senior writer Neil Pollner tells me that being the narrative point-of-contact for the Omega DLC was his favourite experience working on the series.
“Handling that from concept to launch, with limited resources (for instance, we were told we couldn’t use any of the squadmates) was a blast,” Pollner says. “Designing the player’s options in developing their Shepard’s relationship with Aria, as well creating and introducing the franchise’s first female Turian, Nyreen, were definitely the highlights of my time writing on Mass Effect. We had a shoestring budget, and there are things I wish we’d been able to do differently, but I’m very proud of how that turned out.”
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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
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