How Mass Effect Legendary Edition’s mod community achieved the impossible

Mass Effect Legendary Edition, Nearly a decade had passed before the release of the final remaster. It struck a chord when finally it was available. Spacefaring fans were delighted to be able to play as Commander Shepard again, although this was only minor enhancement to the original. Pinnacle Station, It was not found. BioWare revealed later that that this section’s code had been lost and that it was no longer available to the developer.

Fortunately, a crack team of volunteer developers had already dedicated years of their lives to finding ways around the more finicky parts of Mass Effect’s makeup. They were able to find a solution to the problem. Pinnacle Station when BioWare couldn’t by modding it into the game post-launch. Technically speaking, this shouldn’t have even been possible, but the game’s community of modders have made this — and so much more — a reality.

This is how the Mass Effect works. How modding communities evolved from an informal group of forum-dwellers into a vibrant social network that was admired by BioWare.

The Old Age

A side shot of a space ship that clearly reads Normandy, from Mass Effect: Legendary Edition

Image by BioWare/Electronic Arts

It is the buildup of Mass Effect 3 This was unlike any other video game in recent history. After Mass Effect 2 culminated in the now-illustrious suicide mission, fans waited two years to witness the end of Shepard’s galaxy-spanning journey. The game sold nearly a million copies in 24 hours after its launch on March 2012.

But that’s not what Mass Effect 3 It is well-known for. Talk about Mass Effect 3 today, it’s impossible to avoid discussing its own notoriously divisive ending — which, incidentally, is what drove many of the people in the community toward modding in the first place.

WarrantyVoider is frequently credited as being the father of Mass Effect The modding community. Although he didn’t release many mods himself, he built the toolset that the majority of other mods at the time relied on. People don’t know that he was the one who first started to play with mods because he didn’t like its original conclusion. Mass Effect 3 — a sentiment echoed by early adopters of the tools he would go on to design.

Mass Effect’s flourishing modding scene can be traced back to a forum where WarrantyVoider encountered like-minded people and obtained the knowledge necessary for building the community’s first proprietary toolset: ME3ExplorerWV. For a long period, this was the most popular toolset in the community. It made modding more accessible than ever before. While today’s tools are markedly superior and more refined, they never could have existed without the foundations laid by WarrantyVoider.

“I was mostly interested in how the different parts of the engine worked and how the information is stored,” says WarrantyVoider. “Once the mod was working and released, I slowly began to withdraw from the community, as the tools were working better and I had other things to do.”

“When I came back a while later, because I wanted to code some more, the current admins of my forum were upset that I assumed control again,” he adds. “So they kicked me out of my own forum. And well, that was the end of that.”

WarrantyVoider’s remaining modders assumed the role of lead developer. Mgamerz was one of these modders, and he has been the lead developer for the new toolset.

Mgamerz started working on Mass Effect 3 Mods created a blog ME3Tweaks in 2012. The blog documented the changes — or “tweaks” — he made to WarrantyVoider’s toolset in order to build his own, more advanced version of it. (The current Legendary EditionMgamerz even taught the building of modding toolset. He made the ME3 Coalesced Mod Administrator in 2012 as one of his major contributions. This was the base for many ridiculous projects which were only for fun.

Four characters from Mass Effect: Legendary standing in a row.

Image by BioWare/Electronic Arts

Mgamerz, while he was part the team which inherited the control of the scene following WarrantyVoider’s departure, was also taken out after a disagreement with someone on the forum. The forum was run by three members of the emerging community, and not by Mgamerz. Mgamerz’ ousting triggered a mass exodus that almost put an end to the modding scene right as it began.

“There was a lot of gatekeeping culture at the top of the food chain and it drove away a lot of new talent,” says Mgamerz. “Development on the toolset stopped after the 3.0 version was released, which meant that mods would only be developed by people willing to put up with a high barrier of entry.” This version of the toolset required developers to already be proficient in the tech it used, making it inaccessible for the majority of players who wanted to work on Mass Effect Passionately motivated projects

“The failure of Mass Effect: Andromeda in 2017 also put a pretty big shadow over the modding scene,” Mgamerz says. “I know many people who left simply because they played it and were put off the franchise. I never finished the story campaign and did only a few hours of multiplayer.”

Several people who remained on the post-WarrantyVoider dev team made the switch to Mgamerz’ toolset, ME3 Explorer: ME3Tweaks Fork. The remaining modders switched to Discord in 2017, which was still relatively young at that time. A well-respected dev, SirCxyrtyx, began working on modding features that were considered “pipe-dream-level things.” As more and more original modders continued to flock to Mgamerz’ new team, they started to emphasize approachability, performance, and task automation.

This was also the time when CrossGenV began to take shape. It would become the building system that led to the invention of the Internet. Pinnacle Station port possible in 2021, even as BioWare said it couldn’t be done. This is one of the greatest feats ever achieved by the scene.

Moving to Discord would allow the modding community to survive their darkest hours.

The Dark Age

A large space structure glows red against the backdrop of space in Mass Effect: Legendary.

Image by BioWare/Electronic Arts

Audemus, the symbol of modern Mass Effect, is Audemus. scene. His role was crucial in unifying the original developers and those who were responsible for many of its most recent innovations. After joining during a period modders referred to as “The Dark Age” in 2019, he was tasked with figuratively keeping the lights on.

As WarrantyVoider, his interest was peaked after he was disappointed by WarrantyVoider. Mass Effect 3’s ending. He recalls being a “toxic” teenager around the time that BioWare started to receive backlash related to the end of Shepard’s saga, and is grateful that the forums he posted on are long since dead. It is The Citadel DLC renewed his interest and he set out to create his perfect Mass Effect. What might games look like?

Mgamerz and WarrantyVoider referred to the forums as a dead town. Audemus was finally hired to write for Project Earth Overhaul Mod. But he soon realized that not all the people in the group were on the same page. He’d become the de facto leader of the group, after witnessing tumult in the forum that halted mods being made. He founded the Mass Effect Modding Workshop, Sept. 2019.

“Modding communities need two things to thrive: Tooling, and a way to talk to each other to share knowledge,” says Audemus.

It felt as if a new life was being breathed into the community within a few months. Every developer received their channel and new members quickly informed their friends about the movement. Mass Effect modding was finally being explored again, after years of drought.

“It didn’t have the toxic, gatekeeping mentality that the old community did,” says Audemus. “Mgamerz ran the tools while I ran the community side of things, and things went pretty smoothly other than a few spats and bouts of drama here and there […] If you were making mods, I wanted you involved with what I was building, and I didn’t believe in hoarding knowledge of telling people what they could or couldn’t do. Unlike the toolset admins who previously ran things, I was effectively just custodian of the chatroom, rather than holding the keys to the kingdom.”

Audemus created a Discord server to welcome all newcomers. He encouraged a culture that encourages sharing of knowledge, rather than hoarding. It was time. Mass Effect: Legendary Edition They had transformed a fringe modding community into nearly 1000 members. This number had risen to almost 5,000 by 2021.

Joker, from Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, faces FemShep. He says “You were always lit up blue by the light of Alchera, and... you always looked so beautiful.”

A screenshot from the Hatboy Project, which lets female Commander Shepard players romance Flight Lieutenant Jeff “Joker” Moreau.

This time period ushered in a number of groundbreaking mods, including one that lets players romance Flight Lieutenant Jeff “Joker” Moreau. Joker, a character that isn’t easily dateable in Mass Effect, is not known for his strong dating abilities. The Joker romance mod, called “The Hatboy Project,” enables the beloved pilot to say something to the player-controlled female Commander Shepard that he had never said before:

“What do you think about you and me?”

The mod was developed by D0lphin, a modder who had been part of the community since “The Dark Age.” She had met a Mass Effect 3 While working as a tattoo artist and developer, he decided to attend Futureworks Manchester to learn game art.

“A few years after I graduated, someone left a comment on my ancient fanfiction,” says D0lphin. “That’s when it hit me: With everything I’d learned, I could make this real for people. All that remained was to figure out how to bash the game’s brains in hard enough to let me. (Bashing game brains sounds violent, and it is — these games actively resist modding.)”

The mod was difficult to design. When D0lphin committed her first change, she noticed that the mouth animations didn’t match up anymore. “I had to look into AI voice synthesis as a solution for the hundreds of new lines my mod would entail — I don’t exactly have Seth Green and Jennifer Hale on speed dial. […]Although I know that this technology is still in its early stages, it raises ethical issues. But I hope that if those two ever hear of it for whatever reason, they understand, and maybe even get a kick out of it.”

D0lphin’s work ultimately pioneered a whole new kind of modding. When she first started out, it could take an entire day to achieve just 10 seconds’ worth of new speech animations. It took her eight months to create a scene. Now it takes just four days. You can create accurate lipsync on your own. Mass Effect Legendary Edition mods — all it takes is a little elbow grease.

The New Age

Commander Shepard faces a ship dashboard in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition.

Image by BioWare/Electronic Arts

It’s more than any other thing Legendary Edition The opportunity for modders to restart was a rare one. The developers who stuck around throughout “The Dark Age” could now repurpose their knowledge to build a new, unified ecosystem that supported greater consistency and compatibility between future mods.

It opened up new avenues. Mgamerz claimed that WarrantyVoider had to spend countless hours in order unlock the necessary console for modding. Mgamerz’ team accomplished the same feat in just five days for Legendary Edition. Mgamerz said that BioWare provided useful tips and tricks for a few modders to help them avoid some of the time-consuming tasks associated with modding the original trilogy.

Nexus had been a bit of a thorn in the side with some members, but wanted to be involved again. The vast majority of Mass Effect mods are on Nexus, at this point — although even Tumblr had one or two exclusive projects back in the day. The moderators at Nexus originally wanted to launch their own Discord server, but eventually agreed to compromise by adding a bot to Audemus’ existing server. Unimaginable feats have been accomplished by the community since then. Legendary Edition launched.

“We’ve seen way more mods released for LE The past 16 months have been more productive than the eight years of OT. [original trilogy] modding,” says Audemus. “There are still challenges, of course. But these days it feels like anything is possible.” At time of writing, Legendary Edition has over 1,600 mods (you can check out some of the most popular ones on Nexus), while the Oderiginal trilogy’s scene has all but completely dried up. These mods are only available on PC because the console ecosystem is closed — it’s not like it is for games like Skyrim or Fallout 4Bethesda provides official support for allowing you to run mods on PlayStation and Xbox.

Tali’Zorah nar Rayya and Commander Shepard face each other in a cut scene from Mass Effect: Legendary Edition.

Image by BioWare/Electronic Arts

That’s not to say the scene is showing any signs slowing down. Since then, Legendary Edition Mass Effect has been a huge success since its inception. It attracted tons new talent. Knighthawk is among these up-and coming talent. Knighthawk was first introduced to the scene through Audemus’ interviews. He’s already carved out his own niche back-porting features from Legendary Edition’s version of Mass Effect 2And Mass Effect 3To LE’s Mass Effect (one example is his Tali Consistency mod), which many people haven’t bothered with in the past. This has necessitated some craft solutions — in one instance, he had to assign the “eyelash” material to a standard assault drone to make it properly emulate the combat drone from the second game.

DropTheSquid has taken the initiative to redesign all aspects of character creation. From his perspective, the customization suite that shipped with the game was far too restrictive — the sliders just didn’t go far enough. So DropTheSquid used a previous mod called Bonus Bonus Powers to reappropriate Mass Effect 3’s store UI for other menus in the game. Fortunately that the store UI was initially designed with the idea that it could be improved upon. This means that there is no need for sliders.

“Things got very cursed, very quickly,” says DropTheSquid. “A good character creator should let you make a truly monstrous character if you want to. I have all of the vanilla slider options, and then a button you can click to just… keep going. You can keep that slider going past the end of the normal limits until your character’s face sticks out of the other side of their head. Their jaw can be literally pushed to the ground. Each eyeball can be moved in any direction. The ability to glow or change the color of their hair or skin can be achieved. They can wear all visors in the game. You don’t have to limit any slider. It’s too much power.” He wants to make Shepard an alien next.

Mass Effect modders have a bright future. Mgamerz believes the community has convinced BioWare — and hopefully EA — of the value held by modding. He doesn’t know if these companies will explicitly support it going forward, but thinks it’s always worth lending a hand to your most passionate fans, many of whom make themselves responsible for keeping the game alive.

“There’s so much more to accomplish, so much more to learn and do,” says D0lphin. “The limitations are what you make them, and what you make of them. Whatever project you’d want to see, you can do it, whether it’s making a whole new romance like I did, or a brand-new mission with actual consequences for the player. If you love Mass Effect and there’s something you want to see in it, you can make it happen.”

WarrantyVoider was the creator of Mass Effect, and he agrees. “It’s just the satisfaction of getting what I wanted: a new ending,” he says. “Most people seem to not know about me or what I did. WV was removed from the toolset title. A lot of old coders likely wanted to remove my name and no one ever reached out again. But as long as people have fun, everything is fine.”

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