Why Mass Effect Should Have an HBO Series

If you’re like me, you’re sitting around doing little else but counting down the days until April when Game of Thrones returns to HBO. The series made a huge impression in its debut season this year, and showed that despite the fact that the glory days of The Wire, The Sopranos and Six Feet Under are past, HBO still has it in them to create the best shows on television.

On a separate, but soon to be related note, I’ve been thinking about which video games are left that could actually make for fantastic feature films if adapted properly. There aren’t many, but above all else, Mass Effect has always come to mind. But combining the two thoughts, it occurred to me that the best place for a space opera would NOT be in a mere two hour feature, particularly not with a universe and cast as expansive as Mass Effect’s. And that’s why I firmly believe that HBO should consider a Mass Effect series as their next ambitious project.

The channel loves to jump from genre to genre, and space is really the only place they haven’t gone yet. In general, TV stays away from space because of the expense, but as long running series like Star Trek and Stargate show, there’s a way to make it work on a budget.

People criticize Game of Thrones for avoiding showing epic Lord of the Rings style battles, but it’s due to obvious money constraints, and the show works even in the absence of such action scenes. Mass Effect has always been an OK shooter, but many of the best moments of the series have been in the dialogue, and the game is far better written than almost any other in the medium. In other words, it would be fantastic to make a Mass Effect show a character driven drama rather than a hugely action oriented series with a space battle and Geth shootout every episode.

Like Game of Thrones, Mass Effect sports a large cast who all have their own interesting storylines that span a whole host of alien races. Assembling the original crew of the Normandy could be the entire first season, and the show would allow the entire cast to interact with each other, and not just Shepard alone, and their storylines could be a lot more intertwined. The grand plot could focus on the looming Reaper threat, but I wouldn’t be opposed to entirely new storylines composed within the universe, as the sheer amount of detail and backstory that exists in the world of Mass Effect almost rivals Star Wars.

It’s true, there isn’t a handy script in the form of a book that would be incredibly easy to adapt, and it would be harder to format plotlines from the game into live-action stories, but I definitely think it’s possible, and with the right writers, Mass Effect could be the high budget, well-scripted sci-fi show we’ve never really had.

Think of the cast, and how many opportunities there’d be for branching storylines, rivalries and love triangles. Kaiden, Ashley, Liara, Wrex, Tali, Garrus, Joker and eventually Miranda, Grunt, Thane, Jacob, Jack, Samara and Mordin. That’s not even mentioning non-crew characters or ones that could be invented from scratch. And much like Game of Thrones, everyone is expendable, and characters could be killed off left and right given the situation, no matter how endearing or beloved they may be. It happens in the game, and it could easily translate effectively to a series.

As for Shepard himself? The great thing is that it could be anyone, anyone at all. It doesn’t have to be someone that looks like the male model the default face is based on. If you wanted, Shepard could be any race, any gender. I actually could almost see a female Shepard being a more interesting protagonist than a male one.

I understand the challenges that would accompany something like this. In addition to scripting from scratch much of the time, and the cost would be significant. Costumes and makeup for aliens like Garrus, Thane and Liara would be expensive and time consuming, though I will argue if cosplayers can do it, HBO can find the cash.

Space would be tricky, but in all honesty, there isn’t much time spent with actual space battles in the game, and if the show only had one or two per season, the cost of the visual effects could be manageable. Rather, much of the show could take place inside the Normandy, which would only require one set, and on various planets they’d just have to use the same kind of “background CGI” to enhance environments that they do with Game of Thrones.

The mere thought of all this sends shivers up my geek spine, and even though this is pure fantasy, I’m actually getting excited looking at the HBO promos I created in photoshop. And if this is what we get from amateur cosplaying FANS, imagine what HBO could do with an actual budget.

I think this is not only doable, but a fantastic idea, I really do. People like myself, and I assume many of you, are DYING for a good sci-fi space show now that most of the old classics are off the air, and because standard networks like Fox won’t give shows like Firefly a chance. HBO’s final frontier is indeed space, and Mass Effect has an entire fantastic universe already created and just sitting there for the taking.

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  1. First off. Thank you for the Jack photo!

    I love this idea. I want more of this universe, and the longer format of TV would certainly help me not feel cheated due to the time constraints of a film.

    Also, FemShep > Any other Shep!

  2. Photos are awsome, ‘Miranda’s’ lookin fineee
    Although a mass effect series is a great idea, it would also dramaticly affect the experience of the game..people would watch it first and it would change there perception on the game..Also, im very proud of my 100% survival rate at the end of me2, if people died, id be pissed!

    Having hbo direct a series is almost like me watching hbo play mass effect, i wouldent agree with 50% of any of the decisions or actions, it would probally even upset me…Although it is mass effect, of course id watch it..

  3. @jasheekey

    Here’s a question I’ve always wondered, how the hell do you get a 100% survival rate? There was one part near the end where you have to send someone good at tech into a pipe or something, I choose Jacob, and he died in a way that seemed unavoidable. I don’t remember specifics, but if you or someone could fill me in on this, I’d appreciate it.

  4. @Paul: I only used Jacob to escort the people back to the ship. The clear decision for the tech-job: Tali! She did it in my run and no one died.
    tech: tali
    escort: jacob
    Team leader 1+2: garrus

    That SHOULD work, things like loyalty, upgrades etc. are important too.

  5. @ Paul

    Never tried using Jacob but trust Tali. She’ll make it through.

    Since Arrested Devolpment is finally coming back this Mass Effect HBO show is now my biggest wish. Those photoshoped pics look awesome. A movie, no way. Couldnt do it justice. But a show on HBO with its proven track record? Make it happen!!!

  6. I love the idea of a Mass Effect HBO series, but I disagree with it following the main story of the games. BioWare has been trying its best to keep Shepard’s look/gender ambiguous. There’s almost nothing in the games that can be considered canon other than “Reapers are coming.” (love the cosplay promo photos, btw).

    I think it’d work better if they explored entirely new characters in the ME universe. Perhaps a smuggler, via Firefly, or an Alliance cruiser with a Battlestar Galactica-style cast (minus the Cylons, of course). There are so many different angles one could come at this, but I don’t think following Shepard & Friends is the best idea.

  7. People criticize Game of Thrones for avoiding showing epic Lord of the Rings style battles, but it’s due to obvious money constraints, and the show works even in the absence of such action scenes.

    Now if only more people realized that that’s how The Walking Dead tv show should have been approached.

  8. Jacob in the vents is insta death, gotta be Tali, Legion, or Garrus (I think).

    Keeping everyone alive shouldn’t be that hard if you’ve done all the ship upgrades and they are all loyal but here is a handy little chart if you haven’t.

    Also, here’s a check-list for EVERYTHING in ME2 http://masseffect.shockfront.net/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2012/01/me2checklist1point7.pdf

  9. Agreeing that it would need to be femShep for the HBO show. Although, they’d have to go with really good casting, because Jennifer Hale’s voice is what makes the character (seriously, maleShep’s voice always make him sound like a jerk to me). Maybe they could just cast Jennifer Hale outright.

  10. Plus they could actually cast Yvonne Strahovski as Miranda, Martin Sheen as the Illusive Man, Seth Green as Joker and Keith David as Anderson. Besides the voices, the characters in game are loosely modeled on the actors (Miranda especially is just Yvonne with black hair). The guys who did Garrus, Wrex and Mordin could still lend their voices.

    That would more than fulfill the quota for known actors (Game of Thrones really just had Sean Bean). They could pluck the rest from obscurity.

  11. The only thing about a mass effect tv show is your would lose one of the most appealing aspects that made the games so great.

    You are the one who chooses the fate of your characters through direct or indirect moral choices which are sometimes clear or unclear.

    Forgive me for making a “Duh!” comment but the tv show would have to be completely linear and you would have no control over the story as opposed to the flexible story telling of that games offer.

    It wouldn’t ruin a show if they did do one I just don’t think a show could really nail the mass effect vibe if it didn’t offer multiple choices and outcomes that the game fans are used to…it is kind of what made the story so amazing and epic in my opinion 🙂

  12. If they did a show, it would have to be with a male Shepard. A female Shepard would make the cast too female heavy, (Liara, Ashley, Tali, Miranda, Jack, Samara plus a female Shepard?) and sci-fi doesn’t do well with female heavy casts.

  13. They should totally do this, even if the movie is total crap and a huge disappointment like certain others, I’d still buy it and watch it from time to time.. secretly asking myself why I bought it but who cares, I love Mass Effect and Halo, so I think it’s a marvelous idea.

  14. *Applauding*

    This is my dream too. There is no good Space Sci-Fi TV-Show and its pissing me off. I mean ofc there is stargate sg-1, atlantis and universe, loved them all but ofc they cancel universe after 2 seasons. Falling Skies is good enough to watch if you’re a huge sci-fi fanm, however I think it is time for a great Sci-Fi TV-Show. Mass Effect is my favourite game for sure and I can’t wait for the movie but as you said, It’s going to be really hard to make a movie out of Mass Effect. It needs to be at least 3 hours if its going to work which it wont be. Even if it doesnt work out as I hope and I’m pretty sure it wont, Im still going to love it since Im a ME fan. It doesn’t have to be HBO, it could be AMC or something like that, it would still be great. I guess you can always dream about it.

  15. I always wanted a Mass Effect movie, but after watching Walking Dead and Game of Thrones… I think a Mass Effect show would be so much better. That is the complaint of a movie right? To much material to cover. Well in a show you have so much more time. I love this idea. Probably won’t ever happen, but how awesome would it be.

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