Fine Art: The One Man Who Influenced Mass Effect More Than Anyone Else

The Mass Effect series draws creatively, like all "new" universes do, from those which came before. You can see traces of Star Trek's intergalactic politics. Star Wars' "science magic".

The influence those properties had on Mass Effect, though, pales in comparison with the work of one man, a single artist whose 20th-century output defined the most iconic elements of BioWare's series: its looks.

Mass Effect, at least for me, is able to stand so strongly as an original series because it looks — relatively, given the purpose of this story — unique. It has a visual identity all of its own. Sure, it borrows themes and conventions from other series, but when you see a character, weapon or starship from Mass Effect, you can instantly recognise it.

Much of that is down to the talents of the artists who have worked on the series over the years, of course. They've done a fantastic job crafting memorable entities like N7 armour, the Normandy and the Citadel.

But a quieter reason for their success is their biggest visual inspiration for the series: Syd Mead.

Now 79 years old, Mead, who began his career as a corporate illustrator, is perhaps most famous — at least to nerds — for his contributions to the design of Blade Runner, Tron and Aliens.

His sci-fi works feature sharp lines and vibrant colours, and as you can see here in this interview with BioWare's Derek Watts, were a big inspiration to the team working on Mass Effect. You can really see his inspiration on the game's vehicles, Mead's love of drawing panels everywhere showing through on just about everything that can be driven or flown in the series.

Another big Mead influence on Mass Effect was the design of the Citadel. His concept for the Torus Space Station (above) is, at least in terms of interior, a dead ringer for the living areas of the Citadel.

Below you'll see a selection of Mead's work from throughout his career, both in illustration and in concept art, which I've picked because they're the most "Mass Effecty".

Fine Art is a celebration of the work of video game artists, showcasing the best of both their professional and personal portfolios.


    Huh, I never knew this is where one of Daft Punks helmets came from too.

    I fucking WISH mainstream sci-fi looked as good as this. The stuff you see currently is generic enough that it doesn't excite me at all. But this stuff is brilliant.

      Totally agree this is beyond awesome. Now quick! make everything wartorn, shave their heads and put them in armour with guns and grimaces

    Syd Mead is incredible... but an article about who "Influenced Mass Effect More Than Anyone Else" and neither Isaac Asimov nor any other sci-fi writer is ever mentioned! Pop the word "visually" in the article title and all is forgiven :)

    Love the art style. ME1 is still the best.

    Slightly off topic but anyone know what the 'Mass Effect Week' thing is actually about? There's been heaps of ME articles in the last day or 2 for it but none actually say why (or not that I saw).

      I wouldn't mind knowing either. Seems totally random to me.

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