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It’s my first time posting on the forums, so I hope I’m going to do it right!
What Chris is saying is that thinking of the next Mass Effect game as Mass Effect 4 would imply a certain linearity, a straight evolution of the gameplay and story of the first three games. But because we are switching to a new engine and need to rebuild a bunch of game systems, we have an opportunity to rethink how we want these systems to be going forward instead of just inheriting them from the previous games. Story-wise, the arc of the first trilogy has also been concluded, and what we will do is tell a new story set in the Mass Effect universe. That doesn’t mean that events of the first three games and the choices you made won’t get recognized, but they likely won’t be what this new story will focus on.
In other words, because the game takes place before of after the first trilogy does not mean it necessarily is a straight prequel or sequel.
I’m not a big fan of analogies because the images you use always mean something different to different people, so they are inherently flawed. But let me use one anyway.
If you had three games centered around a group of key soldiers in the US army during World War I and then decided to make a game about another group of people during the second World War, the games could have many points in common and feel true to one another, and you likely would have to recognize how the events of the first war influenced the ones of the second, but you would not necessarily think of it as a sequel. Again, the analogy is
not great, but what I’m trying to say is that the ME universe is so rich that we are not limited to a single track when coming up with a new story.
I apologize for being cryptic right now, but it’s early enough in development that we don’t have much to share – things still fluctuate quite a bit. As I have posted on Twitter though, the overall feeling of what you are discussing and asking for is very much aligned with what the team intends on delivering, and that makes me feel very good about where we’re heading!
I hope this helps clarify why we’re not thinking of the next ME game as ME4 internally!