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Mass Effect cinematic designer gives insight into Samara conversations

Commander symmetry.

In celebration of yesterday's N7 Day, one of Mass Effect 2's senior cinematic designers has offered some insight into the development of certain scenes.

In a Twitter thread, Ed Douglas described his thought process behind the Samara sequences in the Normandy.

As Samara is such a contemplative, meditative character, Douglas framed her scenes in symmetrical compositions, inspired by Chris Doyle's cinematography in Yi-Mou Zhang's Hero.

The use of symmetry then informs Samara's relationship with Shepard. To begin with Shepard intrudes on Samara's space, disrupting the symmetry and adding tension. As their relationship grows, their scenes become more symmetrical to reinforce the balance between them.

Douglas explains that there was no custom animation for these types of scenes. Instead, the team pushed the animation library as far as it could go with shot changes and TV style blocking.

One regret Douglas has is the romance scene between Samara and Shepard. It begins symmetrically, but Shepard seemingly forces Samara to one side of the screen.

"As Shepard pushes for a romance and Samara pushes him back, she steps backs off from him," he says. "Yet Shepard pushes forward, physically cornering her on the side of the screen. I look at it now and it feels predatory, icky... not at all how I'd build it today, nor is that the Shepard I'd want to play.

"But we all know that if it came to it, Samara could handily beat down Shepard! So Shepard deserves to be left alone, sad in the corner in that last frame."

One other bit of trivia is that the conversations between Samara and Shepard contain one of the only shots from outside the Normandy SR-2 looking in as the scene allowed for more dramatic cinematography. Says Douglas: "I thank whoever the level artist was who built those exterior!"

This year's N7 Day was fairly quiet, following the release of the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition earlier this year.

But Bioware did tease its forthcoming title in the series with some new artwork that's had fans (and us!) playing geth who ever since.

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Ed Nightingale

Ed Nightingale

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Ed is Reporter at Eurogamer, with an interest in streaming, people and communities, and giving a voice to marginalised people.

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