Yanick Roy on making a mark on Mass Effect with BioWare Montreal.
The latest in GameSpot's documentary series explores the story behind Mass Effect: Andromeda and its developer BioWare Montreal. As part of this video feature, we travelled to Boston and spoke to various members of the development team, ranging from studio executives and writers, to designers and creative directors.
While some of these interviews are featured in The Story of Mass Effect: Andromeda, a great deal of the interview material was unused. In light of this, we decided to publish each of the interviews in full and make them available to anyone interested in reading more about the development of the game.
The interview below features Yanick Roy, studio director at BioWare Montreal. Further interviews are available through the links.
Mass Effect: Andromeda Interviews
- BioWare Montreal Studio Director Yanick Roy Interview
- Mass Effect Franchise Creative Director Mac Walters Interview
- Mass Effect: Andromeda Producer Michael Gamble Interview
- Mass Effect: Andromeda Level Designer and Space Lead Jessica Campbell Interview
- Mass Effect: Andromeda Producer Fabrice Condominas Interview
- Mass Effect: Andromeda Lead Designer Ian Frazier Interview
- Mass Effect: Andromeda Level Designer Chris Corfe Interview
- Mass Effect: Andromeda Lead Writer Cathleen Rootsaert Interview
GameSpot: Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your experience with the franchise?
Yanick Roy: My name is Yanick Roy, I'm the studio director for BioWare Montreal. I'm in my twelfth year with BioWare. I started at the very beginning of the production of Mass Effect 1. I was the senior project manager on that game. Started in a similar role on the second game, and that's when [BioWare co-founders] Ray [Muzyka] and Greg [Zeschuk] asked me to come to Montreal and open up a studio there so we could grow the BioWare family.
We helped, from Montreal, supported the development of Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3. When that team that was driving the first three games was ready for a change, we took over. [They] passed the baton and we took it on with Mass Effect Andromeda. I've been lucky enough to have my entire career in video games attached to Mass Effect, which is not the worst thing to have your name at the attached to.
Yeah, it's one of the most well-known, beloved franchises from a fan perspective. What does it mean to you being attached to the franchise? What's the heart of Mass Effect to you?
It's interesting because my background was more on the software side of things, so when I joined BioWare it was my first experience in the video game industry. And the kind of game that we do, people get so emotionally attached to them that, rapidly, my experience with Mass Effect has become my experience interacting with our fans. It's easy to forget your days in front of computers, developing things, and struggling with the difficulties of game development, to kind of get lost in the technicalities of it all. But whenever we get a chance to interact with our fans--and now with social media it happens on a regular basis--it reminds us of how much of a difference we can make. Even though it's not a word I like using, I find it very humbling in that you realize even the small decisions that you make in a meeting somewhere actually has a big impact on somebody's life somewhere.
For me, as much as it's a constant pressure on us, it's a good pressure that keeps us going. That's where I take my energy [from]. So my experience with Mass Effect is less about the game itself and more about what it means for so many people and how that translates into our fuel.
You build a game, people have a response to it, and then you build two more, and you can see what it means to people over time develop and become a big part of the franchise. Now that you have that knowledge going into Andromeda, how do you approach making a new entry knowing that it means that much to people?
You basically need to go back to the initial motivation for a game. When we started Mass Effect: Andromeda, that's exactly what we did. For people who have played the three games, the first one is the one that probably had the most ambitions--if you want. It was trying to push boundaries in every aspect of a role-playing game. As we moved forward, we focused our efforts a bit more on combat and storytelling, less so on exploration and customization.
When we started this one, we wanted to go back to these roots and say, "Let's try to get to the essence of what made people fall in love with the franchise as a whole." And try to, with today's technology, with everything that we've learned over the course of developing the trilogy, [ask], "Can we do today what we were trying to achieve the first time around?" That was about keeping ourselves true to the franchise.
It's constantly reminding yourself of what they fell in love with in the first three game. It's interesting, since we're putting together a new team, from the beginning it was perceived as, "Let's give you guys something easier than to start a new game franchise from scratch." We're gonna start with a franchise that's well-defined, we know what Mass Effect stands for so that gives you one less thing to worry about as you're building the team and new technology and new generation of game console.
What ended up happening was living up to Mass Effect does not make things easier. So yes it's well-defined but also we wanted, of course, to move into Andromeda, bring in new races and everything. But it's the constant reminder that Mass Effect means something to the fans, and as much as you want to move that game forward, if you don't deliver what people expect in a Mass Effect game, it doesn't matter. It could be a really good game, if it's not a real Mass Effect game, you've kind of spoiled it.
You're in a situation where you know that this means so much to people. This slightest change to its identity could upset that relationship and dynamic you have with people. But at the same time, Andromeda, at its core, is about reinventing the franchise and taking it into a new place where you can inspiring that kind of sense of wonder that we had when when nothing made sense and everything was new. How did you approach that?
That was the subject of a lot of conversations, of course. The way we chose to approach it is try to bring what was the core of the Mass Effect experience. Of course, there's the elements of bringing the races that people knew, and the biotics and a lot of the law that comes with the franchise. But also a lot of what the essence, if you want, of Mass Effect. So going back to what does it mean to be human, for example, which was at the core of a lot of the questionings in Mass Effect. Humans versus aliens, what's their place, and how can you transpose that to our struggle in this society projected at the intergalactic scale. But also what does it mean to be human versus AI. And those themes of what does it mean to be human are things that we wanted to bring with us.
You're starting from a science fiction, action, RPG that builds upon these things, that uses the Mass Effect core tenants for a lot of the action aspect, or the story aspect. You know that you're started with a lot of these seeds of a Mass Effect game. But at the same time, we know that a lot of time has passed. Today when we were talking to our fans, some of them have gone through the entire trilogy, some of them joined at the third game, some of them basically were not old enough to legally purchase the game last time we released the Mass Effect game. So we knew we're talking to a lot of new fans.
How do we make sure that we in full respect to the people that have been with us for so long, give them wings, show them that we have carried over the franchise that they know and love. That we have these kind of secret messages and connections to the franchise, that they themselves can say, "Oh, I know why this is happening." But to make it in a way that is not daunting for new players and getting the feeling that I don't know what's going on. It's striking that balance between staying true to the definition of Mass Effect game but introducing it in a way that if you are brand new to the franchise, will only give you a desire to go explore what happened before but not in a way that it doesn't make sense without it.
Rolling back a bit to the first Mass Effect which you were involved with, now that you have had time away from it and you've seen the industry progress and develop, what do you think the impact of that first game was?
It's, of course, I think is difficult today to argue that it didn't have a huge impact on the industry but it's interesting because projecting myself back to when we were building that game, it's so not something that you think of, right?
I remember when I was hired by BioWare, initially I was put on two projects at once, and I was more attached to the Dragon Age side of the business. I joined because I was a huge BioWare fan and I joined right after the first trailer for Mass Effect had been released., it was very early at an Xbox event. I remember seeing it and thinking, "This looks interesting. This doesn't look like a BioWare game."
I joined the company and I get put on the Mass Effect. [I was] a bit disappointed and like, "Ah, I really wanted to work on a BioWare game." But what I discovered as we were developing it, we actually were rapidly evolving with what being a BioWare game was. We didn't use to put this emphasis on a cinematic conversation. The action used to be much more rudimentary in our game. We got into a world, suddenly, where, from a shooting aspect, we were starting to compete with actual shooters. Something from the past that would have been crazy to think about. Same thing on the cinematic delivery with the scope of our games, it's a bit crazy to say, "Let's try to hit that quality bar of games that have a tenth of the content that we have and that don't have to deal with customized characters, they don't have to deal with characters that can die throughout the stories, so you need to have different setting for everything."
To be part of that and then see today, you know, when you talk about what type of game that you do, I find that it's becoming more and more difficult nowadays to actually describe it because every game is a bit of everything. You're playing linear shooters and nowadays there's heavy customization and then progression. Things that were more on the RPG side of things.
So all these genres are blending as we evolved since the first Mass Effect. Now I could think that was one of the--you know, of course, not responsible for everything--but one of the elements was that it kind of pushed the industry in that direction, where suddenly crossing boundaries between game genres became possible. Not only possible but something that fans were interested in. As I said, when we're given the reigns of Mass Effect, that kind of ... The importance of what you're being handled, that is the daunting part of the challenge.
Obviously, we can say this with retrospect, but it blows my mind that you can come into a franchise like Mass Effect and be disappointed that you're working on it.
It doesn't make any sense to us because we can look back at it and see the impact of it. If you could go back in time and tell that person, that version of you who sits there, bummed out being like, "Awww, I'm working on Mass Effect," what would you say?
Disappointed is maybe too strong a word, but I had the feeling that it was, you know, as mentioned before, not quite a BioWare game because of the emphasis on action, but also because I was very much a PC gamer and I had the feeling that, especially when we were working on it, it was Xbox exclusive, right? I thought, "It's not even a game that I will be able to play at home."
But I think what I would tell myself is, "You're looking at it as you're developing it, but you need to get into the habit as a game developer to project yourself as to when you're going to be releasing that game." So the game that we started working on, the Mass Effect: Andromeda of almost five years ago, it's the game that's being released today. It was the same thing back then when I started working on it, I'm a PC gamer and you know a BioWare game means this and that, and I think I would tell myself you need to project, to see yourself in the future, because the game you're building is not meant to be BioWare's present, it's meant to be BioWare's future. I think it's what I've been more excited to think that, "Hey, we're building BioWare's future instead of, you know, repeating what we've done in the past."
Is Andromeda the game that builds BioWare's present or a game that is building BioWare's future?
I think we have a foot on both territories, so when we start with a new IP, with a blank slate, it's really solely about where do we think the industry is going, where do we want to take it, and how do we want to define BioWare? Whereas for us, as I mentioned earlier, there's also that constant reminder of be true to what the franchise means.
So you want to evolve, [but] revolutions? Be careful. It needs to be an evolution. At the same time, as much as I still love the first trilogy, if you go back, especially to the first one, it's quite clunky. So you need to make sure that even though you're staying true to that formula, it's a game that plays good today. Again, we're not building in the same way where we know it's a trilogy but we know that we're planting the seed for something that we want to keep building upon in the future. So it needs to be a formula, as we're refreshing it, we believe will stand the test of time and it's something that we can keep building upon.
How do you approach building this specific game but knowing that the fans expect beyond just this one experience? You want to try and focus on Andromeda and create this self-contained experience, but at the same time you need to lay the foundations future titles. Does that split your focus?
It didn't prove to be like the toughest challenge. We have a lot of experience that we carried over. We have a mix in the team, and what's interesting is that the new people are experienced developers so they bring a lot of expertise to the mix that we didn't necessarily have before. They're not only are they experienced developers, but what's interesting is a lot of them joined us because they were fans of Mass Effect. It's probably the same thing for everybody who plays the game but if you ask a fan, "What is Mass Effect game?" And then you turn around and ask another one, you're likely going to get two definitions that are not exactly the same. I think the strength of the franchise is really if you can make it your own.
So the same thing happened when these fans happened to be game developers that you bring into the project. Mass Effect means something to them that might not be exactly the same for people who were there from the beginning, and never experienced it purely as fans, they only ever were developers on the Mass Effect franchise.
So, when you're putting these two together, some people are more attracted to planting these seeds for the future, it's like, "Oh! Let's put in that." Whereas others are more into the habit of doing it. They say, "Well, okay, we need to close that loop.." It becomes more a part of the job whereas others still haven't forgotten what it is to be a fan. It's a great dynamic in a team and what it brings and how we set the ground for future games.
How is it been for you to allow these new people to come in and leave their mark on a franchise that's very close to you? Now that you can take a step back and can see others building it, has it changed the way you experience and see the universe now?
It's a good question because it's not necessarily something spend a lot of time reflecting upon. As much as the Mass Effect experience is defined when we start a game, I feel that it's a blank canvas to some extent. And it's interesting because when we interact with fans, they tend--by reflex, and it's understandable--to put a lot of importance on the people that they interact with on social media because we're doing interviews and stuff like that.
But game development is such a team sport that anybody in the team, regardless of the role they play, be it creative director, me driving the studio, we keep getting surprised by stuff in the game because everybody contributes to what we put on that canvas. So even though it did not necessarily force me to reflect about what it means to be a BioWare game, people actually take the brush from my hands and they paint a little part of the picture and I'm seeing the results myself without having to think about it.
I remember, it's one of the first things Casey Hudson told me when I joined the first Mass Effect, how for a while you try to tell people what it is you're trying to do. You're trying to sell your vision of the game, you're trying to tell them what is going to be Mass Effect and what is not going to be. But at the same time, at some point, you play the game and you realize that what has become is so much more than what you were imagining. Everybody adds their touches and it's the same thing in this case where without having to think about, you're suddenly surprised by how everybody, especially the newcomers, have added their touches to that painting you're doing.
We talked about how you went into Mass Effect 1 and you laid the foundation for this huge universe. Going into Mass Effect 2, what was your feeling and mood? What were you focusing on for the sequel?
It's interesting. At BioWare, there's a lot of values that we've held onto over time. One of them that we've used a lot is humility. There's thing that you're only as good as your previous game, but the way we used to twist it was that you're only as good as your next game. It was about reminding ourselves that it doesn't matter that the first Mass Effect was rated 90 plus, it only matters what the next game is rated at. It's always trying to beat yourself. We're very bad at celebrating our successes.
So, Mass Effect 1 got released and it had a super good reception in general. What's our first response? We went through all the reviews and did this table with all the criticism we were all seeing, and which ones were coming over and over, and what are we hearing from our fans, and basically filter that huge list and say, "Okay, we need to address these things."
We always used to think of role-playing as four major pillars. You have the story, of course, you have combat, you have progression and customization, and you have exploration. Those four pillars were very much trying push hard on the first game. When we started working on the second one, and we were reading the criticism of the first one, we decided to focus more of our efforts on the combat, and on the story. And by story it's also the delivery and how the conversations were happening. By focusing on these, you're naturally focusing less on the others, [so] you saw a bit less of that progression and customization and lot less exploration.
Again, because I was very new to the industry, I was a little bit afraid of what it would mean to sacrifice things in order to do other things better. I've learned since that it's actually the only way to do something better. Focusing on everything is the same thing as not focusing at all, right? So game development is always about compromises and making sacrifices here so you can put more of your efforts elsewhere.
As we moved onto the second one and moved the learnings, it was not a celebration of, "Woohoo. We've achieved something great with Mass Effect 1." It was, "How do we make it better?" Obviously it was not perfect because people were criticizing it. As much as I wish that we were a bit better at being happy for our successes, I think that what keeps us releasing games that our fans like is that we never rest on our laurels. It's, "What's the next game gonna be like?" It's kind of sad because we haven't released Andromeda and already we're talking about what we want to do next time around.
I imagine it is very difficult to read criticism of something that you've poured your heart and soul into--what gives you the drive to take on that five years of hardship again? What is it about developing a game like Mass Effect that pushes you forward?
At heart, we're all storytellers and, it's interesting because game development should be a bit more akin to movies in a sense that you're building something but you're never exposed to people receiving it. Over time, we're getting a bit of a taste of what maybe, being in a play or being in theater is like because we interact more with our fans. I know for me and for a lot of people these interactions are what keeps us going.
As we've seen in the past, we generate a lot of passion from our fans. Ultimately you need to take that as a reward. People care about what you do, but you need to accept the passion goes both ways. You're not going to build something that people are passionate about and they all like. Passion is going to go both ways. And that's why sometimes if the overall reaction was negative that it would probably cause a lot of questioning. But the fact that we have some part of the fanbase that is unhappy about something while the other is in love with it--that we're not pleasing everybody--that's part of the course of something that generates passion.
That's ultimately what we're trying to do as storytellers. We want people to care and they're obviously caring. Sometimes it might feel like we're masochists because we keep putting ourselves in front of those criticisms, but in the balance of things, the amount of love that we're getting and the feeling that what we do means so much for people is amazing.
Our fans are just amazing. Throughout the development, suddenly you receive a batch cupcakes because, "I know you guys are working really hard and I want to keep it going." You have kids who are dying who go to Make-A-Wish Foundation and their dream is to come visit the studio and meet the team. Of all the things you can wish for, you just want to get behind the curtain and go see how we build that game that you love. How can you not want to keep going, right? Even though we know that there's going to be a lot of hate on one end of the spectrum, there's going to be so much love that's coming too.
As someone who's bridging the gap between the old trilogy and Andromeda and going forward, that must be a core part of bringing you back to it, right? Having completed a franchise and done really well with it, most would be like, "Maybe I'll go and make beer now," in the case of some of your former executives...
[Laughs] Of course, Mass Effect is important enough for BioWare that they wanted to make sure that they were handing it to people who deeply cared about it, so yes, that was part of the decision. But there's also an element for me personally that was more to do with the BioWare Montreal studio in that eight years ago now, when Greg asked me to open up the studio in Montreal. In my head, building a BioWare studio means something. For me, we did not have a BioWare studio as long as we hadn't shipped a BioWare game.
You know, of all the BioWare games, we had the privilege of saying we're now branding the Montreal studio with Mass Effect: Andromeda. I can't ask for more, right? Again, because we're trying to touch people, you start with a fanbase that cares. We're not trying to build something from nothing and hope that it's going to touch people. So for me it was we're being held in something that is something precious to BioWare and it's the thing that we're going to use to determine what BioWare Montreal stands for: is it a real BioWare studio?
That alone was motivation to keep going. In my 12th year attached to the Mass Effect franchise one way or another, I don't necessarily feel like, "I'm done now with it." No, it's something that keeps me going.
This is a statement game for you and team. This is the game that will define your studio. That must be so daunting.
It's a lot to live up to. The thing with game development is that for so long, it's about faith. For so long, you don't see the end. All you see is the difficulties, the problems, the things that don't work. So, the people joining the team, the newcomers, they keep going because they have faith. And when you reach that point, it's a super exciting time in the studio because those people that stuck around can play the game. Because they were so focused on their part and what they owned, most of them didn't have a real sense of the package. Now they have time to sit back and play the game, and you can see some of them saying, "We built that?" As I said, I never wanted a studio with a BioWare name on the door, I wanted to have a BioWare studio and I feel that with the release of Andromeda, we now have a BioWare studio.
So you're confident it's a game and a statement that lives up to the BioWare name and it builds a new future for the franchise.
Stepping back again into the history of the series, you discussed needing to be as good as your next game. How did you apply that philosophy to Andromeda and how will you apply it to whatever follows?
It's very early for the next Mass Effect game. Right now my next project is probably taking a vacation, but as I was mentioning earlier, even though I was doubting that it was the right path. What we've seen and we've done in the past, in Mass Effect 2 of now that we've pushed boundaries in different directions, we have the opportunity to have millions of people telling us the things that they now really care about in that slightly new formula and the things they care less about. I think it's going to help us focus our efforts. [To figure out] what do we need to double down on next time around, what do we want to leave as is.
If you look at Andromeda, it was a little bit like that because we wanted to reinvest heavily in the exploration and customization pillar. It's interesting because we thought we said, "We're going to stick with what we have with combat, we're not going to push it forward, we're kind of happy where it's at." It didn't play out this way because as we added elements to exploration, it kind of started trickling down in combat and we ended up, actually, progressing that action quite a bit far.
We do a lot of testing through the course of the development and the feedback we constantly keep getting is on how fluid and how much people are getting lost into the action aspect of the game, which again is interesting because it's almost by accident that we ended up pushing it forward so much.
But as we moved to the next game, again, we know we're going to hear things that people are unhappy about and we know that we're going to hear things that people love about the game. It's about determining, as we did moving from Mass Effect 1 to Mass Effect 2, [where to go]. When somebody doesn't like something, we have two choices, either we double down on it or just remove that part so we can focus our efforts on elsewhere. I suspect that it's going to be the same thing as we did in the past. Listen to our fans and try to improve.
The original Mass Effect was put forward as the start of a trilogy, your decisions will matter and characters that die won't be in other games. With Andromeda, you've said you see Andromeda as a new future but you're not going into the details of, "Yeah, it's going to be a trilogy or two games." Are you concerned that people won't care about the characters so much that people don't have that opportunity to invest in advance?
It's a good question. Of course one of the challenges with Andromeda, especially moving away is that what we've learned over the course of the few games, when we talk about the story of the game, it's, of course, important but it's not what our fans talk about. They talk about the story, it becomes very personal. It's about their experience and relations with the characters.
Knowing that, that's what we double down on in this game, allowing you to bring back the loyalty missions because we know it's a good way to get invested with their relations to the characters. But at the same time, they're all new people. What we find is you need to give people time to fall in love with these characters, right? If I show you this new character you'll say, "Nah, I like this character from the first game better." But you fell in love with that character over the course of three games. Now we need to start from scratch.
So we knew there was a higher bar to achieve and because of that, even though, as I said, it's very, very early in the thinking for the next game, we've recognized that there is an investment that people put in characters themselves. How we carry them over is to be determined but I don't think that we want to erase that investment because they're so much value and the love that people have. Again, many people tell us that their favorite moment is hanging with Garris. It's not the story of Mass Effect but that's what they remember because they fell in love with the characters.
I don't think it's going to be an obstacle because at the end it's less about story arch that brings one game into another. It's whether you are able to carry the love that people have, or the attachment that they have, for characters [across].
That is something that the original trilogy was known for specific characters and the carrying of love through the series. The narrative that connected all of it together started to fade away, right up until the very last game. When you ended that game the response was towards the narrative that connected it all, the treatment of that narrative was something fans took umbrage with.
So when you're building Andromeda and you're focusing on the characters and carrying that love, how much attention are you now paying now to the broader narrative, given that, people actually care about it quite a lot. The ending changed the way people talk about the series as a whole, surely you're thinking about not repeating the same mistake.
Yes, but again--while completely agreeing with what you're saying--but whenever people talked about this grander, greater narrative, that's the negative that they attach to it, right? Every time they talk about the positive, it's about the characters. It's about taking that into account as you build it and say, "Do we want to have the story arch that we're going to say that's going to close in three games? Attach yourself to this narrative because that's what's important."
Ultimately for two games and 90 percent, that's not what people really were caring about. They were caring about the characters, so as you're writing this story, remember that what people care and fall in love with is not that grand arch. The grand arch should be at the service of the relationship with the characters, and that's, I would say, more the motivation there. Not the other way around. You don't want the characters to serve the grander arch, you want the arch to serve the characters, ultimately.
Balancing that grand narrative and finding how characters propel it and it propels the characters is one of the major challenges you faced in coming to Andromeda. What are the other kind of key identity, reinvention issues that you faced that come along with cutting ties to the previous games?
So, there's a lot of factors that went into this conversation. Of course, after Mass Effect 3 we talked to a lot of fans, asking questions, and one of the themes that was coming over and over that they wanted to play more Mass Effect, but they were done with the Shepard's story. I'm not talking unanimous, some people still wanted to see more Shepard, but I would say 80 percent of the people said, "I'm kind of done with this story. I saw the end of it now, but I still like Mass Effect. I want more of it."
So that was one aspect of it. Another was, as we were moving to a new engine, we knew that we had to build everything from scratch. So there's less of a game to say, well, "We have an asset that's built here, let's take this Lego piece and use it in the new game." We have to rebuild it anyway so how do we start anew. And as I was mentioning earlier, there's five years between Mass Effect 3 and Andromeda, so there's five years of people who were technically too young to play the last one. That's the age group who are most likely to play our games, so how again, do you make it accessible for them to join the franchise and fall in love like all the people who have been through the first trilogy?
But as we discussed before, doing that while keeping in mind that if it's a completely about moving away from what we've done before, you're also failing because it's no longer a Mass Effect game. The challenge was that constant balance. But yeah, the decision to move away was listening to our fans, some technical aspects and keeping in mind that a lot of time has passed since the last game.
Where do you hope that the franchise, Mass Effect, whether it's with Andromeda 2 or 3, or whatever it may be going forward, where do you hope it is in five or ten years' time and what do you hope your studio's role in that? What do you hope it will be remembered in bringing to Mass Effect?
Wow. It's actually great question. So in five years from now, because I define Mass Effect in terms of what it means to people and how much they fall in love with characters … This is going to sound cheap, but I hope that five years from now, this is exactly what it still is.
I care less about where it technically we're taking it and more that we are staying relevant to people, and we're still allowing people to fall in love with the characters that we're building and the games that we're building.
I think you can expect that as a studio, we're going to keep being associated with it moving forward. We've kind of built a studio around what it means to build a good Mass Effect game, so hopefully we're going to keep that going.
Hopefully, as we keep moving forward and we keep bringing new people in the team, keeping the mix fresh. We are also going to bring yet another generation of game developers, people who will have fallen in love with the franchise, with Andromeda, and its recipe that is true to the franchise who will bring this additional flavor. In turn, they are going to add to that formula and allow us to stay fresh.
What does Mass Effect: Andromeda mean to you?
Andromeda is, like a lot of BioWare games, is about choice. It's about giving people a place where they can be what they want. And allowing them to be successful in a game term, but not being forced into being something specific in order to be successful. Allowing them to, through the branches in the game, the different classes in the game, the different relationships you can build, to play the game that they want to.
It's that element of choice and being whoever you want in the game that to me ... In the end, we're providing a setting in Andromeda with all the element of exploration, of allowing you to live those grand adventures, and make these great discoveries, face these humongous dangers but always in a way that is up to you.