Mac Walters amassed an enviable list of credits during his nearly 20-year career at BioWare on games including Jade Empire, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age, eventually rising to lead writer of Mass Effect 2 and 3 and creative director on Mass Effect: Andromeda. He then stepped into the role of production director on Dragon Age: Dreadwolf, before leaving the studio in January 2023. In a new interview with MinnMax, Walters talked about his reasons for leaving, saying he was prompted to do so in part by the success of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition.
The Mass Effect Legendary Edition is a remaster of all three Mass Effect games and nearly all the DLC (only Pinnacle Station is missing, because the source code was lost), effectively transforming the sprawling trilogy into a single, massive game. And despite the notorious anger over Mass Effect 3’s ending when it was new, the Legendary Edition was, after some teething trouble, a big hit.
It was also a major undertaking. The Legendary Edition was a remaster, not a brand-new game, but the sheer scale of the content involved meant it was “an immense project,” Walters said. But it “wasn’t on the roadmap,” so BioWare had to accommodate it without disrupting other ongoing projects: “All of a sudden we’ve got this project that’s unplanned. What do we do with it?” That forced Walters to become “a little bit entrepreneurial” in his approach to leading it.
“I knew I wasn’t going to have a huge internal team … I quickly realized that we’re going to need co-dev work, we’re not going to be able to handle this just with our internal team,” Walters said. “So [it was] just a whole different mindset of how we want to run things.
“Long story short, that process reminded me a lot of early-days BioWare, because we were a small, scrappy team, a lot of people wearing lots of different hats, a lot of people with opportunity to lead even if it wasn’t in their title, just because that was the nature of what we needed folks to do. There was a lot of camaraderie formed with that team, I think because we stayed small.”
On top of that experience, Walters said he’d had the opportunity to work on three original projects over his time at BioWare—Jade Empire, Mass Effect, and Anthem—and realized that he wanted to do something new again. He made some inquiries about that possibility at BioWare or Electronic Arts, but said “it became pretty clear there probably wouldn’t be, at least not for the foreseeable future.”
“After Legendary Edition, because it was so successful to me as a project, in the sense of the team was healthy, we really got along, then of course it was critically and financially successful, it just felt like, this is the bow on all the things I’ve done in Mass Effect, which is like all the things. I don’t want to do any more Mass Effect after this. Why tempt fate?”
Walters said Mass Effect Legendary Edition was “a reminder of what a smaller team could accomplish,” and while larger teams aren’t inherently bad—and are sometimes even necessary—they can lead to a feeling of disconnection between team members, which is something he wants to move away from.
“I also deep down felt like maybe there’s a different way. Maybe there’s a way that we can actually have a smaller internal group where we really focus on culture and we really focus on who we are and showing up every day and actually enjoying working with each other and making that a focus, as opposed to just the project, and the needs of the project.”
While he was done with Mass Effect, Walters said he still loves the sci-fi genre and apparently wants to stick with it. That ultimately led him to take the reins at Worlds Untold, a new NetEase studio that launched in November. Details of its first project haven’t been revealed but the studio announcement described it as “a near future action adventure game in a breathtaking world filled with mystery and exploration.”