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.

Most of that is of course down to the talents of the artists who have worked on the series over the years. 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 a man who was a big 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 influence on the game's vehicles and architecture, Mead's love of gentle slopes and 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 (top) is, at least in terms of interior, a dead ringer for the living areas of the Citadel.

In the gallery 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".

To see the larger pics in all their glory (or, if they’re big enough, so you can save them as wallpaper), click on the “expand” button in the bottom-right corner.

Fine Art is a celebration of the work of video game artists, showcasing the best of both their professional and personal portfolios. If you're in the business and have some concept, environment, promotional or character art you'd like to share, drop us a line!