"simplest and smoothest" processes she's ever experienced in the video games industry and it surrounded the creation of the first female Turien - Nyreen.
Nyreen originally was an unremarkable asari, but Lemay saw an opportunity. If joined by a female Commander, it presents a "triumvirate of interesting, diverse, and powerful female characters."
Diversity among characters and narrative in the games industry continues to be stifled by stereotypical expectations of what gamers want.
Shining a light in the darkness though is BioWare, asserts Ann Lemay. "When I first started at BioWare in the summer of 2011, a lot of the high-level narrative work for Omega had already been done. I was handed the story-concept document and asked for my thoughts on it. Something that stood out was the character of Nyreen," she recalled.
"She was originally an asari and a local gang lord (leader of the Talons), with no particular relation to Aria or anything else to make her stand out. However, with a DLC (downloadable content) focused on Aria and therefore likely to lean strongly toward a more Renegade storyline, it occurred to me that we could introduce a much stronger character with a definite Paragon bent as a foil to Aria if we made Nyreen a turian instead."
"This also meant we would have not just one strong character with Aria, but a new, equally strong character with Nyreen—both of them women." Nyreen turned many heads when first announced to fans because she was the first ever female Turian to be made available in the Mass Effect series. She also managed to leave a lasting impression.
"When I made the suggestion to Eric Chartrand, our lead designer in Montreal, he simply nodded pensively and told me he’d go ask about the availability of budget and time for an entirely new character design. The proposal implied the creation of an entirely new rig and model: an expensive undertaking, but the only way to introduce such an important character to the Mass Effect universe," continued Lemay.
"The question made its way through management, and barely one week later, Nyreen Kandros was fully approved. I started working on her background and history with Neil Pollner and Eric's collaboration, while our concept artists started working on sketches of her."
"In all of my years in the videogame industry, this request process was the simplest and smoothest I’d ever gone through, particularly for the creation of a significant female character. There had already been a great deal of foundation work done by a lot of people at BioWare beforehand, when it came to the creation of a female turian."
Diversity is critical, argues Lemay, as there shouldn't be any resistance to creating any kind of character.
"If we can move beyond the resistance to such characters in our games, both as non-player characters and as main protagonists, I honestly believe that we’ll end up with richer narratives and a broader audience, and the industry ends up with a bigger and more interesting playground."
Check out Ann Lemay'son the official EA website.
BioWare writer recalls Nyreen's creation in Omega DLC, her character "never an issue"
20 March 2013 | By Simon Priest