There was one more thing I wanted to say about Mass Effect (to accompany my earlier articles on the title). After heavy play of the second and third games in the series, I want to propose a rule to all game designers from now until forever ...
It is OK to make the player's character look ugly and twisted, as long as it is in a cute, cartoonish way. It is not OK to make the main character actively horrifying and painful to look at.
I think this is a reasonable rule of thumb. If you're going to expect someone to spend 40 hours in your fantasy world, you don't want them going "GAHHHH!!!" every time they look at the screen.
Why do I bring it up?
Well, in Mass Effect, the main spectrum for your character's moral choices is between Paragon (nice, lawful good, goody-two-shoes) and Renegade (harsh, Bad Cop, Patton-type). Note that this is not Good vs. Evil! You're always good. It's just whether you are nice-good or cranky-good.
But there is a key difference between the two paths. If you are a Paragon, you stick with the nice, normal face you made in character creation. However, if you choose the Renegade dialogue options, your face will look like this ...
AHHHH! GHHAHHHH! WTF!?!?!?
That's right. When playing Mass Effect, you better be as polite to as many people as you can, if you don't want to look like a hideous mutant leperzombie whose face is peeling off in glowing sheets.
(Note that, in both Mass Effect 2 and 3, you can spend resources to remove the leperface effect. While BioWare likes to pretend it treats both moral choices equally, this sort of gives the game away. They are actively punishing you for being rude. If you doubt this, remember: A Paragon player can't spend resources to get the zombie look. It only works the other way 'round.)
Mass Effect is known for its in-game romances. Halfway through Mass Effect 3, for example, your hot, easy secretary comes to your quarters to use your shower and totally tries to bang you. (Warning: The previous sentence contained a spoiler!) Bioware, please please please, in future games make it so I don't feel sorry for anyone trying to sleep with my character. When she makes her move, I, as a player, don't want be saying:
"What are you DOING? Haven't you looked at me? Haven't you seen my FACE? Sure, I have a working shower! Now run! RUN! I'M A MONSTERRRRR!"
Look. These things are basically adolescent wish fulfillment. I don't need to have a really gross face in my fantasy world. I've had enough of that in my actual physical adolescent life, thanks.