Vile treachery: When you 'ran' on the Citadel in Mass Effect, it just changed the FOV to make it look like you were going faster

 An elevator ride with Garrus and Tali.
An elevator ride with Garrus and Tali.

Just to say it up front: I'm very smart. My mom says so. That means it's totally fine that, according to recent Tweets from former BioWare cinematic designer John Ebenger, I've been bamboozled into thinking my characters are moving faster when they aren't, thanks to techniques like "speed lines" and "whooshing sounds." Yes, I've basically fallen for the video game equivalent of when you trick a dog by pretending to throw something. I'm not at all upset and I'm handling it very well.

We owe this latest reveal of game developer villainy to Twitter user @dyingnome, who tweeted on Saturday that a Dragon Age: Inquisition dev once admitted that they "just added some wind lines" to obscure the fact that DA:I horses weren't actually going any faster while sprinting. Ebenger quoted the claim to confirm that yeah, BioWare did that—just like it'd done in Mass Effect, too. Scoundrels! Illusionists!

According to Ebenger, who worked on both Dragon Age and Mass Effect games while at BioWare, every time you were "running" on the Citadel in Mass Effect 1, the only thing that changed was the camera FOV. You were still going at walking speed—just, you know, more dramatically, because the camera was tighter.

We tested it, and it's true: We picked a pair of lines on the Citadel floor and "walked" between them, and then reset and "ran" between them. There were slight variations in the tests, but it's obvious that one was not faster than the other. (See the video embedded at the top of this article.)

The reason, Ebenger says, was load times. If Shepard was actually sprinting through the Citadel, it would've overtaxed how quickly hardware of the era could stream in assets. Considering how much time I spent in the Citadel's elevators for similar reasons, should I really be surprised? No. But I'm writing about games on the internet. Overreacting is my god-given right. Luckily, even my voluntary outrage doesn't have much of a leg to stand on in 2024: Shep can actually run through the Citadel in the Legendary Edition remaster.

In reality, games are constantly managing our perceptions in ways like this. Sometimes it's tricking you into thinking you're moving faster than you are, because dealing with the performance hit would be worse. Sometimes it's filling your inaugural game of Fortnite with bots, because you wouldn't have the best first impression if you were immediately brutalized.

I understand it, is what I'm saying. Chances are, if Mass Effect had lacked even a pretend sprint, it would have soured player perception more than any alternative. But also how dare they.