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This post actually has little to do with Mass Effect and a bit more to do with EVE Online and DUST 514 as a model for a Mass Effect MMO. First, a little bit about EVE Online.
If you've played it before, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, then you are missing out on a jewel amongst games. Now, I'm not here to advertise it, I'm here to talk about using it as a model for a potential Mass Effect MMO, something that many ME players have (perhaps prematurely) tossed out of the pile of possible ME continuations without so much as a second thought. The failure of TOR may be responsible for this mindset, and modelling an MEMMO off TOR would, indeed, be doomed from the start.
However, EVE is something else. EVE is, if not the closest thing to it available, a true player-managed sandbox. It is, at it's core, a single-server subscription based game that can, if you're good enough (or just rich enough in-game) can be played for free. Tens of thousands of players exist on one server right now, spread out between over 5000 star systems, any one of which you can travel to at your own discretion - but beware, a sandbox is as a sandbox does, and traversing some of the outlaw systems will put you in the crosshairs of players that choose to play as outlaws.
This is a game in which what happens in the game stays in the game - some of you "entitled" gamers may not like this. If you have ever felt entitled to anything in a game, you'll be out of luck with this one. Losing your hard-earned ISK or your favourite ship to another player does not automatically entitle you to a new one because it was "unfair". EVE isn't fair. It's not about what you can acquire, it's about what you're prepared to defend.
Recently, in a star system called Uedama, a player with a freighter carrying 26 PLEX (which are in-game items worth 500,000,000 ISK each and can be used to extend game time - they can also be purchased on the EVE Online website for roughly $20 real money, which is why they're so valuable) was "ganked" because he was autopiloting, thinking he was entitled to safety in high security space, by players looking for freighters with valuable contents. He lost over $500 real-world money in game, complained about it, and because it was an entirely avoidable situation by the player (there is no need to move PLEX via spacecraft of any kind, ever), his petition to CCP was ignored. Unless it's by a fault of the game mechanics or programming itself, such as an actual 'bug', CCP will not reimburse your losses in game.
But then there's what you get to do...
Thousands of star systems, and hundreds more on those through wormhole exploration. Hundreds of ship types to choose from, ranging from the small but very fast frigates and interceptors, to might battleships for running Sansha incursions and faction warfare, to the might supercarriers, dreadnoughts and titans of the capital ship range reserved for the most brutal backwaters of space and sovereignty warfare.
You get to fly those. Only one at a time (unless you create alts), but you can fly them in fleets with other players. Then there's the marketplace...
Every ship, ever modular customisaton, every rig modification and every drone, fighter, or bomber that you buy is manufactured by another player. You can manufacture them yourself, too, and set your price on the marketplace. Need ISK? Go mining in your local system's asteroid fields, establish a station on one of your nearby moons for ultra-rare 'moon slush', or establish planetary facilities for extracting other trade commodities and developing more complex technologies.
Speaking of planetary interaction, this is where DUST 514's integration comes in - mercenaries on the ground trying to interrupt your sovereignty or PI complexes on ANOTHER GAME ENTIRELY!!! Want to stop them? Hire some mercs of your own, and provide orbital support from your favourite destroyer or battleship in EVE with orbital strikes against your enemy. And there is much much more than that, of course, but I can see you beginning to ask....
But what does this have to do with Mass Effect?
Can you imagine being in possession of your own Normandy-class hull, taking it to rebel Geth warriors? You're docked up at the Citadel in your own personal Turian dreadnought speaking to suppliers about a new shield system when you get the call that pirates have boarded your ship and taken the crew hostage, and demand a ransom for their, and your ship's, release. The pirates are other players, as well... but you can coordinate with other players working with C-sec to help nullify the threat - you succeed, and win back your ship, or you fail, and the pirates take it from you.
There are so many ways in which the mechanics of EVE and DUST combined could work exceptionally well for a Mass Effect MMO - the potential is boundless, especially considering what is demonstrably available technology in EVE and DUST. The thing is, too.... the stargate network utilised in EVE already draws a very curious parallel to the mass relay network used in Mass Effect. There are so many ways in which ME could integrate EVE to become one of the best MMO's ever. It would wipe the floor with TOR.