Mass Effect will live on in a fourth game, but BioWare has stated that calling it 'Mass Effect 4' is to do a disservice to the series' legacy.
Over on the BioWare forums, community manager Chris Priestly wrote, "To call the next game Mass Effect 4 or ME4 is doing it a disservice and seems to cause a lot of confusion here.
"We have already said that the Commander Shepard trilogy is over and that the next game will not feature him/her. That is the only detail you have on the game. I see people saying 'well, they'll have to pick a canon ending'.
"No, because the game does not have to come after. Or before. Or off to the side. Or with characters you know. Or yaddayaddayadda."
BioWare Edmonton head Yanick Roy has backed up Priestly, adding on the forums, "Thinking of the next Mass Effect game as Mass Effect 4 would imply a certain linearity, a straight evolution of the gameplay and story of the first three games.
Interestingly, Roy suggested that choices from previous Mass Effect titles may carry over, "That doesn't mean that events of the first three games and the choices you made won't get recognised, but they likely won't be what this new story will focus on.
"If you had three games centred around a group of key soldiers in the US army during World War I and then decided to make a game about another group of people during the Second World War, the games could have many points in common and feel true to one another.
"You likely would have to recognise how the events of the first war influenced the ones of the second, but you would not necessarily think of it as a sequel. Again, the analogy is not great, but what I'm trying to say is that the ME universe is so rich that we are not limited to a single track when coming up with a new story.
"What makes it Mass Effect is indeed the alien races, the technology, the lore, history, etc. You can safely expect those in the next Mass Effect."
We already know that 'Mass Effect 4' will use Frostbite 2, along with some other snippets of information.
I spoke with BioWare about the above last year, and they confirmed that the studio didn't want the game's hero to be 'Shepard 2'. They want someone fresh instead.