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Early on in the game, I took a look at my war asset screen, and didn't give it a passing thought. I've recently come back after doing a mission to see how many points it provided me with, and I noticed this:

Mass Effect War Assets screen with freehand rectangular pointing device

I figure the blue bar is the current asset amount, and the "minimum" line is fairly obvious. However, I don't quite understand what the gray bar (outlined by the orange rectangular thing) is for. Is it some form of a bonus meter? Maybe it's the potential amount of assets currently available to pick up by side quests?

What is this grey box doing in my war assets screen?

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

The gray bar represents the total value your War Assets would be worth, if you had 100% Readiness Rating.

Without playing any of the multiplayer mode or the other tie-in games, your Readiness Rating will always be 50%. The more multiplayer you play, the higher the Readiness Rating, and the less gray bar (and therefore the more blue bar) you'll have.

Being at 50% means that you'll have to find 2x the amount of War Assets to get the same ending as a person who has 100%.

This mechanic is also explained in this question:

What is the difference between "Total Military Strength" and "Effective Military Strength"?

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Well, that's a bit disappointing... Thought I had a nice bar I could fill up and call all systems "complete". Ah, well. Thanks for this info though! – Aeo Mar 12 '12 at 12:57

They greyed out part of the bar shows how much military effectivness you lose due your galactic readiness. Since you have 50% readiness, 50% of your bar is grey, the full bar shows where you'd be with max readiness.

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