BioWare has a lot on its plate at the moment.
Along with a Star Wars: The Old Republic and Command & Conquer, there are rumblings of a new entry in the Dragon Age series. But of its numerous projects, arguably none garners as much attention as Mass Effect 3.
The third, and supposedly final chapter in Shepard's story, stands to be the studio's most ambitious yet with new multiplayer modes and a new focus on action driven gameplay.
We had a chat with Michael Gamble, producer at BioWare Edmonton, and discussed how the studio is juggling projects, approaching multiplayer and crafting an experience that everyone can enjoy.
How does the multi-studio thing work with Mass Effect?
Throughout the game's development, we've been sharing responsibilities between Edmonton and Montreal. The game is completely developed - multiplayer, singleplayer, all facets - between the two studios. The Edmonton studio's a bit larger, but both studios have complete skill sets.
Is BioWare doing too much at the moment? Do you feel like you're spread too thin? Dragon Age, Star Wars, C&C, Mass Effect, and now multiplayer Mass Effect as well as single-player.
We have an amazing set of teams. Obviously, teams on different projects help each other out when they can, but we all keep busy, we make sure we're passionate about the project we're on, and, if you love a product enough, you don't mind keeping on working on it.
The challenge of a story-led series by the third instalment is kind of weird, right? Nobody says, I hear that's a really good book, I'm going to start reading at the last chapter.
That is completely dependant on the story arc that you're telling. Some game series continually build a narrative throughout the games. For Mass Effect, we're in a unique position where we've continually been talking about this Reaper war for two games now, and finally they've arrived. Mass Effect 3 immediately turns into a war story: that impending threat turns up, attacks, and you have to deal with it all within the course of a single game.
If, in some alternate universe, we'd done the trilogy differently and the Reapers had attacked Earth at the very beginning, that would have been really different. For us, giant sentient robots attacking Earth, Commander Shepard has to rally the truth: that's a good place to jump in.
Has the structure of the story changed over the course of the games?
We knew the overall arc, we knew Shepard's story from the beginning. How each story gets developed, the individual missions come out of their specific developments. We also listen to feedback from fans all the time. The audience, when they give us feedback in terms of being inclusive of this element, or combat stuff that doesn't work - we bring all that in. And, to be honest, you're crafting your Mass Effect story as much as we are anyway.