Mass Effect 3: 'We can't go on holiday... our DLC is really good'
17th Feb 2012 | 11:59
Last week Casey Hudson, executive producer at BioWare, confirmed Mass Effect 3 has gone gold. With just a few far-too-long weeks left until the eagerly anticipated release of Mass Effect 3 excitement is palpable.
While it's briefly satiated thanks to the recently launched Mass Effect 3 demo it just isn't enough. Maybe we'll hunt down those copies being launched into space when they crash land to get our hands on it early.
Until then we've had to settle with a chat with Casey Hudson, who - if we're honest - just made the situation worse. In our interview Hudson lavishes details on Mass Effect 3's online aspects; mobile tie-ins; endings; DLC and more.
Have a read...
Mass Effect 3 has just gone gold, so what are you guys doing now?
Well, normally, we'd probably be going on holiday, but because we've got our demo out now, we're supporting that, and we've also got a pretty complicated, because even the single-player has a lot of online features, and we've got multiplayer features. It's going to be a busy launch period for us, so we're just taking some time to get things done that we haven't time for when we were working just to get the game finished.
As part of Galaxy At War, we've heard about the co-op gameplay, but can you talk us through the other elements of ME3's online side?
There's a lot of interest in being able to take a game experience like Mass Effect and bring other things that players might like to do if they are fans of the Mass Effect universe. You're not always at your computer or console, so we've got some cool new things coming out for people to play on the move.
We've got a really neat Datapad app for iOS, so you can still interact with the Mass Effect universe. But what we try to do is integrate that into something that is meaningful in the context of the story itself, and the themes of the game. So, that's where the Galaxy At War content comes in.
Even inside the Datapad app, for example, you'll be able to see your overall rating of success in the Galaxy At War, and you can get a sense of how you're doing in that war. You can then, from the datapad app, actually deploy your resources out to different parts of the galaxy, fight for control of those parts of the galaxy, repair your fleet and stuff like that.
So it's almost like a Risk-type board game?
It's kind of a metagame, because when you jump back into the game as Commander Shepard, you'll see the same overall ratings of how the galaxy is being controlled by the Alliance versus the Reapers.
If I'm, say, playing Mass Effect 3 on the Xbox 360, presumably I'll still be able to finish it without playing the iOS app?
It's interesting because, on the one hand, people really don't like the idea of any kind of fiction or any kind of gameplay outside the game experience that has nothing to do with it, and they also don't want to be required and essential. So we look at it as providing options for people to choose where they want to spend their time.
So, for example, you might be only able to put so much time into the single-player story, but you might do a lot of commuting, so you can play the iOS game and find ways to get better and better degrees of success in the single-player story by doing some of that other stuff.
Some people love to go straight to the end of the story as fast as they can, because they love the action but don't necessarily want to do the role-playing stuff. And then there are people who are really into role-playing, and really immersing themselves in this world, and they'll want to explore everything that's in the single-player game. And it is a huge game - it's much bigger than we actually expected it to be.
Presumably, with the war against the Reapers going on, there won't be things like the resource-gathering from planets? What will players be able to do along those lines in ME3?
We have things like that, but they're different. In Mass Effect 3, we try to think of everything in the context of universal war - it's kind of like World War II. Everywhere you go, people are fighting this war, and people are suffering because of the war. It didn't make any sense for you to spend time mining for resources in Mass effect 3, but we kind of adapted that aspect of the experience so it feels more like search-and-rescue missions.
Even though there are areas occupied by the Reapers, because the Normandy is a stealth ship, you can actually go to some places that are otherwise off-limits, and try to rescue people and assets and find things. You can even find missions to play. So there is that kind of non-linear exploration.
Can you carry that on after you finish the story - or does finishing the story wrap up the war?
Because the story is about the final end in total war against the Reapers, that really is the interest in the game experience. So, you'll be able to play after the game ends, obviously, in a number of different ways.
We have a New Game Plus, so you take that character from the end-game and restart the game with a powerful character. We also have a premise for being able to play ongoing adventures from the perspective of the middle of the game, like we had in Mass Effect 2.
Are there alternative endings depending on what you do in the game?
It's not so much that there is a fixed set of alternative endings, but all of your choices really determine how things end up in the universe. So, how you approach the end-game, for every player, you're going to have a different set of results in terms of who is alive and who is dead, and which civilisations survived and which ones were wiped out.
There is a huge set of consequences that start stacking up as you approach the end-game. And even in terms of the ending itself, it continues to break down to some very large decisions. So it's not like a classic game ending where everything is linear and you make a choice between a few things - it really does layer in many, many different choices, up to the final moments, where it's going to be different for everyone who plays it.
What part does Origin play? Will people have to sign up for it?
We use Origin, and it's interesting because really, it's just a way to get access to the online and digital features that, you know, generally, PC games have now. I think people are going to be fine with it.
Because the whole issue of DRM and being always-online is an emotive one for gamers. Do you think people will have a problem with that?
No I don't, because it comes up only when people hear certain trigger-words. I think that the people who try Mass Effect 3 on Origin will realise that it's not an intrusive DRM scheme - it's just a way for you to sign up for the online services that you're going to get on an ongoing basis through Mass Effect 3.
Just like you get with any other kind of online digital distribution, or multiplayer or whatever. It's not something that requires you to be always online - you can play Mass Effect 3 offline.
Can you give us some examples of how the gameplay has been altered and added to for Mass Effect 3?
The first thing that people will notice is that everything is a lot more polished, and Commander Shepard has a lot more mobility - you can move a lot more fluidly, and you have a little action you can do as Commander Shepard to roll, leap across gaps and fall and climb, and things like this that really give you access to more of the game environment.
That gives you a more interesting way to get around and move into, around and over cover. It just feels like you're a much more capable character. And everything else about the combat - the feel of the weapons, aiming and so on - all of those things have been improved.
I think we've gone full circle in terms of the combat: people are playing it, and saying it is competitive with the very best shooter experiences, and yet it has so much more as a game, with the role-playing elements and a really great interactive story. That's probably the key thing: that now you're able to experience a whole new level of combat gameplay.
And I guess the other thing that we've really worked on is adding a lot of depth to the role-playing systems. We looked at Mass Effect 2 and realised that what we wanted to have for Mass Effect 3 was more interesting and more intelligent decisions that players can make to really customise their play-styles and customise their character.
But in ways that that require you to think about what you value, versus just finding things that are obvious progressions - like just getting a Level 3 shotgun in place of a Level 2 one. We wanted to give players choices within those things. So we've created a weapons bench, where you can see your weapon, turn it over and look at it from different angles, and plug in actual parts, and see how those parts change the look of the weapon.
You can see the stats listed for that weapon, as you're modifying it, you're looking over and really trying to optimise things that are important to you - whether it's rate of fire or how much kick-back it has. You may have a favourite weapon, but there's one thing about it you find annoying, so you can start looking for mods that minimise that. Or you might have a shotgun that you love because it has a tremendous amount of kick and power to it and you can find things that really enhance that.
That also applies to your armour - you're still building your armour piece by piece, making it look how you want, in terms of the form of it, the colour - even when you're switching out shoulder pads, helmets or whatever, it's still like you're making choices about what kind of character you want to be and how you want to play.
That also extends to the powers. We've added some new powers that are really cool, and we've added some effects to those powers, so you can do new things in terms of how they combine with your squad-members' powers - you can create cool combos in combat.
So instead of just becoming more and more powerful in a few different stages, you're now actually making choices in terms of what flavour of that power you want - whether you want it to chain to a bunch of different enemies, or whether you want to have a large radius effect or a longer duration: you're choosing these things at every stage.
Mass Effect 3 was presented as the third and final part of a trilogy, so what is next in the Mass Effect universe?
We are going to be supporting Mass Effect 3 for quite some time, because I think people are going to have a lot of fun with multiplayer, and we'll be supporting that with new content as we go forward. We also have a really good DLC plan, like we had for Mass Effect 2, so there will be new adventures and new things to do. Then, beyond that, we'll just have to wait and see.
What are your latest trans-media plans, with comics, films and so on?
We've got an ongoing relationship with Dark Horse, and we've got some stuff coming out of that. We've got the feature-film in the works. We've also got an anime movie that's coming out - it's getting pretty close to being done, and it's looking fantastic.
All these things tell different facets of the overall storyline, but it's still ultimately the full story of the trilogy. So when fans check out a novel, a comic-book or a movie, they're seeing parts of the same story that really flesh out the details we can't otherwise show you in the game.