Mass Effect 2 Interview


posted 12/5/2009 by Tina Amini
other articles by Tina Amini
One Page Platforms: 360 PC
Several of my fellow gaming press members and I got the opportunity to have a chat with Dr. Ray Muzyka of BioWare about the upcoming Mass Effect sequel. Although he’s careful not to reveal too much of the storyline (which we should really be grateful for), you can get a taste of what the game will feel like from some of the questions posed at the roundtable conference. The first and fourth question are from GamingNexus, the rest are from our peers in the industry.

Ray divulges the intensity of the shooter/RPG experience of Mass Effect 2, mostly due to the enhanced combat system. If you’ve seen some of the videos we have posted, you’ll know what he’s talking about. He’ll also get into some of the details of the storyline in how vastly complex it is: optional content can truly expand the breadth of your gaming experience, while importing saved games from Mass Effect 1 can change the settings of your game drastically. Read on for the full story and some more details on the game that Ray calls their best yet.

Quick intro to Mass Effect 2 from BioDoc Ray Muzyka:

This is the dark second act of the Mass Effect trilogy and I'm really incredibly excited about this. The quality is outstanding, I'm so proud of the team across the board. Listening to the feedback from the fans and the press and internally on the first team, we amped up the intensity of the shooter experience, amped up the depth and richness of the RPG experience. You have all the things you love from Mass Effect 1: great story, amazing dialogue, Commander Shephard. But you also have incredible intensity, combat tactical choices, moment-to-moment intensity, how you deploy your troops, and the emergence of different abilities and how they all interact. It’s bigger and better in every way, and I think it’s going to be the best thing yet from BioWare when it comes out. I can’t wait for you all to get your hands on it to see what we're so excited about. I love the game.

With developments in AI, visuals, combat, storyline, etc, which was the most significant for developing with Mass Effect 2 to stand out against the original?

I think it's really a fusion of the shooter and action, and role playing those two sides of the shooter experience and the role playing experience we're really bringing it to bare in Mass 2 and that's one of the reasons why the adding is so innovative. The game is really combining things that haven’t been done in that fashion before. For us, it’s not one thing alone it’s really all those developments that combine to that shooter/RPG experience. As a result you got a great exploration of an amazing galaxy.

You have intense action and combat sequences with tons of tactical depth, and you have a great customization, progression, an amazing narrative flow, and characterization. It’s got all the elements that you’ve come to know and love with a BioWare game, but with this added mix of really intense shooter combat that takes it over the top, and the way they all fit together is awesome. The pacing moment-to-moment pulls you through the adventure and you've always got something to look forward to.

No element alone can be below the bar; they all have to be good. The AI has to be amazing, the visuals are amazing, and the frame rate is locked and loaded at 30 frames a second. Textures will look smoothly; there's no popping. Combat is awesome and story line, if anything, is even better than the first game. I think really across the boarders it’s outstanding.

We've heard that the Dragon Age team and the Mass Effect team have been learning a lot from each other. What kind of things is the Mass Effect group learning and implementing from the Dragon Age team. What kind of difference between the versions of Mass Effect, including gameplay and BioWare social network site functions, can you comment on?
In Edmonton we have a matrix structure, so people move back and forth between projects quite often. We have a lot of people that worked on the original Mass Effect that worked on Dragon Age, and a lot of people who worked on Dragon Age who are working on Mass Effect 2. That's very organic and you get a lot of knowledge transfer between teams just as a function of people moving around. The EPs share a lot of knowledge with one another. The Exec Producers share knowledge between the projects very actively. Our mission basically is go for the best story-driven games in the world. Our vision is to deliver this genuine emotionally engaging experience and evolve it.

Every game has to be better than the prior ones for that to really be true. So as great as Dragon Age was, I think Mass Effect 2 is going to be better because we're taking everything we learned from that game and are applying it. But at the same time they're very different games and that's intentional. I love the idea of BioWare having a diverse portfolio. You look at the rich deep fantasy role playing experience – this dark heroic fantasy of Dragon Age – and it’s very different and very satisfying, but different than the sci-fi futuristic vision of Mass 2.

They’re both very complimentary, and I think they're going to attract different kinds of fans. In some cases some fans are going to love both games, and I personally love them both. We learned a lot of things, as well, from Dragon Age. The outstanding reception we're getting of post-release downloadable content [for example]. Those are some great lessons we're learning there. Dragon Age is having a lot of success and we have a lot more PDLC planned for Dragon Age. In Mass Effect 2 we're going to apply those concepts, and we already have teams working on PDLC plans for post launch for Mass Effect 2. Our commitment is trying to deliver some great PDLC on both games as an ongoing service to our fans.

The inventory system of Mass Effect was fairly streamlined and some players thought it inhibited character customization. How is the inventory system changed with Mass Effect 2?
There are two different ways to answer this. One of them is that we built all the interfaces from the ground up. From the feedback received, we wanted to try to deliver a really deep customizable experience. One of the ways we're providing that is enabling even more tactical depth than Mass 1, but we're trying to make it even easier to use and more accessible. It’s got that richness and depth and it’s incredibly accessible. Part of the way that works is that we really want to focus on the intensity of the combat experience when you're in the heat of action, and then when you're preparing for the missions we want to provide all the different choices and different tactics and allow you to select your squad and really customize the equipment and every detail that you want to customize – should you want to do so. The choices you make are going to have tremendous impact on the way that the game unfolds, and as you explore or as you progress through the game you engage in different types of combat.

The way we approached it is taking all the feedback from the first game. Our first principle was to rebuild the interfaces in Mass Effect 2 to make sure that in every case possible we're improving them and improving the depth and the richness of the experience at the same time. When you play it you'll understand how it works in terms of equipping your party: it’s really straightforward and really easy, but it’s really deep as well. It's got a lot of different choices, a lot of progression, and abilities as well. It ties into the exploration aspect, too, so it’s such that as you explore the galaxy you find new kinds of research and modifications for your weapons and armor and so on. You can have new equipment and it’s really up to you to discover those things. If you do so, you're going to be even more badass at combat.
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