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Mass Effect: Burning Questions (IGN interview)

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Mass Effect: Burning Questions (IGN interview)

Mass Effect: Burning Questions (IGN interview)
Published by Predtech on Thursday, August 02, 2007
Tagged: Gaming, Xbox 360,
Casey Hudson provides more details on BioWare's next big game.

August 2, 2007 - Mass Effect was easily one of the most moving demos of E3. For the first time, we got a glimpse at the stirring plotlines and fantastic character development that BioWare has become known for. Once the shock and awe wore off, we began to crave more. That's why we went to Casey Hudson, Project Director for BioWare to fill in the gaps in our knowledge.

IGN: If Urdnot Wrex isn't in your party, how important will the Krogan be to the overall storyline?

Casey Hudson: Each of the main species in Mass Effect has an extensive backstory that has a strong influence on the story. And since your team will consist of humans and aliens, each character brings a unique perspective to what you're doing. Sometimes, differences in opinion can lead to situations that will challenge your relationships with certain squadmates, possibly leading to life-and-death situations.

Click the read more link to view the entire IGN Interview

IGN: Will your choices when dealing with major moral decisions change based on your character's alignment?

Casey Hudson: Your actions throughout the game will change the kinds of situations that you'll come across, sometimes leading to entirely different plots than if you had chosen differently. And Mass Effect is somewhat unique in that developing skills in Charm and Intimidate can be extremely satisfying. Skill in either of those areas gives you some of the more spectacular options in conversation, giving you some useful (and really fun) alternatives to handling difficult situations.

IGN: Are there different story elements that open up based on your gender?

Casey Hudson: Yes, there are some plots that are different depending on your gender, but probably the most interesting part of playing as a different gender is seeing a different perspective on the cinematic experience. Because your character (whether male or female) has full VO and a custom-created face, it feels like a very different experience to play as a female character versus a male.

IGN: How are we going to know if we missed something as a result of our choices in the storyline?

Casey Hudson: You won't - and that's one of the really special things about a story that adapts to your actions. You'll be able to talk with other Mass Effect players about amazing things that happened in your game, which will have played out differently (or not at all) in their game. And the curiosity about "what might have happened" is what makes replays so much fun.

IGN: Will each party member have a deep story/background like Wrex?

Casey Hudson: Yes. Each squad member has a very well-developed background and a story arc that develops over the course of the game. Their unique role within your squad, as well as their viewpoints as a member of an alien species or humans with special talents, gives you a more personal perspective on the Mass Effect universe.

IGN: The combat seems to have a GRAW or Rainbow Six feel to it. What was the inspiration?

Casey Hudson: Our goal was to evolve the tactical, squad-based gameplay of KOTOR into the more familiar 3rd-person shooter style interface. Lots of people really enjoyed the semi-turn-based combat of KOTOR, but it also represented a barrier to many other players, who wanted something more real-time. So we set out to create a real-time combat system that still had the tactical fun and RPG-style team coordination that made KOTOR a lot of fun.

The result is a very familiar shooter-style system that anyone can pick up and start playing, but which also blends very intuitive control of all three squad members' weapons and abilities.

IGN: With Jade Empire and now Mass Effect, it seems your combat system is more and more about real-time action. Is turn-based combat in RPGs dead? Would you ever consider revisiting a strictly turn-based system?

Casey Hudson: I'd never say never of course, but generally we're interested in moving towards gameplay and controls that can be appreciated by the broadest audience. So for us the balance is in maintaining the same gameplay depth as we've always had (including combat, character development, and interactive storytelling) but through interfaces that are more streamlined.

IGN: When we first saw Mass Effect, there was some emphasis on using the environment in combat. Is that still a major factor? And are there specific structures that are destructible?

Casey Hudson: There are some objects in the environment that explode when you shoot them, and can damage nearby enemies. You can tell by looking at them whether they will release toxins, flame, or freezing cold liquid. And there are larger objects such as huge fuel tanks that can be destroyed. In some areas you'll be able to hack large turrets to fire on the enemy. And there are objects throughout the game that are destructible or will be thrown around by certain events. For example, you can release a tiny black hole near an enemy and all the chairs and tables in the room will fly towards them, crushing them in a ball of office furniture. Quite amusing!

IGN: It's hard not to view the biotic abilities as being somewhat like the Force -- since we saw things similar to a Force Push and the like. How do these powers differ and is it fair to say there's quite a lot more we have yet to see?

Casey Hudson: Biotics are based on the concept of a gravity-like force that could be controlled by an appropriately talented (and implanted) user. So you can strip something of its gravitational effects, which causes it to rise helplessly. You can create a small black hole and crush the enemy with nearby objects, or you can distort space around them to physically damage them over time. There are a bunch of powers we haven't shown yet, and it's definitely a lot of fun to play as an Adept, where you have full access to Biotic powers.

IGN: How much does the Mako figure into the game? And can it be destroyed?

Casey Hudson: The Mako is an excellent way to explore large tracts of land, and it's essential for fighting some of the larger monsters you'll encounter on uncharted worlds. It's got a machine gun and a heavy artillery cannon, so combat is a ton of fun. And it's also got thrusters that allow you to jump difficult terrain and even dodge enemy missile attacks. It can definitely be destroyed though, so you may find yourself standing next to a burned out Mako, calling for the Normandy to pick you up.

IGN: Can you customize the Mako? And if so, what kind of customizations are available?

Casey Hudson: The Mako isn't customizable yet, but without giving away details, that kind of extended feature-set is why we've planned both a story arc and a technical arc over a trilogy of titles.

IGN: Speaking of customization, we know that you can customize Shepard, but how deep does that customization go for the other members of your party? Does Wrex have to be a bruiser, for example?

Casey Hudson: Your squad members are equally customizable. You'll decide what talents they improve at, what new powers they develop, and you'll decide what armor and weapons they equip at any time. Or if you like, there's an "auto level" feature that will make automatic choices in the development of your squad members.

But their personalities are of course all their own. So while you can tell a Krogan what to do, you can't guarantee he'll like it.

IGN: Will there be any types of games similar to Pazaak that we can waste a few hours playing in Mass Effect?

Casey Hudson: There's a casino game that you'll find in some of the bars, but a lot of the light and casual fun is in exploring the uncharted worlds - scanning planets, discovering quests, exploring in the Mako... That's really the main "mini-game" (if you can call it that!) of Mass Effect.

IGN: When we spoke in GDC, it seemed the game was nearing completion. What are you able to do with the extra time heading in to November to make Mass Effect a better game?

Casey Hudson: Everything in this generation takes a lot more time and effort, and the "polish" phase is no exception. And since Mass Effect is really a huge and complicated project, it takes a lot of testing to ensure that it's ready for release. The main focus has been on quality - making sure that the story and gameplay are as good as possible, and making changes wherever necessary. I think of it as being like the editing stage in making a movie, where you make lots of changes to ensure that everything works together as a whole. The overall result is that we're confident that we'll have built something really special when the game is released later this year.

IGN: How soon can we expect to see downloadable content following Mass Effect's November release?

Casey Hudson: We're working out the details as we speak, but can't announce any details just yet.

IGN: Is there any added pressure in having the first Canadian-developed RPG on Xbox 360?

Casey Hudson: Not really. We have no shortage of sources of pressure, and being a Canadian developer is more of a source of pride than anything. We just do our best, and let the work speak for itself.

IGN: Can you give me a copy of the game now?

Casey Hudson: We could, but we have some more tweaks to make that you wouldn't want to miss. Might as well wait a few more months…
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