Mass Evolution - A Mass Effect 3 Interview with Michael Gamble
The Mass Effect
franchise has set the bar high for sci-fi RPGs of our era. With style="font-style: italic;">Mass Effect 3 just
around the corner we wanted to get some more info on the game while we
had the chance. We caught up with Michael Gamble of BioWare who is the
Associate Producer of the game.
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src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/134128">TTH: Is style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Mass Effect 3 style="font-weight: bold;"> a continuation of the style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Mass Effect style="font-weight: bold;"> story, and how does it present
itself to new players?
It is a continuation of the story, but it is a piece that could be
easily compartmentalized. After playing through the first two games,
you know that weve been alluding to the Reapers and to the question of
whether they exist or not. Obviously, Shepard has been a lightning rod
for the Reaper attention. Coming forward, the first thing that happens
in Mass Effect 3
is that the Reapers arrive and all the naysayers learn pretty quickly
that the Reapers exist. So, Shepard spends the entire game rallying the
troops, rallying the forces of the galaxy behind him to more or less
defeat the Reapers. Thats how its basically set up to be
compartmentalized. Its basically a war story. You have a really bad
enemy, a really evil enemy to defeat and you go out to try and defeat
In terms of creating a character and stuff like that, you can create a
brand-new character and how the plot points are set in terms of what
youve done before, were still kind of working out what is the best
mechanism to set those. We had some experience in the past with the PS3
with an interactive comic. Those kinds of things definitely help us,
although we dont have anything solid right now. Once we have that,
its more or less along the line of take your character and then play
through Mass Effect 3
and then you can replay Mass
Effect 3 with that same character as well.
TTH: The interactive
comic for style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Mass Effect 2 style="font-weight: bold;"> allowed players to generate a
new character based on the critical choices of the first Mass Effect,
without having to play through the full first game. So that's something
you're going to be doing with ME3 too then?
Were looking at something. I dont know if its going to be comic
based or what, but we definitely understand that a lot of people
havent played the first two.
TTH: When I was watching
the demo yesterday I liked the fact that it looks familiar. Theres
nothing thats so new there that it would be like learning a whole new
game for people whove played it before. Some things have changed
though. Can we talk a little bit about whats changed for the
On the system level, Mass
Effect 3 is all about quick iteration and polished pass to
the combat maneuverability. In combat now, you can go back and forth,
do cover switches, and that kind of stuff. Its a lot more fluid. In style="font-style: italic;">Mass Effect 2, you
could take cover, and the way you took cover was an evolution itself
from Mass Effect 1.
Now we want to make it so that you can move around the battlefield a
lot more smoothly. I believe that the demo also showed ladders and
things like that. It just changes the layer of the battlefield, and
thats kind of the combat stuff.
RPG systems and progressions, weve deepened that. Every power has a
lot more customizability. You have multiple evolution options; six
instead of two. And the weapons mods stuff obviously. Now all classes
can use all weaponry, which is great. Were expecting to see a lot more
even usage of classes rather than everybody using Soldier because he
has the coolest weapons. What you can do is customize your weapon based
upon the mods that you pick up throughout the galaxy.
TTH: One of the things
that I found challenging was trying to figure out which weapons were
actually an upgrade in the previous games. Is that system sort of the
same in ME3 as it is in ME2?
Well, if you look at the weapon mod bench, you can actually see the
kind of bar graph, very mathematical, academic breakdown of how weapons
are and compare them based on that. Really, at the end of it, you can
compare by numbers and you can compare by feel and you can compare by
trying it out. I know that there are a lot of weapons in style="font-style: italic;">Mass Effect that
behave differently and theyre actually, by design, supposed to be
different so you can learn to feel and pick up on how one works. Then,
almost like a real gun, you can say that actually feels good. For
example, the SMG. It has a small clip and traditionally, a really,
really quick burst of fire. Some people like to play that. Other people
like to play a just really heavy hitting gun, something like a
semi-automatic. So, its less about the stats and more about how it
feels to you and how it feels in gameplay.
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the weapon upgrades are working a little bit differently now, I
noticed. Can we go over how the upgrades are working?
All the weapons that are created are accessible to all classes. You
find little mods and upgrades throughout the galaxy in various places.
You might get a mission, you might buy them, and things like that.
Basically, you put your weapon on the weapon bench, attach different
mods to it to affect different stats so you could affect the type of
shot, put scopes on, put extended clips on, things to kind of customize
them. For example, with the SMG that I just talked about, if you really
liked the SMG and you want to kind of take a hit in the stopping power,
but you really want an extended clip, you put the extended clip in. So
you can kind of do that for pretty much all the weapons that
we have and make them your own.
TTH: You do that at a
weapons mod station now too?
TTH: Stations are readily
Yes, throughout the levels. Obviously, we want to make sure that you
can balance it with being accessible in the level. All the sudden,
theres different enemy types and you need to change out your weaponry,
you can change them out at the station.
TTH: What about the paths
of Renegade and Paragon? That's still a big part of ME3?
Contextually, it didnt make sense to have one of those choices in the
gamescom demo, but, yeah, there are a lot of renegade and paragon
choices throughout the game.
TTH: Which ties in to
what we noticed in terms of the choices being made. During the demo, we
saw what seemed to be the right choice made with a child involved, and,
at the end, the kid ended up getting killed anyway. How often
does that sort of thing happen? Are you going to start saying, "the
choices are arbitrary. I should just choose whatever?
I get the direction for that. But the problem of making choice
available all the time is that we dont want it to be a one-to-one
correlation all the time in terms of predictability because then
theres no emotional up to it. You choose this and youre going to get
this. In real life, you make choices all the time and things dont
always happen the way you want. Now with the Reapers and the galaxy at
war, you can make a choice. You also have to know that theres an
underlying layer of sacrifice thats going to happen, an underlying
layer of unpredictability. In Mass
Effect 3, you make choices and your outcomes come out of
them, but how the outcomes come, there might be some
repercussions. Never assume that everything is going to be
TTH: Can we talk
a bit about the new abilities? You mentioned that youve split them off
to six instead of two choices. Are they similar to what we saw in the
previous two games?
You have three choices that you take at the beginning that you level up
to make better. Once you hit a certain point, you basically run through
a half-tree and you have six possible choices, and you choose three of
those. That basically gives you six evolution choices for each power.
Now, across all powers, you can do that, so what happens is: I have an
engineer Shepard, and engineer Shepard gets access to this subset of
skills. First of all, you have to make a choice. I can customize only
six of these ten because I only have enough points over the entire game
to focus on these six instead of ten. Within each of these six, how am
I going to customize it? Am I going to do heavy damage? Am I going to
do damage over time? Am I going to do a slower recharge rate? Things
like that. You can make them all completely yours. At the end of the
game, you have a very different Shepard than your buddy, who also
played a soldier, but he decided to play a little more defensive or
that kind of stuff. It takes time and it takes a lot of progression,
but its worth it.
TTH: And what about DLC?
Do you have any DLC plans?
We are starting to do DLC. Mass
Effect 2 DLC was amazing. Overlord, Shadowbroker, Rival,
all those patches were really hard hitting packs, and people
appreciated it. Because of that, because people appreciated it and will
come back to Mass
Effect 3, we think its a good idea to do it. But at the
same time, we havent shipped the game yet. Obviously, all our
attention is going into shipping the game and making as much content as
we can and stuffing it all on the disc before we ship. Once we ship,
then well talk about DLC.
TTH: Mass Effect seems to
really be shifting more towards an action game. Its evolving: the
second was more actiony than the first, and the third looks to have
even more action. Particularly when we saw Shepard going back to Earth.
There was a war going on, ships crashing into buildings, and all that
kind of stuff. It had an incredible environmental feel to it. The
question becomes how long can you maintain that? Are you putting that
much effort and emphasis into all the side quests and everything?
Ill use a movie as an analogy. You watch a movie and if its hard
hitting, crazy, turn it up to 11 every moment of the movie, it dulls
your senses and you dont really appreciate the moments. Just like any
movie, a game is like that, especially style="font-style: italic;">Mass Effect 3. You
have your critical moments where decisions are important and big set
pieces are absolutely critical to telling the story. Then you have your
other moments where its more along the lines of you go to other worlds
and you do things that arent necessarily inspired by huge set pieces.
Its not about always turning it up and always making it action-packed,
because without the downtime, the other part of it, you dont see the
effect the war is having upon the galaxy. You dont actually appreciate
it as much the moments when youre up and close and personal to the
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