Mass Effect

BioWare co-founders answer our questions on the near-final game

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Greg Zeschuk: There's over a hundred I think. There 300 characters; it's pretty crazy in a good way.

Ray Muzyka: It's all about conveying the personalities of the characters. You have to have credible characters, the dialogue has to flow. We've got some famous actors for the voice acting as well. We haven't announced who they are yet but you may be able to pick them out.

Greg Zeschuk: Someone actually guessed one or two in the last demo. We're not saying anything about that!

The animation work on the characters themselves is impressive. Are you motion capturing you voice actors' movements at all?

Greg Zeschuk: Oh yeah. The cut-scenes are all motion captured. This has actually been an amazing learning experience for us in terms of the voice acting. It's more conversational than we've ever done, it flows.

Sometimes the actors are together in the studio but often there not, so we've had to do a moderate number of re-takes to actually make conversation flow and to make it sound like a real conversation. You kind of imagine that it's all acted out and people voice their lines after, but we're literally just going along and creating it in real-time.

It's very exciting. We have very solid scripts but sometimes just to get that conversational sound you have to alter it.

Ray Muzyka: The dialogue system is a proprietary system we've created, and the reason why the conversations are all part of that is because it's so easy to make choices that constantly map. For example, there's an angry option on the bottom right and there's a nice option on the top right. The system allows players to have the dialogue conversation flow.

Greg Zeschuk: You can purposely interrupt the conversations as well, so it's almost as if you're kind of role-playing the conversation. I remember when I first played with the dialogue system I was like, 'wow'. It really does feel like you're in the scene dictating what your lines are. It really brings you in to the experience.

How difficult has it been to make each world in the game different and distinct?

Ray Muzyka: We have a big team. We have a lot of people working on this; it's the biggest team we've ever fielded. We've got 130 people working on it, so that's a lot of content creators, a lot of testers. We're on the polish phase now kind of finishing up some content, optimising and fixing bugs. So we've had a big team for a long time and it's a grand vision, and to achieve that vision you need a large group of talented people.

Part of the vision was to have a galaxy to explore. You have to have variety in the worlds; ice worlds, swamp worlds, desert worlds and things like that. There's a whole range of choices in the places you can go. You can just focus on the mains storyline and the critical path, but the offroad path is just so tempting because there's so many cool things to explore.

There's full quest-based planets, there's planets with dungeons to explore and there's planets where you just walk around outside and find some cool loot and take off.

Greg Zeschuk: There was also a very long conceptual phase for the game. In other words we spent six to eight months in the beginning conceiving how things would look. A large amount of work was spent with the ground work and visuals, so if we did actually end up building it there was a real clear idea what the armour looks like, what the environments look like and what the monster look like.

Ray Muzyka: We've got some amazing art up on our wall. All the concept art is just plastered all over the place. We've even got screenshots up on the wall and that's the best part; it really has been achieved. You can put the screenshot next to the original concept piece and that's what it looks like. The team's done an amazing job on the art side.

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