You've been working on this for years now. How has the art team's work progressed over all that time?
Derek Watts: Art-wise the original Mass Effect's levels worked really well but for gameplay they weren't so good. We had a lot of raised platforms and areas you could get caught up in - stuff we should have fixed right from the beginning.
Because it was our first next-gen game we were actually thinking we were doing a really good job. It's just the challenge of trying to make that first next-gen game was huge. Everybody else had issues too. Getting used to the technology made it difficult for us. We wanted those wide open areas, those swooping curves, the grand vistas and stuff, but it was hard to do with that engine.
All the characters have been given a redesign for Mass Effect 3. Do you ever worry about fan reaction?
You know, they've been pretty receptive to the changes we've made. We haven't really had much negative feedback from them. We changed Tali - that was tough because people were very passionate about her. A lot of people want to have her face revealed and obviously people are going to be pissed off either way.
Like "I thought she was going to look beautiful!" or "I thought she was going to be the most hideous thing ever!" So we've had a lot of debate over Tali's face, but that's the one we kind of dread a lot. We're always "well, let's talk about something else for a while!" That's something we're going to have to decide.
Are there any artistic themes you have to maintain for continuity purposes but would redo if you could?
The one problem is trying to get that Mass Effect arc through everything. It's in the logo, it's on the armour, it's on the guns, it's everywhere. That was always the intention with Mass Effect - if there was one thing we would try to use on everything, it was that arc.
It's tough when you're trying to put the arc onto all these alien planets. We're trying to make some brutalist Krogan stuff that's all solid geometric shapes, and how do you run an arc through that?
It's hard making everything so clean as well, right?
Yeah, videogames look a lot better if you clutter up hallways. It usually looks more realistic. It's hard to do with clean, plastic, white hallways with the reflective floors you see in some of the movies. I can't even think of those clean movies - I don't think Hollywood does them any more!
The new star trek movie was quite clean. Tron Legacy, too. They're the only ones.
Yeah, and that's hard for us to do. You rely heavily on the lighting and the materials and can you get those reflective surfaces? Can you do it real time or is it all faked? Do you have to flip the level upside down and make part of it transparent? You have to end up faking it and making it as good as you can.
And at least it doesn't look like Blade Runner, like every other sci-fi future.
Yeah. I love that movie. I remember seeing it in the theatre because I'm that old, and it wasn't what we were expecting but we ended up loving it. Doing the (Blade Runner Designer) Syd Mead thing is hard with games. He usually does one area, he does his style - the arc, the 45s - but to try and repeat that through a whole level...?
The new Deus Ex does actually go that blade runner route and really takes it somewhere new
Yeah, I was looking at that. I actually think it has, like, a Japanese feel to it, like the way they do their tech.
Very Ghost in the Shell
Yeah, you know we actually referenced a lot from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. We used a lot of their GUIs and the way they did their ship - that was kind of like in some of the early designs for the Normandy.
Our attack helicopters are loosely based off that movie. There's some great stuff, especially their glowing GUI screens; we used those a lot. I keep a folder of that stuff and I still actually tell the guys "just go back and look at that. Change it like that!"
Keep an eye out for part two of our interview featuring lead sound designer Rob Blake, and senior environment artists Don Arceta and Noel Lukasewich.
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