Interviews

Mass Effect 3: Can it sell big - without selling out?

BioWare on getting the balance right...

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How much in percentage terms do you think you can grow the Mass Effect audience compared to ME2? 50%?
Yeah, I mean as a fan of Mass Effect - and even before I started working at BioWare, Mass Effect 1 was my favourite Xbox game ever - I want to see this game enjoyed by as many people as possible. The stuff the team has done especially with Mass Effect 3 has truly just set the bar for video games and takes us that one step further to feeling like it's a true entertainment property.

As such, I'd love to see this get into as many hands as possible. I think this is definitely the best chance we have in the series to really break out and go truly blockbuster. It really is a natural entry point for people: giant alien race launches all-out war, you have to rally the forces of the universe to counter and see if you can take them down. That's pretty clear. You don't need to be like: 'Well, what about when I had this love affair?' It's like, who cares? It's all out war!

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I think the game's definitely set up for that. It's really going to strike a great balance. New people will get it, but existing fans will see the stakes being raised. It will still have levels of nuance - I don't want to spoil anything - but you're definitely going to be seeing things that you'll be like: 'Oh, I remember that!'

If you saw Episode 1 as Star Wars having never seen it before you'd have enjoyed it, but if you saw it having already known the trilogy, when you see Palpatine pat Anakin on the back, you're like: 'Ah ha!' It's a subtle nod to the fans.

We're trying to make this game appeal to as many people as possible. We're hoping for a big hit. It's the best game we've ever made at BioWare Edmonton. There's big shoes to fill after ME2. The stuff we're doing - making the gameplay more action-adventure-y, making it on a par with some of the best action games you see today, whilst on top of that adding in these RPG elements that maybe people were upset we didn't focus on as much in Mass Effect 2 - it strikes a balance.

BioWare games historically have always been about having choice and customisation. Now what we've done with Mass Effect 3 is that not only can you customise and choose how the story progresses, now you get to choose how you play the game as well.

Whether you want to play it totally hardcore, geeking out, overclocking on your PC and all that stuff, RPG stats, using the weapon bench to customise every individual gun, you can; but if you want to auto-level and go along for the ride and one hell of an adventure, the game can totally suit both audiences.

Would you say it had more traditional RPG elements than in ME2?
Absolutely. Hands down. We get this question a lot. Mass Effect 2 won 150 Game Of The Year awards, right. How do you improve on that? One of the things at BioWare is that we don't look at that and kick back: 'Job done, let's give them that again.'

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We've done a lot of research about what people like about Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2 and other games too; what do they like about Gears Of War? Why does that game do what it does? Same goes for Assassin's Creed, Halo, Call Of Duty and lots of RPG games too... we've looked at all these games to see what's resonating and what's not.

On the one hand, we don't want to go too far down the rabbit hole where Shepard starts rolling dice, but on the other hand we don't want to ignore that coolness - where people can customise parts of their character and making them feel that it's them in the adventure. We capitalise on that in spades in ME3.

There's a Mass Effect missing in the PS3 canon. How do you treat that format internally? Can you guarantee the fans that it isn't neglected?
We develop all the platforms simultaneously. This is the first time that all three platforms have shipped at the same time and it will be an amazing adventure whatever platform you play it on. I don't think you'll see a difference between the Xbox version and the PS3 version. There's no drop in quality on either.

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