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Jeremy Jastrzab
24 Oct, 2007

Mass Effect Interview Part 2

360 Interview | The future of Mass Effect and Bioware.
Yesterday, we gave you half of an interview with Bioware's Community Coordinator, Chris Priestly, on their upcoming RPG/3rd person shooter, Mass Effect. Today, we're going to take a look at a few of the intricacies within the game, as well as some technicalities and what the future may hold for Bioware and indeed, Mass Effect.

PALGN: Just how do players progress/level-up in Mass Effect? How does the upgrade system work?

Chris Priestly: Pretty much like any good, standard RPG. You’ll gain experience points from finding things, completing objectives such as “find this person”, “kill that person” and of course in combat. Once you gain enough experience points, you’ll level up. There is a level cap at level 50. Here is a challenge for you players out there, I don’t think many of you are going to reach 50. It is really, really hard to reach level 50. Even our experienced QA team has trouble reaching 50. You’ll probably end up, depending on how much you want to do, between level 35 and 45. I’ll be really impressed if anybody reaches level 50.

Once you get enough points to level up, you’ll get to choose where you distribute these points. The amount of points will depend on what level you are. You get to put those points anywhere, be it to abilities with particular weapons, biotics or technical abilities. You can even earn dialogue choices such as intimidate or persuade. By levelling up these, you’ll open up more dialog choices when you’re talking to people. So where you put them will be up to the individual player.

PALGN: Are you able to tell us about any of the mini-games or side-quests in the game on offer?

CP: Well, there’s all sorts of things out there. In terms of mini-games, it kind of depends on what you call a mini-game. Some people were posting on the forums the other day that they were looking forward to driving around in the MAKO. There are something, I can think of a sub-plot that involves rigged gambling machines, which in turn lets you gamble. There is a decryption mini-game that pops up a lot – where you have a colour system that you’ll need to use and decode locked doors and chests and disarm weapons. You’ll simply need to follow to prompted colours.

It is kind of massive.

It is kind of massive.
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PALGN: How will the side-quest romances play out in Mass Effect?

CP: The romances are quite fleshed out. There is a little difference this time, where it’s the first time that we’ve allowed you to romance a space alien in any of our games. You can have male-female, male-alien or female-alien relationships.

PALGN: How long do you think the main quest will take to complete? How long, or how many times will one have to play through to see absolutely everything that the game has to offer?

CP: In terms of gameplay, it always depends on the individual player. Someone who doesn’t want to go exploring, doesn’t really get that involved, just sticks to the ‘critical path’ (what we call the main story), could probably be done in about 10-20 hours. Obviously, depending on how rapidly they pick up combat and so forth. But for that player that does enjoy more, the who goes out to explore, does one of the romances that’s available, party member sub-plots, who really likes to get there, ride around in the MAKO, you’re looking at a lot more gameplay. Probably, anywhere from around 40-60 hours. But that would be you’re first time through.

No matter how much you play Mass Effect, there’s always going to be something you missed, depending on who is in your party at the time, what dialog choices you made and all that sort of thing. And of course, taking into account all the different classes and abilities. So the key thing for Mass Effect is replayability. So even if you play through the first time and take 40 hours, your second time through with different sets of choices may take another 30-40 hours. So if you wanted to see absolutely everything, you’d be playing for a really long time.

PALGN: But it would be time well spent.

CP: I think this is the best game that Bioware have made to date. It really blends everything, the combat, the RPG, the cinematics, the audio which is fabulous, the sound track and the voice over, all by a hugely talented voice cast, have come together really smoothly to make a great game.

PALGN: For those who like achievement hunting, will Mass Effect satisfy their spirit?

CP: There are lots and lots of Xbox Live achievements in Mass Effect. Simple things such as “have you killed 100 enemies”, “have you completed a romance”, “have you completed the Novaria planet plot”, that sort of thing. And there are some pretty hard and tricky ones, I don’t want to reveal too many, because it’s always a lot of fun to randomly uncover them, for example, “have you managed to finish the game on insanity difficulty”. There is certainly a whole lot that one play through isn’t going to unlock.

PALGN: Is there one for level 50?

CP: Oh yeah. If you can manage to get all the way up to level 50, that’s the one that I think people are going to bragging about.

A whole lot of weird and wonderful encounters await.

A whole lot of weird and wonderful encounters await.
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PALGN: Even though we are really close to release, will there be a demo?

CP: The problem with a demo, is that it takes a fair amount of development time to make it good. You don’t want to release something that isn’t indicative of the game. It would have been great to do a demo, but we were so focused on completing the game, polishing it up, getting out as many bugs as possible and getting it into the stores. We could have done a demo, but that would have delayed getting the game out.

PALGN: Mass Effect was built from the ground up, right? So obviously, that has taken some time. Given that you now have the framework in order, do you expect the turnover between future instalments to be shorter?

CP: It will definitely be continued, it’s a planned trilogy. I would expect so. This is our first game for the Xbox 360, and it’s also our first game using the Unreal engine. It’s quite a steep learning curve on how to get all the programming in, how to work with the engine and the graphics and all that sort of thing. For the second and third one, I’d imagine that we have a pretty good handle on it. This one took three to four years from initial concept to completion. We’ll definitely be much faster, not necessarily a matter of months, as there is a lot of work that goes into out games, but certainly faster than the initial one.

Not to mention, we’re going to have Xbox Live downloadable content between the chapters. Just to keep you entertained as the game progresses.

PALGN: Roughly how much content will there be in these chapters?

CP: We’re still working on it, so nothing is set yet and I don’t want to make promises that I can’t back up. But since we’re a story based game, it will be story based content. Some companies out there will give away a little bit of armour, and there is nothing wrong with that. We’ll probably include some different weapons and different armour, but if we’re going to give something for a story based game, it’s probably going to be story. You’re looking at new plots, new planets, new areas to explore. That sort of thing, though we’ll have to see what the dev team comes up with.

Got scope?

Got scope?
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PALGN: What’s the dev teams response to working with the Xbox 360?

CP: Really, really positive. Early on, when Bioware were looking at what they’re going to do with Mass Effect, you look at all the possibilities that are available. The Xbox 360 was pretty much exactly what we needed. It is a powerful system, easy to use in terms of developing the game. There is a good installed user base. Not to mention, Xbox Live, which allows us to release content in between chapters, so it’s been really great working with Microsoft and the Xbox 360.

PALGN: In light of the recent debate over storage media, have there been issues with just using the Dual-layer DVD?

CP: Nope. Everything has been working really smoothly. There have been no problems at all, well, not that I know of.

PALGN: Speaking of the future, what sort of impact do you see EA’s acquisition of BioWare having on the Mass Effect franchise?

CP: That was surprise. It was quite a surprise for all of us. We were actually hoping that sooner or later, someone would come and buy us, we knew that it was a possibility. We’re quite a popular company, with several games in the works. But we didn’t expect it to come for years yet.

Given that it’s only happened very recently and that I’ve been down in Sydney, while all the rest has been happening back up in Edmonton, I really don’t know any details. It’s so secret, until the deal is closed, that they can’t even email it to me. I have to wait until I get back to Edmonton to find out. However, it is just about as good as a done deal.

PALGN: Will Bioware still have control over their properties?

CP: I really don’t know a great deal about the deal and I don’t want to make any promises. Personally, I believe that EA recognises the value of Bioware and Pandemic, and they wouldn’t want to buy us and make huge changes. However, where we go in the future is all up in the air at the moment.

PALGN: Can you confirm that it will still be a trilogy of games?

CP: Absolutely, that will not be changing. Mass Effect will still definitely be a trilogy. It will be coming to the Xbox 360 and it’s going to be really great.

PALGN: Now that Microsoft has unveiled the content of the Limited Collectors Edition of the game, can you confirm whether Australia will be getting a local release of the LCE?

CP: The details are still being worked out, on where it’s going to be available, when and all that. I haven’t heard the details myself but I know that it’s in the works.

Shepard?

Shepard?
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PALGN: What is you favourite aspect of the game?

CP: I really enjoy the combat, I think that it’s a great step forward. Personally, growing up with Baldur’s Gate and KOTOR, they were great games, but turn-based combat always bothered the heck out of me. So I love the fact that it’s real time combat. So for those that prefer it, they can pause the game and tactically control what’s happening but if you want to, you can just pull out your guns and go in guns blazing and take people down. I also like the NPC’s. Bioware has a history of great NPC’s, like HK-47 in KOTOR and Black Whirlwind in Jade Empire. I think we’ve nailed it with Mass Effect, there are some great characters here.

PALGN: What do you think about the expanding 'casual' gamer market? Is this going to have any impact on BioWare and their games?

CP: Bioware have always been good at making deep involving role-playing games and recently we announced that we were making a Sonic RPG for the Nintendo DS and people were really surprised.

We love all our gamers, we love our long standing fans that have been with us since the beginning and up until now. But we’re always open for change and we think we make a great product and we want to expose it to as many people as possible.

PALGN: Thank you very much for your time.

CP: My pleasure.

Related Mass Effect Content

Xbox Live Deal of the Week - 18/01/10
19 Jan, 2010 A massive trio.
Mass Effect 2 release date announced
17 Oct, 2009 What a start to the year.
Love to Hate #10
31 Aug, 2009 Massively ineffective exploration of the planetary kind.
5 Comments
6 years ago
Great interview there Jeremy, It was very interesting to read and covered most of the topics I wanted to hear about.
Keep up the good work.
6 years ago
Awesome interview. Based on bioware's past efforts, I was very interested in getting this, but now, it will be the first thing I buy when I return to Australia, even before Bioshock (which was going to be by initial airport purchase).

Can't wait till November 22nd (no delays, no delays, no delays).
6 years ago
According to what I've been told, the game is pretty much DONE.

So I don't expect any delays.
6 years ago
I'd love to know just what makes it so difficult to get to level 50 - is it due to an Oblivion style system that auto-levels enemies, or is it due to the way that the exp. system works, or... ?

Hrmm...
6 years ago
Jeremy wrote
According to what I've been told, the game is pretty much DONE.

So I don't expect any delays.
Yeh it went gold about 4 or 5 days ago
Bioware: Mass Effect Gold Press Release
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  22/11/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
Publisher:
  Microsoft
Genre:
  Action RPG
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  1

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