Mass Effect 3 Dev Defends Inclusion Of Multiplayer
Mass Effect 3′s Casey Hudson gives us a behind the scenes glimpse at 2012′s biggest RPG…
360 Magazine: There seems to be a real sense that BioWare is ending Shepard’s trilogy in the most explosive and ambitious way possible, is there a sense that series should go out with all guns blazing?
Casey Hudson: Our main goal is to ensure that everyone – long-time Mass Effect fans and players new to the series – are able to experience the absolute pinnacle of the Mass Effect experience as we bring Commander Shepard’s journey to a close.
For new players that means the beginning, and the end, of a full-scale galactic war.
And for players who have been with us since ME1, it will be the satisfying conclusion of the plots and character arcs that they’ve been following for years.
360: It’s clear now that the universe is in the midst of an all-out war, how has that effected the way you approach the design from everything from the missions, characters and locations?
CH: It is initially daunting, but we always look for historical reference to ground the story. With many difference regions fighting their own wars and experiencing their own struggles, we realized that on some level it’s a World War II story.
We needed to find a way to make sense of how people can still go to a bar for a drink in an occupied town, or how one region might fall to the enemy while another remains well-controlled.
Many of these answers are found in WWII, and having a historical reference point for war on that scale helps create storylines and situations that are realistic even though they exist in a futuristic setting.
360: Was there ever a danger that this third game would have to repeat the basic story template of the second game (roaming the galaxy and building a kick-ass team)? How did you ensure what you created was new?
CH: No, each story is really a different act in the trilogy, and has a different function. Now that we know that the Reapers are real, and they have arrived to capture our world (and many others) with overwhelming force, it creates a different kind of story structure.
There is more time pressure, but at the same time the scale is much greater and Shepard’s allies have access to a whole new level of war assets. So ME3 is much more about how an entire civilization wins a war, versus collecting a team for a covert mission.
360: Mass Effect 3 has already been described as the end of Shepard’s trilogy, but how much of a conclusion can players expect? Is there a definitive ending and how much of the individual choices players have made over the three games impact the conclusion?
CH: Yes, everything we’ve been working towards is geared towards giving players a spectacular, satisfying, and definitive ending to their story as Commander Shepard.
360: Each Mass Effect game has promised hugely divergent choices for player’s that has always been represented through the characters Shepard interacts with. Has there been a technical or writing limitation on how far this idea can be taken in the third game?
CH: With Mass Effect 3 we are in a unique position of being able to let the player’s decisions have greater consequences than ever before. In previous games we had to be careful to leave certain story threads intact so that they could be continued in the next game.
But knowing that we are approaching the end of this storyline, we’re able to let players make decisions on a scale that we’ve never been able to before.
CH: There are obvious benefits to having a multiplayer aspect to a game – it extends the playability, adds value to the offering, and lets you share something you enjoy with your friends.
Even when we started working on ME1 it was clear that games were moving towards various forms of integrated multiplayer but we just weren’t able to find a way to implement it that made sense with the storyline and properly complemented the single-player experience.
But with Mass Effect 3, we realized that it finally made sense. With the entire galaxy in a war for survival, it’s not just Shepard’s exploits that are interesting – there are battles all over the galaxy that would be cool to experience.
Letting players take part in that larger war effort was the concept that finally made sense in the Mass Effect universe.
360: Were you surprised by the reaction of fans to the multiplayer announcement?
CH: We knew it would be controversial, and we also knew that when people actually tried it they would understand why it’s a great addition to the experience. But what really surprised us was how quickly concern turned into support once we started describing how it would work.
360: Why do you think gamers are precious over singleplayer, narrative heavy games attempting multiplayer and what should they be expecting from Mass Effect 3’s?
CH: I think people have been burned in a few different ways by games in the past. Sometimes a game will add a player-versus-player deathmatch thing that doesn’t make any sense in the game’s fiction. Other times a developer might take a good single-player experience and shoehorn a co-op feature into it which compromises the quality of the single-player story.
We absolutely refused to do multiplayer in a way that compromised quality, the continuity of the IP, or the single-player experience. That’s why we hadn’t done multiplayer until now, and it’s what we think will be really unique about our design for multiplayer for Mass Effect 3.
360: If the multiplayer is tied into the singleplayer, will that limit players returning to it after finishing the story?
CH: No, it’s not tied to single-player in that way. It takes place in the war timeframe of Mass Effect 3, but there is no story interaction except for one: the more you succeed in multiplayer, the more successful the overall war effort will be for you as a player in the Mass Effect universe. This means that if you then attempt the ending of the single-player experience, you’ll experience a greater level of success in the ending than you would if you had never played multiplayer.
But it is ultimately about choice. By doing other things, such as doing a very complete single-player play-through, you can achieve the greatest levels of success in the Mass Effect 3 storyline even without playing multiplayer. This is all part of Mass Effect 3’s Galaxy at War system, where you can fight the galactic war not just through singleplayer, but multiplayer as well, in addition to games on social networks, mobile, and iOS.