BioWare’s Mass Effect 3 aims to surprise
Casey Hudson knows that endings are difficult. Especially endings for television and movie series. And video games. “Probably the hardest thing to do is to deliver something that is unexpected but welcome,” he told the Georgia Straight.
On the phone from his office at BioWare’s studio in Edmonton, Hudson was talking about Mass Effect 3, the action role-playing game published by Electronic Arts and set for release on March 6. It’s the final game in a trilogy that began in 2007.
“I think we did a good job in ending things that reflects your choices as a player,” said the executive producer of Mass Effect 3 and the project director for the franchise. “It says something interesting about Commander Shepard’s experience, and I’m hoping that players enjoy it. I think they will.”
Shepard is the protagonist of the three games, and whether the character is male or female depends on the player. The story told in the trilogy also relies on the player. From the beginning, the Mass Effect development team decided that decisions made by players would be tracked from one game to the next. In a 2009 interview prior to the release of Mass Effect 2, Hudson told the Straight about the difficulty of managing the cascade of plot points from one game to the next. But now he’s glad they did it.
“It’s still something that’s unprecedented in the industry,” Hudson said, adding that the feature makes the series unique. “There’s no other way to show that your choices have impact if they don’t also have impact that carries across from one game to the next.”
According to the executive producer, it would have been “disingenuous” to have players make choices that affect the first game, and then return them all to the exact same state for the next game. “To me, it’s part of coming through on the promise of interactive storytelling,” he said.
Hudson’s group started conceiving Mass Effect in early 2004 after they had completed work on a PC version of their game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. “We tried to conceive of the biggest, most exciting game universe and series that we possibly could,” he recalled. One of the objectives was to create an emotional narrative through the use of digital actors, something they thought would be possible with the PS3 and Xbox 360, which hadn’t been released yet. “We didn’t know how far we’d be able to push it, but we aimed high.”
While the three games are much the same, Hudson said they’ve tried hard to improve the playing experience. Mass Effect 3, for example, brings a multiplayer option to the series for the first time in the form of a co-operative mode that will impact a player’s single-person campaign. The game will also provide three different settings to appeal to players looking for more action or more story.
It may have been a challenge to come up with an ending to this first Mass Effect trilogy, but Hudson is satisfied.
“I’m really excited for people to be able to play it, because I think there’s things in there that people aren’t expecting,” he said. “I think they’ll be delighted with it.”