There are more angles for different people to like the same game. I think that's what having different genre elements makes possible. Some people may really concentrate on character growth. Some people may concentrate on the narrative. Some people may concentrate on the squad shooting, right?
AC: It's finding that right balance. Let's use something completely in a different genre that may be analogous is you can have the most beautiful game, but if the gameplay sucks, it doesn't matter. But visuals are what create all the hype on the boards and the magazines. So, before playing, people get so excited. They're like, "Well, this game is the best looking driving simulator ever!" But if there's no substance to the gameplay...
So, you can't ever put all your eggs in one basket. It is important to balance things out and offer... Here's some scrambled eggs. Here's some omelets. Here's the hard-boiled eggs.
I feel like games that sort of concentrate on one thing and do it really well are becoming almost less what triple-A gaming about in a certain way.
Honestly, obviously, I think that Gears of War is a pretty simple, direct experience that is really, really good. I don't think it's a problem with delivering a specific experience, but I do feel like we've gotten to this point...
AC: It's hit-and-miss, though, right? If you bet and all of the sudden, as the trend shifts, though, you don't want to be on the last one, where all of the sudden the zeitgeist has shifted.
Here's the interesting thing. Mass Effect is really an evolution of KOTOR. [Laughs] The core team's actually the same team. And you can see, if you look at KOTOR to Mass Effect 1 to Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 2 really represents the embodiment of all those things that maybe we wanted to try in KOTOR but were limited by hardware, by gameplay design decisions...
And so, KOTOR was still kind of turn-based, but you still got a bit of action in there. Mass Effect, we took what we learned from KOTOR and said, "Okay, so we're limited by that at this point, whether by IP, or by technology. Let's bring in a little bit more action into it." I say we tried pretty good, it turned out.
But then when we got to Mass Effect 2 and we realized, "Alright, if that was our first foray into real-time, let's make it way better." Buy you still don't lose the core aspects, which are story, character development, which I think at the end of the day is really at the core of a BioWare game. We always say "shooter shooter shooter!" for Mass Effect 2, but I think our fans always know that when you buy a BioWare game, you always get a fantastic tale.
Well, that's your mission statement.
AC: It is, yeah.
I think we've all become aware of that. Speaking of the story elements, was there more time to concentrate on the preproduction for Mass Effect 1 or Mass Effect 2? Originally, Mass Effect, I'm sure, the original one, had a certain period where there was a prototyping and preproduction phase going on. But with this one, you had the window between the two.
AC: In all aspects, not actually story specifically, we went through the tough part in the first one. Because the first one, everyone... You're developing this IP, but it was up to the core leads to rein people in. "That's a little bit too far off."
Once you make the first one, it becomes a data point, so to speak, and you kind of see, "Oh, okay. Well, how much are we willing to deviate that?" And there has to be a reason why you want to deviate, because it actually improves the game or IP in some way. But now we have a reference point for everyone to know, which makes it a whole lot easier because we had some crazy story ideas. We had some crazy ideas on what the characters, aliens, art, and technology were going to be.
Once Mass Effect came out, it became, "Here's the canon. And from 2, you're still allowed to explore and branch out, but you're really staying within that range." And it made things a whole lot easier, too, whether it was from writing, art, or design.
It's not as though RPGs are newly popular, but I feel like they are growing in significance as people find that there are elements of them that appeal widely, but it's just getting them to an audience that understands that they'll enjoy that kind of game.
AC: It ties back to accessibility. We're really highlighting the shooter aspect of it. We haven't actually taken away any of the RPG systems, but we want to package it so that everything is a little bit more intuitive, more streamlined, and overall the experience is like, "Ah, I played through this incredible story." A typical BioWare story. But how we played through it felt much smoother.