BioWare is known for story, and there's this idea that you have to sacrifice a large amount of "open world" gameplay in order to tell a story and more directly convey the vision of the game designers and the writers. Do you find that to be true?
CH: Not necessarily. Like I said, every story is different. I think fundamentally the things that we wanted to achieve with Mass Effect 2... it could've been any kind of story, it could've been different story structures, it could've been open world or very narrow. I mean, an "open world" has different meanings -- it could be like a sandbox simulation where you run around an area and just do stuff. Or it can be like Mass Effect 2, where you have tremendous variability in how you explore and progress in the story on different fronts at different rates and with different choices.
It really comes down to the fact that with Mass Effect 2, we looked at the huge set of relatively disparate goals, and we were looking for a single element, elegant concept that would wrap all of those things together into something that you could really understand and get excited about, and tie all these things together into one thing, and create an elegant overall game design and game structure, and that was the suicide mission.
It was things like the idea that with a Mass Effect-type game -- a role playing game in general -- often you run around and you do side quests, and they have really nothing to do with the overall story arc. And therefore you don't really care about them as much, and it doesn't support the story as well.
So even though people might notice that there is a story structure to Mass Effect 2 -- that you kind of build up your team and things happen and you build up your team and then you go into the end game, and there is a noticeable story structure. But that story structure is actually the thing that made all this fun.
Side quests were things that you cared about, probably more than you could in an RPG that had a different story structure, because our side plots and little quests and loyalty [variances], and all of these things then fundamentally tied in to the end game, which then determines what you do with the story, ultimately, and how it turns out.
Talking about combat, it was a large improvement from the first one to the second one. What has BioWare done to further tune the feel for the third one?
CH: Well, we made improvements all the way across the board. You've got millions of people out there playing Mass Effect 2, as well as our own designers, and it's a combination of what we want to improve and what everybody else wants us to improve. That leads to a lot of stuff that we've changed.
Mass Effect 3 just plays so much better, and I think people who've been able to get their hands on it at shows, in person, feel it immediately. As soon as you pick up the controller, Shepard just fundamentally moves and fights so much better; with so much more agility and capability. You can jump, and fall, and climb. You can do combat rolls in any direction, which is very rare, even in the best third person shooters. You're doing combat rolls into cover, escaping cover very intuitively.
So Shepard just has so many new things that you can do that really brings everything full circle. It's something that we've done in just making the game better overall, but it's also the thing that really unleashes the fun of the multiplayer that we've been talking about.
Now you can have four friends playing together against a bunch of enemies having just crazy fun. That's because you're playing different characters, you have tremendous agility, all kinds of powers, different weapons, and it plays out at a speed that I think people have never experienced in Mass Effect before. But it's also so fluid and intuitive, it works fantastic in multiplayer, and it just makes the single player that much better.