When did BioWare actually decide to add a multiplayer component, and was there much skepticism amongst the team about adding that into the game?
CH: We've been trying to figure out how to put multiplayer in Mass Effect since Mass Effect 1. And we want to make sure that the player has a main character in this universe that is part of an uncompromised single-player experience. And that's why we couldn't figure out how that made sense with the story of Mass Effect 1. The same thing applied in Mass Effect 2. You're basically by yourself even more than Mass Effect 1, and the multiplayer just didn't really make sense.
But now the story of Mass Effect 3 is so much more out in the open, and generally everyone knows what Shepard is up to, and everyone across the galaxy is fighting the same war that Shepard is.
So we can finally see that there was a story to it, and that we wouldn't do the thing that people are afraid that we would do, where you're running around and there are 16 Commander Shepards trying to shoot each other for some bizarre reason.
We worked hard on it. We have a team in Montreal that is focused on multiplayer and they're integrated with our team here in Edmonton that's focused on the single player. And we worked together a lot, we've been iterating a lot, and it's just been getting better and better and better to the point where we're deciding to stay [at work] until 2 o'clock in the morning playing multiplayer.
And now that we've got everything figured out in terms of knowing for sure that it's going to be fun, it integrates with the single player story really nicely and we know how everything's going to work technically, so we can talk about it publicly.
Working with Unreal Engine 3 for so many years, how has the engine changed your team? How has that evolved, working with an outside engine?
CH: Probably the biggest change within our team has been just learning more and more about the engine and how best to work with it and how to create art for it that runs the fastest, uses the least memory and all of that kind of stuff. Initially, it's kind of a process of trying to shoehorn our previous approach to art and our previous approach to programming into the Unreal Engine.
But over time, we found not only ways to work with the engine better, but optimizations to the engine itself that allow it to do the things that we're doing differently from other games, in ways that look better and run faster than we would have otherwise. We just found a lot of really great optimizations, both in the code and in the way that we work with it, so that you can expect Mass Effect 3 to be not only the smoothest-running game of the series, but also the best looking.
As an executive producer, can you describe what was the biggest challenge or even headache that you ran into? What was the biggest hurdle for you, managing this as executive producer?
CH: There are a few. It's interesting because I feel like we're kind of now just passing some of the really big challenges and question marks. This is the first game in the series that we're doing multiplayer, and multiplayer is therefore a new challenge for us. And it's also the first game that we're doing that's going to same [date] ship for the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 and the PC. So that's another big one. We shipped the previous game, Mass Effect 2, on the PS3, so that's a challenge that we've already kind of figured out. But this one we're going to be same-shipping.
I would say that the biggest challenge has been just making sure that the multiplayer side of the experience is going to really be satisfying for players. I think the thing that we've heard is that when people get their hands on it, you get converted pretty quickly.
I also think we're taking some interesting creative challenges with the story that a lot of people might not expect us to. But being the final chapter in Commander Shepard's story, I think we're doing some pretty special things with where we're going with music and the story, and what you're going to see and feel and experience as Commander Shepard in Mass Effect 3.