BioWare revealed that it tracked anonymous player behavior for its hit role-playing game Mass Effect 2 across both Xbox 360 and PC versions, and the stats show some surprising conduct -- information that can be used towards design decisions in the final act of the planned trilogy.
The series' executive producer Casey Hudson told consumer site IGN that BioWare had examined Achievement stats from 2007's Mass Effect, but wanted to expand the amount of stats available for the sequel.
"Ultimately [stats] don't always give you the answers, but it sometimes raises questions or gets you to ask the right questions," he said.
"...More people played the soldier class [in Mass Effect 2] than all of the other classes combined. If you know that, then you can start thinking about future games. Is that good? Is that a problem? Should we look at the other classes and start thinking about ways to make them selected as often as soldier?"
He added: "As part of asking these questions, we can design games in the future a lot better."
BioWare's stat collection showed that the average completion time for the game was 33 hours, and about half of the people who played Mass Effect 2 finished the game. Two PC players completed the game 28 times, while four Xbox 360 players beat the game 23 times.
Additionally, players skipped 15 percent of conversations in the dialog-heavy RPG, and 50 percent of players imported their save games from Mass Effect to Mass Effect 2, a feature heavily touted by BioWare.
Some stats are more useful than others, Hudson admits. "Even if you know what some of these player behaviors are, is there anything you should do about it or is it just something interesting?"
Many companies in the social game sector have argued for the benefits of metrics-driven game design, as metrics can show unexpected player behavior. Particularly with social games, designers can account for that behavior by making changes nearly on the fly.
Jeferson Valadares, studio director with social game maker Playfish, recently said that intuition and metrics should co-exist in game design. And while advocating the use of metrics, he said, "Make your own decisions, and donít let metrics decide what you do."