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BioWare Gathers  Mass Effect 2  Metrics For Player Behavior Cues
BioWare Gathers Mass Effect 2 Metrics For Player Behavior Cues
September 7, 2010 | By Kris Graft

September 7, 2010 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

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 don’t let metrics decide what you do."

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Tim Carter
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In-game stats are deceptive because they are cumbersome. They don't measure, for example, intangible elements in teamwork during a multiplayer game - stuff that, were it a football game, any person in the bleechers could see with their eyes.

Achilles de Flandres
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With the over-whelming selection of Soldier class, I think part of that statistic can be acredited to poor UI layout. I specifically remember accidently choosing Soldier (I wanted to use VanGuard), but because of the way the screen before it did something weird with it's progression, I accidently pressed "A" on Soldier. Anyways, I accidently selected soldier, but decided to just keep playing since I didn't want to start over. I know of at least 1 other person who did the exact same thing.

Also, for those who played for 66 hours straight, how many of those hours were on the pause screen? Were they actually playing?

Also, please... less scanning planets. That's the reason why I stopped playing half-way. I'm one of those 50% did not complete, and it's because of that boring, monotonous, poor designed grind.

Ben Lewis-Evans
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What I am interested to know is if that 15% of conversations during a first play through only? Or does it include repeat playthroughs? The only time I skipped conversations was during my (still uncompleted) 2nd play through - or, when I was reloading a save (which could also skew the data I guess). Still, only 15% skipping is not bad.

Jose Gonzalez-Bruno
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Yes I was thinking the same thing. I skipped some conversations for the same reasons you cited (second playthrough, acccidentally triggering an old conversation topic, etc). But even in these cases, what I was skipping was (typically) not the dialogue itself, but rather the voice acting.

If you play with the subtitles turned on, you'll notice that the lines appear at the bottom of the screen slightly before they are spoken, giving you just enough time to read them without having to listen to the entire thing. That's pretty much what I did on my second playthrough. I suspect I'm not the only one who did this--hopefully Bioware is taking it into account because otherwise their data will be pretty meaningless.

Fiore Iantosca
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Scanning planets completely ruined this game for me, among other items.

Damion Weller
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At. . . they aren't hooking play testers into biometric monitors and whatnot like Valve has been lately. And I have to say this kinda of data collection is great! It only raises the bar for game 3 as well as gives better insight for what we the gamers want to see in our games minus all the tedium of filling out surveys several hours if not days after any one particular moment or action had occurred in the game.

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Just make more Mass Effect :)

Andy Krouwel
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It all depends how you use the stats, of course.

'Oh look! Everyone spent at least five hours scanning planets for minerals! They must really, really like doing that!'

plus, of course, Bioware knows your Shepherd has been sleeping with Tali.

Does your fiancé?

Michael Kolb
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Hehe I had one playthrough where I skipped all the cutscenes and quick chose the neutral option. This was my 3rd or 4th playthrough and I wanted to see what would happen at the end if I was 50/50 Paragon/Renegade and I didn't delay going through to the last mission. Wow, that ending was vastly different and I even lost a squad mate I was in a relationship with at the time. Compared that to the first playthrough, which I took most of my time and had all loyal squad mates/nobody died, it was totally worth it.