You're moving from a game that was successful into a direct sequel. At this point in the generation, a lot of people have moved into the second game in a franchise, but a lot of people still haven't. What areas did you guys see as places to improve and really work for?
AC: Every area needed improvement... We knew what we wanted to change right away. As soon as we shipped Mass 1, every group knew that we wished we had a little more time. So, those were easily identified.
But the other part of the equation was actually taking all the feedback -- I'm not saying some -- absolutely every feedback from press and the fans, and collating all that into a huge list.
Everything eventually fit within certain categories, and when we looked at that, mapped with the things that we wanted to fix, it became really clear. It became a blueprint. It made making the sequel really easy.
But making the sequel, it makes sense both financially, and effort-wise. It was really hard to make the first game. I cannot describe just the amount of effort, the tensions. But once you get that out the door, there's this firm foundation. And the team, they understand exactly what we're building.
And then it made it really simple to focus improvements on specific areas and say, "Hey, this is what our digital acting is all about. Pretty good, but how can we make it better?" So, if you take that through every aspect, whether it's design, writing, or art, everyone was able to make very focused changes. And at the same time, still make all the content for the game. And then overall you take all those changes, and then all of the sudden the game is very different.
We wanted to make sure that absolutely every issue that was brought up was addressed... so the press had nowhere to go, and all the critics had nowhere to go, because we had made an attempt to hopefully address all those issues in some capacity.
When you talk about categorizing the feedback, was that categorizing it into disciplines, or was it categorizing it into like, "These things have to do with the story"? How did you categorize it?
AC: A bit of both. I mean, like, it was a giant Excel sheet [laughs] we all tracked, and all the leads took responsibility in that. And then at the same time, there were different shades of it, right? So, combat would be one, but then we had to really break it down.
It was like, "What was it that irked people?" Or exploration. That's even a better one. Because Uncharted Worlds came up as "We wish it was better." But then we had to break it down like, "Well, what aspect of it needed improvement? But what aspects should we keep?" And we found out that people really like the idea of exploring planets, it's just sometimes the execution where the planet looked the same.
So, we said, "Okay, well, that's easy. Let's keep the exploration side and keep the idea that you can explore all these different planets. What people are really just saying is that they wish the planets looked different and that you didn't end up at the same base all the time." And that made it really clear to say, "Well, how can we go about implementing that?"
I think that over the course of this generation, the shooter genre has become important, and it's been blending very heavily with the RPG genre. You see that more and more. Obviously, games like BioShock, Fallout 3, and Borderlands all blend elements of RPGs and the shooter genre. I feel that Mass Effect came very much from the RPG angle, but with the sequel there is more emphasis on the shooter aspects. What attracts you guys to that?
AC: I think it's accessibility. It's being able to bring [it] into a market that might not have actually tried our games.
And when we made this game, we want to compete with the best of the best out there -- the best first-person and third-person shooters out there. I think the goal was, if we can make that aspect solid and open up the audience, then they'll be blown away by all these other things about a BioWare game, that they might not have played before.
That hybrid is always going to happen. You know, I was thinking about this because we get a lot of that, but I think back to -- switching genres almost -- to something like Onimusha, which is hack and slash, but it actually had really cool RPG elements into it. And to take it to another level, say, GTA. You have shades of role-playing in there as well.
And I think that's what's expected now. People want maybe a bit of something from each. The core gameplay still stays the same for whatever genre that you're in for, but you need that extra depth or complexity to keep players engaged, to say, "Hey, man, that's kind of cool. I do this, but it's not just enough."
So, I think the one thing, like the critique on, say, if you're looking at a pure shooter, it's obvious. The critiques are always the stories are way too flat, there's no character development, it's two-dimensional, there's no rhyme or reason as to why I'm going on this eight-hour journey to kill everything in sight.
So, what Mass Effect does is it still delivers all the visceral impact of that for people to get that really cool feedback, but... that is only one fraction of what the game offers. All the cutscenes, all the cinematics, all the character development, and most importantly the story -- I think those are the things that we want to be able to get to this larger audience.