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TVG sits down with BioWare Edmonton's Studio Manager, Aaryn Flynn to discuss Mass Effect 3's multiplayer...
After sitting down to sample Mass Effect 3's multiplayer for the first time, it was hard to get a solid grasp on how it all fits together with the single-player. On the one hand it plays like an uncustomised take on the Gears of War Horde-style mode; on the other, we didn't get enough hands-on experience with the build to see how it will effect the so-called 'Galactic Readiness' factor that'll be so critical in the final battle with the Reavers. To find out more, we spoke with the Studio General Manager at BioWare Edmonton, Aaryn Flynn to talk about everything from multiplayer to the future of the Mass Effect series after this next instalment.
The six playable races – humans, Asari, Drell, Krogans, Turians, and Salarian - what do they each bring to the multiplayer table?
They each get a unique ability. Then you take that and combine that with your class-based stuff. There's a nice combination of options for players; they're very customisable – you can change skin tones, armour and stuff like that – so you get lots and lots of customisation, which was one of our goals for multiplayer.
Could you give us maybe a couple of specific examples for each race's unique powers?
We're still iterating on those; we're still finalising them so I can't comment on them exactly quite yet. We'll have more to say about that later.
One of the key features that was described when the multiplayer got announced was 'Galactic Readiness'. Are you able to go on the record about exactly how your performance in the multiplayer effects the 'Galactic Readiness' in the single-player?
'Galactic Readiness' is just this idea; it's the number or the metric that's unifying a lot of the games under the 'Galaxy at War' system. The idea is that as you're playing lots of single-player and multiplayer, all of those things are affecting the 'Galaxy at War' of the galaxy. It's the 'Galactic Readiness' that then helps you unlock or achieve certain things inside the components of the games themselves.
It sounds like you're tying a lot of this into the final battle with the Reapers...
That's right, yeah.
And how much armoury and support you can bring with you in the final showdown.
All sorts of things are affected by it. Yeah, so one of the ideas behind the 'Galactic Readiness' as well is that the scores you can achieve in it are achievable singularly, so you don't have to play multiplayer and you can only play single-player if you want to. It just provides you with more options for play; it gives you more things you can do.
Obviously in the press releases, BioWare has said that it's always wanted to add multiplayer to Mass Effect, but is there pressure these days with what would have traditionally been a single-player series to have multiplayer as well?
We don't get any pressure inside EA – EA has been really good to us and very supportive to a lot of the things we've wanted to do. For us it really came down to multiplayer being a new one to try and experiment with, and we had the right story inside Mass Effect 3 of an entire galaxy at war to fit it all together. That was really important to us, that we did the multiplayer justice with a really good setting; a really good environment to do it in, but at the same time we also had the time to do the single-player right, so we had that aspect as well.
Will you be releasing DLC for the multiplayer?
Yeah, I think we're going to announce that as we get a little closer to the launch and stuff, but we're assessing that right now – what our options are as we get closer to launch.
The maps I've played through almost feel like skirmish maps really – how much can the multiplayer bring to the third game in terms of plot?
There are lots of little different adventures you can do inside the multiplayer. They're all focussed on Horde-style gameplay, so in terms of how it effects the plot: just little story elements that are scattered throughout it and stuff, and you'll get a sense of what else is going inside this galaxy of war beyond just what you're learning in the single-player campaign.
And you mentioned Horde – just playing the map demoed here today, it does feel a lot like that Gears of War style with an enclosed map and enemy waves. Is that the case throughout all the modes and maps in the multiplayer?
Yeah, every map is really meant to accentuate something a little bit different; something a little bit unique, to find different enemies that are randomised through it and stuff. So we're trying to change it up a little bit and give people the chance to try different things. People have their favourites...
I was thinking the other day about why this wave-based co-op has become so popular these days. Is it because the technology has opened up to make it easier to do, or is it more of a fad?
Yeah, I think there are technology reasons for it. In fact you can do one map really, really well – let's iterate on it – things like that. There are networking latency things – people are never so far apart so you're not having to hold it all together. Yeah, I think that's fair to say.
So you guys are out in March?
Yep, March 6th in North America and March 9th in the EU.
And there's definitely not going to be any more Mass Effect after this one? This is the last one for sure?
I don't know about that...
PR handler: ...it's the end of Shepard's story.
So the trilogy was originally conceived to end with Mass Effect 3...
But whether we make any more Mass Effect games in the future, that's still to be determined.
Cliff Bleszinski has talked about doing a 'The Hobbit' Gears of War now that the trilogy is finished – would you be tempted to do a Mass Effect 'The Hobbit'?
I don't know. I think just get this one done and then let everybody take a breather. Let's open our minds to new ideas and if there's a good idea there then we'll support it.
We've rated your previous games highly – Mass Effect has emerged as one of the seminal RPG series of this generation. Obviously the mix of RPG gameplay and shooter combat is one of the big reasons for this success. Is there still space for traditional RPGs as we move into the next generation?
Um, yeah... I mean it depends what you mean by traditional RPG. Those are both relatively loaded terms – people might have their own definition of both those terms. Based on what I think are traditional RPGs, I think there's room for it. I think what's interesting to me is to see how many 'traditional RPG elements' are being used in other games right now. I find that very interesting, so for me one of the things I look forward to is what interesting things are other games doing that we can pull into our genre.
As regards that, what other areas compel you? You've done the combat thing – where next?
I think multiplayer has been done more in other genres lately, and I think doing a good with it in Mass Effect 3 – I hope people enjoy it. Yeah, that's what I think right now.
TVG would like to thank Aaryn Flynn, the Studio General Manager at BioWare Edmonton for taking the time to speak with us. Mass Effect 3 is due out on March 9th in Europe and March 6th in North America for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC...