Mass Effect 2 Interview

Game producer Adrien Cho on BioWare boozing, pushing Unreal Engine 3 to its limits, comparisons with Star Wars: The Old Republic and a “holistic” approach to development.

By Adam Doree, December 5, 2009

VGD: There’s a lot of speculation about the fate of Shepherd, about whether he’ll come out intact the other end…

Cho: I’m not going to ruin it for you, but Shepherd can die in this game. And I’m going to leave it at that. [laughs] There’s definitely some dire consequences for the player if they don’t do certain objectives. Sometimes I think we’re pampering gamers too much. Just recently, a game like Demon Souls is fantastic because when you die, and you fail, it’s not because the game was cheap it’s usually because you didn’t do something properly.

It goes back to that learning mechanism of “Well, I tried this – it didn’t work. I’m going to try something different.” And I think that’s going to be something in Mass Effect 2, we don’t want it to be a cakewalk, you want a challenge. I think gamers want a more sophisticated game, they don’t want a breezy game where you see all the cinematics and just put in your hours and play it through. So definitely there’s some serious consequences. Delicious consequences! You’ll have to play to find out.

Tech modules on both arms? Smart work.

Tech modules on both arms? Smart work.

VGD: The interview surely can’t get any better than “deliciously”.

Cho: Devilish?

VGD: That’ll do. You’ve expanded the universe a lot for number two. Can you tell me about that as an artistic process? The Old Republic guys are obviously going off the Star Wars universe, there’s a lot of material for them to pull from, but you guys have had to create it all yourselves…

Cho: The art direction is absolutely fabulous in this game. While its challenging to come up with new worlds to explore, it’s definitely a lot of fun too, and I think that out-balances the challenging aspects. And at the same time we’re also marrying that with understanding the technology better, now that we’re really familiar with Unreal technology, we’re able to say “hey, you know what, we can start to push those boundaries and give you those worlds we weren’t sure how to make in Mass 1”.

So making a sequel’s always fun because you look at what the end product was, and then you look at very focussed changes and in terms of art, we definitely realised that there were certain things we really wanted to do in Mass 1, and now we’ve got that experience we’re able to deliver it. We’ve only shown a small, small sliver of some of the incredible environments players get to visit. The art and environments sometimes take a second place to all the story-telling – we talked about digital acting, all the gameplay, shooter aspects – but it’s just as important a component, and sometimes I wish people would stop shooting, take a look at the amazing environments they can interact with. No other game can offer such a variety of believable, immersive environments. And we give you a ton of those!

Biotic skills are as lethal as ever.

Biotic skills are as lethal as ever.

VGD: I think what puts some people – I don’t want to say “gamers” – off investing time in something like this is the duration of the story. Do you think there’s a market for taking all the writing and cut scenes here and producing it as a digital movie?

Cho: Like a Kojima production? Where if you cut out all the gameplay what we’re really watching is a two hour movie? [laughs]

VGD: Or a thirty hour movie! It strikes me that some of the cinematics in games like this and Metal Gear Solid – maybe you’re a sci-fi fan who can’t be bothered to play the game because it’s not your genre, or whatever, but you’d still like to see that material. Do you think it would be worth catering to those consumers?

Cho: I think it’s an interesting idea, but it would be missing out on part of the experience. If Mass Effect was purely a movie, I’m sure it would be a very exciting two hour movie, but what’s awesome about playing a videogame is that you drive that, and while you have these terrific, often mind-blowing cinematic moments throughout the game, there are also moments that a movie doesn’t give you. Movies are very passive and this medium is a lot more participatory, and I wouldn’t want to be spoon-fed the story, I’d want to be the one who’s making those decisions, and if you remove that I think you lose a very important aspect of the game.

VGD: But what about from a recap perspective? Say somebody gets Mass Effect 2, and they don’t want to play Mass Effect 1 because they don’t have the time. Shenmue 2 did that – they stitched together all the cinematic stuff from number one so that people just coming in knew where they were at.

Cho: Well we knew a lot of fans would want to carry over their own save games and characters from Mass Effect 1, but we also knew that we wanted a large new audience, who might not be familiar with Mass Effect 1. So accessibility and understanding the universe was a huge consideration from the design and development of Mass 2, maybe not so much where we cut together all the clips, but it’s certainly a consideration we had that we wanted people to be jumped in right away, be familiar with the universe without having played 60-80 hours of Mass Effect 1.

VGD: Adrien, thanks for your time.

Mass Effect 2 is out for PC and Xbox 360 next year on 26th January in North America and 29th January in Europe.

Posted in Interviews, Previews, Spotlight, and tagged with , , .

3 Responses to “Mass Effect 2 Interview”

  1. Van says:

    Niceeeeee.. i always love reading your interviews.
    This site is kickass. there was a time when this site went all quiet and i had to go back to ign which seems like it is now run by a bunch of egotistic unfunny teenagers these days. Its good to have kikizo back to get my daily hit of video game news. not sure if you guys have a new staff and that. but i still enjoy reading your reviews, previews and interviews. still seems just like the old kikizo.

    • Hey there dude, thanks for the thumbs up! Kikizo’s basically been rebuilt from scratch over the past six months, which is why we haven’t had many updates. And yes, we do have new staff – you’re talking to one of ‘em! (Though come to think of it I’ve been around over a year now, probably lost my greenhorn status.)

      Everything’s still a little wobbly, as we’re trying out what sort of content works best on the new sites, but yes you can expect a more robust output from now onwards :) Coming up next on the interview front, a chat with the makers of Singularity…

      • DR Jam says:

        I’m glad to see you guys kicking again. I also took a long break from this site, due to the slow phase.

        Please, track down Itagaki San for me, and bring those epic interviews with industry luminaries.

        Nice interview, and I like the idea that Mass Effect (the series) should include a few shorts to tell the story of certain locales, races, and characters. Something like a flashback with high production values. But it’s important that they should NOT be longer than 5 mins, seriously. I love MGS but, I wouldn’t like to see other games taking the same route with 30+mins-long cut scenes.


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