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Interviews

Mass Effect 3: BioWare on surprises, inspiration and tough decisions

Part 1: Casey Hudson talks story, Derek Watts talks art...

Mass Effect 3 wraps up a story that began back in 2007 and will either end with the Reaper threat crushed, or all life in the universe extinguished.

Last month Xbox World 360 ventured into the snowy Canadian wilderness, fighting bears, moose, and Mounties, for a look inside BioWare's studios.

Here for the first time are the unabridged interviews with the men and women in charge of production, sound, art, design, and combat. Show them some respect. It's bloody cold in Edmonton.

In part one we talk to Casey Hudson, executive producer of the Mass Effect franchise and Derek Watts, art director on Mass Effect 3....

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Where does Mass Effect 3 kick off?

Casey Hudson: It's a few months after the ending of Mass Effect 2. The DLC 'Arrival' is basically the last piece of story that bridges the two games. Admiral Hackett sends you to investigate this mass relay where the Reapers are going to make their entry point into the galaxy because their original plan - the Citadel - is closed off.

You have to sacrifice thousands of people in order to slam that door shut on the Reapers. So Shepard's kind of stuck trying to explain all this stuff. But as you're doing that the Reapers actually arrive and take the Earth.

It's not an alien invasion story where you're fighting off the invasion; they are unstoppable, you narrowly escape, and your goal is to figure out how to rally the forces of the whole galaxy. That's what it's going to take in order to return and take back the Earth.

It's kind of like ME2 where you're building a team of twelve people, but here you're building an entire army from across the galaxy.

So how do you stop something unstoppably massive?

That's something we reveal over time. You see humans being harvested and processed to become fuel for the way Reapers reproduce. This is their reproductive cycle and we're just a part of it. We're nothing to them.

Will many of your friends help fight them?

Every main character is in there somewhere, kind of doing the thing that is right for that character. Zaeed for example is a very simple character and what he's up to is different to, say, Liara, who is very pivotal.

Do you think players would rather have their old squad

All feedback is valid. People wanted us to recreate the experience that we had with ME1 in ME2, and to them it meant that all those characters had to come back and do all the same kinds of things, but if we did that when you get together with someone a second time, that's very different.

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So much of the experience from ME1 was discovery. So we'll do that again with ME3, but we're focusing on a smaller squad with deeper relationships and more interesting interplay.

What feedback really has changed Mass Effect 3?

People really want us to deepen the RPG aspect of the experience. We interpret that as being about the kind of intelligent decision making around how you progress. To us, the RPG experience isn't necessarily about stats and loot. It's about exploration and combat and making a good character-driven story and good progression.

We had progression in Mass Effect 2 in armour and weapon choices but that activity chain was too simple. That whole activity chain I think was a button we weren't really pushing in ME2 and specifically were trying to hit for ME3.

Will Shepard get to punch a reporter again?

Yes.

Will there be a treat for players who have imported a save across all three games?

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