We feel reasonably comfortable in stating that Mass Effect is this generation's definitive character-driven series - a miracle of narrative sophistication that also happens, against all odds, to be a miracle of choice and flexibility. With Mass Effect 3 just over a month from curtains-up, is it too early to think about what comes next? Executive producer Michael Gamble is happy to talk possibilities. Check out our chat from last week's EA Showcase below, and head over to the Mass Effect 3 hub for further BioWare insights.
You're on the final straight. Is the game finished?
We're in the final hours of it. Literally this week, we're heading off to certification. The team's pushing hard and I'm extremely proud of them. It's kind of bittersweet because it's so close to being done, but we're trying to squeeze as much as we can in.
Do you tend to make many last minute changes at BioWare?
It's all about getting the best quality we can get, so if something has to change, we'll change it. We'll pull out all stops to do it, so it won't prevent us shipping the game. Even in the last week we've made some changes, we've made some tweaks, we're constantly refining things. It's not done till it's literally out of our hands. At the same time you have to be considerate of wanting to hit the ship dates, so it's a bit of a balance.
Why did you delay the demo?
We just wanted to polish it, make it the best possible demo we could have done. We wanted to make it as robust as we could, and add as much stuff in there that was final final content. And that's basically what you'll see on the 14th - stuff that's just days away from final.
There's been a certain amount of fan fracas about the high action content of your trailers. What have you learned about promoting RPGs during your time with Mass Effect?
When you're promoting an RPG, you have to understand what your core strengths are. I think with Mass Effect 3 it's our ability to invoke really tight emotional responses from players. So what you do with demos and trailers is you capitalise as much as you can on that. So for the trailers, obviously we wanted to paint the picture of an impending galactic war.
The demos on the other hand, we focus in on all the relationship development, stuff like that. Even with venues like this, where we give the press an hour to an hour-to-a-half to play, that's really key. Because then they can start seeing how these things tie together. But with a 30 second trailer spot? You can't show a dialogue wheel.
The Mass Effect series straddles a shift in how RPGs are made - there aren't as many raw numbers floating around, and the choices you make are more intuitive. Can you talk a little about that?
It's definitely a learning process. In between Mass Effect 2 and 3 we took a lot of the fan feedback, a lot of the things that we've seen, and we've rolled some of those changes back in Mass Effect 3. Your story is customised around your Shepard and who you are - we stay faithful to that concept, but we did want to bring back some of the really stats-driven customisation options for those kind of players who like that stuff.
We give you the option to take the more standard approach to things, but if you really want to deep-dive into things - armour kits, weapon mods, customisations around that - it not only alters the gameplay, but also how your character looks, feels and so on. We're trying to hit both for Mass Effect 3.