With the release of Mass Effect 2 in the United Kingdom today, NowGamer called up BioWare chief Ray Muzyka to talk about the critical reception of the game, upcoming releases in the Mass Effect universe, and universe building for elaborate science-fiction games.
What have you made of all the positive feedback for Mass Effect 2?
We’re delighted. It’s tremendously rewarding for the team to see such great accolades and review scores and the fan feedback is outstanding… so many perfect scores. It’s just recognition of their hard work and effort to try and make the game that much better than it’s predecessor, so they really achieved their goals.
A lot of the praise has been reserved for the story as well as the gameplay…
It’s as much a shooter as it is a role-playing game. For us that means really intense action shooter combat combined with rich exploration, customisation, progression and narrative. The narrative in our games – BioWare Edmonton’s games particularly – is more focussed around the characters and the personalities, almost acting as a lens through which you see the world, and a mirror of your actions. And the characters in Mass Effect 2 are really rich, incredible and deep.
BioWare is known for it’s branching narratives – what are the pros and cons of delivering a science fiction epic via the medium of games?
It’s really challenging because linear narrative and non-linear narrative are similar but are also quite distinct; we hire writers who have often had a grounding in linear narrative, such as books, movies, television. They move over and some of them are successful moving to non-linear narrative where there’s choice, and consequences and branching paths and storylines and permutations. Others aren’t so successful because it’s actually really challenging to write a story that has to have many different branch points, and has to then branch back to a common pinch point to relaunch, and has to have a story-arc that’s driving the core of the story at the same time as you have all these other branched stories that come off the beaten path, and go out to uncharted worlds or loyalty missions in the case of Mass Effect 2.
And then it kind of all has to intersect back and lead to a common end point, and simultaneously have a different impact on those end points, so that you can talk to your friends and say “How did the game end for you?” and you’re like “Well this happened for me…” and they say “No way! That’s totally different to what I had happen,” because you both did different things; we both did different optional content on the way there, or made different choices on the way there, for good, evil, renegade or paragon, or other shades of grey… And that’s challenging – to make stories that hold together with all those variables.