Mass Effect 2 Interview (Xbox360)

Strategy Informer: Mass Effect 2 is unique to consoles in that it carries over the save game from Mass Effect. One of the problems I had, which I spoke with Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk at E3 about, is how many different story possibilities there are. Players could go through Mass Effect and with enough time, beat the game completely, playing through every possible storyline. But with all the decisions that now carry over to Mass Effect 2, it seems like the dialog and story tree just grows to an infinite amount. Has that been a problem in development?

Mac Walters: You can break it down to a conversation level. We have a lot of choices there are in a conversation, one of the things we try to do is limit the number of major choices you have until the end of the conversation. We look at the entire game in a similar way. So in Mass Effect, there are a lot of decisions you can make. A lot of people hearken back to what you can do with Wrex. Is Wrex alive or dead? Thatís something we do actually account for in Mass Effect 2. But some of the really big decisions, like if the counsel is lives or dies, and who you put in charge of everything when you leave, those are at the end of the game. Now we still have to account for those in Mass Effect 2, so it was a challenge, and itís something we think the fans will really appreciate when they see that what they did in Mass Effect 1 will actually carry over to Mass Effect 2.

Strategy Informer: Based on what we know about Mass Effect 1, there are four beginnings that players can have, with or without the counsel, and whoís leading the human race. What about smaller details, like the fan, Conrad Verner? How deep does that decision making go, so that players who want to go back to Mass Effect 1 can play through again to make their experience in Mass Effect 2 completely different and unique?

Mac Walters: Obviously there are a lot of plots, there are a lot of characters and outcomes. We couldnít put them all in Mass Effect 2, or weíd just be retelling the Mass Effect 1 story again, and we wanted to bring in new characters as well. So what we looked at was who were some of the more popular characters, who were they, and then make the assessment Ďwhat does it mean to bring them backí, what is it going to cost to bring them back, and thatís how we decided which characters were coming back, what storylines are coming back, and what to revisit. Then we just had to figure out the details. Conrad Verner is a great example. If he comes back, weíd have to take into account how you treated him. If we bring Wrex back, what happens if heís dead? How do we do that. So weíve got a plan for all of that.

Strategy Informer:† Before this interview, I went back and played through Mass Effect a few times to get myself reacquainted, and looked at all the decisions available. I realized that for many decisions, it was like real life, where you donít know what the outcome will be in the future, no matter how many times you play through it. For players who want to complete the game 100%, it was very difficult in Mass Effect 1, but possible. Is that close to impossible with Mass Effect 2 thanks to the data carried over?

Mac Walters: I think itís up to the player. I know a lot of people who said Ďthis time Iím doing it renegadeí, or Ďthis time Iím doing it paragoní, or Ďthis time Iím going to let the counsel live and put Anderson in charge.í I think the options are there, and you can say ĎI want to start my Mass Effect 2 experience with these choices behind meí, and you can play through it in many different ways and see what all the outcomes are. There will always be a limitation, technical, on things, but as for the experience players can have, thatís wide open.

Strategy Informer: Right, but itís fairly easy to tell the difference between big and small decisions, like saving the counsel versus treating Conrad Verner kindly. Is there a middleground we should look out for, so that when playing through Mass Effect 1 again, we can have a good idea of what decisions really matter for Mass Effect 2?

Mac Walters: Itís hard, I donít know that Iíd play the game being too paranoid to see what would happen. I would just play it the way you want to play it, and see what happens in Mass Effect 2. We couldnít carry over every decision, although we do track it. We had the ability to do it, we just couldnít reference them all, because then it would take forever. Weíd be building two games, one where we recap everything from Mass Effect 1 and one where we build our new story. What we said was if it makes sense in the Mass Effect 2 story, then bring them back, or do something with them, or reference them. So when youíre going through [Mass Effect 1], sure, because the decisions you make could impact not just Mass Effect 2, but future games as well.

Strategy Informer: The option to play as a male or female commander Shepherd had very little influence on Mass Effect 1ís story. When playing through again, I noticed only one time, with the C-Sec officer who had different dialog depending on your gender. Is there going to be more gender-specific dialog, or is it still very minimal like in Mass Effect 1?

Mac Walters: It depends. It always depends on the character. Thereís Fist, in Mass Effect 1, where if youíre a girl he treats you like scum. But thatís his character, and thatís where it fits. Itís only where itís appropriate. Not every character will treat you differently if youíre male or female Shepherd. In some cases they do. And of course, thereís always the romance options, so characters in your team will treat you differently depending on whether youíre male or female.

Strategy Informer: Besides the story, what will carry over to Mass Effect 2? We know character levels wonít, but what about weapons, armor, items, etc.?

Mac Walters: Thatís something we havenít released yet. Weíve planned it, but we havenít actually released what will carry over, and what wonít. Other than story, decisions, plot states, thatís all weíve committed to talking about now.

Strategy Informer: There are six different classes people can play as in Mass Effect 1. It had no influence on the story. Will it have any influence in Mass Effect 2?

Mac Walters: Currently there are no plans for that, for the actual class. We did have backgrounds and history, that would impact what certain people would know about you and how they would react to you, and even some plots that would open up if you had that background and plot selected.

Strategy Informer: Will that have an impact on the second game, or is that only for the first game?

Mac Walters: It is referenced in the second game. I canít really comment on how much, but itís there.

Strategy Informer: So because you canít change your background, when you go into the second game, itíll carry over with the savegame?

Mac Walters: Well, youíre Shepherd is your Shepherd. Because really, the background of your character are the first decisions that you made, the first consequences that came out of your character. Character creation is the first thing that has an impact, just like a conversation where I choose if theyíll live or die, thatís the kind of thing that will carry forward.

Interview conducted by James Pikover