Executive Producer Casey Hudson took a breather from the epic launch of Electronic Arts’ Mass Effect 3 game to offer some advice to gamers. For the first time in Mass Effect franchise history, multiplayer has been added. This opens up a new world of challenges beyond the single-player campaign, which itself offers quite a robust offering. Hudson talks about how the latest technology has enabled his team of 150 developers at BioWare to push the franchise forward in this exclusive interview with Prima.

What were the challenges of trying to close this story, while also pushing things forward from a technology standpoint?

We have that challenge with every game. I think we thought that it would get easier with each sequel in this series because we were still working with existing engines. But it turns out that it doesn’t actually get easier because everything that you want to do with a videogame, even if it is a sequel in a series, requires you to do new things.  And that takes a lot of technology to change.  So with every game in this series, we really added to the foundation everything from what you can do in gameplay to the depth of the RPG systems. Even the optimization of the engine itself allowed the game to continue to look better each time, but also continue to render fast and even at a faster frame rate as we go forward. That’s the great thing about Mass Effect 3 in terms of where it fits in the series.  It’s really taken us the entire series of games building up this point where we have the technology to do all of these things that we wanted.

What do you feel Kinect voice control adds to the immersion of this game experience?

What’s really neat about Kinect is the fact that it’s optional, which means that as a player you can use the parts that you find convenient and a lot of people will play combat and there are certain commands that they find really useful.  They may not use all of them, but even the ones that they choose to use like getting other squad members to attack their target or to switch weapons and things like that, that’s really useful to be able to do. Because Kinect implementation is very reliable and it actually triggers quite quickly, it does end up being faster than if you were to even very quickly go into the radio menu and tell a squad member to switch their weapons.  I think the other part that is more than convenient and is very interesting as a game experience is having a conversation with digital characters using your voice. 

How did advances in your game engine open up multiplayer for the Mass Effect universe?

It almost went the opposite way where we knew we wanted to do multiplayer in Mass Effect.  We finally had a really good reason why it worked with premise of the story and who you’d be playing and why you’re playing those characters and what you’re fighting for.  We knew we wanted to do multiplayer and we knew it had to be great. In order for it to be great, the game engine and the game systems, the combat, the movement, the weapons, all had to be that much better to be a really great multiplayer experience.  It was the drive towards those things that actually created a line of technology improvements and game design improvements that have been carried over into the rest of the game.  When we first announced multiplayer, a lot of fans were concerned that somehow the work that would go into multiplayer would take away from the single-player, but it actually worked the opposite because we got an extra budget and an extra team to do multiplayer and that left the single-player side and scope and quality alone and intact. The great thing is that the work that was done on the multiplayer side helped to make all those things that much better on the single-player side as well.

Sticking with multiplayer, can you give us one of your favorite maps and offer a few strategies for someone who’s going to play it?

I really like the Reactor map just because it’s chaotic.  It moves to the reactor from a lot of different angles and I find that there’s a lot of really interesting team situations about that, where you have so many enemies and so many friends that crossover in this nexus inside the reactor. It’s a map that I’m better at and I also find that there’s more yelling and laughing and fun in the times we’ve played the Reactor level.

What’s your favorite weapon for multiplayer and why?

I try to get the heaviest shotgun that I can and I like to use the Vanguard character because what I find really neat is really optimizing around letting the Vanguards charge power be almost like a weapon.  If you are able to develop your character to a certain point where you can fire your power quite frequently, and you carry only one weapon and you’ve got the shotgun, that’s where you’re basically blasting around using yourself as a weapon to get in and out of trouble.  This is very risky, very exciting kind of gameplay.

When it comes to the single-player game, what advice would you give to a returning player who’s going to engage in this experience?

I would say that the key thing is that it does all come down to the idea of the whole galaxy being at war and so that’s why we have that roster of war assets that show you essentially how much you’re winning the war and how well you’re doing in terms of accumulating things that you can use to fight that war.  So you really want to build up your war assets and you really want to build up your readiness levels so that you get the highest degree of success in your end game.

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