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You can't beat good motion-capture performance, either. "One of the things that we wanted to do was we spent a lot more time on the performances and developing a lot of the characters," Ley tells us. "We built a lot of our sets on the motion capture stage, things like the med bay, Shepard's bedroom and Joker's cockpit."
Ley and his team found that a light touch worked wonders, letting actors experiment with their roles to unearth subtleties unforced. "We took some days with the actors and rehearsed it and acted it out and gave the actors more times to develop the nuances we were going for.
"Although we write a lot of stuff, what can also help in these is not saying anything and letting it happen. That was really successful, the animators were able to take those experiences and do amazing things with them."
The labyrinthine complexity of BioWare's branching dialogue needs no introduction; there's a similarly daunting range of possible animations available to express Shepard's past decisions. "In one instance, with Shepard and Ashley in the med bay where she's been injured, if Shepard has a relationship with her, he cradles her and is more worried as the conversation goes on. Whereas if Shepard doesn't have a romantic relationship with Ashley, then he'll carry her in a little more military style."
And then there's a Q&A they conducted with executive producer Michael Gamble about an assortment of topics:
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.
How does Mass Effect 3's plot account for Mass Effect DLC storylines without walling out the people who didn't buy them?
So when we started development for Mass Effect 3, we wanted to make it accessible for people who've never played Mass Effect before. You want to be able to jump into Mass Effect 3 and realise "this is my quest, this is what we have to do". Because of that we didn't want to punish players if they didn't play previous Mass Effect games, and we didn't want to leave them out.
So, there's multiple branches to this. If you play and you've never played before, the dialogue choices that are shown reflect that. If you don't import a save, it'll be more descriptive, giving you more back-story, it will assume you know less. Whereas if you did import a save, the dialogue choices will be more to the point of what you've previously played. So that allows us to satisfy the existing audiences and help new players who don't know who the characters are.