You don't see interviews focused on specific plot points or missions too often in the gaming press, so it's certainly interesting to read this spoiler-laden piece from Badass Digest with senior designer Dave Feltham, senior writer John Dombrow and senior artist Boyd McKenzie on the trilogy's genophage subplot and its climax and conclusion in Mass Effect 3. Here's a snippet (which contains spoilers):
So how did this level come about in the first place?
John- Way at the beginning of the development of Mass Effect 3 they decided that the genophage, along with the Geth/Quarian issue, would warrant their own campaign. The genophage would be a two part thing and it was a matter of trying to figure out what that story was. So we started with the very basic concept of (How are we going to cure the genophage, how are we going to pay that off?) And we just built from there. I started thinking about the best way to tell this story that was full of all these complications and finally decided to center it around a female Krogan, which was a character we've never seen before. So that became the background of the first mission which is where you rescue her from the Salarian homeworld. Then the big payoff is on the mission on Kochanka, where you actually get her help to cure the genophage. So once we had that notion that it was going to end there we had to work out some mechanics of how we were going to actually distribute this cure. That started to flesh out this epic journey, as we called it- we didn't want curing the genophage to seem simplistic, like land, hit a button and you did it. It had to feel epic both in size, scope, combat, gameplay and story.
I remember going to Boyd and saying that if the art can support this notion that maybe the Krogan once were something grand, they weren't always these nuclear rubble dwellers, and I think Boyd knocked it out of the park to show that there used to be this grander culture. I wanted all these themes that the players would be dealing with in making this decision.
Dave- So pretty much we had the rough idea from the lead writer Mac Walters saying we want something about curing the genophage. That was about it. Then John sits down and figures out the outline and starts pulling in level design as terms of what kind of experience do we want. It absolutely has to feel epic and different than we've done in any previous missions or anything else we've done, it has to stand out because it's the end of a storyline. And then we pull in Boyd and it starts blossoming out from there, pulling in other departments.
John- We felt like we had a core of a good story here but had it not been for Boyd really understanding how to make that artwork feel epic and for Dave and all the technical complexities involved- giving us that awesome Reaper fight- everything involved- none of that would have happened. It's both art and science and working together.
One interesting thing was that we knew we wanted to cure the genophage, roughly had that worked out, and it was just a question of what was going to be the big moment at the very end. That thing that emotionally hits you. So separately to the development of this mission another senior writer named Patrick Weekes was responsible for writing Mordin- he created him for Mass Effect 2. He knew he wanted payoff for Mordin, and I remember going through this giant list of ideas. He scribbled out '˜some sort of noble end for Mordin'- that's about all he knew. And as I'm processing how we're going to cure the genophage I come across that and I'm like alright, there we go, a noble end for Mordin. Cause we've already got this tower and the cure and an elevator and suddenly I realize that Mordin's going up that elevator, now we know! So I ran with it to Patrick who loved it and got excited. Patrick helped out an awful lot with that final sequence.
Dave- So John came to me saying we're going to make Mordin die. And I'm the biggest Mordin fan. So I knew that that works, because I would be devastated.
John- Mordin curing the genophage was his noble end but we still wanted that choice in there somewhere, which we didn't have. Later on we hit upon the fact that if the player doesn't want to cure the genophage, there is this option if you're Renegade to shoot and kill Mordin- if you've seen that on Youtube.