Mass Effect, Final Fantasy, and the Streamlined Future

Despite being two very different games, the guys over at 1UP seem to think that Mass Effect 2 and Final Fantasy XIII share one glaring similarity - they both eschew typical RPG conventions in order to appeal to "modern audiences". They back up the claim with an overview of the GDC lectures given by Square Enix's Motomu Toriyama and BioWare's Christina Norman:
Despite these discrepancies, it's easy enough to get a fix on where both Norman and Toriyama were coming from with their respective works. FFXIII's more controversial changes seem to have been implemented to satisfy external factors -- that is, the team's perception of how to make the game more accessible to audiences -- while ME2's reinvention was more internally motivated -- which is to say, initiated by the team in response to their own dissatisfaction. That's not to say the ME2 team didn't take feedback into consideration; on the contrary, Norman showed off an extensive spreadsheet that dissected dozens of ME reviews, noting complaints and praise alike. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, these were simply guideposts for the sequel, and Norman's crew took a more holistic approach, using their research to realize the core objective of creating a follow-up that felt more internally consistent.

The key: To create a good shooter. The most important lesson took from ME feedback was the fact that the game looked and moved like a shooter, but didn't feel like a shooter. Norman's task was to evaluate all the factors behind this discrepancy and reinvent systems as needed. To this end, the ME2 team stripped out the game's RPG components entirely, working from a baseline game that was, simply, a third-person shooter. Once they were satisfied with the feel of the game, they began restoring role-playing components again -- but reworked to prevent compromising the shooter style. This ranged from obvious changes (the radically streamlined inventory system, which greatly reduced the amount of loot and gear available while automating the process of equipping non-player squad members) to more subtle tweaks (the addition of global cool-down time and multiple hot buttons for tech and biotic skills to reduce time spent in the "power wheel" selection menu).
It's a good time to be a casual gamer, I guess.