Ray Muzyka & Greg Zeschuk on Mass Effect
Just six weeks after their plan to sell BioWare to EA for around 860 Million Dollars was announced, Doctors Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk have another reason to be happy: Their epic space opera Mass Effect was finally released and greeted by enthusiastic reviews. We asked them a couple of questions.
They are strong believers in a good storyline and believable characters, and by their earlier successes like Baldur's Gate or Knights of the Old Republic they habe acquiered the means to add state-of-the-art graphics and sounds. This little E-Mail Q&A is about the latest game of the BioWare founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, the Science Fiction Action RPG Mass Effect. (Please note: our interviews are normally done by phone or in person, this is an exception.)
GG: Mass Effect has just been released a week ago. While this is certainly the BioWare product which took the most resources to build: Would you say that it was also the most difficult to design?
Ray Muzyka: Mass Effect is without a doubt the most ambitious project we’ve thus far pursued at BioWare. This is our first next-generation game, and we were able to do many things that simply weren’t possible on previous generation consoles. One of the biggest design challenges we faced with Mass Effect was how to create truly emotional moments within an epic story and huge galaxy to explore, and part of this involved creating the most realistic digital actors ever seen in a video game. We really want players to feel like they are interacting with real people. Players will find themselves in situations with other characters in the game that will force them to make morally challenging decisions that will have major consequences and significant impact on the story.
GG: Mass Effect takes many gameplay features and philosophies from Knights of the Old Republic. What is, in your opinion, the most important difference compared to KotOR?
The sense of scale is certainly the biggest difference between Mass Effect and KotOR.
Greg Zeschuk: The sense of scale is certainly the biggest difference between Mass Effect and KotOR. The Mass Effect galaxy is positively enormous, with literally hundreds of locations to explore across numerous planets and star systems. If you were to take the time to play all the side missions and explore all the uncharted locations in the Mass Effect galaxy, you could easily double the amount of time it would take you to play the core storyline alone. There are just so many interesting places to go and things to do in Mass Effect! This combined with the stunning cinematics and morally challenging decisions really helps demonstrate BioWare’s evolution into the next generation.
GG: You have mentioned before that you have a party of three because three is the lowest number to give the player the feeling of managing a group. Still, why doesn't have the player's team room for four or more comrades, like in Baldur's Gate?
Ray Muzyka: You’ll eventually end up with 6 characters that will travel with you throughout the game, up to 3 travelling at a time as in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. You can level each of them up individually and customize each of their skills and equipment however you see fit, and in that sense you are still managing a larger party. When it comes time to leave your ship to pursue the next mission, you’ll choose any 2 members to form your squad together with your main character. We’ve found from iterating during development that a squad of 3 was the best way to enjoy Mass Effect’s fast paced real-time combat system.
GG: Could you expand on the trilogy aspect of Mass Effect?
Greg Zeschuk: We do have plans for continuing Mass Effect’s story across a trilogy, but right now we have made the first installment the best it can possibly be, with its own solid, definitive ending that will leave players very satisfied.
The very detailed and 'lifelike' characters are one of the strong points of Mass Effect.