BioWare Edmonton’s Studio Head, Aaryn Flynn, Talks Mass Effect 3 and Its Co-Op
Written Monday, October 31, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
When BioWare announced that Mass Effect 3 was getting a co-op mode for the first time in the franchise’s history, and correct me if I’m wrong, the first time in the studio’s history, there were a lot of unanswered questions.
Thankfully our recent hands-on answered a lot of those, but we hooked up with BioWare Edmonton’s General Manager, Aaryn Flynn, recently to ask all the important questions, like, why they decided to include it now and more importantly, whether they were actually being serious about the whole Hanar and Elcor comment they made on the BioWare site recently.
If you didn’t catch our recent hands-on, then head over there now, if you have, soak up our latest Mass Effect 3 interview.
So, can you give us a quick overview of Mass Effect 3’s co-op for people that maybe haven’t heard about it…
Yeah, sure, so the idea is we’ve got a four-player online co-op mode inside a larger feature that we call “Galaxy at War” for Mass Effect 3. The Galaxy at War, the single-player campaign, the multiplayer and this other stuff is fitting into an idea that there’s an entire galaxy at war inside Mass Effect 3.
With the way it leaked out, how important was it for BioWare to control information and ensure that gamers understood the mode and what you are trying to do?
I think it’s always important to control information, get information to the consumers who really want to know what’s going on with our game. That’s important to us at BioWare. In terms of making sure everyone was happy with it, I know there’s been a lot of people who are very passionate about the single-player campaign, they really want us to do right by that, and I can assure you it’s an amazing single-player campaign for Mass Effect 3. It’s top notch, it really deserves to be the end of Shepard’s story and the trilogy.
Were you concerned that there will always be that sentiment amongst fans that adding a new element will detract from what makes the game so successful – its single-player?
I think the idea is that people are so passionate about the single-player campaign, so passionate about their story through Mass Effect, that they feel that anything that we’re not doing about that, takes away from that. I respect that, I understand that, I get where people are coming from with that, at the same token though, we’d never let that happen with Mass Effect and the third game in the franchise. This is something we’ve been building to for almost a decade and so we really want to do right by that and I think people will see we’re doing that with Mass Effect 3.
So the question is, why now?
So the idea was with multiplayer and co-op, whatever it is, we wanted to make sure we had a really good story hook and setting for it to happen in and with Mass Effects 1 and 2, we couldn’t really find the right one to do it with, but with Mass Effect 3, an entire galaxy at war, the idea we can have other stories going on, other people playing, other characters running around, it made sense to us in that context so we decided to try it for this one.
Can you just give us a bit of insight into the gameplay mechanics and such… it’s four-player co-op… is there split-screen? Can you play on your own?
So yeah, no split-screen, it’s four-player online co-op so the idea is that you get together with three of your friends and play, and do the adventure style modes we have and maps we have inside the co-op.
Can you play it alone if you wanted to? Or with two people?
I’m not sure we’re announcing anything about that yet. I think some of that is to be determined as we get closer to the final version.
How about matchmaking?
Yes, there’ll be matchmaking.
Yup, that’s all there, yep.
So, are there any RPG elements that you’ve taken from the main game across into the co-op or is it all about the shooter action?
The foundation for the four-player online co-op is the really cool single-player gameplay we’ve upgraded in Mass Effect 3, so new animations, tons of fun stuff there, more and more action stuff. Then from there, inside the co-op, you’ve also got stuff you can do to customise your character, customising your weapons, upgrading them through stuff you earn and purchase inside the game, etc, etc, so lots to do there.
So there’s a ranking system too, right? How does that work?
Yeah, you can level your character up as well, you can upgrade your skill tree and do more and more stuff, for that character specifically inside the co-op campaign as well.
Can you have multiple characters on the go?
You can have multiple characters on the go as well, yep. They have their own individual stuff, stuff you levelled up, stuff you’ve done as well.
Can you talk a bit about what we can expect about the differences between the 6 races?
There’s 6 races and every race is going to have a special ability, we haven’t locked that down yet so we can’t comment specifically, so yeah, that’s where it’s at.
On the BioWare site you joked a bit about the Hanar and Elcor as playable races in the future, saying “never say never” in terms of their future inclusion…
Oh yeah *laughs*
Is that realistically an option or was that just a joke? How would they even work? I can’t begin to comprehend…
In terms of the Hanar and the Elcor, we have a lot of really creative people at BioWare and you know, when I think about it I say, “How would that work!?” but I do know that those guys are smart and they’re creative, and if anybody can figure it out, they would and I’m sure if one day we ever had that come out, people would be pretty happy with what they got because people would work hard to make sure it was right and that you could actually have fun playing with those rather different races in the game.
Is that something that you’ve concepted already then?
Oh, no, no… I don’t think anyone’s concepted it yet, maybe someone has, but I don’t know about it if they’ve done it in the studio though.
How important is it for you as a studio then that people actually play the co-op aspects, rather than just jump into the single-player aspects of the game and be done with it? Or is it just about being there to compliment the game and being there should people wish to try it?
I don’t think we want to dictate how people play the game… we want to provide options for people, we want people to say “Yeah, I’m a single-player completionist, so I’m all about the single-player,” great, then enjoy the story, it’s amazing stuff. But if you’re more of a social gamer, if you want to play with your friends, you want to share some of the gameplay you’ve had with your friends, then we want to give that option too. We definitely don’t want to dictate how people play the game so we’ll try to keep all stuff as optional as possible.
Seeing as Mass Effect is a story-driven franchise, can we expect any sort of story tied into the co-op then, or are they just soldier #101 and biotic #32?
Yeah, we do want to keep the story going and the idea of the overarching galaxy of war is that we’ll provide some story hooks and things we can do with the online co-op stuff that brings it back to this push to defeat the Reapers, but yes, there’s stuff in there like that.