In a previous post, I asked Dtoiders if they had any questions about Mass Effect 1. Thanks for all the responses, I was honestly somewhat...overwhelmed! In a good way the questions were excellent.
SilverDragon1979 says: Which ending in Mass Effect 1 is considered "official canon"?
In my opinion, whichever choice you made when you played is official cannon. The philosophy at Bioware is based on emphesizing the player's choice, and we shy away from anything that would invalidate a player's choice.
Cave says: Why do blue chicks dig badboys?
Liara is a huge nerd. She wasn't first attracted to Shepard because he (or she) is a space badass! The most likely cause of the original attraction was because he was touched by prothean technology. As a nerdy chick myself, I can relate!
Angry Damman says: I'm curious about the writing process for the original Mass Effect. How many writers were on the team, when in production the writing was done, how the story gets shaped during production, or if you as a programmer are completely separate from that side of it. Anything else on the story or writing aspects that is interesting.
We had five writers and one editor, all full time positions. Creative direction is guided by the lead writer and project director, but Bioware's culture is very open, so there was plenty of opportunity for anyone on the team who wanted to do give feedback or offer suggestions.
THEDREADHAWK says: Was the voice acting for the Aliens intentionally made with different North American dialects because of the translation system? Or was it just a limitation on voice actors?
All dialect use was intentional, it's easiest and cheapest to get local voice actors who speak with a regional dialect. We had a high budget casting process, for example we had Seth Green in as Joker. Every major character in Mass Effect was carefully casted, with multiple auditions per part, like a movie.
SNAKEDUDE4LIFE says: How come there where no Krogan and/or Turian females in the first game?
Hey we can't reveal everything in the first game, right?
How the Rover did not have a "radio" station?
I would have loved to hear "We're whalers on the moon" while driving around on Luna.
That would be pretty awesome! I'll pass that suggestion along.
QRAZE says: does being a female game programmer/designer intimate any of the fellas at work? any animosity or jealousness? or does people all give you fair respect?
It was probably an advantage when I was getting started, and now that I'm established it doesn't seem to have brought any issues.
GARISON says: I am planning on going into game design in a few years, and I live relatively near BioWare's Edmonton studio. What kind of things could I do to up my chances of landing a gig with your company? Any special classes, or programs I could take? I plan on being a level designer, so just any info/advice would be really awesome.
Programming experience is always helpful when applying for a design position. It's always easier to get hired if you have a university degree. College degrees are good as well, but university degrees are better regarded.
If you want to be a level designer do level design. Pick any of the many toolkits available that you can use, then create a video highlighting your work. I got started making some fairly popular warcraft 3 trigger maps.
Bioware often hires term testers who work on short term contracts testing upcoming games. I recommend you apply for one of these positions (requires that you move to Edmonton for the period of your contract). When you're ready send me a PM I'll try to let you know when we're hiring term testers. Term testing is good industry experience, no matter what position you're interested in.
CHOCOBO KNIGHT says: Whatever happen to the one feature that would let you become aggressive in a conversation if the character didn't like where it was going (ie. collar-grabbin' action)?
Game demos always reflect the best of what's currently available, but sometimes features in those demos don't make it to the final game, or they make it to the final game in an altered form. We experimented with a lot of different conversation features in Mass Effect and that was one of them. Ideally we want to highlight features that we think will make it into the game exactly as we show them, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way.
NIHONTIGER90 says: I'll second Angry Damman's question. Please tell us about the writing aspects behind Mass Effect, since that's what I enjoyed most about the game.
I'm glad you enjoyed the writing! I'm not sure what else to day. The overall writing format is very much like writing for film. The writers first start out with a high level outline describing the conversation. Individual dialogs are then fleshed out, animated, and iterated on for quality. There is a lot of writing, the final game had as much dialog as 10 movies. There's really nothing like it! Our writers were probably the hardest workers on the team (except for a few crazy programmers).
NIHONTIGER90 says: Tell us about your experience in programming on Mass Effect. What was it like working on the game? Were there any things you or your team ran into trouble with?
Programming for Mass Effect was really challenging! Games programmers are incredibly hard working. Mass Effect was particularly challenging because it was Bioware's first game for the xbox 360 (a new hardware platform) and our first game using unreal technology. Creating a console game for a just launched console has to be one of the most difficult programming tasks out there.
The problems you run into are generally pretty mundane. Just getting the system to work at a basic level is the first challenge. Then you have to make code more efficient. Make it use less memory. Debug weird interactions with multiple systems. Hardening it at the end so all these systems working together don't overload the CPU, GPU, disc IO. You run into weird problems when multiple systems all want to load data off the disc at the same time. It's a crazy juggling match getting it to all work.
The fun party is prototyping new systems before you actually get to making them work well enough to be part of a shipped game. It's fun to just have an idea, try it out, figure out what works. For me experimenting with the conversation system was really fun. Fine tuning the interface and all that.
The most memorable things are the little details that no one probably notices. Like the ability to select a reply by pressing (A) without skipping the remainder of the line unless you then press (X). Or the fact that when you're standing near an NPC, they'll turn their head and pay attention to you for a few seconds. Adding little details like that is really fun.
DYNA GEEK says: Why the FUCK were the prices on weapons sold by traders so expensive!? Maybe i'm playing the game wrong but if I wanted to get a weapon, that I could instead easily pick up on a mission, I would have to pay all the money I have.
Getting a better weapon is worth all the money you have. What else are you going to do with those credits, the consort doesn't take cash!
ArcticFox says: Any chance you could remove the Red/Blue coloring of the conversations? I hated knowing the outcomes of the actions before I picked them. Also, could you make the converations have a few more consequences, how come whichever I picked, I always got the answer I want. If I threaten someone and they dont appreciate the threat, end the conversationa dn I have to find another way to get the info. I loved the game, but I felt it needed a few more user caused events. Not like the Ashley/Kaiden thing that was scripted into a mission but more like the accidental way you could kill Wrex. Just my 2 cents.
There are two camps on this:, one camp wants to pick and be surprised, the other one wants to know exactly what they're picking.
Because your choices in conversations have real and significant consequences, we lean towards the latter camp. We don't want anyone to make a choice and then be surprised when Shepard does something they don't want to do.
We could give an option to disable the color, but it would still be predictable in that we tend to put renegade options on the lower half of the wheel, and paragon options on the upper half. This is intentional, we want players to get a tactile feel for paragon versus renegade choices. Again this helps players get what they expect out of choices.
Puppy Licks says: What is something notable that you programmed in Mass Effect that you would like to brag about?
I'm really happy with our conversation system, which I was the lead programmer for.
Puppy Licks says: Are you personally happy with how Mass Effect turned out
Definitely! Having worked so intimately with it I can see the strengths, and the flaws, but overall it's an exceptional game that I'm proud to have my name attached to. I'm happy to be working on the sequel as well as it's a chance to make an even better game.
Puppy Licks says: Did you find it odd that you never got to have a Salarian in your party? Is that because Salarians are dicks? (Well I thought they were dicks anyway)
They look kind of creepy in my opinion! I'm glad I didn't have one of them in my party.
GuitarAtomik says: Was the ability to give specific squad commands to your party (ala KOTOR) taken out because of technical reasons or purely design reasons (ie maybe it took you too much out of character)? I always thought it was a weird feature to nix. I didn't feel like I HAD to have it any time during the game, but the extra control would have been nice.
You have pretty good control over your party members with our D-pad controls, and power wheel. I assume you're talking about the alternate control method we demo'd (was that in x06 or e3? I can't remember). That one looked cool but just wasn't fun when we tested it, I'm happier with the controls we shipped.
Randombullseye says: Did Mass Effect borrow any elements from the previous Star Wars games intentionally? Or was it all unintentional? The pacing, the setting, the alien races, it all felt a lot like the previous game. How do you respond to that? Even the biotics you got in the game felt like force powers. Was that a design decision or completely by chance coincidence?
Well we did KOTOR, and our lead writer (Drew Karypyshyn) has written several Star Wars novels. Furthermore the team in general is made of heavily of science fiction nerds. All of that influenced the production of Mass Effect, and if it reminds you of Star Wars I'll take that as a good thing!
Randombullseye says: How much are you getting paid to work for Bioware?
I just snuck in one day and started making video games. Hopefully no one notices I'm not on payroll....
Randombullseye says: What made everyone think it would be fun to kill Wrex. Of all the people in your crew to give the option of killing, why him? Unless I missed something, its only possible to lose the two human characters and Wrex. Why wasn't the option to lose the others in there? Or murder them yourself? Or tell one of your staff to murder them?
Mass Effect isn't GTA. By this I mean, it's not a simulation game, where you can go and do literally anything you want. Those games are really fun, but your story experience becomes limited because you can't have a well crafted response to literally everything the player does.
With Mass Effect we wanted the player to have to make big decisions, and to have those decisions impact the story. Letting you make big decisions like killing off squad members without it being fully covered by the story was never on the table.
Randombullseye says: One last question, is working for Bioware as amazing as I imagine it is? I picture rooms filled with pages on the walls with all the branches for dialog. Is that the case? How do you guys keep it all straight, there being so much of it?
Yes it is that awesome, and not just because we get free ice cream! Every level has a specific writer who is responsible for all the dialog, we have enough writers that they can remain intimately familiar with each of their dialogs.
ArrestedDeveloper says: Will you kiss the Doctors on the mouth for me?
Ray and Greg are nice guys I think they'd find that kind of creepy though....
ArrestedDeveloper says: Will you make sure the team knows we want Liara to have Shephard's lovechild in the sequel (a la Aerie in Baldurs Gate: Throne of Bhaal)?
Ahhh I love Aerie she's my favorite character ever (I didn't work on BG so I can fangirl about that). Uh sure I'll let them know.
ArrestedDeveloper says: Can we see you anywhere on the ME1 making of documentary?
Yeah there is a few frames of me in a board room at some point, no major participation though!
ArrestedDeveloper says: Could you beat Casey Hudson in an arm wrestling contest?
No but Casey is very nice he'd probably let me win.
What was your favorite ME class? (mine was Vanguard)
Mine was the same as every designer: vanguard for adrenaline rush + biotics.
ArrestedDeveloper says: Can I play Castle Crashers with you and gush about how much I love Mass Effect?
Sure my gamertag is kitae.
ArrestedDeveloper says: Was Mass Effect's art style always influenced by late 70's early 80's sci fi? Was it ever a next gen brown/grey game?
We <3 Sid Meid. Also, cute Asari pic.
Thanks very much Dtoiders, great questions!