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9:36 PM on 07.23.2010

Frontierville - Goodbye Goose Army

Frontierville is an odd game. With no actual way to win, you need to come up with your own goals. Many people try to build a perfect farm, I wanted to build the perfect army.

Could I fill every single square on my farm with a friendly, but deadly, goose? At 300 gold each, this wasn't easy -- I had to do weeks of harvesting peanuts to raise the cash. Finally, with more cash than BPs planned dividend payments to shareholders this year, I began to recruit my army.

Unfortunately, technical problems started to surface. As the goose army's ranks increased, my framerate dropped. I switched to chrome which gave me a frame rate boost, but the geese relentlessly pecked at my performance. I started managing my goose army at work where I had access to an 8-core processor computer, but no computer seemed capable of rendering that many feathers.

There is nothing sadder than having an ideal, a dream, and realizing that while it's theoretically possible it's just to beautiful to exist in Adobe Flash Player 10. Fairwell goose army.   read

12:22 PM on 11.18.2009

Mass Effect 2: What would you like to see in future videos?

Christina the Mass Effect 2 bioware developer here, with another exciting Community Question (tm).

I'm working with our marketing team on planning future Mass Effect 2 gameplay videos. What would you guys like to see?   read

11:11 AM on 07.17.2009

Developer Question: Best 'hard mode' in games?

Hey this is Christina Norman from Bioware lead system designer on Mass Effect 2. From time to time I like asking questions to the destructoid community because I think you guys are generally a good representative of the hard core but gaming commuity. My question for today is:

Please tell me your favorite video game that has a hard mode you enjoy playing on, and why you enjoy it! Describe what's different about hard mode and regular mode, and how that difference contributes to you enjoying hard mode.

Thanks in advance for your responses!

[i]Edit - I've noticed some people are posting general "this is what I'd like to see in a hard modes" comments.

If at all possible, please name a specific game you liked that had a hard mode and [b]what you liked about that game's hardmode. You can then add on any comments about what you like in general.

If no game you have ever played has had a hard mode you enjoyed, please feel free to state that, and then provide your suggestions about what would make a good hard mode.[/i]   read

8:52 PM on 06.04.2009

E3 09: Mass Effect / Dragon Age Wrapup

E3 is over! I'm so very tired, but I had a great time, even though I was stuck in a demo booth all day for the entire thing. I should probably be showering, but hey, blogging is important too.

Mass Effect 2 had a great day of demos, we ended up being nominated for four awards.

Dragon Age also had a good showing, getting nominated for three awards.

Speaking of which, Destructoid should totally do their own awards and give them out at E3! A Mr. Destructoid head would make a sweet award sticker.   read

12:11 AM on 06.03.2009

E3 09: Quick Mass Effect 2 Update

Christina from Bioware here for a quick update. I have some random E3 photos too! Sorry iPhoto photos not the most awesome quality.

So today my first day of demoing Mass Effect 2 behind closed doors with Casey Hudson. E3 didn't open until noon, but I got there at 9am to double check that everything was working well. It was! EA set up the booth really nicely, great hardware and a beautiful booth.

Some nice Mass Effect 2 signage at E3 as well. There's more than this but this is the only one I got a photo fo.

I practiced the demo again a few times and before I knew it I was giving live demos. Everything went really smooth, and people seemed to enjoy the demo, what else can you really ask for? There is coverage of the demo in a variety of places. You can bug Brad Nicholson if you want a review of the demo, he saw it!

Finally, here's a photo from kare3oke of me hugging Jim Sterling mainly because it's ironic!


8:05 PM on 05.26.2009

E3 Demo of Mass Effect 2

Hey everyone! For anyone who doesn't know me, I'm Christina from Bioware, Lead System Designer for Mass Effect 2 (and member of the Chad Concelmo fan club).

So E3 is coming up and I'm really excited about demoing Mass Effect 2. I'll be there with Casey Hudson (Project Director) all week performing Demos. Casey will be doing all the talking while I play the demo.

I thought it might be interesting to talk a bit about the process of creating a demo and preparing it for E3. First if you haven't seen it already, you should probably check out our pre-E3 video which sums up what we'll be showing:

So how was our demo made?

We wanted the demo to be 100% content you would see on the retail disc. Often companies make E3-only demos, but this is a waste of resources really. I'd prefer to put all of our time into content for the real game!

With that in mind, Casey reviewed the game a couple months ago and identified the best vertical slice to show off what Mass Effect is all about. An outline of the demo structure was written up and communicated to the team. This is a difficult process with a game that's as large and deep as Mass Effect 2, because you can only show a tiny portion of the game. The vertical slice was then communicated to the team so everyone would know what we'd be showing at E3.

A few weeks later, Casey wrote up our demo script. This script highlighted both what Casey would say while he presented the demo, and what we'd show on screen. Then we did some early runs of the demo. This was a great opportunity to tune the script, and identify any high priority bugs we wanted to fix before E3.

In the past week or so there have been regular meetings with Ray and Greg, EA executives, and marketing to show over the demo. The feedback has been very positive! No major changes have been requested which is always a good sign. Final polish on E3 content has also been completed.

For the past few weeks, I've been practicing the demo at home during the evening on my 360 dev kit.
I've been playing Mass Effect 2 for a while now, so getting through the demo is pretty easy, but regular practice is necessary to ensure that people observing the demo will have the best experience possible. The best way I can think to explain it is, think about when you're playing a game, and someone sits down next to you who isn't familiar with the game to watch you play. They will generally ask a lot of questions about what's going on - something we can't do in a demo. With that in mind I have to play the demo in a way that makes things as clear as possible to the observer. For example, there's a power I want to show in the demo that I know will show the best if it's used on an enemy that's angled 30-60 degrees on my right side. Since combat in Mass Effect 2 is different every time, I can't count on a situation like that arising, but I'll do my best to watch for an appropriate situation and unleash the power at that moment. Practice is what lets me best identify and respond to those situations.

Despite all of this scripting and preparation every presentation of the demo will be different! When you're on the demo floor you need to respond to your audience, and tune the experience to what works best. That's one of the things I really love about giving demos!

I hope this was interesting! After the E3 demo is done, I'll do a follow up blog post about what is was like showing Mass Effect 2 at E3.

Also hi to everyone who will be at the Destructoid KarE3oke party! I'll see you there ;)   read

1:30 PM on 05.15.2009

Mass Effect 2 E3 teaser out, I will be at E3

Our Mass Effect 2 E3 teaser video is out!

I will be at E3 as the demo operator working with Casey Hudson on presenting the demo. I'm very excited, I can't say much but this E3 demo will blow our previous demos out of the water. Stay tuned!

Also you can follow me on twitter and we have a twitter feed for Mass Effect 2   read

9:30 AM on 04.01.2009

GDC2009: Anthony vs Nick Chester

GDC2009 was a battleground. Some fought for technical dominance, some fought for conceptual dominance, but none fought quite as hard as these two gamers did in a karaoke bar last Saturday night.

Who won? You be the judge. Let the comments on this post be an eternal record of the outcome of the toughest battle of GDC 2009: Anthony vs Nick Chester.

Reverand Anthony sings "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen

Nick Chester sings "Man Eater" by Daryl Hall

What's next for our heroes? American Idol? America's Got Talent? A blog post about narrative techniques in Sneak King? You decide.

Also here's a bonus song from a Mega64 guy. He's totally sober.   read

7:37 PM on 03.22.2009

What's your favorite Sniper Rifle?

Christina from Bioware here! I'm here to pick the brains of Dtoiders -- what's your favorite video game sniper rifle, and why?

One thing I do as a designer at Bioware is create and tune weapons for Mass Effect 2. I thought it would be interesting to ask destructoid members what their favorite video game sniper rifles were, and why they like them. I know what I like but, it's always nice to get other people's perspective! I will read all the responses, and keep them in mind while I'm tuning ME2's weapons.

I'll start with myelf! My own favorite is MSG4's SVD. What I like about the SVD is it's versatility. It's capable of taking out most enemies with a single headshot, but it also has semi-automatic fire and can be effectively fired from the hip. I did the majority of MGS4 with this as my primary weapon. One drawback of this weapon is, it's so versatile it can discourage the use of other weapons. For me I also found that I was missing the tension I feel when I use other sniper rifles, knowing that if I'm jumped by an enemy my weapon won't be effective at short range.

Ok, so please tell me about what sniper rifles you like! Please be sure to include both the video game, the name of the sniper rifle (if there's more than one sniper rifle in that video game), and describe what it is you like about it!

Thanks guys!   read

4:43 PM on 02.20.2009

Mass Effect 2 Teaser Video


New teaser video for Mass Effect 2. Enjoy.   read

3:22 PM on 02.15.2009

Mass Effect 1 - Kitae's Answers

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?

[i]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.[/i]

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!   read

10:17 PM on 02.11.2009

Mass Effect 1 - Ask Me Questions

Hello Dtoiders!

In my last post I had a bunch of questions about Mass Effect 2 which I can't really answer as not a lot of info about that game is public right now, so I thought I'd offer to answer some questions about Mass Effect 1. Anything you'd like to know? Go ahead and ask me! If you have questions about the games industry, or Bioware, in general also feel free to ask those.

Quicky refresher - I was a programmer on Mass Effect 1, I'm a designer on Mass Effect 2, and Chad is dreamy. I may not be able to answer every question because, but I'll do my best!

Please no questions about Mass Effect 2! Snarky questions about ME1 may or may not be answered depending on whether they amuse me.

(obseve a properly formatted blog post!   read

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