Mass Effect: Andromeda Director Talks Destiny Inspirations, Responds to Animation Concerns
Creative director Mac Walters shares new insight into spacefaring RPG's combat, story, and more.
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Mass Effect fans have been treated to lots of news and reveals for Mass Effect: Andromeda over the past month, including a new live gameplay demonstration at The Game Awards last week. While the footage was no doubt impressive-looking, some remarked that the animation quality wasn't where they expected it to be.
In an interview with GameSpot, creative director Mac Walters assured fans that BioWare will continue to polish the game in the lead-up to launch in Spring 2017. This followed his comments on Twitter, where he said BioWare will polish the game "until they take it from our cold, dead hands."
Our interview with Walters covered a number of other topics, including how BioWare was inspired by Bungie's Destiny for Andromeda's combat mechanics, the possibility for more Mass Effect games in the Andromeda universe, and the developer's confidence level in releasing the game on time. Walters also discussed Andromeda's "more youthful" and "adventurous" story and how the game has been purposefully designed with verticality in mind when it comes to the environments.
We also asked Walters for an update on the Mass Effect movie, which we haven't heard about in a long time, but the director said there was nothing to share at this time.
You can read our full interview with Walters below.
GameSpot: I saw you responded on Twitter to some concerns people raised about the animation quality from the new trailer. Like you said, the game isn't done yet and you're always optimizing. What should people know about that process?
Mac Walters: Cinematics are very complicated, and have a lot of dependencies. The levels, characters, lighting… everything has to be at a certain point to allow cinematics to polish their work. As a downstream team, it means it's one of the last things to get polished, and something we work on up until the very end. Ultimately, as this was a gameplay trailer, we made the decision to show 'in-game' footage--not pre-rendered. But rest assured, it will look great by the time we ship. And we'll be sure to share more of the characters, stories, and cinematics before then.
We saw a pretty good look at the combat and abilities in the new trailer--I think you've said some of the inspiration comes from Destiny; what specifically?
The fluid movement and very tight combat mechanics. Specifically, camera, controls, and character.
That one death scene we saw was pretty brutal--are they all that like or was this an extreme example?
Certain creatures have what we call 'sync' attacks. Some are fatal, some can be avoided and/or escaped from. More on that soon.
Continuing with new abilities, that biotic shield looks pretty cool. How does that work in the game and what are some of its benefits?
"This is a game about exploration. The experience we wanted for the player was centered around freedom." -- Walters
We'll get more into the specifics in the future, but if you look closely, you'll see that it's not just a shield, and that it actually deflects some of the enemies' projectiles back at them. It's great fun to master.
As we saw in that trailer and past ones, it seems there is more verticality to the environments; and so the jetpack and new Nomad features sound pretty great. Was verticality something you really wanted to focus on?
This is a game about exploration. The experience we wanted for the player was centered around freedom. Freedom of movement, freedom of choice, freedom in how you play the game. Verticality and the jumpjet are an aspect of that. But our skill trees, crafting, and environments were all designed to reflect that sense of freedom we want the player to experience.
The trailer mentioned lots of worlds with different stories. How are you creating those? Are they procedural or are they all scripted?
We have a handful of worlds that are scripted to be hand-crafted, rich, and detailed. Each planet has its own history and backstory and they are designed specifically with unique characters, stories, challenges, and choices. Each world has its own main narrative, with a central storyline throughout, and key decisions that impact that planet for the rest of the game. All of the sidequests and adventures on a planet tie into that story, or the main game story in some way.
We also saw a bit of crafting in the trailer--how significant of a role will crafting play in the overall experience?
This speaks to our goal of freedom. It's up to the player how much they choose to engage in crafting. If you were to just follow the main story missions, you don't really need to engage in it at all--unless you want to. But it can give you an advantage, and if you want to fully explore all the planets, and survive all their challenges, you'll need to dig in to the crafting system a bit more. Because of that, we've made it much more accessible and robust than previous Mass Effect games.
"Each planet has its own history and backstory and they are designed specifically with unique characters, stories, challenges and choices" -- Walters
Andromeda is obviously a whole new galaxy for Mass Effect, so what kinds of challenges and opportunities does that afford you?
As developers, it allows us to be look forward, and imagine all the possibilities--much like we did when we were developing the first Mass Effect game. As a player, it means everything is fresh. Whether you're a returning fan, or you're new to the franchise, Andromeda starts everyone off at the same starting point… with a new goal; find a home for humanity in an alien galaxy.
Since you've already said this is not the start of a new trilogy, can we expect the story of the Ryder's to be completed in this game?
I wouldn't say that. The Ryders are part of Andromeda. One way or another, I'm sure we'll see more of them in the future.
We've heard before from EA and people at BioWare that you won't release Andromeda until it's ready, so it could be delayed again. How is it shaping up now and are you confident of making the spring release date?
We're very confident. Bringing Mass Effect to Frostbite and a next generation of consoles has had its share of challenges. But the team has handled them all and is fully focused on finishing what we started.
On a high-level, what can you say about the story overall? Obviously a lot has been said about Mass Effect 3's ending, so fans are likely to be even more interested with how Andromeda wraps up.
It's got everything our fans have come to expect in a Mass Effect story; epic and personal conflict, mystery, romance, drama. While the overall tone is more youthful, and more adventurous, the stakes are very high for the Pathfinder. It's a one-way ticket, and no one's coming to the rescue. The fate of all those intrepid explorers who braved the 600-year journey to Andromeda depend on your ability to find, and fight, for a new home in Andromeda.
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