Q& A

Sur­vival, morals, relationsh­ips and en­e­mies – Mac Wal­ters, An­dromeda’s Cre­ative direc­tor, is here to spill the beans

XBox: The Official Magazine - - ENCYCLOPED­IA ANDROMEDA -

The Mass Ef­fect tril­ogy was a huge suc­cess, but An­dromeda breaks away from those games and stands alone to a cer­tain ex­tent. What does that mean in terms of telling a story? Is it a bit of blank slate for you? That’s a good ques­tion. We were very in­ten­tional when we started this to make sure that this was go­ing to be a fresh start, not just for our fans, but for the de­vel­op­ers. I think for me, one of the things I re­ally en­joyed about work­ing on MassEf­fect1 was the sense that any­thing was pos­si­ble. The fur­ther we went into the tril­ogy, the more we had to stay aligned with the choices and de­ci­sions that we’d made ear­lier on.

And so we re­ally wanted to cre­ate an op­por­tu­nity for the de­vel­op­ers of this game to get back to that sort of blue-sky place where ob­vi­ously we’re go­ing to build on things that our fans love, and we’re go­ing to make sure those carry for­ward, but also be­ing able to re-en­vi­sion them in a way. And re­ally get the story to a point where any­one play­ing it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily need to have played Mass Ef­fect be­fore. Every­body starts ba­si­cally with the same ob­jec­tive: you’re in An­dromeda, your goal is to a) sur­vive, and b) find a home for hu­man­ity in a re­ally dan­ger­ous alien galaxy.

At the same time, if you are an ex­ist­ing fan, we wanted to be able to show a lot of the things you love in a fresh and new way, I think Pee­bee’s a good ex­am­ple of that, in the sense that we knew we were go­ing to have to teach new players about what Asari are, but rather than us­ing some­one who is like Liara, who is the ar­che­typal Asari, we al­most went in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. So, we de­scribed Asari by cre­at­ing one who’s al­most the op­po­site of what most Asari are [and] it al­lows us to tell those sto­ries in fresh new ways. You can find your­self as a de­vel­oper some­times look­ing back at what worked re­ally well, rather than at times look­ing for­ward to what else is pos­si­ble. I think that’s some­thing that was re­ally im­por­tant. It’s clear that the con­ver­sa­tion sys­tem has seen some­thing of an over­haul, and the Paragon and Rene­gade sys­tem has gone. Could you de­scribe the new sys­tem for us a lit­tle, and tell us what you were try­ing to achieve by mak­ing those changes as well. So, Paragon and Rene­gade is gone, the rea­son they’re gone is be­cause they felt very Shep­ard – they were very tied to the Shep­ard char­ac­ter, so they didn’t re­ally make sense if we weren’t go­ing to have Shep­ard as our pro­tag­o­nist. But part of it is also the fact that the core team that worked on the orig­i­nal Mass Ef­fect was ba­si­cally the StarWars:

Knight­sOfTheOldR­epub­lic team, where light-side and dark-side de­ci­sions were a thing, right? And peo­ple re­ally en­joyed that in KOTOR and that’s why we picked it up in Mass Ef­fect. But as we’ve pro­gressed in the tril­ogy, we’ve found peo­ple seem to en­joy the more grey de­ci­sions. Not just the “are you evil? Are you good?” kind of thing.

What we have now is based more around agree­ing and dis­agree­ing. The rea­son I like that is be­cause in the tril­ogy it’s like “I’m gonna play Paragon”, and then you know which way you’re mov­ing the stick on ev­ery con­ver­sa­tion. You don’t have to think about it, be­cause you’re just go­ing to hit Paragon ev­ery time. With agree and dis­agree it changes by the cir­cum­stance and it changes by the char­ac­ter you’re talk­ing to, so you have to ac­tu­ally be more en­gaged in what’s go­ing on, to know if you’re go­ing to do that.

And in ad­di­tion to that, we’ve added in four tones and we’ll talk a lit­tle more in the fu­ture, but they ba­si­cally al­low other types of char­ac­ters to ex­press them in one of four dif­fer­ent ways, and some­times one of two dif­fer­ent ways. And I think that gets back to that more tra­di­tional role-play­ing sort

of feel­ing which is less about “do I want to be good or bad?”, and more about “how do I want to ex­press my­self?” BioWare’s been talk­ing a lot about the sense of ad­ven­ture it wants players to feel in An­dromeda. How do you im­ple­ment that while pre­serv­ing the high-stakes feel of a game like Mass Ef­fect 2, for in­stance?

An­dromeda is def­i­nitely meant to be some­what more of an ad­ven­tur­ous game. Your crew is a lit­tle bit younger, and the way I put it was, MassEf­fect1, in the first 90 sec­onds, you learn that ev­ery 50,000 years this en­tire galaxy gets wiped out. So the stakes are raised re­ally, re­ally high right from the get-go. And one of the is­sues with that is, we’d al­ways fight this sense of “well, I’m sup­posed to be sav­ing the galaxy, but this char­ac­ter over here wants me to help them with their re­la­tion­ship. How do I jus­tify that in the grand scheme of things, when the galaxy is about to be wiped out?”.

So we want to have high stakes, and there are high stakes in the sense that if you don’t suc­ceed in your role, that’s it for hu­man­ity, and po­ten­tially ev­ery other species that came from the Milky Way in An­dromeda. But we also don’t have to go right to rais­ing the stakes to – you know, two hours in “hey, you’ve got this best friend and this best friend, which one do you want to die and which one do you want to sur­vive?”

We don’t have to go that high, be­cause the over­all stakes are a lit­tle bit lighter in the sense that we want peo­ple to feel like they have the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore, we want them to feel like, you know what, there’s this whole planet that’s got its whole sep­a­rate story which feels tied to the crit­i­cal path, but it’s not cru­cial to my suc­cess in the crit­i­cal path nec­es­sar­ily. I want to be able to en­joy it, I just want to go off and do that, and not feel like I’m turn­ing my back on peo­ple or hu­man­ity or any­thing like that. Loy­alty mis­sions are back this time around, which is fan­tas­tic news. Why did they go? Why are they back? And how will they dif­fer from the ones we saw in Mass Ef­fect 2? Love it – pre­cise ques­tions. I can an­swer all of those. Why did they go? The easy rea­son for that was that in ME3 our goal was to bring back every­body who was a squad mem­ber ever, as­sum­ing that they were alive in your playthroug­h. To then wrap a mis­sion around each one of those was just a no-go. It also didn’t feel like it meshed with the over­all con­text of a galaxy at war. In ME3, it was that fight­ing of “hey, the Reapers are here, can you help me go deal with my Dad?” It just didn’t re­ally make sense, whereas in

ME2, ob­vi­ously the en­tire thing was: build a sui­cide squad, and go on a sui­cide mis­sion. As for why we brought them back in Mass

Ef­fect:An­dromeda, well first of all, they were a fan favourite, but it also seemed like it fit more with that sense of ad­ven­ture. But also we knew we’d be in­tro­duc­ing all new char­ac­ters, so this was a great way to al­low peo­ple to en­gage with those char­ac­ters that they know and love. To me, the story is al­ways im­por­tant, but re­ally with­out the char­ac­ters, it all just falls flat. It’s what’s go­ing on with those char­ac­ters that mat­ters. So, bring­ing it back worked that way.

As far as how they’re dif­fer­ent: I think in a lot of ways they’re sim­i­lar, ob­vi­ously this isn’t a story about a sui­cide mis­sion, so there’s that dif­fer­ence im­me­di­ately, the nar­ra­tive con­text for it, and also it’s less about con­flict and more about get­ting to know the char­ac­ters and their rea­sons for why they came to An­dromeda, and what they hoped to find. And build­ing more into the whole story of es­tab­lish­ing a new home for hu­man­ity. Last of all, we wanted to touch on the Kett. The Reapers were th­ese un­car­ing space mon­sters, but the Kett seem a lit­tle more nu­anced. Would you be able to in­tro­duce them to us a lit­tle and maybe give us an in­sight into what their mo­ti­va­tions are? Yeah, I’m not go­ing to get too much into the de­tails of it, but I will say I think that’s a good word, nu­anced. I think what we wanted to do with the Kett was cre­ate a clear and ob­vi­ous en­emy. I think that was im­por­tant for us off the bat, but as you – like many things in a Mass Ef­fect game – dive into it a bit more, as you spend more time with it, you re­alise they’re maybe not all as bad as you thought.

Clearly there’s some bad ap­ples here, and you have to deal with them, but what does that mean for the rest of An­dromeda? What does it mean for the other Kett? And we even have a whole sep­a­rate sto­ry­line, we have th­ese things called ‘b-sto­ries’, be­cause they ac­tu­ally tra­verse mul­ti­ple plan­ets and fol­low you through­out the course of the game, wher­ever you go. And one of them is de­voted en­tirely to the main an­tag­o­nist in the game, and some of the con­flicts he’s even been hav­ing with his own peo­ple.

“Pee­bee is the op­po­site of what most Asari are, and this al­lows us to tell sto­ries in fresh new ways for fans of the se­ries”

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