Interview: Robyn Théberge, Mass Effect 3

Anticipation is a funny thing. When BioWare launched Mass Effect back in 2007, it was loudly promoted as being simply the first part of a trilogy. Gamers dipped their collective toes in the water, deemed it “fine”, and then proceeded to salivate over the concept of a sequel (or two).

Mass Effect 2 was launched in 2010, only raising people’s expectations and demands. Near-perfect scores for the sequel, an immersive storyline and a return to Commander Sheperd’s universe lead to nothing if not a desire for more, more more!

Finally, as fans whip themselves into a frothing mess, Mass Effect 3 is nudging the horizon, asking you to Take Earth Back. The first question I asked Robyn Théberge, the game’s Associate Project Manager: Whether or not her project will live up to the hype.

Everybody has very, very high expectations for Mass Effect 3 – nobody moreso than our developers! A lot of the team has been working on the games since Mass Effect 1, and some of them are bigger fans of the series than a lot of people out there.

She also mentioned that – for some developers – enjoyment of the game came ahead of actually doing their job, with a handful of staffers refuring to attend office meetings if they knew there would be spoilers discussed!

That said, Théberge explains that they were the minority, with most of the team contributing long hours to ensure the game was top notch.

We have a very, very invested team. They’ll work around the clock (if you let them) to make the game as best as it possibly can be, to have all those payoffs for our long-time fans, as well as making a good game for somebody that might be new to the franchise.

Believe it or not, there are gamers around the world who have never strapped on the N7 armour of Commander Shepard (regardless of gender), and BioWare doesn’t want to exclude them. Missing the first two chunks of the trilogy is no problem, says Théberge.

Our game rewrites itself if you’re new to the franchise, so that you get all the context from the past two games. This is the beginning of the galactic war at the start of Mass Effect 3 – it’s a great place for players to just come in!

[img_big]center,7251,2012-01-05/raider.jpg,Mass Effect 3[/img_big]

Formerly adoring fans turned savagely on the franchise following the accidental leak reveal of the “Day 0 DLC” pack, From Ashes, offered free to customers who bought the Collector’s Edition of Mass Effect 3, and for US$10 for those who bought the standard.

As gamers pointed fingers and accused BioWare of exploiting the fanbase (if it’s released on day one, why is it not on the game disc?), I asked Théberge if, perhaps, the company had brought it on themselves. After years of giving gamers such a significant say into the running of the game, could they feel personally offended at the business decision?

She paused for a moment.

We always take fan feedback into consideration. We’re constantly on our forums and I’m sure that this recent issue with dlc is no exception to that – we are taking opinions into account, whether that changes anything…

Théberge trails off, before explaining that BioWare has made changes to games based solely on fan feedback in the past – including the greater focus on FemShep in Mass Effect 3 and the introduction of same sex relationships.

Many game features – across BioWare‘s recent catalogue – started out as simple posts on the game’s official forums, which is where Théberge suggests jilted gamers turn now.

Voice your opinion and we’ll listen! …that’s all I can really encourage our fans to do – by all means, post! post! post!

[img_big]center,7251,2012-02-28/Mass_Effect_3_From_Ashes_13303140373962.jpg,Mass Effect 3: From Ashes[/img_big]

If you’re tempted to take her at her word, heading to the forums to request Mass Effect 4, Théberge has some unfortunate news for you.

Mass effect, right from day one was always designed as a trilogy. The key story beats, right to the end of Mass Effect 3, were planned out – loosely – from the start of the first game.

We are wrapping up this storyline with Mass Effect 3, but it is a very, very rich universe, full of many stories to tell, and I would definitely stay tuned.

There are plenty more fish in this galactic ocean, Théberge explains – many more races to explore (Turians and Quarians and Asari, oh my!), rather than sticking with the humans that this trilogy has centralised on.

After we got all the serious business out of the way, and our time together drew to a close, I asked Robyn Théberge the most important question of all. Happily, she reassures me that she knows “several” things about killing reapers.

I’ve done two playthroughs of the single-player campaign already, I’ve spent – I dont know how many hours – in multiplayer, both as it developed, and since it launched on the demo. I can tell ya – there are many ways to kill a Reaper, and I sure haven’t discovered all of them, but I look forward to it after the game launches.

Mass Effect 3 launches for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on March 8th, giving gamers the chance to Take Earth Back, and step into the shoes of Commander Sheperd one last time.

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