First off, I’d like to thank Ali Hillis for helping to make this happen. Ali passed on a message to Casey from me and it all went from there. So thank you, Ali! Check her out on Twitter HERE.
March 2012 sees the release of the final installment in the Mass Effect trilogy. Expectations are quite high as the series has already cemented itself as one of gaming’s truly great franchises. Will Mass Effect 3 pay off? Where will the series go beyond the trilogy? That all remains to be seen but until then we can rest easy in the words of Casey Hudson, Executive Producer of the Mass Effect series and Project Director of Mass Effect 3. We talk to Casey about Mass Effect 3, the inspiration behind it, the importance of voice actors and where Mass Effect will go beyond the current trilogy. It goes without saying that I’m a huge Mass Effect fan. From conducting the Definitive Cast Interviews and recently visiting Bioware Ireland I’ve always had great respect for everyone involved in bringing these masterpieces to our screens. Thanks, Casey!
Casey- I’m the Executive Producer of the Mass Effect series and the Project Director of Mass Effect 3. I started out as a 3D artist working on Neverwinter Nights here at BioWare, but with a degree in Mechanical Engineering I very quickly became involved in the technical aspects of development as well. I worked as a technical artist, modeller, and level designer on MDK2, and then I was given the helm of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. After that game we went on to begin a new series in our own universe: Mass Effect. In my spare time I like to do things that get me away from the virtual world – aviation, mountain climbing, art, music, building things with my hands, etc.
Retroplayer- Obviously, when it comes to sci-fi, Mass Effect could have a lot of potential inspirations. Can you run us through a few of books, TV shows or even movies that inspired the team before or even after you started development?
Casey- People often assume that elements in the Mass Effect universe are directly inspired by very specific references – many of them are things I haven’t even heard of. One of the perils of creating a new fictional universe is that initially every new idea can be compared (however loosely) to something else. But our process of distilling inspirations into a new universe was more abstract. We took the best aspects of our strongest inspirations and distilled them down to principles or goals, which then became open questions for us to answer with new creative ideas. For example, one aspect of Jedi in Star Wars or double-O agents in James Bond that we appreciated was the ability to act with impunity and personal authority. So creating a reason for the player to be empowered that way was what led to the idea of Spectres in the Mass Effect universe.
Retroplayer- One important feature of the Mass Effect franchise so far has allowed players the ability to import their saves. This obviously allows players to use the same Shepard, from previous games, as well as having moral choices they made in earlier games affect future stories and gameplay. Was it difficult to bring all of these story threads together for Mass Effect 3? Also, from the outset of Mass Effect 1, did Bioware have a idea of how difficult it might become technically?
Casey- Yes, it’s probably the most difficult part of developing our games. But we think it’s also something that sets the Mass Effect series apart from anything else you can play. And in Mass Effect 3, we have the opportunity to not only create a new entry point for new players to jump into the storyline, but also to pay off the scale of the entire trilogy story for both new and existing fans.
Retroplayer- It was announced that this will be the last outing for Shepard – at least the Shepard we’ve come to know. How does it feel, from a developer’s point of view that this story arc is coming to an end?
Casey- It feels very satisfying actually. We’re looking forward to giving Shepard’s story a satisfying conclusion and letting all of the players’ hard work in fighting the Reapers pay off. We’re going to new territory on an emotional level, and that’s what will make Mass Effect 3 even more satisfying to deliver to players who may only be prepared for a conventional videogame story.
Retroplayer- Voice Actor work is crucial to adding depth to a story. What have your experiences been like working with voice actors, both past and present, and how important to the overall product do you feel their involvement is?
Casey- We’ve been very fortunate to have an exceptional voice cast, from our Commander Shepards to our star squad mates, and on into the many aliens and creatures that populate the universe. Being able to wield the power of actors like Martin Sheen, Keith David, and Seth Green has been extremely rewarding, and its brought the quality of the narrative experience to a whole new level.
Retroplayer- What is Bioware hoping to achieve with Mass Effect 3 that hasn’t already been accomplished before?
Casey- Most importantly, this is the beginning and end of the biggest events so far in the Mass Effect universe, so it’s an opportunity for new players to join fans of the series in experiencing this final war against the Reapers. It’s all taken to a much higher scale than we’ve attempted before. And the best part is that we’re doing things on an emotional level that represent exciting new creative risks that I think players will appreciate.
Retroplayer- If you could pick a race/character that has stood out to you throughout the creation of the franchise and the Mass Effect universe – which would it be and why?
Casey- I’ve learned from a very passionate fanbase that it’s best not to play favourites with our creations. I will say though that we are always surprised and delighted to see how our diverse set of characters reach different kinds of players, and how they all develop their own unique following. In the beginning we never expected that alien characters like Garrus or Tali would be compelling as love interests, but we were surprised to find a huge fan following for both of them that resulted in creating love interest storylines for them.
Retroplayer- What kind of life, do you think, would Mass Effect have beyond what we’ve seen to date? For example, fans of the franchise have been speculating about an RTS, and FPS or even a different story Arc which might rediscover the First Contact War. Do the team consider such expansions of the universe at all?
Casey- We have some amazing things planned for the future, including an animated film being developed by Funimation, and a major motion picture in the works at Legendary Pictures. I think the movie will propel the Mass Effect universe to new levels of success as it finds an even wider audience, and we’re certainly interested in continuing to build on the universe through future games.
Retroplayer- Finally, do you have a message for all of our readers out there who are anxiously awaiting the final instalment in the Mass Effect trilogy?
Casey- First I would want to thank everyone for their support over the years. We have been honoured and overwhelmed with the success of the series, and the degree of enthusiasm we’ve seen from Mass Effect fans. That has infused the team with renewed energy to push harder than ever to create something really special: a conclusion to the storyline worthy of our players’ epic journey as Commander Shepard.