Valentine’s Day: I Was Lost Without You

Imagine that you’re sprinting across Firebase White during a Mass Effect 3 multiplayer session. Wave after wave of Reapers fall at the hands of your friends and an unknown N7 Slayer. Now imagine that several months later, you’re walking down the aisle, about to marry the person behind that N7 Slayer. For Jameela Cameron, that’s exactly what happened.

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Jameela still clearly recalls the night of April 13, 2012. She received an invitation to play Mass Effect 3 with her friends Sean and Estevan, but wasn’t really in the mood. After some consideration, she decided to join them.

A couple of games later, another player joined their session: Tyler, a mutual friend of Sean and Estevan. “I was really quiet at first,” Jameela remembers. “I figured he’s probably a friend of theirs, but I didn’t want to talk.”

Tyler, on the other hand, had no problem breaking the ice. After engaging in a deep discussion about Mass Effect lore with the group, Tyler joked about their having nothing better to do on a Friday night and mused, “Man, we are, like, undateable.”

Little did he know that it was his sense of humor that first attracted Jameela. “I liked the fact that he could make fun of himself,” she says. “He was obviously smart, and he was very witty.”

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Picking up on the brewing chemistry between his two friends, Estevan seized the opportunity to play matchmaker in between waves of Geth Primes and Rocket Troopers. He encouraged Jameela to connect with Tyler through Facebook and sent them each text messages of praise about the other.

The two bonded quickly, and it wasn’t long before Jameela made the first move. She started signaling her interest by always being the first to revive him after he fell in battle, a luxury she did not extend to her other teammates. Eventually, she came right out and told him he was “gorgeous.”

“I don’t know what came over me that night,” she laughed. “That is not how I normally work.”

The two played until the sun came up the next morning, leading to a discussion about their options. A month later, Tyler and Jameela met in person and knew they wanted to be together. Unfortunately, a Harbinger-sized roadblock stood in their path: over 2,000 miles of distance.

As luck would have it, plans were already in motion for Tyler to move back to Michigan, a six-and-a-half hour drive from Jameela’s hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the meantime, overcoming time-zone differences and conflicting schedules put a lot of pressure on the young couple. They combatted those challenges with Skype video chats, playing co-op games, and texting.

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Tyler proposed to Jameela on June 22, 2012, and they set a wedding date of October 26—news that their friend Sean took to PAX Prime later that summer. While visiting the BioWare Base, Sean met lead editor Karin Weekes and shared the couple’s story.

“Sean is the nicest person, and I was so touched that he took the time to come and talk with me and tell me Tyler and Jameela’s engagement story,” Karin said. “It was the coolest feeling to have been a tiny part of the stage for the early part of their relationship (plus, I’m a complete sucker for weddings). When Sean told me their favorite characters were Garrus and Tali, I thought, ‘OK, we must have a screenshot of the Tali/Garrus hookup scene somewhere…’ Back at the studio, I tracked one down and got it printed out—the team loved the story, and everyone was really pleased to sign and send the poster to Tyler and Jameela (through Sean, the best best man ever!) for their big day!”

The gift arrived at their hotel just in time for the wedding and now hangs above the TV in their living room.

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Twenty of their closest friends and family attended the wedding that fall. Jameela walked down the aisle to Sam Hulick’s “I Was Lost Without You” (she also had the song title engraved on Tyler’s wedding ring as a surprise). For the reading of vows, they selected the accompaniment of “I’m Proud of You,” also written by Sam for the Mass Effect 3 soundtrack.

In preparation for PAX Prime in 2013, the couple got Mass Effect tattoos, paying homage to how the series had affected their lives. For Tyler, Garrus was an obvious choice. “In the Mass Effect games, I always took Garrus with me in my party,” he said. “He was a symbol of true loyalty and friendship.”

Jameela identified with Tali’s loyalty to her father and her people, even in times of disagreement. She also appreciated the quarian’s “nerdy” side, as she refers to it. “She’s cool. She can handle her own,” Jameela said of Tali. “She’s extremely smart and honorable, and that always stuck with me.”

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Nearly two years have passed since they first met, but Tyler and Jameela still make time to play Mass Effect 3 multiplayer together. In fact, they plan to celebrate the anniversary of their introduction by getting the original group back together, a tradition they hope to continue every year in addition to their wedding anniversary.

“We’ll probably celebrate both of those dates forever,” says Tyler. “Two anniversaries.”

Why Do Nugs Suddenly Appear?

Love is in the air, spring is on the horizon, and birds sing their special song of promise.

Or maybe love is on the ground, winter is still here, and it is dark, and it is cold, and you are eating from the can because who can be bothered with bowls?

Either way, the Valentine’s season stirs the soul.

Perhaps your appreciation of the occasion is ironic. Maybe the anxious hectoring of your mother  drives you forth into the world, in pursuit of fanciful fineries with which to woo your special friends or prospective partners. You might just like video game references.

To help in any case, we offer these sweet nothings to lay bare your feelings and win some hearts.
So from us to you, and then from you to them, a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Want to print them out at home? Download them here

DA_VivienneDA_CassandraDA_Dragon_DA_NugDA_DogDA_ArishokME_Paragon_ME_RenegadeME_MordinME_MakoME_NormandyME_Collector

Paragon and Renegade now for PC. My apologies.

Happy N7 Day!

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Hey Everyone,

We’ve got plenty of great things going on this N7 Day, and we welcome you to join in the celebration.

Play with Devs!

Starting at 2pm MST, our developers are going to be jumping on ME3 multiplayer and playing along with fans. We’re set up on PC, PS3, and Xbox, so keep an eye out for the BioWare banners.

Our very own Bryan Johnson will also be running a twitch livestream of his games. Be sure to check it out!

We’ve also added a second livestream from the BioBridge that you can check out as well.

Want to friend us? Go right ahead.

Our Gamertags on Xbox are:

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Xbox
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Deals, Deals, Deals

Our partners are just as excited as we are about N7 day, and to celebrate they’re offering tons of deals on N7 goods. Check them out!

-          Stock up on official N7 gear and get 20% off all purchases of $50 or more at the BioWare store!

-          This Child’s Play Charity auction is a chance to get your hands on an original piece of Salarian concept art, signed by Matt Rhodes.

-          We created this limited edition reversible N7 shirt specifically for N7 day. You can find it at the BioWare Store for a limited time only.

-          Black Milk Clothing is holding a Mass Effect contest for N7 Day. Send in your best selfies in Mass Effect cosplay for a chance to win one of three $100 vouchers.

-          20% off Cooke and Becker art gicless

-          Walls360 wall graphics are 27% off for N7 Day only. Make sure you use the coupon code: N7DAY

-          TriForce are holding a 77 hour sale offering 25% off the Carnifex Replica

The Effect on Us

Femshep (1024x1024)When he began working on the ending of Mass Effect 2, lead cinematic animator Parrish Ley felt like a fraud.  There were so many issues to sort out, he didn’t know where to begin.

By the start of the Suicide Mission, there were hundreds of player choices to account for that resulted in thousands of possible scenarios. As work on the mission progressed, it was like trying to unspool a spider web.

“It was the kind of thing where you think, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing,’” Ley said. “It was a complex piece of branching narrative. We wanted to make sure it felt right for the players who did it, but at the same time, under the hood there were a lot of things running.”

Because they couldn’t say for certain which characters the player would have in their party, how many of them had completed loyalty missions, or which ones might die, even the most basic questions like who would deliver what lines became a nightmare.

Unfortunately, in situations like this, there’s no real Eureka moment or a silver bullet to take the beast down. In reality, there’s a group of people in a room who’ve missed a couple showers and skipped a few meals, working on the problem over and over and over until it’s solved.

“It started out utterly broken to the point where it was totally unplayable and we looked at each other and thought, ‘I don’t know what’s going on. We’re not going to be able to ship this game. This is crazy,’” Ley says. “And we would play it and go back to our desks and work on it. And every day it would get a little bit better, and a little bit better.”

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While players remember the emotional moments and intimate scenes, it’s often the hours that went into crafting them that stick with developers. Creating games is an intensely personal experience, says lead level designer Rick Knowles. You help a game develop over months and years, forging it into something you’re proud of.

“As developers, we’re also gamers, and I feel privileged to make games we want to play,” Knowles says. “I think we’d feel we failed if we built a game that we didn’t want to play.”

How you end up can often be miles from where you start out, he says. This was the case with ME3’s multiplayer. The original idea was to have a co-op mode. But the more they tried to hammer out the dents, the worse it felt.

“It took a very long time to settle on a model that we felt worked well. We tried out different layouts, different creatures, different settings,” Knowles says. “We were very conscious from the beginning to not just make a straight-up multiplayer experience. It had to have some narrative context.”

They addressed this by creating objectives, which gave weight and purpose to each mission. And though the stories are smaller and more contained, Knowles and his team built internal narratives into each map that would later inform design decisions. This is why the hazard version of Firebase Dagger features a sandstorm, for instance. It doesn’t just make the map more difficult; it makes sense in the context of downed satellite dishes.

Earth DLC BannerBut while you could put a lifetime of hours into developing a game, eventually it has to ship, and developers then must sit back and watch as players take over and experience it.

The day ME2 launched, Kris Schoneberg and her fellow level designers crowded around a computer screen, watching a live stream of an early playthrough. They were eager to see how the player would react to certain plot points, and how they would handle the challenges the team had so lovingly devised.

“They got to the Warden Kuril boss fight in the Jack mission,” Schoneberg says, laughing. “And I watched the guy just die over and over again, and I thought, ‘I’m sorry. I hope you’re having fun.’”

Patrick Weekes, a writer on all three games, had a similar experience on ME2. “I was watching a playthrough of a super-renegade player doing Tali’s loyalty mission. He was about to finish the trial, and after all his renegade decisions, I really didn’t want to watch him break Tali’s heart. Then he pauses the playthrough, goes to the chat box, and says, ‘I don’t know what to do, guys. I don’t wanna hurt Tali.’ Seeing that something I was part of connected with a fan deeply enough to affect his decisions made me realize how special this series really was.”

As time goes on, the series becomes more and more the property of fans, and they begin to develop their own ideas about what makes and defines Mass Effect, says executive producer Casey Hudson. And while this can at times cause resistance toward new ideas, ultimately it’s a sign that the characters and stories the developers created are resonating.

“You can have characters in a story, but that’s kind of different from building memorable characters that transcend the story,” Hudson says. “These characters that we have in the Mass Effect series, people want to takes these characters further out of the story and see them in comics and books and they want to know more about these characters.”

SquadDLC is among the many good ways to tell new stories, says producer Mike Gamble. Here in these smaller, more contained adventures, the team can take more risks and explore ideas that just couldn’t fit into the main game.

It also gives members of the ME team a chance to get back together with old friends, Gamble says—a big part of what made the series great in the first place.

“When we first start to make games, we have everyone from different departments each with an idea of what the game looks like,” he says. “Being able to work together for a long time, you start to develop trust, and those walls go away and you can drive toward a singular purpose.”

While the Citadel DLC was a farewell to Shepard and the crew of the Normandy for fans, inside the studio, the developers said their own goodbyes.

“We were sad when Shepard’s story was over. There was definitely a solemnness in the room,” Schoneberg says. “The last thing I worked on was the party in Citadel, and the party ends with a group photo. I manipulated my save file to show the guests I’d have on my game at home. When that last screen came up with that group photo, I got a little choked up and a little teary eyed, because I realized, ‘Well, this is it.’”

Weekes has a different memory of the party. “I’d always told fans that the one thing we’d never do was a cocktail party, because how could you handle that much conversation? How do you let the players feel like they’re chatting with people and moving around in a natural way with so many possible permutations? And then on Citadel, our lead, Mac Walters, said, ‘I think we need to do a party,’ and sure enough, he and Kris and some of the other writers actually came up with a structure that made it work. It’s just one more time that people on the team proved me wrong and did the impossible to make something really special.”

Though that party in Citadel may mark the end of Shepard’s story, it’s far from the end of Mass Effect. As the fourth title in the ME universe begins its development, the team is carrying forward all the things that made the Shepard’s trilogy so memorable.

“It’s the idea of exploring a vast universe: going out and seeing amazing new things. It’s scale: seeing new planets, new species, and having choices that matter. Because it’s a story, and one that you care about,” Hudson says. “It’s going to continue on, and the things people love about Mass Effect they’ll see even better in the next generation of games.”

MP Survey Results and Conclusions

Written by: Bastiaan Frank, Lead Level Design ME3

Summary

We received an incredible response to our multiplayer level survey and would like to thank all 26,000 participants.  The data you provided has been illuminating, and we’ve summarized the results below.

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Looking at the data, we see interesting connections. In general, the gameplay and overall scores are closely tied to the difficulty score. The easier the level, the more people enjoy it. Our telemetry supports this, showing that easier levels were played the most.

Firebase Glacier is a prime example. This popular level received average gameplay and overall scores, and it was also one of the easiest levels to complete. In was the fourth favorite map out of 19.

The exception is the Hazard version of Firebase Ghost (Acid Rain), which scored well overall but was also difficult. It had a much higher difficulty rating than Firebase Ghost, which might explain why the Hazard version is not played as much online as the normal version despite it receiving a strong popular vote.

Map Comments

We received a lot of great feedback on each level through this survey.  The next section summarizes the most common feedback for each level.

Condor:

Condor splits our fans into two groups. Some people loved the map, especially for its great atmosphere, and others didn’t enjoy the map at all. The feedback mentions issues with the slow ammo timer and with cover. The design of the map is open and allows for many lines of fire against the player, making the map difficult.

Dagger (and Hazard Version)

There are a lot of Dagger fans out there! Many of you liked the long ranges that made this a great sniping map, and it still had enough close ranged combat options to support every play style.

The map was a bit too open for some people, resulting in too much fire from too many directions. This issue was exacerbated in the Hazard (Sandstorm) version of the level. The sandstorm was a great visual event that hindered the player’s ability to see, but unfortunately it did not hinder the vision of the enemies. This was brought up as a big concern.   

Ghost (and Hazard Version)

Firebase Ghost was our second-most popular map due to its balanced gameplay for short- and long-range experts. People mostly enjoyed the cover layout in the level and the visuals of the Hazard version (Acid Rain).

This level’s biggest drawback was its extraction point being lower than the surrounding area and being light on cover. Players enjoyed the level overall, but the extraction point was a concern.

Giant (and Hazard Version)

Most comments on this level were positive. Overall, a lot of people thought this was a good, if not a great map. Giant was also considered easy—even too easy for some players. Its mix of open and closed areas with chokepoints and sniping opportunities were key positives.

There are mixed opinions on the extraction point. Some people found it easy, others hard. The key was controlling the chokepoints, but the player had no way out if they failed to do so.

Comments on Giant’s Hazard version (Night) focused on the improved visuals and atmosphere, but the consensus was that gameplay was less fun.

Glacier (and Hazard Version)

The most common comment on Glacier was that the map was too small. This tiny level is favored by close combat fans for its franticly fast pace. It’s quite easy to play so long as you maintain control of the area.

The Hazard version (Seeker Swarm) puts greater pressure on team coordination and map control. The seeker swarms made the map harder, and many players enjoyed the challenge. Others preferred the map without the addition.

And yes, Mordin did find a way to combat seeker swarms in ME2. Unfortunately, Mordin was not around to adapt his solution to the modification Cerberus made to this map’s swarms… ;)

Goddess

Goddess was seen as a pretty level with solid gameplay that kept you on your toes. The visuals were praised as one of the best of all the MP maps, and the gameplay was especially good for well-organized teams that liked to run and gun. The objectives were deemed difficult, though, as it was too easy to get surrounded.

Hydra

Hydra’s visuals received a lot of praise. (This made the artist very happy!)  Many players—especially snipers—liked the open style of the main area. Players noticed that difficulty was dependent on the enemy palette chosen. We received a lot of feedback on the extraction, with some wishing there were different locations and others wishing there was more cover or line-of-sight blockers in the current location.

Jade

Jade had something for every play style. Other than the extraction zone, where the cover was too light, the gameplay was received well. Other comments mention the importance of staying coordinated as a team to prevent getting surrounded. Jade’s visuals were praised as was the overall experience. It was considered a fun map.

London

The main comments on London were on cover and the open nature of the map. Players found a lack of cover in certain areas that made enemies difficult to deal with. This difficulty level generated a lot of comments, and the hack location in the middle of the map was particularly hard. Still, feedback was largely positive, with ammo distribution and the map’s visuals getting positive reviews.

Reactor (and Hazard Version)

Reactor generated a lot of discussion about the map’s enemies. The bug in which enemies got stuck was a sore point as was the layout and lighting, which made it hard to find enemies or anticipate their movement. Still, there were a lot of positive comments about good sniping opportunities and the balance of the map vs. each character class.

The Hazard version (Meltdown) was definitely more popular than the base version with players enjoying the interactive part of the map. Overall, players were split 50/50 on whether they had fun with their teammates or were simply scared of getting trapped inside by them. An earlier warning would have been desirable.

Rio

We received a lot of good feedback on Rio that we will account for in the future. This map was initially loved by players, but over time it became less popular. The “box of shame” bug was frequently called out as a negative. The layout was also somewhat controversial in that it encouraged specific play styles in different areas. This was seen as a negative when compared to maps that allowed a mix of play styles. Players enjoyed this map’s long ranges and that it emphasized teamwork. They found that working well together decreased the map’s difficulty, but they also found that small errors could quickly turn a sure victory into defeat.

Vancouver

This map is praised for how it plays with verticality more than any other level. While there was a good deal of positive feedback for this level, it was seen as a tad dull in some areas. Overall, though, it gave players a great experience and had a great skybox. The biggest issue mentioned was that the ladder in the middle of the map should not have been so heavily relied upon as a main thoroughfare.

White (and Hazard Version)

This map received the most positive feedback. Players overwhelming felt that the layout corrections were for the best. There were good discussions about how the map discouraged players from camping and from employing a single strategy for all the games in the level. The majority of players (past and present) enjoyed White for its gameplay and excellent visuals.

Comments on the Hazard version (Whiteout) focused on the unmanageable visibility that was caused by the overlaying effects of certain powers like Krogan Rage and Adrenaline Burst in combination with the snowstorm. The atmosphere created by the snowstorm was appreciated, but the problems held the map back in its fun rating.

Conclusion

As you can see, we got a lot out of this survey. It was a huge success and we want to end with thanking everyone for participating. This report is just the tip of the iceberg! We learned way more than what we specifically mentioned here. Your comments were informative and fun to read—we even got a haiku or two! This survey shows us just how much you care, and we will make sure to use all this valuable feedback in the future.

Thanks so much!

The Mass Effect team