My Interview with Mass Effect 3 Producer, Jesse Houston

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Hi there! I’m Erika, the social media coordinator at BioWare. I sat down with Jesse Houston yesterday to ask him some of the burning questions fans had about Mass Effect 3, the co-op addition, and the new features we are all excited to hear more about. Check out the full interview below:

Will decisions made in ME1 & ME2 affect Galactic Readiness level?
In the Galaxy at War system, the Galactic Readiness Level is affected by multiple things. The choices from ME1 and ME2 will have an effect of the overall Galaxy at War system, but not directly on the Galactic Readiness level.

Does Multiplayer affect the success of my Shepard in the main story?
Absolutely. Multiplayer will definitely have an effect on your SP experience through the Galaxy at War system, so as you play the MP and the Co-Op and the more successful you are, the more that will affect your Galactic Readiness level which will then affect your end game result.

How do SP and MP work together/complement each other?
They complement each other really well in that the Galaxy at War System takes the actions played in MP and pushes them to your SP achievements. The SP elements will dovetail really nicely into those and both those actions will allow your Shepard to have a different ending depending on those actions. That said, SP can still be played all by itself without any kind of multiplayer or third party and you can still get the absolute best ending. This just gives you new options to be able to get that ending.

Which classes/races can you play as? Can you be a geth?
We haven’t given the full list yet. But as an example, you can totally play as a Krogan, as a Drell, as an Asari. Beyond those, I can’t give away all of the details, but I can say there will be a lot of interesting races that you may not expect to be able to play as because they wouldn’t normally be looked upon as characters who are for the fight normally. That said we’ll be releasing more and more characters through DLC later.

How does leveling up work in MP?
As you complete objectives inside of the co-op experience you are going to be leveling up similar to how you would in an RPG. You gain experience points and those experience points go toward your level and you spend points exactly how you would as a SP and each character is its own so you could theoretically have 10 or 20 characters going, each leveling up independently.

Will player-kicking be supported to deal with any idiots you may team up with?
We will have systems in place to deal with “griefers.” The nice thing is that the overall design isn’t conducive to griefing so there isn’t much value in doing kicks. How and when you’ll be able to do the kicks is still being worked on so I don’t want to talk too much about it. But just know that we are putting systems in place that will let you deal with people that you don’t want to be playing with.

Will Kinect still work in MP, and will using a headset to talk with teammates cause any interference?
The overall and general design of Kinect is such that it is about squad command and interacting with the world. Contextually speaking that doesn’t work as well with MP because those squad commands are your friends so we’d want you to yell at them and not your TV. So with that in mind, Kinect will not work in MP and therefore will not cause any interference.

If it’s a separate story campaign, are our multiplayer characters playing their part in dialogue scenes or is it more of an environmental storytelling?
While it is separate to the main story they will never be involved in the actual campaign of the main story. It’s more like a side mission to the SP. We don’t want to create situations where MP players have something that SP players couldn’t otherwise see.

Will there be dialogues, and how will they be handled?
All dialogue is done ambiantly, for instance the commander will be giving you orders through your headsets.

Will there be any form of in-game communication system (ie quickchat) with team mates?
All the main communication systems that we are putting in will allow you to speak to your team mates through the normal communication systems like your headsets.

Exactly who will we be fighting for? Citadel Defense Forces, Mercenary Groups?
At a high level, Shepard is marshaling the troops on behalf of the Earth Alliance so you are technically fighting for the Earth Alliance. From a story perspective, a lot of these groups have come together as a loose fighting force to stop the reapers therefore they don’t fly the same type of banners that would have existed in pre- reaper invasion days.

Will there be a match-making service, or a generic waiting room in which players can assemble and then form teams? Or will they have to plan out the teams in advance?
Given the general theme of us giving you the choice, we like you to plan your teams out in advance or if you prefer you can go in a quicker custom match and it will find people who are of similar skill levels to you.

Will there be leader boards?

Will there be squad banter?

Can friendly fire from powers/weapons be an option?
When we ship, we don’t believe it will be in there as an option but possibly at a later release. In the context of co-op we didn’t believe it added a lot to the co-op experience. You have a lot of pressure to succeed in the co-op and accidentally shooting your friends didn’t seem like a good experience. Maybe later as some sort of modifier to the game, but not at release.

Will we be able to further customize the armor and/or weapons on MP characters through in game challenges that award points or credits?
Why yes you will! We have slightly different armor and weapon customization system in MP. It still feels along the same vein, but in many ways there are more customization options for the MP armor side and it’s very similar on the weapon side. They are structured differently so stats don’t play the same way, so SP guys have something that feels better for SP and MP guys have something that feels better for MP.

Will co-op have its own disk, and/or executable? If not, how much space will it take up?
It will be included on the main disk. As for how much space, I’m not sure at this point. It’s mainly content so it is somewhat sizable but not so much that it affects the SP experience.

Will MP achievements be separated from SP achievements, or will they all combine together into the overall score?
Each game in general is assigned a certain number of achievements that they are allowed to give. We are required to have a broad selection of achievement types so there will be some MP achievements, there will be some SP achievements. What the ratio is, we are still trying to work out. And they ultimately accumulate to that 1000 point score or that platinum trophy.

Will BSN track co-op statistics? ie: classes played, enemies killed, wins, losses etc?
We are investigating this right now. There will definitely be a lot of BSN integration. What the final list of things is, we don’t really know yet.

Will co-op have its own disk, and/or executable? If not, how much space will it take up?
It will be included on the main disk. As for how much space, I’m not sure at this point. It’s mainly content so it is sizable but not so much that it affects the SP experience.

Will ME3 require an internet connection for each launching of the SP game, or will it retain ME2’s single verification method?
Mass Effect 3 PC will require the internet connection when you initially launch and authorize it but then you will no longer require the connection.

How does earned experience work with the different class choices?
Experience is gained through objective gathering not necessarily class choices. Each class earns achievements at the same pace, but separately. So if I play a soldier, the soldier earns the experience and my vanguard won’t until I play that vanguard. If I got to level 10 as a soldier, my vanguard would still be at level 1.

Will local co-op be supported? (ie local split screen, PC-LAN)
At the time of release, no. However it is definitely on the table as something we might add.

Is there a sunset plan after you decide to take the servers down in a couple of years.
Yes, absolutely. We won’t be taking the servers down until we realize that there aren’t enough players playing to warrant keeping them up and when we do take them down, we will make sure there are options so the players who are playing don’t feel abandoned. If anything is a good example, you can see today that Never Winter Nights is still supported and we’ve kept a lot of our servers live on it. So I wouldn’t be too worried about us taking down the servers anytime soon.

Can we create our own server (or do offline co-op), especially important for those in bandwidth-poor countries?
Because of a lot of the match making systems are quite server intensive, we have no plans anytime soon to allow the creation of an offline server. However, our servers themselves are quite bandwidth friendly and most of the MP elements involved in that are peer to peer based. So if you are in a bandwidth poor country, and you are playing with your friends you are still going to find it to be a relatively good experience.

Thank you so much for your time, Jesse!