Bit: OK, so you mentioned how strong the BioWare community is a moment ago – what sort of feedback did you get from them about Mass Effect and how has that shaped the PC version?
Matt: Well, we got all sorts. One of the things was savegames that people complained about – now you have many more save slots and can quicksave.
The biggest complaint I think was about the squad control; people didn't want to have to send their full squad to one location, so now you can order your party around individually and have different people do different things.
There's a load of smaller things to – customisable controls, hotkeys and so on. The load times are reduced significantly too – and I bet you want to know about the elevators, right?
Bit: It was my next question...
Matt: Oh, man. I thought so – I get asked about that a lot.
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Bit: Why are the elevator rides so long anyway? Is the game loading stuff then?
Matt: It is, a little, but that's not why they are so long. It's the side quests – if you listen then you'll get side missions from the audio and so what we're doing now is optimising that content so you can get it without the wait.
Load times all over are being lowered as well and the graphics are being improved with more hi-res textures for customisation and so on.
Bit: Speaking of customisation and all that, I mean, to me the RPG genre is one most closely associated with the PC. So, why did you take the Mass Effect franchise to the Xbox 360 and then to PC? Why not the other way around?
Matt: I think it depends on what you’re doing. Look at our next game for instance, Dragon Age, is a very traditional RPG and there’s a strong argument for making that for the PC first. But with Mass Effect, we wanted to deliver a different type of experience.
Mass Effect…It isn’t just a pure RPG, it’s so much more. You don’t have to level up and do all that stuff manually and you don’t have to follow all the side quests – you can just play it as a shooter, with your feet up on the coffee table if you want and that type of casual experience is more suited to consoles. If you’re a light gamer and just want the core story then you can get that on the console.
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We’re certainly not making it an Xbox 360 exclusive and we’re working to get the PC version out as quick as we can because there are as many problems as there are…like the interface, for instance. The team did a great job and we did the best we could, but the PC allows us to do so much more.
Bit: It’s interesting you’d say that because a lot of PC games are moving more towards console games in an effort to avoid piracy. Was piracy a factor in the console launch?
Piracy is always a concern obviously, but if we were that worried then we wouldn’t do a PC version at all, right?
Hmm, maybe I should qualify that. We’re very concerned about piracy and we put steps in to stop people doing that. At the end of the day the BioWare team spent four years—it’ll actually be more than that when the PC version is out—of their lives making just the first game in this trilogy. Four years of their lives with very many long hour days. They deserve to have consumers pay for the title – they’ve put a lot of work in. That said, piracy didn’t factor into our platform choice massively and the sequels will be released in the same way – Mass 2, Xbox 360.
Bit: OK, so what about downloadable content – how is that going to make its way to PC gamers?
Matt: That’s something we’re looking at right now. We want to see what DLC we can and should provide for the PC and whether that should be unique content for each platform or cloned or whatever. We’re still in the planning stages right now, but each platform has advantages.