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Default Mass Effect 2 - Shooter Shift Explained

March 15th, 2010, 12:20
BioWare's Christina Norman and Armando Troisi have presented at GDC on the Mass Effect series, resulting in a bunch of articles about the relationship with Mass Effect 1, the shift to more focus on being a shooter and the plan for Mass Effect 3.
Let's kick off with GameSpot with Mass Effect 2's Shooter Shift Examined:
As the engineers were preoccupied with other work, Norman and her team did their initial prototyping using the original Mass Effect's engine, making changes only to specific values like weapon damage or accuracy. And though the work ended up being mostly throwaway, she said that the experiments helped them get a better handle on the limitations of their current setup.
Getting into the brass tacks of design, Norman said that it became paramount to build great shooter gameplay. To do so, she said that they completely turned off the game's RPG system so that they could focus on crafting the shooter elements, a move Norman called the most important of the project.
The Escapist has a similar article:
According to Norman, the biggest issue with Mass Effect 1 was that players were often confused by the vagaries of the RPG-inspired combat system. In other shooter-like games, a player could pick up a rifle and shoot things right away, but Mass Effect, borrowing a trope from Bioware's bread and butter, RPGs, started players as a "level one character," meaning that when the player picked up a rifle at the beginning of the game that player was a "level one rifle shooter" and couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. Not until the player leveled up, after a considerable amount of time in the game, did the player's ability to aim and hit improve.
From an RPG perspective, this mechanic makes perfect sense. But, as Norman says, Mass Effect is more than an RPG.
"Looking at [Mass Effect 1] gameplay footage," she says, "it looks like a shooter, but it's a shooter where you can't hit anything."
IGN explains that Mass Effect 2 has 700 hooks back to the ME1 plot, based on another presentation:
Troisi described Mass Effect's built-in ability to read your game save files as the series' "uber-feature," and said there are roughly 700 "plot hooks" in Mass Effect 1 that carry over one way or another into Mass Effect 2. To illustrate just how granular BioWare gets with these player choices, he showed a brief segment of Mass Effect 2.

In the scene, a male Commander Shepard walks up to one of the advertising pillars on the Citadel, and a trailer for a fictional film begins to play. Because this particular Shepard had chosen to let the Citadel Council die in the final moments of the game's ending, the trailer reflected that and announced that the film would have a fall release date. Then Troisi showed the same interaction with a female Shepard who had chosen to spare the Council. The trailer played out differently, and a summer release date was given.
Meodia has a slide presentation on the changes and Joystiq takes the same presentation but adds a little more detail:
The streamlined gameplay and GUI of Mass Effect 2 made it a huge critical success, but Norman pointed out some major criticisms from vocal members of the official BioWare forums. Threads titled "Mass Effect 2 is not an RPG" and "Gears of War with interactive dialogue" were highlighted as examples of fans disappointed by the strong shooting focus of the second game.

As with the transition from the first Mass Effect to the second, BioWare is taking these criticisms to heart for the third game, with Norman hoping the third will offer "richer RPG features" and "more combat options." What we can probably expect less of, however, is the mining minigame, which Norman described as the part that "nobody liked."
A nod to Omega for some of these links.
More information.
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March 15th, 2010, 12:20
While I agree it generally makes very little sense to be the first human spectre and still not be able to hit something the size of a truck, I hope they're serious about adding more of an RPG feeling to it. Doesn't have to affect the accuracy, it could simply affect everything else (increasing hit rating, whether it's with swords or guns, is never that interesting anyway).
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March 15th, 2010, 13:05
The question is. How did they manage to basically destroy "Mass Effect the RPG"
and still make a no good shooter.

I mean seriously - take only Mass Effect shooter elements. Could you even think of one worse shooter that you played…ever ?
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March 15th, 2010, 14:17
Shooter "feel" doesn't make a good shooter alone. There is such a thing as appealing level design/layout - and endless linear corridors with heavy-handed "here-comes-another-filler-fight" signalling via crates in the middle of an open ground is NOT it.

Frankly, I think ME2 is a pathetic shooter - with a decent feel and story, and brilliant production values.
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March 15th, 2010, 14:31
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Shooter "feel" doesn't make a good shooter alone. There is such a thing as appealing level design/layout - and endless linear corridors with heavy-handed "here-comes-another-filler-fight" signalling via crates in the middle of an open ground is NOT it.

Frankly, I think ME2 is a pathetic shooter - with a decent feel and story, and brilliant production values.
Exactly.

Actually. If you ask me. And i played almost all shooters on PC (and unfortunately also some on XBOX ) ME2 is not much better , shooter-wise than MW1.

If anything its simpler to get into. That might be its only merit.

And all said and done this was ultimate goal of Bioware.

"Lets make a game that have quality of our brand games, but so simple that even 6 year old can play it."
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March 15th, 2010, 14:55
Originally Posted by Twotricks View Post
Exactly.

Actually. If you ask me. And i played almost all shooters on PC (and unfortunately also some on XBOX ) ME2 is not much better , shooter-wise than MW1.

If anything its simpler to get into. That might be its only merit.

And all said and done this was ultimate goal of Bioware.

"Lets make a game that have quality of our brand games, but so simple that even 6 year old can play it."
The plan worked and they're getting richer, so I guess all is well?
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March 15th, 2010, 14:59
What they need to do is to take closer look to what the purpose of each gun is.

Take the sniper rifle for example : an accurate, long range weapon. Now, leave those things in tact, don't fiddle with them. What are the other elements to sniper rifles? Well, there's ofcourse the reloading of either the clip or the bolt. Fine, make the reload time of the bolt skill dependant. What else is there? The scope? Make the zoom capacity of the scope also skill dependant.

It's so easy to make switching to a weapon where you haven't dumped all your skillpoints in still worthwhile, while still giving experts an edge.
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March 15th, 2010, 20:24
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
The plan worked and they're getting richer, so I guess all is well?
What was it that Jef Vogel wrote? "Do not frustrate the player"? I have to agree with that at some extent. I find inventory management tedious, boring and ultimately frustrating… Complexity in combat and character development is more challenging but, here is the key, REWARDING once you've figured it out.

It seems game designers can't tell the difference between tedious gameplay and rewarding challenging gameplay…
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March 15th, 2010, 21:04
Originally Posted by Thrasher View Post
What was it that Jef Vogel wrote? "Do not frustrate the player"? I have to agree with that at some extent. I find inventory management tedious, boring and ultimately frustrating… Complexity in combat and character development is more challenging but, here is the key, REWARDING once you've figured it out.

It seems game designers can't tell the difference between tedious gameplay and rewarding challenging gameplay…
There's inventory management done poorly, and then there's inventory management done right.

Mass Effect is an example of the first kind.

Instead of doing it right, they simply removed it altogether. That's what I call the lazy way out.

Personally, I love having an inventory and "collecting stuff" - and the frustration if it's done right is so minimal as to not even be noticable.

However, the game is obviously a success - so who am I to say it's not great.
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March 15th, 2010, 21:04
@Thrasher, If only it were that simple. I like inventories - they give me additional choices. I doubt anyone likes inventory management but that's all about the design and UI, which BioWare has struggled with for a long time.

Edit: simulpost with DArtagnan

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March 15th, 2010, 22:04
Don't get me wrong. I am NOT against inventory. I am against having to MANAGE my inventory, because of inventory tetris / bin packing or encumbrance, or what have you. Basically UNFUN complexity….

In fact it is exactly this aspect that is starting to kill Titan Quest for me. Hate it!

Infinite inventory with compare capabilities would be optimal in my opinion.
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March 15th, 2010, 22:08
Just bring back the Baldur's Gate inventory system
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March 15th, 2010, 22:15
Give me one day, and I'll come up with ten ways that are infinitely superior to what Bioware have been using since KoTOR - even though it's gotten steadily worse, which in itself is incredible.

Really, how hard can it be to make a non-intrusive inventory UI?

If you want to make a shared inventory and you want a ton of worthless items, you need to at least make them sortable - and you DON'T want to limit capacity. If you want to limit capacity, then you reduce the amount of worthless items.
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March 15th, 2010, 22:28
Yes, filters are good too, especially if you can customize them!
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March 16th, 2010, 11:13
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Instead of doing it right, they simply removed it altogether. That's what I call the lazy way out.
Interesting, that's how I felt also about another thing they scrapped.

For example they scrapped exploration. I agree that exploring plannets in ME1 was one of the most boring parts of the game, and in my second playthrough that was a part I didn't replay. But instead of making it better (improving level design) they took it out completely.
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March 16th, 2010, 11:48
Originally Posted by JuliusMagnus View Post
Interesting, that's how I felt also about another thing they scrapped.

For example they scrapped exploration. I agree that exploring plannets in ME1 was one of the most boring parts of the game, and in my second playthrough that was a part I didn't replay. But instead of making it better (improving level design) they took it out completely.
It's the modern way of overcoming design challenges
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March 16th, 2010, 13:22
Keep in mind that all those games have consoles in mind as well, which is why they tend to end up being clumsy. I have yet to see an inventory system on consoles that I honestly liked - I've seen stuff that works, but either it's too simple, or it's too difficult to manage. It never hits that sweet balance that PC games are capable of having.
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March 16th, 2010, 14:31
Originally Posted by Maylander View Post
Keep in mind that all those games have consoles in mind as well, which is why they tend to end up being clumsy. I have yet to see an inventory system on consoles that I honestly liked - I've seen stuff that works, but either it's too simple, or it's too difficult to manage. It never hits that sweet balance that PC games are capable of having.
Well, liked, hmm…

I've played several CRPGs on consoles where inventory management didn't bother me at all. Like Oblivion/Fallout 3 - but I'm not going to claim they've been ideal.

It's true that managing items on a console controller is typically less comfortable, but Bioware is notoriously bad at handling this challenge.

Then again, if they're not competent in this way, it's probably smarter to do away with it altogether. But, in my opinion, it removes an important and entertaining aspect of the genre.

However, I've accepted ME2 as a story driven shooter. So, if ME3 doesn't improve, I won't be disappointed. I get them now, I think.
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March 16th, 2010, 19:39
I agree that Oblivion had acceptable inventory management UI. But the weight limit still was tiring….
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March 16th, 2010, 19:50
Originally Posted by Thrasher View Post
I agree that Oblivion had acceptable inventory management UI. But the weight limit still was tiring….
True enough, but easy to overcome in terms of a design challenge. Also, Oblivion had more of a "realistic" approach so I can understand limitations in that environment.

But in ME1 - you were flooded with worthless items, like GunTypeI, GunTypeII - etc. when you already had GunTypeIII. Just utterly crap loot you had to keep, so you could sell them by the dozens upon return. It's like they hired a 12 year old to figure out interesting loot mechanics and gave him 15 minutes to do the job.
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