Al Reed from Demiurge talks Mass Effect
With BioWare's RPG opus Mass Effect now nearing release on the PC format (the platform some regard as the title's spiritual home), we sat down with Demiurge studio boss Al Reed, to learn about the key role his developer played in delivering Mass Effect to the PC masses.
Thanks for speaking with us Al, how much involvement has Demiurge had with BioWare in moving Mass Effect to the PC?
Howdy! Demiurge has been involved in every step of moving Mass Effect to the PC. Even before the Xbox 360 version hit the shelves, we were working closely with BioWare to craft the best experience possible for the PC version of the game.
What was the advantage of working with BioWare from the end of the Xbox 360 game's development?
The big advantage of working with BioWare was really working with BioWare. We were partners in the PC development, and both Demiurge and BioWare pushed each other to continue raising the bar. Getting two groups of talented individuals together produces great results. Of course, it's also fantastic that the game is super-fun, and that it's already gotten such a positive reception.
Mass Effect and BioWare are both major names in the industry. Was collaborating a daunting prospect?
Working with BioWare wasn't so daunting, because, even with the big name and all that talent, they're still nice folks. The really daunting part was trying to meet and exceed the fans' expectations. The fans expect a lot from Mass Effect PC, and I think they're going to be pleased.
How different is the PC version of ME? Has anything been overhauled entirely?
One major area that you'll immediately notice a difference in is the squad controls, where you can now give orders to individual squad members. You can check out Dan's developer diary on the subject here. We've implemented a new HUD, we've reworked the inventory system, we have an entirely new mini-game, and there are a few more surprises for players as well. We've also upgraded the ME graphics engine and texture resolution to take full advantage of a high-end PC. Demiurge has also done a lot of work under the hood to make everything as beautiful as a grand vision of the game deserves.
How has community feedback influenced your work?
As soon as ME was released on the 360, we started trolling through reviews and forums to look for areas the community wanted improved and bumped those to the top of the list. There were a number of areas where the community feedback was crucial, including the design of the separate squad controls. Another area was the tutorials in the game. For those just picking the game up - or for a veteran player, we don't discriminate - there are more tutorials to help you start out your Mass Effect PC journey.
Technologically, what does the PC offer over the Xbox 360?
Here again, I'll just pick out one example. An options screen might not be the most exciting thing in the galaxy, but Demiurge has made sure that the game supports a variety of graphics options that allows the player to tweak out the game to suit their specs. You'll also notice a striking visual improvement when you're running at maxed out resolution on a nice LCD.
How has controlling ME changed on the PC?
Probably the single biggest design change is to perfectly accommodate the PC's mouse and keyboard. With all those extra buttons, we were able to add quick-slots that let players map abilities to the number keys. Being able to use the mouse made it possible to introduce the new Tactical HUD which enables more fine-grained control over squadmates.
What can you tell us about Demiurge's future projects? What platforms will you be working on in the future?
We're doing development on 360, PS3, Wii and the PC right now. We don't have anything new to announce just yet - but stay tuned!
Will DLC be released on the PC?
BioWare has just announced that the first downloadable content pack "Bring Down the Sky" will be available for Mass Effect PC. Not only that, but it's available for free!
Lastly, what is your favourite element of the new Mass Effect?
Since I got to watch it go from scribbles on a scrap-piece of paper to being ready to ship, I'll admit that I am partial to the new mini-game mechanic. It's just a lot of fun and a nice quick bite-sized bit of gameplay. It's the potato chip of the Mass Effect universe. I definitely look forward to the locked crates in the game. Dan's even got another developer diary just about that.