Bioware Says Shooter Combat "Biggest Risk" in Mass Effect 2

Russ Pitts

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May 1, 2006
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Bioware Says Shooter Combat "Biggest Risk" in Mass Effect 2

"As a designer working on a sequel, I feel I have a responsibility to [the] fans," says Christina Norman, Lead Gameplay Designer for Mass Effect 2 [http://www.amazon.com/Mass-Effect-2-Xbox-360/dp/B001TORSII/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=videogames&qid=1278968926&sr=1-1]. "Fans are more than just sales. On some level we're all involved in [game] design because we want to make games that will make people happy. So those really hardcore fans are ... the reason I like making games."

Norman says that in spite of the outpouring of love from fans and critics alike about Mass Effect 1, the team at Bioware knew they could have done better with the game and wanted to make improvements with the sequel.

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."

Norman's team spent three months on the front end of Mass Effect 2's design cycle re-working just the shooter aspects of the game. She says they wanted to get the shooter feel right and not attempt to re-invent the wheel by re-writing the rules of shooter game play.

For Bioware, she says, as a studio that had built their reputation on making ground-breaking RPGs, making a shooter was surprisingly challenging, and Norman encouraged them to be honest with themselves about it.

"We knew that shooter combat was the biggest risk for us," she says. "What I didn't want to say was 'Mass Effect 2 is a fun game in spite of the shooter combat."

Norman and her team prototyped their proposed changes using the Mass Effect 1 engine, and tried re-creating weapons and other elements from other shooter-type games, like Halo, just to find out the limits of their own systems, and whether or not they could even make good shooter combat.

"If you're trying [to do something] where your team doesn't have a lot of expertise," she says, "it's really important to acknowledge that and say 'hey we need to learn here, guys.'

"Sure, at Bioware we have this amazing history ... but we're not a shooter studio so we've got to learn from all of the people out there who are making amazing shooters. We should start by making shooter combat that's inspired by the combat that's already out there and exceptional and then if we want to innovate, innovate in small areas where there's a really big win."

Creating a global cooldown of biotic powers, refining the weapons and introducing the ammo system in the form of "heat sinks" are just some of the myriad ways Norman and her team revitalized Mass Effect 2's shooter elements. The result? More copies sold and higher review scores. In other words: Really big win.

Norman does, however, acknowledge one area where the company made a significant change to Mass Effect that went over like a lead zeppelin:

"Oh, the mining game," she says. "No one likes the mining game."


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SomeBoredGuy

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Nov 18, 2009
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Well, BioWare is nothing if not a game studio that actually listens to their critics. If this trend of fixing what was broke in the previous game continues in Mass Effect 3, we'll probably be getting little less than the second-coming of Action RPGs.
 

Hurr Durr Derp

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"No one likes the mining game" is right, but I don't agree that the shooter combat has been improved that much. Sure it got better in some ways, but at the same time it got worse in other ways.

The 'heat clip' system was retarded compared to the overheating system in the first, and the cover system meant that every battle was pretty much the same "take cover, shoot enemies when they emerge from their cover". It also made it way too easy to see where fighting would be needed, because as soon as you say a hallway full of chest-high cover you knew there was gonna be fighting (granted, the first game also kinda had this problem, just in a different way). I also fail to see how the global cooldown improved anything.
 

GamingAwesome1

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It's rare a company admits they made a huge mistake so it's nice to see they acknowledge to fact that the mining game was huge flop!
 

T-Bone24

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I like the mining... it's hypnotic.

EDIT: And you know what!? I also like the Mako! Take that, society!
 

Hurr Durr Derp

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T-Bone24 said:
I like the mining... it's hypnotic.

EDIT: And you know what!? I also like the Mako! Take that, society!
I didn't mind the Mako as much as some of the levels you got to drive it in. A lot of planets were filled with steep cliffs and mountains, which made getting from A to B in the Mako a nightmare. On less jagged terrain the Mako wasn't that bad to drive at all, so if the level designers had just taken the Mako's handling into account when making all those random planets I doubt it would have caught as much flak as it did.
 

Jack and Calumon

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Dec 29, 2008
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Well yeah... shooting either makes or breaks a game. Look at The Conduit... could barely hit a damn thing... Well... not unless you change the default settings off RETARD and set it to NORMAL FPS.

Calumon: I don't know what a gun is. My censors take it out... Maybe my Friend Culumon knows?
 

SomeUnregPunk

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i still don't like the combat in Mass Effect 2.

If I was shot with an electric or fire based gun in borderlands then it affects almost as much as if I shot the target with a elemetal based gun. I will fly if something big hits me.

In mass effect, If i hit someone with biotic power like shockwave after I whittle the target's armor and barrier down, then the target goes flying across the map. The same doesn't happen to me If I get hit with a biotic power weilding enemy after my barrier dies.

ME1 had that same combat problem and ME2 just carried it over.
 

JediMB

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Hurr Durr Derp said:
I also fail to see how the global cooldown improved anything.
This is my main beef with the new system. It takes away from the less weapon-oriented classes; Adept, Sentinel and Engineer.

Most biotics getting the additional nerf of being unable to affect anything with armor, shields or barriers only makes it worse, of course. I mean, yeah, it's a balanced system for Soldiers, Infiltrators, Vanguards and Sentinels... and it's probably alright for Engineers too, but the almost entirely biotic-oriented Adepts just end up with a heap of useless abilities.
 

Abedeus

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I loved everything about the new combat system in ME2. Even despite scarce ammo, sniping is more satisfying, and global cooldowns on powers made the combat more fluid and fun, without breaking the game.

About the clip system - don't you think it was weird that you could shoot 1000 bullets without ANY cost? It made no sense at all. Sure weapons overheated, but it wasn't a penalty hard enough.
 

Hurr Durr Derp

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JediMB said:
Hurr Durr Derp said:
I also fail to see how the global cooldown improved anything.
This is my main beef with the new system. It takes away from the less weapon-oriented classes; Adept, Sentinel and Engineer.

Most biotics getting the additional nerf of being unable to affect anything with armor, shields or barriers only makes it worse, of course. I mean, yeah, it's a balanced system for Soldiers, Infiltrators, Vanguards and Sentinels... and it's probably alright for Engineers too, but the almost entirely biotic-oriented Adepts just end up with a heap of useless abilities.
Yeah, the shield/barrier/armor thing is a real mixed blessing. On the one hand it promotes the use of multiple weapon types in your squad (compared to my favorite ME1 approach of "give everyone a shotgun and go to town") since one weapon might be strong vs shield and another strong vs armor. On the other hand, a lot of the biotic powers are useless against protected enemies since the protection blocks the power, and against unprotected enemies it's faster to just shoot them since they go down in a few hits anyway.
 

Karlaxx

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This is extremely encouraging, as we have proof that Bioware knows the scanning needs to be replaced more badly than the Mako.
 

Altorin

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May 16, 2008
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JediMB said:
Hurr Durr Derp said:
I also fail to see how the global cooldown improved anything.
This is my main beef with the new system. It takes away from the less weapon-oriented classes; Adept, Sentinel and Engineer.

Most biotics getting the additional nerf of being unable to affect anything with armor, shields or barriers only makes it worse, of course. I mean, yeah, it's a balanced system for Soldiers, Infiltrators, Vanguards and Sentinels... and it's probably alright for Engineers too, but the almost entirely biotic-oriented Adepts just end up with a heap of useless abilities.
Warp.

The only barrier adept's can't handle is Shields, and they're also the easiest to get rid of

And Singularity works on enemies that have armor/barriers IIRC, and if you can land a warp inside a Singularity, it will explode.
 

Byers

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Nov 21, 2008
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Altorin said:
JediMB said:
Hurr Durr Derp said:
I also fail to see how the global cooldown improved anything.
This is my main beef with the new system. It takes away from the less weapon-oriented classes; Adept, Sentinel and Engineer.

Most biotics getting the additional nerf of being unable to affect anything with armor, shields or barriers only makes it worse, of course. I mean, yeah, it's a balanced system for Soldiers, Infiltrators, Vanguards and Sentinels... and it's probably alright for Engineers too, but the almost entirely biotic-oriented Adepts just end up with a heap of useless abilities.
Warp.

The only barrier adept's can't handle is Shields, and they're also the easiest to get rid of

And Singularity works on enemies that have armor/barriers IIRC, and if you can land a warp inside a Singularity, it will explode.
Yeah, Adepts are fine. I played through the game as an Adept on veteran difficulty on my first playthrough, and it was fun as hell. Every other class I've tried since then have been boring in comparison, so Adepts seem to be working well enough. If you could just toss every guy with full shields and everything into the horizon and have a turkey shoot right away, it would be laughably easy.
 

Souplex

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Jul 29, 2008
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With all the things they took from Halo, they couldn't take "Space armor makes space melee weapons valid against guns"?!
 

008Zulu_v1legacy

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I had a go with the Sentinel once, with the exception of the 12sec CD on the armour buff, I was firing off biotics with 1.5sec CDs. That was at level 30 with every possible upgrade. Until then combat was a pain in a Galaxy sized ass. But that one part where you get a free weapon specilisation, I got the Assault rifle, made things soooo much easier it wasn't (maybe a little) funny.

Maybe in ME3 they will have a Man... Element Zero bar instead of CDs for your powers, and all the Element Zero you harvest can be used to make Man... Element Zero potions for a quick replenish.

Heatsinks bite, I hate only having 13 shots in my Anti-Material sniper rifle. And whats with the Collector DLC rifle? It holds something like 400 (I think, never used the butt ugly thing) rounds while other rifles only have about 100, is that because the damage sucks?