VideoGamer.com: The shotgun seems to have changed quite a bit as well. Tell us about that.
JH: It's still a shotgun, but we've basically changed it to be definitely a lot more close up and a lot more damage.
VideoGamer.com: There was one ability I used as Shepard that slowed down time. What was that?
JH: Heavy adrenaline rush.
VideoGamer.com: Yeah. How does that work?
JH: We wanted to give you the ability to get in close and personal with the shotgun, for example. Once you get up there, move up there real quick and then be able to blast them without getting all the fire. Let's say you're going up against a tech or a biotic, which is going to completely kill you from range. The ability to close that gap is massively important, right? We wanted to give you an ability that can let you close that gap, or at least help you to subvert some of the damage that you're going to eventually receive.
VideoGamer.com: There was a moment in the final dialogue-based scene where I saw an icon for the left trigger pop up briefly, but I missed it. What would have happened if I had pressed it?
JH: That's the new interrupt system. The icon itself is correct but the timing is a lot quicker than it will be in the final game. Right now it feels a little bit more like a quick time event. We're trying to make it not feel so much like a quick time event. But what it does is, in longer conversations we're putting them in to help the player control the pace so they don't feel they have to just mash the X button to get through the conversation quicker. You can still do that, but if you want to speed up the pace a little bit, take more control over the conversation - at E3 for example we showed Shepard pushing someone out of a window - in this case what would have happened is Shepard would have got a little bit more aggressive and Nassana would have stepped through the conversation a little bit sooner. Thane would have then come down and had at her a lot sooner, so you wouldn't have gone through the dialogue.
VideoGamer.com: Do the interrupts affect your alignment?
JH: Absolutely they do. The ones that we've shown are both Renegade, but there are going to be Paragon versions as well.
VideoGamer.com: How will you know what effect your interrupt will have?
JH: It'll be on different sides of the screen. That's the current design anyway. That's subject to change, obviously. We're doing a big HUD enhancement right now. This HUD that you see here right now [points to television running hands-on demo] is definitely not the final one. In fact this one doesn't exist in any form or fashion right now. We've recently pulled it out and replaced it with something that fits the speed of combat a lot more.
VideoGamer.com: Tell me about some of the changes you've made to the controller layout.
JH: I believe the quote unquote reload, which is actually more of a... it's a heat dump right now... we've changed a lot of the dynamics around heat. We're still changing them quite a bit. Right now when you hit X it dumps your heat instead of waiting for you to hit the overload or whatever they called it before. We've also changed controller mapping, so you have the ability to map more powers and more follower powers. Also you'll notice the d-pad has changed. The buttons say they've remained the same, but actually they're more contextual. For example, in this demo if you hit left Miranda's going to go to wherever you want. Or, if you have a guy selected she's going to engage in the appropriate combat for her class. Miranda's biotic based, so she's going to move up, do whichever mapped biotic you've got, then get into some cover and start hammering away with her selected weapon. It's a lot more context sensitive now. What we're trying to do is allow the player not to need to go into menus any more, or into the wheel if they don't want to.
VideoGamer.com: But I loved the sound when you bring up the power wheel. That was one of the coolest things about Mass Effect.
JH: Like what we're doing with the conversations, where we're putting some pacing ability in there, the same thing we're trying to do with combat. We've sped up combat a lot. We don't want to punish our core RPG players who like a slower paced combat. So we've improved the pause and play, the tactical combat. In Mass 1, pulling up the wheel didn't pause indefinitely. Now it does, so you can actually hit pause, take a look at the battlefield, analyse the decision you want to make, select your powers, cue up the powers you want your guys to use and away you go.
VideoGamer.com: I think there's a bit of confusion online about what will happen to the abilities you've gained when you carry your game saves over from Mass Effect to Mass Effect 2. What exactly will happen?
JH: Some will transfer. Some will not. We're still tweaking over which ones are going to transfer, which ones are going to give you bonuses, basically. The big thing to remember is we don't want to punish people who haven't played. And we have a really large gap in between beating Mass 1 once and beating Mass 1 17 times. For the players who are level 60, absolutely max level, the whole nine yards, these guys, we want to give them appropriate bonuses, but not so much that they don't have any fun and don't feel challenged in Mass 2. And the guys that are level 20 will want to do the same thing, but obviously we want to reward players who have played more, with more.
VideoGamer.com: Can you tell me how players will be rewarded depending on the level of their Shepard?
JH: Not specifically because we're still tweaking it. Right now we're in the polishing phase of the game, and this is one of the things we're trying to leave till last so it feels like we've put the right amount of effort into it. All of the other game save features are basically done. This is the last one. We're literally pushing it up, all right, focus testing it, keep pulling it back, pulling it back, pulling it back, till we get that right balance.