Fresh from a mammoth two-hour hands-on session with upcoming sci-fi RPG/shooter Mass Effect 2, spoilerrific impressions of which you can read here, we sat down for a chat with BioWare's lead technical artist Adrien Cho to seek answers to all our unanswered questions. Read on for hot new details on downloadable content, vehicle driving, disc swapping and… Mass Effect 3.
VideoGamer.com: What's the Cerberus Network, which is an option in the game's front menu?
Adrien Cho: It's a feature we've put in, obviously, and we just haven't talked officially about what it does. It is a mechanism to keep players engaged in the Mass Effect universe. The part I can't talk about is the delivery method for downloadable content. We looked at all aspects of Mass Effect and we looked at areas that could be improved upon. Top of the list, combat had to be better; exploration, uncharted worlds, art, no more texture blurring, stable framerate, and then DLC. We looked at DLC and said, what we put out didn't live up to what we promised. I'm not going to say we dropped the ball, but we could have done a lot better. What you're going to see with our DLC plan for Mass Effect 2 is that we're going to offer a lot more content from day one to keep people engaged.
VideoGamer.com: So there will be DLC on day one, like with Dragon Age: Origins?
AC: Exactly. Dragon Age, actually, at the time you know there's new content - you're going to have Blood Dragon Armour. We have lots of promotions in North America. What's the equivalent of GameStop?
AC: Okay. Depending on where you pre-order in North America you're going to get armour and weapons. That stuff is also going to trickle out to our DLC. The great thing is there is a lot of content out there that ranges from a new weapon, to a new heavy weapon, maybe a new piece of armour, a new helmet, different things to customise Shepard with, to side quests, to a full-blown mission, or a huge expansion pack. It's a huge range. If I look back at Mass Effect 1 DLC, it was just like, here's a chunk. This DLC has a lot more variety. The cool thing is also there's going to be a lot of bonus content basically for the fans, that they don't have to pay for. It's just going to keep them engaged. It's hopefully a good service to the players who buy the game, and will keep them engaged.
VideoGamer.com: We now know the game's coming out on two discs, and there will be a point where you need to change to disc two. How will that transition be handled?
AC: It'll be fine. We basically looked at the most logical point in the story for it to happen and of least inconvenience to the players. On the plus side, there's so much content, right? If you thought Mass Effect 1 was good, imagine what you're going to get with Mass Effect 2! We had to put two DVDs full of content in there. So we had to break it down. We actually had a team working on it. We worked it out in such a way that has the least effect on the player. You don't want people to be distracted throughout the game, but it's necessary partly because the game is so huge.
VideoGamer.com: Do you just swap discs once?
AC: I don't know for sure. I can't comment on that. You might have to do it twice.
VideoGamer.com: Do you know how the transition is handled? Does the game simply ask you to insert disc two, or is it woven into the story or the universe in a cool way? Do you know?
AC: No. I've been playing from my dev kit for the longest time! I don't know exactly how it pops up to say please insert disc two at this point. It's not going to be in the middle of a mission where you're just like, oh I see some enemies - please insert disc two. It's going to be a chapter stop, where it's like you finish the mission, now here's a logical branching off point.