Mass Effect Dev Says Multiplayer Will Enhance Experience, Not Dilute It

Despite the many reservations my colleagues and I have about the addition of a cooperative multiplayer component to Mass Effect 3, I take heart in the fact that BioWare developers, at least, have drunk deep of the Kool-Aide and stand behind the decision to add it.

RPGs can be made better with multiplayer; that’s what BioWare CEO and co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka told Wired in an interview. He also said the developer is looking for ways to add online components to its games, with the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer being the first step in that direction.

“The way we look at multiplayer online features is that they shouldn’t be dilutive or weakening the experience,” Muzyka told Wired. “They should be additive, they should strengthen it, they should enhance it.”

Okay, right, I’m with you there, Dr. Muzyka. I suppose it’s possible to tell stories by adding people to the mix — I’m having a good time experiencing the stories of Star Wars: The Old Republic with my Game Front brethren (when we can all manage to be online at the same time). That’s a pretty decent proof of concept that BioWare stories and multiple people can be compatible, to a degree.

And I agree with BioWare’s other co-founder, Greg Zeschuk, who told Wired BioWare isn’t just adding multiplayer for a bullet point on the back of the Mass Effect 3 box:

“Multiplayer … can’t be tacked on,” Zeschuk said at the same event. “That’s one of the pitfalls that some of the people who have done multiplayer have made. ‘Oh, what’s on our marketing checklist? Gotta have multiplayer, check the box.’”

According to Zeschuk and Muzyka, Galaxy at War, the ME3 cooperative mode, makes sense in the game’s narrative and will add both to the gameplay portion and the story portion of the game. Players will win bonuses for participating in the cooperative stories with their friends, which can be applied to the larger adventure of Commander Shepard.

At the least, Zeschuk and Muzyka and the other BioWare devs seem to believe that multiplayer is good for Mass Effect. Just one thing continues to give me pause: that whole “action-only” option for players who don’t care about the Mass Effect story, which is available at the outset of the adventure and which streamlines conversations so that players don’t have to be bothered with choosing dialog options (or any of the best components of the Mass Effect series).

The very idea that an option like that is in the game worries me — let’s face it, Mass Effect’s action-oriented gameplay is fun, but it’s not exactly leading the third-person squad-based shooter genre. If BioWare is willing to punt on story to provide for some weird lowest-common denominator, I continue to worry about just how well co-op will perform in a series that has made missteps by weakening its RPG foundations.

Guess we’ll know more when the ME3 demo hits on Feb. 14.

Follow Hornshaw on Twitter: @philhornshaw.

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