It’s been on my to-do list for the blog to write up a sort of “what I’m looking forward to/wary of in Mass Effect 2,” and I still intend to get to that before it comes out, but I was just reading Tom Chick’s interview with the game’s project director, Casey Hudson, at the Fidgit blog and an answer to one of Tom’s questions made me sit up and pay attention. (That’s actually saying something because lunch today was a little… intoxicating.)
After a question about dialog in the game and its evolution from Mass Effect 1, Casey says:
If you think about it, we started Mass Effect when Jade Empire or Knights of the Old Republic were cutting edge, where the player didn't speak. It was kind of cinematic camera angles, but not particularly sophisticated. We had to imagine how far we could go. So the writers had to really trust that we would be able to create digital actors, because we had no proof. We had no way to show it. But Mass Effect 1 proves what we can do. So when you say something to a character that hurts her feelings, and she looks at you but doesn't say anything, you can tell in her eyes that you hurt her feelings. That's a huge technological achievement. And now that the writers know that's possible, it allows them to write dialogue like you would write for a really good movie or a TV series, where you don't need to explain everything. You don't need exposition. We can rely on actors, even though they're digital performers to a large degree.
In terms of story, one of the things that I thought was always a bit too clumsy in Mass Effect (and, to a lesser extent, Dragon Age) was when characters seemed to go off on needless exposition that was already communicated through my player character’s own actions or their physical to reaction to something I said or did. This answer really nails why it was like that in the first game (a notion that had never occurred to me) and why there’s reason to think it won’t be an issue in the sequel.
I’m really starting to get excited for this game.
Be sure to check out the rest of the interview, which has plenty of other juicy tidbits.