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Joystiq interview: BioWare's Ray Muzyka talks Mass Effect 2, DLC and his favorite interface

Justin McElroy

Normally, when we want to talk to Ray Muzyka, General Manger of BioWare, we have to camp outside his palatial mansion and wait for him to get his morning paper. He's pretty spry though, so we can usually get out "When is Mass Effect 2 go--" before he slams the door in our face. But this time, EA actually asked us to pick the good doctor's brain. Here are the results:

BioWare has worked in several fantastical settings. How did working in a sci-fi world like Mass Effect differ from some of your earlier titles?

That's a great question. The creative inspiration for both fantasy and sci-fi, and contemporary settings for that matter, certainly come from very different sources on different projects – for example, we're inspired by the classic fantasy novels for our fantasy games like Baldur's Gate or Dragon Age, and by classic science fiction films for science fiction IPs like Mass Effect, and by contemporary setting movies and novels for other titles. We're always striving to deliver powerful emotional experiences to our audience.

With a game like Dragon Age, we're creating a rich fantasy universe that's equally compelling and deep compared with a science fiction universe like the galaxy of Mass Effect – both are different, but there are certainly a lot of similarities in terms of gameplay, and the characters, even when alien or non-human, still need to evoke an essential humanity, and make you feel something. With our future DS title, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, we're pursuing a brand new direction that's really fun to play. Whatever universe you're exploring you need to feel powerful emotion as you explore strange lands, fight awesome battles, converse with compelling characters, or progress and customize your character.

Do you prefer creating stories in the confines of someone else's mythology (Star Wars, etc.) or the freedom of making your own?

Both choices have their own unique appeal. In the end, both are ends of the same spectrum, since successful new intellectual properties become licenses. In the case of Star Wars, it was an incredible honor to work with LucasArts as we were – and are - huge fans of the Star Wars IP! Lucas has created a universe that allowed us to be very creative, so it really wasn't confining when we considered the freedom available in the Knights of the Old Republic setting, some 5000 years before the movies. The other side of the equation, creating new intellectual property, is literally creating your own fiction and is a lot of fun as we are starting from scratch for new IPs like Mass Effect or Dragon Age. Dragon Age is awesome by the way – I was playing it just the other day and it's shaping up pretty marvelously – we're looking forward to showing more on DA later this year. But the ultimate answer to your question is, we love working on both types of properties and you can expect both kinds from BioWare in the future.

It seems that a higher percentage of video games (as compared to movies, TV) skew towards a sci-fi universe. Why do think that is?

In science fiction a key concept is exploration and discovery. This really lends itself to interactive entertainment as it is a more personal experience. In other words, the audience is taking the role of director and the star, which means they are both discovering and shaping the experience. A good example for me personally was the first time I set foot on Luna, the Earth's moon, in Mass Effect. I looked up in the sky and could see the Earth - that was a pretty incredible experience; it made me feel like I was part of the NASA Apollo program!

I know that Mass Effect PC has a new interface, but I'm curious: Which do you prefer -- Xbox 360 or PC?

First off, I'm very proud of what both teams accomplished, and I've played both SKUs extensively, but from a personal perspective I have to say that I really am enjoying the new PC controls. The platform really lends itself to control customization and some of the new features we have like the new Tactical HUD with individual squad command and the ability to map Shepard's biotic powers to hot keys are really fun, particularly when you combine them together.

Is there more DLC being planned for Mass Effect? What can we expect?

We are definitely planning on doing more DLC, but we haven't yet announced any details. Stay tuned for more information later this year!

Where does Mass Effect 2 stand in terms of production phases?

We are working on future installments in the Mass Effect franchise and the team is implementing some very cool stuff that we aren't ready to discuss yet. Hang tight; we'll have more information as we get closer to formally announcing new products in the Mass Effect franchise!

The new interface is pretty PC-centric, how much of it will you be able to roll into Mass Effect 2?

Each platform has inherent strengths. The Xbox 360 control is really strong in the fact that it is very easy and intuitive to control. Comparing the Xbox 360 version versus the PC, we are looking at two different audiences with different expectations and needs. That being said, I really like what the team has done with the PC version and we are looking at implementing mechanics in future Mass Effect products where they make sense. However, we'll continue to support our fans on both PC and Xbox 360 in the future, so both SKUs need, and will have, different core interfaces.

Will Mass Effect 2 be an Xbox 360 exclusive again? Will they bring a PC port day and date for Mass Effect 2? Any plans for a Mac port, since EA has pledged support for that platform?

We haven't announced any specific plans yet with Mass Effect 2, so other than saying that I love the Mass Effect universe, I'll have to plead the fifth on this one!

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