EA's Melbourne-based Iron Monkey is releasing its biggest game to date, Mass Effect Infiltrator, so MCV sat down with Design Director Jarrad Trudgen to talk about the process.
Tell me a little bit about the experience of bringing Mass Effect to the iPad. How has the franchise translated?
One of the things I’m particularly proud of with what we’ve done is the control scheme. We’ve tried to make it a little easier for people who find the dual-stick controls a little daunting, so we have things where, whenever you get in cover, you get these arrows which indicate that you can swap to another bit of cover with a simple swipe. But we have the full range of movement as well, so you’re not restricted to the one plane.
Also, our main character is full of genetic enhancements and you’ll be able to upgrade those as you go. In this way, you can still customise your style of attack even though you don’t have multiple squad members like in ME3.
I’m not sure if you recognised the voice for the main character, but it’s actually Jay Franke, who was the voice of JC Denton from the original Deus Ex. We were really excited when we found out that he actually worked in the same building as us (at Firemint). So we were just thrilled thinking ‘Yeah! We’ve got JC Denton’, asked him if he’d be interested in recording and he was, and he knocked it out of the park, which is great. We were just thinking ‘Wow, this is too perfect. We have to make this happen.’
Infiltrator is definitely a large game with high production values. How big does something like this get?
It’s going to be around 5, 6 or 700 Mb, but we’re spending as much time as we can optimising it to keep the size down. It’s just a testament to the range of stuff we’ve got going on in the game, with full voice acting, high resolution textures and all that kind of thing.
Has Iron Monkey integrated Infiltrator with Mass Effect 3 in any way?
You would have noticed enemies sometimes drop pieces of intel. That’s where Infiltrator ties directly into the Galaxy at War meta-game [which is an optional tactical gameplay segment for Mass Effect 3]. So the more powerful the enemy, the higher the chance they’ll drop intel. You then have two options: either uploading it to Galaxy of War, the idea being that you’re collecting information from Cerberus about their activities and then uploading it to the Alliance and that’s then intel they can use against the Reapers in Mass Effect 3 by increasing your galactic readiness rating, so this is just another way of doing that when you’re not at your home console.
Was that kind of interconnectivity something mandated by EA and Bioware, or did Iron Monkey come up with the idea on their own?
It’s more that it’s an integral part of the design of Mass Effect 3. Anything plugging into ME3 has to plug into the Galaxy at War mechanic as well.
How much autonomy did Bioware and EA give Iron Monkey to really add to the core Mass Effect universe and brand with this game? Who came up with the core concept?
Well, the high level stuff was definitely a very close collaboration with Bioware, so we’re working with their lead writer and with Casey to nail down the story, setting etc, but only in very broad strokes, for example coming up with the idea of playing a Cerberus agent and seeing from the inside what they’re doing on this isolated facility.
Once that stuff was nailed down, we had free reign to fill in all the blanks in terms of developing. They were very keen for us to create it all and shoot it across to them, so we came up with Randall as a character and gave him his backstory and everything, filled in the plot and got feedback from Bioware from there.
It’s certainly unmistakeable as part of the Mass Effect universe.
Everyone on the team are fans of Mass Effect, so we didn’t want to go and do something radical. Sure, we’ve made a lot of tweaks for the platform, but the core experience is still something you want to feel like Mass Effect.
Is this Iron Monkey’s largest game to date?
Yeah, definitely! I guess Dead Space in the past was that, in terms of this type of hardcore third person action or survival horror game. It’s a huge leap from Dead Space, with heaps more characters, environments, weapons, bosses; we kinda went all-out.
Is it being promoted separately to Mass Effect 3?
Definitely, we want to promote it as a standalone experience first and foremost. This is something that’s great for Mass Effect gamers – they’re going to get the most out of it. They’ll know all the other races and their intricacies in the story, but we’re promoting it as the deepest, most beautiful, core game experience on iOS as a standalone game which can be played by everyone.
Being integrated with Mass Effect 3 is a bonus on there as well, but it’s very much its own thing.
Thanks for your time!
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