At a media event held in Sydney, us here at Capsule Computers were able to secure an interview with Jarrad Trudgon and Joe Donahue about the upcoming Mass Effect Infiltrator for the Apple iOS devices. Mass Effect Infiltrator is a parallel story to Mass Effect 3, taking place at the same time as the events of the main entry in the series.
Below is our interview with the guys –
Capsule Computers: Could you guys introduce yourselves and your company for us?
Jarrad: My name is Jarrad Trudgon, and I’m the design director of Iron Monkey Studios in Melbourne and we’re an Australian developer making iOS games at the moment. This is Joe Donahue (Hi) working in the product marketing at Iron Monkey Studios.
Capsule Computers: So guys, the Mass Effect iPhone game… that’s not something many developers can claim to have had any kind of input in. How do you feel about working on such an epic franchise?
Jarrad: It’s great! I’m a huge fan myself and a lot of people on the team are. I’m really pumped to play Mass Effect 3 myself, I mean, it’s hard working on an IP that you love, you can’t help but help to get exposed into the next iteration of the game. It’s happened with Dead Space and it’s kind of happened on Mass Effect where I don’t want any spoilers and it’s pretty hard to not get any when you’re working in the same universe on a parallel storyline. So yeah it’s awesome, it’s a great franchise to work on for sure.
Capsule Computers: In the overall Mass Effect storyline, was it your team that had input over the story or was everything dictated to you by Bioware and EA?
Jarrad: No. So we collaborated with Bioware and we were working with their lead writers, Kasey Hudsen especially, in pre-production before we really started getting into the nitty-gritty of making the game – working very closely with coming up with the High Level story, obviously it had to fit into Mass Effect 3 and the guys making that held all the cards and so they had a big role in setting up how this is going to work. Once we had that nailed down, who the protagonist is, what the events of the three acts are, it was handed to us to fill in the gaps, so you know… fleshing out Randalls personality. The actual events of the story there are certain beats we needed to hit but other than that, it was pretty much up to us so you know, we got feedback from them all the time, obviously because they were interested in making a good game, but you know, lots of freedom.
Capsule Computers: So this Randall character, that’s his name? You can’t change that?
Jarrad: Oh, you don’t like Randall!?
Capsule Computers: I just like customising people.
Jarrad: We don’t have a character customisation screen, like at the start of the project we needed to make decisions on (things like), how can we make the best game on the platform. When you go the character customisation route, you need to make a lot of assets and that takes up a lot of art time, so we just made one awesome character that hopefully most people will like. He is very flexible though, his story is that he works for Cerberus capturing aliens to take back and be experimented on to make their Reapertech Augmentations. He’s undergone a lot of Augmentations himself, so there’s a huge amount of flexibility there. He can use biotics and he can use melee, so players can still customise their own character and come up with a build that they like playing while staying in the narrative of Mass Effect.
Capsule Computers: So with Randall, is there any plan for him to appear in say, the comic books or any of the Expanded Universe?
Jarrad: We haven’t heard anything about that, we haven’t discussed anything like that, so yeah, nothing that I’m aware of at the moment. But we got a pretty good reaction, I think, from the community from when we announced the basic idea of the story and some screenshots of him and I think people will be interested in his story. I think that once they actually play the game and the learn a bit more about him, I think, yeah, you’ll never know. He isn’t going to pop up in Mass Effect 3 or anything though, it’s not going to happen.
Capsule Computers: So this game obviously ties in with Mass Effect 3, could you talk us through a little bit of the integration?
Jarrad: As you’re playing through, enemies have a random chance of dropping Intel in the form of these little data pads, the harder the enemy, the higher chance that they will drop one. When you get intel, you have two choices, you can upload it to the Galaxy at War, which in the narrative is where you’re sending information from Cerberus to the Alliance, the Alliance then uses this information against Cerberus in the final battle against Cerberus and the Reapers. So you know you’ll learn a little bit about the experiments that Cerberus are doing and will help the player in the final battle.
The functional side of it is it’s incrementing a number called the Galactic Readiness Rating, this number is always draining. You can keep coming back and earning intel to keep that number afloat, there are a number of ways to keep it afloat in Mass Effect 3 itself, you can also trade them in for credits which, within this game, are for upgrades like new armour and helmets and that kind of stuff.
Capsule Computers: So is this a full blown RPG, or is this an action game? What were you aiming for?
Jarrad: It’s a much more combat focused game. So another one of those quick decisions made at the start was ‘should we be making this and RPG’, ‘should we be doing dialogue games’? We decided no. We got the voice of Jenkins in Deus Ex as our voice actor, so I get a kick every time I hear him say something.
Capsule Computers: Deus Ex was a pretty great game.
Jarrad: Yeah it was, what was I talking about before?
Capsule Computers: Uhh… The action stuff?
Jarrad: Oh yeah – The narrative stuff, yeah. You know, people with this platform, they want something that they can play quicker, pick up and jump straight into it. Dialogue games take too much time, so it wouldn’t have been a good fit. That was something we agreed on with Bioware early on and we focused on an action game and put all our love into the games combat. Keeping it fast paced, keeping it accessible, keeping it really fun. So you can see it’s a little more arcadey than Mass Effect 3 or any of the Mass Effect console games. These are a lot more fast paced, their battles are a bit more drawn out, these are a lot more fast paced. We have a chaining system too, where if you take a guy out with a headshot, you get a little slomo window where you can quickly try and take out other guys. It’s to give it a mechanic where you’re always trying to perfect your playstyle for any checkpoints, go back at anytime and replay a checkpoint to get a better rating to earn more credits, get better gear and then do it all again.
We’ve got an iPhone friendly game loop happening, similar to what you’ll see in more casual fames like Angry Birds and that kind of thing, but without sacrificing the depth of the gameplay. We still have that there, but just making it a little more friendlier so people wgo just have a minute to spare can play.
Capsule Computers: Looking at the game it is visually impressive, one of the better iOS titles that I have seen. Did you guys get any additional funding from EA for any of that or do you guys have to front for that?
Jarrad: Well, we are EA, Iron Monkey was purchased by EA. There’s no real difference there anymore. I can’t talk about budget stuff, yeah.
Capsule Computers: Final question guys, Capsule Computers being the hardcore gamers that we are, we’re just wondering are you guys hardcore gamers and if so, what is your favourite game?
Jarrad: I most definitely am a hardcore gamer. My favourite game is very hard to say, it varies a lot, I go from Resident Evil to Metal Gear Solid but then it’ll be a different Metal Gear Solid, then it’s Bubble Bobble, it’s one of my oldest favourite games.
(At the end we briefly discussed how he should have said Dark Souls.)
Capsule Computers: I love that game myself.
Jarrad: It’s what got me into it I think, playing Bubble Bobble down at the Arcade.
Capsule Computers: It’s one of those games you can just pick up and play, you know, get a highscore and laugh at the person you just beat.
Capsule Computers: Thanks for the interview guys.
We hope that everyone enjoyed our 11minute interview with the developers of the amazing Mass Effect Infiltrator for the iOS devices.