GDC 2010: Bioware’s Casey Hudson on Villains, Finding “Stolen Memory”

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I haven’t finished Mass Effect 2 yet. (I know, I know! What am I waiting for?) But, Casey Hudson–the project lead and co-writer of Mass Effect 2–says that’s okay. That’s because the new DLC for Bioware’s super-successful sequel will nestle itself into the story no matter where you are in assembling your strike team.

Scheduled to come out in early April, the Kasumi’s Stolen Memory pack introduces the last party member who’ll join Shepard’s dirty dozen. The title character’s a shadowy burglar who needs Shepard’s help to infiltrate a power broker’s exclusive party. Kasumi’s a member of a new human class with the Master Thief ability, a passive power that increases her resistance to biotics. Hudson explained that this mission would have a different structure than other character-based adventures. It came across as a mix between a James Bond motif and a heist movie, with Shepard dressing up in formal wear and adopting the pseudonym Solomon Gunn. You’re not going in guns blazing here, at least not right away. As Hudson walked me through chunks from the mission, it became clear that Donovan Hock–the power broker in question–likes to collect things. In a secret chamber, there were easter-egg artifacts like the head of the Statue of Liberty and Michelangelo’s David. Some useful player loot will be acquired during the mission, too, like the new Kassa Locust machine gun. All in all, the Kasumi pack will offer up about 90 minutes of new gameplay.

And though Kasumi will be the final party member to join Mass Effect 2, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be more DLC to come. Hudson said that, seeing as how production was already running smoothly, Bioware cranked the initial, free Prince Zaeed DLC in 12 weeks between submitting the game to publisher and console manufacturers. With the Firewalker pack coming later this month and Kasumi shortly after that, Hudson said that the plan for ME2 DLC isn’t to simply to squeeze cash out loyal fans, but to extend the story of Shepard’s fight against the Reapers. “The point of everything we’re putting out after the game has shipped,” says Hudson, “is to strengthen the bonds of you already have with these characters.” Aside from increased team-building, Hudson also said upcoming DLC would start bridging the gap between Mass Effect 2 and its as-yet-unscheduled sequel.

Finally, since we’ve got one of Mass Effect’s giant bad guys in our March Madness bracket, I asked Hudson about his favorite supervillains was and what went into creating the Reapers. He tap-danced around the first part of the question, maybe for fear of offending other villain creators out there. (Those Canadians! Always so polite!) What he did offer up is that “most supervillains are just men and they’re knowable because of that. In Mass Effect, we’re trying to tell the biggest story possible and our villains reflect that. They’re about as foreign as we could conceive and we think that drives home the sense of threat that players will be facing.”