BioWare considering environmental HUD, new enemy designs for Mass Effect 3

Commander Shepard may be taking a page from Isaac Clarke's book. BioWare Senior Designer Brenon Holmes told Mass Effect fans this weekend the studio is tinkering with the addition of an environmental HUD system for Mass Effect 3, much like the one last seen worn by the delusional engineer of note in Dead Space 2.

“That's one of the things that I love about Dead Space; the interface... it feels really immersive. I just want to touch the hell out of those buttons. So we are still investigating ways of putting some of our HUD elements into the environment... we'll see what we end up with,” wrote Holmes in a back and forth chat with BioWare's Mass Effect community.

Holmes said BioWare had played around with different prototypes for a health and shield indicator on Commander Shepard's armor during the early phases of ME2, but weren't able to find a way to do so without having it obscured when players took cover in the middle of the action.

In a later response to criticism over ME2's use of a fuzzy red screen-'o -death to indicate low health, Holmes confirmed this was something the studio was “actively iterating on.” He also noted the sequel would feature more variety on the battlefield, explaining, “One of the things we're trying for ME3 is to make it a lot easier to identify the various types of enemies. Silhouette of the character is a huge component of that, and our character art/animator guys have done a pretty awesome job. I'm pretty excited for when we get to start showing off some of the really cool creatures we've been working on.”

Holmes avoided discussing specific examples, but emphasized any character design changes would be done to suit an actual purpose - gameplay, plot or otherwise - and not just for the sake of mixing things up.

Over and above demonstrating BioWare's open relationship with fans, Holmes' chat over the last few days on BioWare's forum hints at promising improvements in the way of gameplay and design. Small improvements, sure, but ones that could make a difference when the intergalactic crap hits the fan.

[Source: BioWare forums via Scrawl]

Mar 28, 2011

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  • soren7550 - March 29, 2011 1:05 a.m.

    Hey, how about instead of lifting Dead Space's HUD, how about you just go back to the ME1 combat HUD that worked just fine?
  • md1292 - March 29, 2011 12:24 a.m.

    Sounds cool. Please less giant LOKI mechs and more variety!
  • babyhenchy1 - March 28, 2011 8:08 p.m.

    Mass Effect is best new series of this gen (yeah GR knows it). Mass Effect 2 is one of my all time favorites. If you can't make this work BioWare, don't do it. If you can and it makes the game better, godspeed.
  • FoxdenRacing - March 28, 2011 8:04 p.m.

    I really, really, really like Ricepudding's idea; I'm not sure how easy it'd be to track allies via omni-tool [remember, not everybody has a massive HDTV], but that's the perfect excuse for keeping it always in view; the HUD bit of the tool rotates to face the camera at all times. When zoomed or somesuch, put it in the corner. (My thoughts to follow) Environmental and/or Minimalist HUDs are great for immersion, but typically only work well with a fixed-perspective and where the only thing you manage is yourself...finding teammates, moving around cover to check on them, getting them to stand still, etc is a pain in the neck, when a simple icon would work so much better. If Bioware can pull it off [and do so well], it's a testament to their skill. Another method to consider is audio cues; for example Mechassault, where once a player learned the audio cues they could know how much damage and how much heat have built up just by taking a split-second to listen. Almost anything is better than the stupid and obnoxious 'OMG Look how really real this is, my screen's bloody!' effect so prevalent in the industry. A quick splatter as a hit indicator is one thing...blocking my view when visibility is of utmost importance is absurd and counterproductive. Getting back on task, I just pray they step back a little bit from the dumbing down in ME2. Anything to make a game more approachable is a good thing, but we should never equate 'approachable' to "tested well with a can't-focus group of 12-year-old ADHD-addled CoD junkies"...and Bioware stepped across that line with both ME2 and DA2. Approachable games are intuitive [menu item and button placement makes sense, and not just because X other games did the same thing], discoverable [able to learn the nuances by observing what's going on], and fluid [the interface should hinder the player as little as possible]...approachable games do not have to be idiot-proof, they do not have to have braindead-simple mechanics, and they do not have to be aimed at the lowest-common-denominator. They just need lots of TLC paid to the user interface, progression pacing [how often players get new ways to interact with the simple as a new weapon/unit type or as complex as a new customization method] and 'learning' sections [ideally as smoothly and imperceptibly integrated as Portal's test chambers] from the very first day of design. My beef with a publisher saying 'Can you make this appeal to CoD/Halo/Battlefield/MoH players?' for seemingly every game nowadays is that if I wanted an action game, I'd buy an action game; I buy RPGs for the story, highly-nuanced gameplay, the well-developed characters, the need for brains and diplomacy rather than reflexes and ruthlessness...they can and should be completely different animals. Some games [Deus Ex, Borderlands, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, early Twisted Metal] handle the crossovers brilliantly, and are true works of art simply on gameplay alone...but doing a crossover well is very, very, very difficult, and requires a studio that is very good at both genres to be cross-pollinated. Said and done though, RPGs are the single hardest genre to make a solid-gold game for. No two fans of the genre agree on everything, and the term 'RPG' has been watered down to the point that 'RANK UP!' is now considered 'making a game an RPG/whatever hybrid' doesn't help matters any...and despite it, Bioware is one of the best in the business. Their ability to give a truly cinematic atmosphere is second to none; Bethesda is the king of sprawling, living worlds, and Atlus have 'pure' RPGs, both old-school and tactical, down to a science. All 3 have my utmost respect. Anyway...this crusty old controller curmudgeon has said his peace; love me or hate me, I ramble and rant because I don't want to see gaming stagnate...or even worse, devolve into the soul-less, mass-manufactured crap called pop music.
  • FOZ - March 28, 2011 7:40 p.m.

    Moar variety plz. No more shooting hundreds of mercenaries in sterile box-filled rooms after one time through ME2.
  • Rhymenocerous - March 28, 2011 7:15 p.m.

    How does Isaac see the Health meter anyway? Only the necromorphs can actually tell what state he's in, lol.
  • razorman715 - March 28, 2011 7:03 p.m.

    @SalamnderJesus You troll
  • Tispower - March 28, 2011 7:02 p.m.

  • SalamanderJesus - March 28, 2011 6:53 p.m.

    It seems the Mass Effect series is just getting worse and worse
  • Sniped50 - March 28, 2011 6:37 p.m.

    It might well be possible. Here's one that could work: Why don't they just have two health indicators (and/or any other type of indicator BioWare so desires); one on Shepard's back, and the other on his chest so you can see it when in cover? And maybe it could be just a circle that drains with damage, with two smaller semi-circles in the middle for squadmates' health? I'm pretty psyched for ME3. It WILL be epic. Mark my words.
  • Clovin64 - March 28, 2011 6:09 p.m.

    Sounds good. Obviously it would be tricky to put a health indicator on Shepard's back (like in Dead Space 2) because it would be obscured when you take cover, and it may be difficult to keep an eye on your allies health.
  • RicePuddingUK - March 28, 2011 5:58 p.m.

    I think that could work well with the holographic omni-tool the characters have on their arms, they've been present in both games but never been used effectively, would be great to bring them into gameplay.
  • asspills - March 28, 2011 5:52 p.m.

    I just bought Mass Effect 2 the other day, and so far I'm having a blast. I just hope they finally add a small background behind all the speech options So i can read them no matter what the camera angle. Quite annoying.
  • SideOfBeef - March 28, 2011 5:44 p.m.

    It wouldn't be enough to replacethe shield bar, but I'd like it if Shephard's armor went into a vanquish-style venting animation when his shields go down.
  • spideralex90 - March 28, 2011 5:39 p.m.

    I imagine they can pull something off. This game is gonna be epic though.
  • joshdaman123 - March 28, 2011 5:37 p.m.

    bring on the gameplay trailers! :D

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