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BioWare and the catch-22 of using player feedback

In Gamasutra's latest feature interview, Mass Effect 3 executive producer Casey Hudson admits that while the company values feedback, listening to the fans can present some amusing contradictions.
In Gamasutra's latest feature interview, Mass Effect 3 executive producer Casey Hudson admits that while the company values feedback, listening to the fans can present some amusing contradictions. The developer famously improved Mass Effect 2 dramatically by meticulously documenting feedback from both professional reviews and from fans. The new game builds on the foundation laid from the last. But there is one problem, Hudson says. "Anytime you introduce something new it's controversial. Because fans will say, 'Well, we never asked for that', you know, 'We want you to keep doing exactly the other things that we've liked before.'" The problem, he says, is that if you don't innovate, you'll also be accused of "doing the same thing all the time." And sometimes fans seem to contradict themselves, he says. "A great example was the new characters that we added for Mass Effect 2. When we started publicly introducing these new characters that would join your team in that game, it was tremendously controversial because people didn't want these new characters that they didn't know; they wanted us to recreate the experience of Mass Effect 1 with those characters." "Now we're having a similar challenge with Mass Effect 3, where characters that we're introducing are seen as controversial because people only want their Mass Effect 2 characters, characters which, previously, were kind of met with resentment because we were adding them in the first place." Another trap is the elevators, which BioWare introduced in the original game to cover load times. They were generally poorly received... Or were they? "One of the top complaints for Mass Effect 1 is people didn't like how slow the elevators were, and they wanted to get rid of the elevators. But with Mass Effect 2 -- because we had load screens -- they wanted us to bring back the elevators," says Hudson. The team hopes to sidestep this one completely, however, this time around, he says. "We're taking a different approach on with Mass Effect 3, because we're actually trying to create essentially a load-free narrative experience." The full feature, which contains a lot more insights from Hudson on how the team hopes to push forward with the popular sci-fi RPG series, is live now on Gamasutra.

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