BioWare reveals it axed plans to make Mass Effect Andromeda play like No Man’s Sky

Chris Stead 23 March 2017

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In an interview with finder.com.au, BioWare’s Fabrice Condominas talks about how deeply the team explored procedurally generated worlds for Mass Effect Andromeda.

As if Mass Effect Andromeda (PS4, Xbox One and PC) wasn’t big enough, we can confirm that for a good while BioWare was looking at an open universe system inspired by No Man’s Sky. We received this information during our interview with the game’s producer, Fabrice Condominas, as he toured Mass effect Andromeda to Australia prior to its release. No Man’s Sky, which released in 2016, offered gamers a near infinite, procedurally generated universe to explore, where you could fly in and out of planets, discovering what weird and wonderful things the algorithm had puzzled together.

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As part of a wide-ranging conversation - which also covered the addition of one night stands to the game’s sex engine and how the new engine impacted the visuals - Condominas spoke of Hello Games’ revolutionary, if inconsistently received, sci-fi blockbuster. So impressed was BioWare with No Man’s Sky’s ambition, the legendary RPG developer spent up to a year exploring the idea of making the non-story planets scattered throughout Mass Effect Andromeda procedurally generated, playable areas. The idea being that you could fly in and fly out of any planet, discovering what it had to offer.

However, BioWare eventually determined it couldn’t maintain the quality bar it wanted by taking this approach, and the feature was ditched. We wonder whether the lacklustre reception to No Man’s Sky also played a role in that decision. Here is the full conversation.

Between Mass Effect 3 and Andromeda, we saw the release of No Man’s Sky. I am wondering if BioWare was influenced at all by what Hello Games achieved with its game?

Yes, obviously we are looking at what else is happening in the industry overall. In the specific case of No Man’s Sky, at the time it was released, we were already deep in development. But we noticed that it was very focused on procedural worlds and we tried that, actually, over a year. Our conclusion at the time was that it wasn’t for us in the sense that it wasn’t for the type of game we were doing. Because all the content we build we try and make to a high quality, but when we tried procedurally generated content we never reached the level of quality we wanted.

At the same time, for the industry as a whole, we were fairly excited that people were trying it. I hope the Hello Games guys land back on their feet as they took a lot of risk and have been criticised a lot. But I think there is something fundamentally interesting about No Man’s Sky that can help the industry move forward. Again, even if it is not quite for us yet, it was still interesting.

I think the biggest thing No Man’s Sky showed to the industry is that [for gamers] the importance they place on the narrative and the quality of the writing has raised significantly, which is great news for BioWare as we push for that quality. We’re storytellers because we love stories. So the more the industry goes in that direction, the happier we are, even just as players.

In Mass Effect Andromeda, there are planets you can see from a space view, but can’t go down and land on: so originally you’re saying there was an plan to procedurally generate all of them and let you fly in and fly out?

That idea certainly crossed our minds and yes we tried those things, but in the end we went with quality over quantity. The game is already huge, so I don’t think people will feel lost on things to do.
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One Response

  1. Default Gravatar
    IMarch 25, 2017

    Opportunity missed. No Man’s Sky is a good platform to build for the future. Games can only get incredible if they focus on that scale but make it better.

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