Bioware Animator Reveals 10 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Mass Effect

Just this month, we celebrated the fantastic world of Mass Effect with BioWare to commemorate 10 wonderful years of a stunning franchise. Just because it is no longer November 7th doesn’t mean we can’t still celebrate, and to keep the party going former BioWare animator Jonathan Cooper has a few surprising Tweets to show off his own homage.

Among the 10 facts he posted about the game came an the revelation about the Ricky Gervais’ Extras inspiration behind the camera angles he used, “the close over-the-shoulder camera style I used for conversations in Mass Effect was inspired primarily by Ricky Gervais’ Extras.” Hilarious and now we can’t unsee it.

Another interesting little tid-bit he revealed included a heated debate (that he eventually won) regarding the interactive conversations:

BioWare traditionally used black bars to denote interactive conversations, but we won a heated argument to removed them for Mass Effect to blur the line between interactive dialogue and cutscenes.”

Interested in learning more? Here are the ten facts he shared with N7 fans about his work on Mass Effect:

  1. Mass Effect comprised my first ever mocap shoots, back in 2005, flying down here to LA to Giant Studios in the Culver Studio lot. We shot the initial gameplay actions on the same sound-stage as was recorded Gone With The Wind – perhaps inspiring the romances?
  2. During this climactic scene of Anderson punching diplomat Udina, cinematic lead Shane Welbourn, (suited up as Anderson), accidentally clocked the Udina actor on the jaw. I had to work with the poor chap shortly afterwards and he was less than impressed
  3. The very first breakthrough in the facial animation/customization system, spearheaded by former Olympian , was when we were able to create then-US president George W. Bush.
  4. The close over-the-shoulder camera style I used for conversations in Mass Effect was inspired primarily by Ricky Gervais’s The Extras. This is not a joke – that entire series was built on awkward, close conversations.
  5. It was a fight to get design to stick with long-lenses as they were accustomed to framing characters against interesting backgrounds rather than close-ups on the face alone. They were eventually convinced after this first proof-of-concept: E3 2006 demo
  6. Procedural generation of conversations allowed for a great base-line conversation that included facial, body and camerawork, leaving them to only be improved by cinematic designers. ~70% were touched by hand, leaving 30% procedural only, like this one* (to not break up the 10 facts, the video referenced here is the video shown at the bottom of this article).
  7. BioWare traditionally used black bars to denote interactive conversations, but we won a heated argument to remove them for Mass Effect to blur the line between interactive dialogue and cutscenes. This allowed us to seamlessly weave interactivity into dramatic cinematic scenes.
  8. Every gameplay animation in Mass Effect had the eyes constrained forward by default to overcome the dead stare commonly found in games. This detail afforded design access to all 1200 anims for the conversation system, applying additional eye motion on top per line as required.
  9. Puppetshop, the animation/rigging tool developed for and used by the entire trilogy by was stealthily made available for free to the public after the first game. (Sadly it’s no longer supported or available anywhere – but you could have made all the aliens you want).
  10. In perhaps a first – Mass Effect had fully localized lip lip-sync in all languages, possible only because the systemic lip-sync was entirely procedurally-generated. (I only learned this after my later Quebec colleagues enthused about the French version).

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Matt Ruppert624 Posts

Navy Veteran with a penchant for the FPS genre, Chewy has all aspects of the gaming community covered. Don't expect to see him on a console any time soon, however - though he has experience in all platforms, the PC Master Race has a firm hold on him.

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