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Q&A: ‘Mass Effect: Infiltrator’

Working with someone else’s baby is hard work, but Mass Effect: Infiltrator isn’t Iron Monkey’s first rodeo with another company’s high-profile IP. Earlier in 2011, it busted out an amazingly true Dead Space experience on iOS. Horror, action, dismemberment: this thing had it all. “Soon," Iron Monkey will release Infiltrator into the wild, as console fans prepare for the next the huge game in the Mass Effect franchise, Mass Effect 3. We don’t know yet if Infiltrator will feel as pure and focused as Dead Space, but we did get a chance to chat with the game’s design director Jarrad Trudgen to get a better idea.

Consider us stoked.

Oh, Geth. You're always messing things up.

TouchArcade: Could you give us the elevator pitch for Infiltrator? What are you trying to bring to the table here?

Jarrad Trudgen: Mass Effect: Infiltrator is the definitive third-person, cover-based shooter on iOS. We set out to faithfully recreate the look and feel of the Mass Effect universe, with a particular focus on combat, and raise the bar we set with Dead Space iOS for art quality, technical fidelity and touchscreen controls. We put a lot of effort into creating rich, immersive experiences employing the high production values typically associated with console games so sound design is another area where we try to innovate on the platform.

Infiltrator tells an original story with an all new protagonist (voiced by VO legend Jay Anthony Franke who played JC Denton in the original Deus Ex games, no less) that runs parallel to the events of ME3 and offers players a chance to see events from a different perspective. Ultimately, we want to make a game that appeals not just to hardcore Mass Effect fans, but also to anyone who enjoys quality mobile gaming.

Anyone else hate lasers? We hate lasers.

TA: What’s it like working with Mass Effect? We’re sure there’s pressure. Then again, you guys also handled a Dead Space title, which was no small task, surely.

JT: We’ve been incredibly fortunate to work on some high profile franchises in collaboration with very talented studios. It’s always daunting working on an IP that you’re a big personal fan of; there is a huge sense of internal pressure to not screw up as no-one wants to be a blemish on something they love. Luckily, both Visceral and Bioware are great creative partners — they had plenty of time for us and were always supportive and keen to collaborate.

TA: What’s the creative process like when you’re working with someone else’s baby? Do you have bounce builds and ideas back and forth constantly? I’m trying to get a sense of your work flow.

JT: We worked closely with executive producer, Casey Hudson, and Lead Writer, Mac Walters, to establish the high level goals for Infiltrator at the beginning of the project: what features to focus on, the setting, main characters and broad stroke narrative. Those guys are very passionate and hands on about the franchise. Once these defining goals were agreed upon they handed us the reigns and largely left us to fill in the gaps. We’d provide our latest draft of the script and fairly regular builds for feedback and there was always great support channels there for our questions and requests. Teams need to feel empowered to get the best out of them and we’ve been fortunate to build great relationships with IP holders so there is a level of trust to give us freedom within the universes they have created.

Sadly, this series keeps its characters from going full Robocop.

TA: How does your studio’s personal experiences with Mass Effect inform what you’re doing with this project?

JT: Already being a fan of something obviously makes it easier to work on it; you already understand the lore of the IP and hopefully have a good understanding of what makes it tick. However, there are risks too, especially when creating an entry for a radically different platform. You don’t want to just slavishly imitate as what works on console may not work on a touch device. For example, our combat is designed to satisfy in shorter bursts than on console – we employ a slow-mo chaining feature and a ranking system which results in a more arcade style experience that is really replay friendly. Again this ties into our goal to make a game that is deep and satisfying for Mass Effect fans but still accessible to players less familiar with the franchise or genre.

TA: What’s next?

JT: Next up, we’re planning to bring Mass Effect: Infiltrator to Android devices.  We don’t have any specific dates to share quite yet, but Android users can stay tuned for more news from us on that front.