"simply couldn't do, or had to compromise" if they shoehorned multiplayer in the original.
They tried again with Mass Effect 2 but again there were "a lot of factors" needing compromise. With Mass Effect 3 though they "adopted a fundamentally different approach" thanks to war.
In Mass Effect 3 a 'Galaxy at War' multiplayer mode lets fans be part of a multi-species team battling Cerberus operatives for control of strategic locations across the galaxy.
"Well, to us it was always a fun, intriguing idea to partake in the Mass Effect universe with friends, to look around, kind of see it from inside with others rather than just taking part in this solo experience," said BioWare's Casey Hudson.
"In general, that's the direction that videogames are heading; they're more social, more online, and we've been trying to find a way ever since Mass Effect 1 to integrate some kind of multiplayer." In the early days of Mass Effect though the studio was still trying to "figure out what kind of a game it was going to be," and pondered on co-op.
"That, instead of there being just one Commander Shepard, he's in fact kind of lots of different heroes that can jump in, meet each other and interact. And by embarking upon that route we realised there was just a lot of things we simply couldn't do, or had to compromise when ensuring the solo experience was as great as we wanted it to be, so we dropped that idea and proceeded to perfect single-player, to make it really solid," explained Hudson.
They tried again with Mass Effect 2, "deliberating whether you could perhaps take control of one of the other characters for a while, but - again - there were a lot of factors that would have compromised the single-player story."
"So the difference really was that, with ME3, we adopted a fundamentally different approach to what the thing is about, which is that there is a whole intergalactic war going on, which wasn't the case in the previous entries. So Shepard is still the hero, making the big decisions, deciding what's going to happen with the universe and building alliances, but now there's armies all over the place, fighting to just hang onto different locations."
"That provided us with a different idea; now in multiplayer you can play as that crew of special forces, journeying around and helping Shepard with the war effort," he said. Participating in multiplayer matches will help a singleplayer campaign, however BioWare are adamant you needn't ever touch it to achieve the best possible ending with Shephard.
"On a personal level, I think I would like to play a Mass Effect MMO. I would love to just be in a lot of these locations," said Hudson. "I would like to live in the Citadel, and walk around and do neat stuff, get caught up in adventures, and I think that's a lot of the feedback that we have from our fans; they want more adventures in their DLC."
"They want to make sure that your squad members are there, and have interactions with you, because it points to an interest in just living in the world versus being under pressure to finish the story which is another type of experience. Sure, it's a great experience, but I think when you build a universe - versus a one-off story - then I think people want to live in it."
Mass Effect 3 releases on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC March 6th in the US, 9th in Europe. Check out thebetween Casey Hudson and CVG. Are you comfortable with BioWare's multiplayer plans with Mass Effect?