Mass Effect 2 developers borrowing social gaming's metrics-mining approach

Social game developers are often criticized for focusing on "player metrics" -- gameplay data culled from actual player experience that's used to guide frequent, carefully crafted updates. But a new interview with the creators of one of the biggest traditional game releases of the year shows that this metrics-based approach is starting to spread to all sorts of games

Talknig to IGN, BioWare Senior Producer Casey Hudson said the company is collecting massive amounts of anonymous gameplay data on players of January's Mass Effect 2. The company is capturing and analyzing data on everything from weapon use to skipped lines of dialogue, Hudson said, in an effort to determine what bits should be changed for eventual sequels and DLC.

"Sometimes you'll design something and think that it's going to be used in a certain way and people will use it in a completely different way," Hudson said. "And if you didn't know that, then you would just keep making that system the same as you did before. But once you know what players like and what they don't like, based on the way that they're playing it, then you can make more of the good stuff and less of the stuff they weren't interested in."

While Hudson doesn't see player data analysis as the be-all-end-all of game design, he does think it will help guide the company as it refines the game going forward. "Ultimately it doesn't always give you the answers, but it sometimes raises questions or gets you to ask the right questions," he said. "More people played the soldier class than all of the other classes combined. If you know that, then you can start thinking about future games. Is that good? Is that a problem? Should we look at the other classes and start thinking about ways to make them selected as often as soldier? As part of asking these questions, we can design games in the future a lot better."

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