Secrets of the Firepower Pack

Secrets of the Firepower Pack  

 I'm the lead gameplay designer for Mass Effect 2. I thought I'd do a blog post and share some information on the new Mass Effect 2 DLC - the Firepower Pack. The official release notes are here.

Game development takes years, but it isn't until you reach the home stretch that you start to fully understand your game. Because of this, the majority of content we create that ships on the disc, we start on before we fully understand our own game.

When your game is released, you immediately get a flood of new perspectives: Professional reviews come in, and gamers post their own reviews on social networks. Forum discussions disect specific systems, creatures, and areas. FAQs are authored that try to provide a full guide to your game. All of this affects your perspective of what you've created, and this perspective affects future content you create.

The firepower pack is a great example of DLC that was created with a full understanding of what Mass Effect 2 is. Each weapon in this pack was created to disrupt, not fit into, the existing weapon ecosystem. Designed for players already familiar with our content and weapons, these guns try to provide a new Mass Effect 2 combat experience in our existing game.

Geth Plasma Shotgun  

Shotguns in ME2 deliver high damage at close range, which is great if that matches you playstyle. If you don't like getting up close and personal, they're not that useful. The  Geth Plasma Shotgun was designed for those players -- its the "unshotgun".
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Basic fire with the Geth Plasma Shotgun delivers a payload with a much tighter spread, so it can be used quite effectively at range. The tradeoff is, you don't get the same stopping power at short range.

But heavy hitting is part of the shotgun experience we wanted to keep, so we built a unique feature - overcharge. With overcharge you power up a blast by holding the fire button, releasing it to deal a double damage blast at the cost of two ammo. It provides a very satisfying experience. The sound and vfx on this gun is just awesome. 
To use overcharge effectively you have to change the way you play. You can't charge while you're safe in cover, so effective use requires getting out of cover. Out of cover, you rely more on strafing and high cover to protect yourself from enemies. It's a different higher-risk higher-reward experience.

 This overall design gives this shotgun a lot of utility. Even if shotguns aren't normally your thing, you'll want to bring this one around, because situationally overcharge is extremely useful. Also, don't worry Vanguards, you can still charge an enemy and then release overcharge when you land.

Phalanx Heavy Pistol 

 Heavy pistols are punchy, accurate, and overall great weapons. With the Phalanx we wanted to provide a different, novel, aiming experience that would spice up an already excellent weapon. With that in mind, we added a laser sight.
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The Phalanx is hyper accurate. When the red dot is on an enemy's kneecap and you fire, that's where he gets hit. You can literally go through a level killing every loki mech you encounter by shooting off their left leg with a single shot (I've done this, for me it's quite fun!) My nick name for the Phalanx is the "dismantler".

The tradeoff with the phalanx is you have no crosshair when you fire. Centering a crosshair on an enemy is relatively easy, placing a laser sight on them is harder. Overall, aiming is more difficult, but when you hit you hit exactly where you want to.

Mattock Heavy Rifle 
 Assault rifles are the most popular weapons in ME2. They were designed to be reliable. They're always a good choice for any enemy, but not necessarily the best choice. 

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With the Mattock we wanted to provide a novel firing experience, so we added selective fire. This is a fairly minor change, but it has a big impact on how you use the weapon. Each squeeze of the trigger lets loose a single, powerful, accurate, shot. Feather the trigger and you'll let lose a precise but powerful volley of shots.

We also balanced the Mattock differently. We gave it a lower amount of total ammo, but upped it's damage per shot significantly. This balances its high damage per shot and potentially high rate of fire by ensuring that each shot must be placed carefully to avoid risk of going out of ammo.  

So that's the overview of the Firepower Pack! I hope it helps give Mass Effect veterans a novel experience, as they play through DLC, and replay Mass Effect 2.