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I posted the following on the EDI talk page in response to news of her starting voice work. Thought it might work as a blog post:
- I find it interesting that VA work has begun, gives an interesting look at the pace of game development. Following level designers on Twitter it's clear that several level designs are finished and playable and are probably moving onto the art teams to get proper environments put in, as opposed to white/orange boxes.
- For example, Dave Feltham, level designer, recently tweeted "Not only was my level approved, but Casey Hudson says 'The level is awesome'. &fistbump".
- If you watch the GDC '09 video (the very first ME2 leaked footage), you'll see that levels go through five stages.
- The first stage, Narrative Playable, is very very basic, with text for cutscenes and dialogue is just text saying what the dialogue will be.
- The next stage, White Box, is when much of the level is built and playable, but there is no real lighting or cover and dialog, now written, is just text to speech and cinematics are procedurally generated.
- The third stage, Orange box, still features text to speech, but Cinematics work has started, lighting work has started and enemies have proper cover etc.
- The fourth stage, Hardening, is when textures go in, lighting goes in and, most relevent to this news, voice work goes in.
- Then there's a fifth stage, which isn't detailed in the video, but is presumably the final pass.
- Judging by this news Orange Box work is ongoing and they'll be moving into Hardening soon. There was a tweet just before Christmas from Patrick Weekes, writer, to Jos Hendriks, level designer: "@Sjosz Good lord, man. Don't die on me. I'm gonna need you for orange box next year! (Seriously, get sleep. We'll be fine.)" From that, and other tweets, it looks like some levels at least had White Box finished before Christmas break, with Orange Box happening early this year. Presumably we won't be seeing anything in terms of actual gameplay footage or playable demos until Hardening is done. This all lines up, as with ME2, to a likely E3 reveal, though we may hear some news before then, we just won't see anything.
Notes not from what I posted:
- Mass Effect 2 had its first CG teaser trailer, 'Legion' released in February '09. 11 months prior to its official release. Mass Effect 3's official trailer was released in December 2010, between 10 and 12 months before release.
- Brief pieces of very unfinished gameplay and a tiny bit of story information (Nassana Dantius's presence) was leaked out of a presentation at GDC '09 in March. It wasn't marketing material, and wasn't supposed to get out, and as such didn't reveal anything particularly noteworthy. BioWare did not share any ME3 info at this year's GDC.
- The first decent chunk of ME2 information, such as the presence of the Illusive Man and some concept art, appeared in an interview with Casey Hudson on GameTrailers in late March '09.
- The first ME2 footage was released in mid-May. It was a teaser for the E3 2009 reveal. It included quite a substantial amount of gameplay footage.
- The first gameplay was seen at E3 2009 in June, and the first in-engine trailer was released at this time.
From then on it was a pretty steady release of more teasers/gameplay footage. While there is no guarantee, far from it, that ME3 will follow the same timeline, it seems extremely likely that we'll get our first peek at ME3 gameplay and story at E3 2011, given how closely the development/marketing timelines have matched so far. This year's E3 is from June 7-9.