Whenever a big MMO is coming out, it's put up against World of Warcraft. Do you think that is a trap to compare what you are doing to the biggest success that's out there?
GZ: No, I think it's inevitable. We're a pretty big developer that happens to be using the biggest license in the world.
Do you mind that people constantly compare?
GZ: No. It's just inevitable. The key thing for us is to also innovate in that new stuff. I try to use the word "carefully" in touchstone in that. You can go too far. ... WoW in particular, one thing is, it has set consumer expectations. It also set a set of conventions of gameplay that have been experienced by millions of people. So, you know, you pay attention to those things, but while you're paying attention, you're doing your own thing.
I think that's actually one thing I'm excited about, particularly, with TOR. It is a very different experience. I think that anybody who plays it for any length of time, it's pretty remarkable, because they actually come away [impressed]... I think it's the strong, individualized heroic element is so powerful in the game...
It's obviously a BioWare game. Then you think of that in an MMO space, people have trouble conceiving it until they actually play it, and they go, "Oh, now this makes sense." It's very, very compelling. I think it's different. I think WoW and all the other MMOs, they have the same sort of challenge... There are thousands and thousands of heroes. You don't really feel special. It's an amazing experience, and it's really rewarding and fun, but you just don't feel special. That's what we're trying to do.
RM: The reaction that we've had, and a lot of people playing it have had -- we've done a lot of consumer testing and there's a lot more to go -- but the common reaction we get from our fans when we play it, or the testers, ourselves, and our teams, is that frankly once you've tried it, you just can't go back. You don't want to try other MMOs anymore. I think that's what imbuing the game with a sense of heroic purpose and identity achieves.
We've got the best-of-breed features from other MMOs, progression, exploration, customization, combat, and trying to use the conventions that make sense to players for accessibility wherever possible.
We've layered on an amazing Star Wars story that's set thousands of years before the movies, so there are a lot of opportunitie -- [you can] have like Sith and Jedi, galactic conflict and all kinds of cool shit. It's a really exciting time to be in the Star Wars universe. And then we've imbued it with that sense of heroic purpose. Once you've tried it, there's no looking back. You really want to keep playing that new approach to MMOs, I think that is really refreshing.
You had Dragon Age II, and The Old Republic is coming out. Also, Mass Effect 3 is in development. It seems like you're releasing games all the time now.
RM: There's other stuff. There's PDLC. There are also some unannounced products that are going to be coming out that we haven't announced yet of varying sizes. And also some partnership projects like Dragon Age Legends. They're full games in their own right.
But we have a lot of people. We have a lot of really talented teams that have been with BioWare a long, long time. EA is giving us tremendous support. We're able to grow in a careful way that allows us to be entrepreneurs and deliver the quality that fans expect the whole time.
So, it's a pretty exciting time to be doing this. There are so many cool things going on across our group. It's a lot of fun to be part of that and to be able to play all these different games and to be able to deliver different kinds of content for our fans.
GZ: I think also our teams themselves have a fair amount of autonomy. ... Our involvement is we're playing the games, also. Me, I'm a little more on the Austin stuff, but historically, I would be there to work with the team to set up the goals and direction, check in along the way with the folks on the end. So, we actually have a lot of these really autonomous, very talented units all working.
Some groups do very monomaniacal work. You know, it's always one thing that's focused on. I guess another way to say it is "work in parallel, rather than serially." So, our stuff is coming out continually. The key thing is how you're trading information between all those parallel processes, and everyone's trying to learn from each other to get better. It just turns out that actually, yeah, we're releasing a lot of stuff. It's daunting, but it's all doable. As Ray said, we have really quite a large number of folks who are all super talented and very focused.
RM: It's very collaborative, too, where different team members will help one another even across studio groups. So, we have Edmonton, Austin, Montreal, Virginia, and Ireland, the five studios within BioWare, and of course our great partner studios within Electronic Arts.
A lot of people are contributing trying to make the games as good as they can be and give feedback and play them and sometimes work on different projects from different locations. So, it's very much a team. It's a large team, it's a distributed team, but we have a common sense of purpose and identity and shared common values. Everyone's very passionate about their craft.
RM: Great support from EA to build our games.
GZ: There's a lot of EA support in all our stuff.
RM: In fact, that's one of the reasons we joined EA, like the inspirational leadership from guys like John Riccitiello. He's still inspirational to us. He's a mentor to us. The opportunity to become a publisher, as well as a developer. So, we're doing all aspects of that now. We're working with the sales and marketing teams directly, the development teams. That's pretty exciting. You know, it's a way to get closer to our consumers and the ability to pursue new things. Like when we joined EA, we had two studios, right?
RM: Edmonton and Austin. And now we've got an outpost in Montreal, a great team there. And BioWare Mythic has joined our group. They're part of the BioWare family. And Ireland is starting up now, as well. So, we have BioWare Edmonton, BioWare Austin, BioWare Montreal, BioWare Mythic, and BioWare Ireland. Those are all things that we drove. This is an opportunity space. There are fans there. We think we can take our capabilities and make a great game for them. We were able to drive that. So, it's very satisfying to be part of a larger company and have those opportunities.