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There's aren't many companies still doing big, high-polish single-player RPGs like this. You guys are one of them; Bethesda does it; you mentioned The Witcher by CD Projekt. You do have some companies that seem to be able to turn out really big successes in that genre, but it seems pretty localized to a few studios. Why do you think that is?
GZ: It's hard. [laughs] It really is. As funny as it may sound, if you want to try and pick, short of an MMO, one of the most challenging types of games to make -- very hard to test, very hard to create all that content, very hard to balance, all those things, it's the RPG.
RM: Lots of features, all intersecting in complex interesting ways.
GZ: If you look at those guys, Bethesda's always doing that. Square Enix.
RM: Irrational is another group. I mean, they make action RPGs, but they're doing that. And Obsidian. So, we all go back many, many years.
GZ: Part of it is publishers didn't really know what to do with them a lot of times. It's interesting, even way back in the day when we made the original Baldur's Gate, even then, there was no expectation it was going to be huge.
It was a game that was worth making, and we thought it'd be financially successful, but we didn't expect it to be as big as it was. We just knew it was good.
RM: We knew it was good. That's a better way to put it.
GZ: We knew it was good. We didn't know it'd be big. Now I think we know that good and big tend to go together. As long as you have good marketing and good distribution, they tend to go together.
RM: Yeah. RPGs are the kind of thing that you can sink your teeth in for a long time. Now, the definition of RPG is much broader than it used to be, too. It's a much more expansive kind of experience where you can meaningfully create a game that really captures the soul of what used to be a standalone genre.
With Mass Effect, we're really amping the shooter aspects and the action angle. But it's definitely an RPG. It's got that depth as well. We're evolving and amplifying the depth that was in Mass Effect 1, but we're also way amping the intensity in the shooter aspects, too. The two together, actually, is a pretty powerful combination.
With Dragon Age it looks like you're in particularly trying to hang onto that long team, to the point where you're already talking about the mod tools for PC, quite a while before the game is released. Are you going to be actively supporting that community long-term?
RM: Oh yeah, very much. We view it as a platform, and we're launching Dragon Age as a huge, expansive high-quality game. We're planning for a platform around that, that you can dock new things in. Like user-generated content; we're releasing toolsets so people can make their own content. We're going to be releasing a lot of premium downloadable content for purchase post-release that will expand the possibility space of the universe.
We're surfacing a lot of the heroic accomplishments and achievements that players do so there can be a social narrative outside of the game where they can share what they're doing with their friends. And those things together will create a very vibrant, strong community and make Dragon Age a platform, an economic platform for a long time with a long tail.
GZ: Even though it's a single-player role-playing game and story, it's still a connected game. We live in this world where everything is getting more and more connected digitally, and from within the game, you're going to be able to search through user-created content that you may want to insert in.
These are all things that we think are fundamental to being current. Even though the very fundamental gameplay is an enhancement of old-school mechanics, plus a merger of new school cinematics, at the same time, it's connected so that in a sense people are still playing together -- it's just they're not in the same game. They're sharing stuff.
We think an RPG is the perfect game to do that with. It's meaningful enough that people get so attached to them, they want to play it forever. They don't want to leave that world or leave those characters. It's exciting. That's really our goal with it.
Are you looking to take the mod tools to console, or just the PC?
RM: We'd love to find a way to bring them to console, but of course there are business challenges and logistical challenges to that. But if there's a way to explore that, we'll try and pursue that too.