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Building Experiences The BioWare Way: Greg Zeschuk Speaks
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Building Experiences The BioWare Way: Greg Zeschuk Speaks


September 28, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next
 

BioWare RPGs have existed from the point when you could have a big hit with a few hundred thousand units, to now where if you're making a big triple-A game, budgets demand you sell a few million over a few platforms. When you need an audience that big, is it harder to sell a game where you say, "This is something you need to sit down and invest yourself in, and think about, and dedicate yourself to"?

GZ: That's a good observation. You do need to really engage with the games that we make. To be fair, I think Mass Effect is the kind of game you can play pretty quick. And the interesting thing about Dragon Age is it's actually very bite-sized -- even though it's a giant buffet. You can still play it in bits and pieces.

A couple nights ago, I took a break for Dragon Age, and literally all I did was sort through my inventory, do a couple quests to get a couple armor sets, play for an hour or so, and then say, "Okay, I'm done for the day. I'm not going to embark on a quest." But it's neat to once again have that experience of spending time in the world and not even feel like you have to progress in a major way.

It's not exactly an offline MMO, but it's certainly got some of those features -- things like armor sets, and the connectivity we have with people who share their experience of having played through it by throwing stuff up on the community site and having all the downloadable content. We think it's going to be a very rewarding long-term experience for folks.

Are there any big RPG lessons you've learned that have led to that kind of structure and design?

GZ: I would say we always learn. We always make our games in a way where we're sure there's always something to learn from. Even with some of the peripheral releases, we try to take back information. That's one thing about our culture that's very active. Everything we do is a learning experience. Every release and every product is an opportunity to learn something.

I think you'll see that Mass Effect 2 is a gigantic culmination of learnings from Mass Effect. Mass Effect was a great game, but Mass Effect 2 is a much, much better game. All the things we heard the fans say, all the things we felt when we released -- all these things, we improved.

It's exciting that actually we are getting into a bit of sequel-ing. People said, "Oh, I thought you guys didn't like to do sequels, because you never did them." Well, actually, we like to do sequels, but we've never been in the business position to do them, because they're not our property or the publisher change -- all these factors.

It has always been very complicated, but now it's great. Mass Effect 2 is a sequel. If everything goes well with Dragon Age, and we're pretty confident, it should continue to live on. We certainly have a lot of DLC planned for it. It's fun having this platform and these tools. Our people can really explore creativity. I think that's right where we're getting to with both those games.

I was talking to Tom Leonard, the lead designer on Left 4 Dead 2, and he was saying Valve is also a company that traditionally takes ages to do sequels, but doing Left 4 Dead 2 so soon has been an amazing experience -- they can use all the knowledge they gained from the first one right away. They understand how to make a Left 4 Dead game, instead of just feeling it out like the first time.

GZ: It's totally true. Honestly, I've been involved in probably 15 games now over the years. I swear it's not until the last couple of weeks of development in a new platform and toolset that you actually really get it. Or the last month, let's say. So you're jamming so much work in the tail end of it, polishing it and fixing it as much as you can.

The absolute best position to be in is to be able to start from day one having that [knowledge]. Making a game -- literally staring at a blank piece of paper and saying, "Okay, let's create the galaxy" or "Let's create a rich fantasy world" -- it's an amazing undertaking that you can even finish it, let alone make it fun to play. So, being able to riff on that is really exciting.


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