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February 2nd, 2009, 02:32
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I was primarily basing this on the various interviews with your leads guys - Muzyka and Zeschuk (IIRC) who certainly presented this deal as a mutually desirable and beneficial one.
Ray and Greg are optimistic and enthusiastic guys who sincerely believe the best in people. I'm pretty sure they honestly see it as mutually desirable and beneficial. But it was going to happen whether they wanted it to or not.

But let's play devil's advocate for a moment. Suppose they were vehemently opposed to the buyout. Would you expect them to issue a press release saying "Yeah, we're pretty bummed about this, and though we expect the worst, we're going to hope for the best?" That sort of high school passive-aggressive stuff doesn't fly in the business world. Under EA - a publicly traded company - saying something like that would directly affect the perceived value of the company's stock. That would be, as they say, "legally actionable" by EA.

However, it still doesn't really explain why your games have made the unfortunate turn from BG/NWN/KOTOR to Jade Empire and Mass Effect.
The funny thing is, I personally see what you call the "downward slide" (and I call "streamlining") as starting with NWN. But I'm a real old school RPG'er. I sit on my porch with a cane and a C64 shouting about the kids these days and their fancy-schmancy Fallout 2. In my day, we had Wasteland, and we loved it!

Kidding aside, after every game, BW - like most companies - does a post-mortem to judge what did and didn't work. Over time, those have focused us down to a few key "pillars" and strong points that we focus on. You can Google to see how much of that is in the public domain. If something's confidential, I don't want to take the rap for spilling it. Obviously, a relatively linear, story-driven plot with Luke/Han/Vader dialogue trees are a big part of it. Bethesda does non-linear, story-light worlds, Square-Enix does (by my personal standards) animated films interrupted by turn-based strategy games. We're somewhere between the two.

My point is that the games we make today are a result of that post-mortem winnowing process, focusing down on what made the game unique and successful. When I first played KotOR and NWN (before I worked here) I was surprised at just how structurally simple they were. Like I said, I've been playing these games for 20 years. I hesitated to open locked doors in KotOR because I still expected that 10 hours down the road, that decision could bite me in the butt.

For as long as I've been here, BioWare's mandate has been to make huge, "event" triple-A titles - we don't do "The Lady With the Dog," we do "War and Peace." (Sonic Chronicles was a first experiment with "better, faster, cheaper" game design.) As graphics cards and consoles became more powerful, making a game that looks like a triple-A title became an expensive, manpower-intensive proposition.

The BW that made the Baldur's Gates was about 50 people in a run-down building infamous for its lack of air conditioning or functioning toilets. Today's BW is ten times that size, with offices in Edmonton (3.5 stories of an office tower), Austin, and Montreal - the last a small satellite studio that hires local talent to make game cinematics for the other two offices. Just think about that. We have an entire office that only produces cutscenes. That's how expensive and complicated it is to make a story-driven triple-A title for today's gamers.

Thus there's a spiral; as games become more expensive to make, each one has to sell more to break even, so they have to appeal to a broader population of gamers, so they have to lose some of their nichier accouterments. This isn't just the case with RPGs; you can see a trend of "consolization" (as some have called it) across all genres.

You could make the argument that BW made the wrong choice a long time back. That instead of making "event" RPGs, it should have continued to make titles designed exclusively for the RPG niche, like Black Isle and Troika did. You see the likely outcome of that option just from the studio names. (EDIT: Which Should not be interpreted as disrespect of those guys - I still have Fallout, Fallout 2, Arcanum, and Vampire: Bloodlines installed on my home machine.) At any rate, it's been too late to do that for many moons.

I don't know if this necessarily answers your questions. Anyway, as my sig notes, I don't speak for the company. This is all just my own musings.
Last edited by Stormwaltz; February 2nd, 2009 at 02:44. Reason: lest I give offense to the giants on whose shoulders I stand
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