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January 20th, 2007, 16:27
CVG has posted a quote from Ray Muzyka from an upcoming interview in their magazine in which the BioWare CEO embraces episodic content for their upcoming titles:
"…we have big plans afoot at BioWare for post-release and episodic content for upcoming cool BioWare games like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Jade Empire: Special Edition and other upcoming BioWare titles, both on console and PC", BioWare CEO Ray Muzyka divulged in an interview with CVG which we'll be publishing shortly.

Speaking further about online initiatives, Muzyka said, "There have been a lot of innovations in the PC space in online games - World of Warcraft and other MMOs continue to expand the business and we're excited about joining that world ourselves with the upcoming title we're developing down with our great team at BioWare Austin [BioWare's in-development MMORPG] - and digital distribution and episodic content".
There are some interesting comments from David Gaider on the RPG Codex forums where we spotted this news item. Asked hypothetically about the sort of episodic content that might be made for Dragon Age, here's his response:
It's a bit early to say for sure. I suspect it would be on the level of a self-contained chapter or adventure — not a single quest, but more like a module. But that's just speculation on my part. The big difference between the downloadable content and a commercial expansion, as I see it, is the size and the amount of time it takes to get out.

We can make an expansion that takes 6 months to a year to put out, and while that has a lot of content all at once it might not get out while the game is still on a lot of people's hard drives. Making the contect smaller (and thus cheaper) means it can come out more quickly and more regularly. As long as the price is comparitively reasonable and we're offering something decent, I'm not sure I see a problem with it. If we did put out uber-items or mini-quests or something just to capitalize on a successful game — yeah, I do see how that would seem pretty opportunistic. If we do that, we'll deserve whatever reaction awaits, I suppose.
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January 20th, 2007, 16:27
Where is the industry going? No full expansions, only small episodic downloadable content? Um… I don't think I wanna go there.
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January 21st, 2007, 17:52
I think add-ons like the Premium Modules are a good idea, but I thought that the consensus from SiN Episodes and even HL2 Ep1 was that they weren't particularly successful …

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January 21st, 2007, 18:17
Sam & Max Season 1 seems to be quite a success. They have high quality, a tight schedule and a reasonable price though. In that case the positive word of mouth works for them and they get a lot more press coverage because they have n (6?) releases instead of just one.
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January 21st, 2007, 18:41
My understanding (which is limited) is that the Half-Life and Sin episodes were successful — but I could be wrong.

As far as the episodic stuff goes, the philosophy I've heard in the office is that it's the difference between releasing, say, Shadows of Undrentide after a year, or releasing Act One, the Interlude, Act Two, and the Finale, each after three months. You get the same content that you'd get from a full expansion pack, but you're getting it in smaller bits. The goal (at least that I've heard) isn't to nickel-and-dime the player with, you know, horse armor. The goal is to release content with greater regularity; this benefits the players because they get content more often, and it benefits the company because the game stays on the player-radar for a longer period of time.

As an easy example, I could see Mass Effect adding a planet in an expansion pack — either something that got cut because we couldn't finish it and it wasn't critpath, or something completely new that answers player requests (like "More trench-type fights!").
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January 21st, 2007, 22:41
Originally Posted by PatrickWeekes View Post
My understanding (which is limited) is that the Half-Life and Sin episodes were successful — but I could be wrong.
I don't know about HL2's numbers, but SiN's lack of success basically killed any further episodes.

HL2 Ep 2 coming so long after the first makes it not so much 'episodic' as 'short games'. Sam & Max is a better example of truly Episodic content.

Originally Posted by PatrickWeekes View Post
As far as the episodic stuff goes, the philosophy I've heard in the office is that it's the difference between releasing, say, Shadows of Undrentide after a year, or releasing Act One, the Interlude, Act Two, and the Finale, each after three months.
I think that is the best way of doing things … but it requires a commitment that is difficult to sustain.

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January 21st, 2007, 23:09
Personally, I don't have problems with this news from Bioware.

But I do know that many players & gamers around the world do not have very fast internet connections, which means than say a 200 MB planet released as episodic content or even 25 MB added quests will take these gamers/players forever to download, even when connected to X-box Live. (and many of these gamers won't or can't get X-box live for some reason).

This was, imo, why Bethesda decided to release a boxed version of their add-ons, along with a new quest. I'm just hoping that bioware will do the same (or if it will be possible to order this episodic content on say cd or dvd ?)
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January 21st, 2007, 23:20
Another possibility could be to put it on a magazine CD/DVD, with an unlock code needed to play which you purchase from the publisher.

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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January 22nd, 2007, 00:13
Originally Posted by aries100 View Post
Personally, I don't have problems with this news from Bioware.

But I do know that many players & gamers around the world do not have very fast internet connections, which means than say a 200 MB planet released as episodic content or even 25 MB added quests will take these gamers/players forever to download, even when connected to X-box Live. (and many of these gamers won't or can't get X-box live for some reason).

This was, imo, why Bethesda decided to release a boxed version of their add-ons, along with a new quest. I'm just hoping that bioware will do the same (or if it will be possible to order this episodic content on say cd or dvd ?)
I know Bioware did the same with the NWN premium modules, they are for sale with the platinum (diamond?) edition, I believe…
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January 22nd, 2007, 00:44
Originally Posted by txa1265 View Post
HL2 Ep 2 coming so long after the first makes it not so much 'episodic' as 'short games'. Sam & Max is a better example of truly Episodic content.
I wish the industry had made the distinction between episodic and serial games: short games that share content and big games split into pieces. Then we could have had the debate over which would better diffuse the risk of game development.

Ah well. Too late now.

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January 22nd, 2007, 05:44
Yeah, I'd assume (well, hope) that BioWare would do something like this (taking Hordes of the Underdark as an example):

March 2008: Game Ships
June 2008: Undermountain (Act 1)
September 2008: Underdark (Act 2), at least most of it
December 2008: Underworld (Act 3)
March 2009: Complete collection of acts bundled together at one low price, and if some stuff that we liked didn't quite get in (say, one of the five areas in the Underdark), that gets added in as a bonus for this collection

The other kicker would be that, ideally, the next game in the series would be out in May or June 2009. From a marketing (and player) standpoint, this would be awesome because then the guy who leaves the game on his computer has been playing the game off and on for more than a year and is really ready for that next game, and the guy who uninstalls the game after a month but is interested enough to buy the complete collection gets the chance to refamiliarize himself with the game before the sequel comes out.

It's good business, yeah, but it also lets us hit the ground running with the sequel and do less in the way of "Oh, yeah, by the way, here's how you unlock chests, again, in case you forgot" stuff.
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January 22nd, 2007, 14:01
Patrick - I think that is the ultimate way that people like me picture episodic content … it really is about setting up a 'season' that keeps people hooked.

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January 22nd, 2007, 15:16
Maybe. Your investment in the series is money in the bank for the developer, but it could also be a gating factor for people who haven't bought in. If someone hears good things about episode 3, but knows that he won't know what the hell is going on, he's less likely to pick it up than he would a self-contained episode. Check out the highest map played chart. 48% of players failed to complete a four hour game. They didn't see the cliffhanger. It stands to reason (no data yet) that sales of heavily "serial" series could fall with each episode.

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January 22nd, 2007, 15:38
Originally Posted by abbaon View Post
Check out the highest map played chart. 48% of players failed to complete a four hour game. They didn't see the cliffhanger.
I remember there being discussion around that time on another forum involving devs and publishers that the numbers shown were not reasonable - in other words, it looked like 90% of people got to the last level and only 40% finished that one … despite finishing all others. So I think that means of data collection is suspect.

But if true, your point is absolutely correct - but by the time Ep 2 comes out, you will pretty much have to replay Ep 1 to have any clue that there *was* a cliffhanger!

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January 22nd, 2007, 15:38
Originally Posted by PatrickWeekes View Post
My understanding (which is limited) is that the As far as the episodic stuff goes, the philosophy I've heard in the office is that it's the difference between releasing, say, Shadows of Undrentide after a year, or releasing Act One, the Interlude, Act Two, and the Finale, each after three months. You get the same content that you'd get from a full expansion pack, but you're getting it in smaller bits. The goal (at least that I've heard) isn't to nickel-and-dime the player with, you know, horse armor. The goal is to release content with greater regularity; this benefits the players because they get content more often, and it benefits the company because the game stays on the player-radar for a longer period of time.
I wouldn't use Shadows of Undrentide as a model for a great game. I'm not too wild about the linear "hub-and-spoke" model that Bioware has adopted for their games. Episodic content pretty much ensures that every game will be that way.

Also, I don't see how this benefits players. I think that Bioware's Premium Modules, Half-Life 2, and SiN Episodes have pretty much proven that players don't get episodes on a regular basis. (Witch's Wake will be finished any day now, right? ) Even if they did, who cares? Why are you better off getting 10 hours of content once every six months than getting 20 hours of content once every 12 months? How are you better off that way? (Hint: you're not). Add that to the forced linear storylines that come from episodic content and the ripoff business model that almost the entire business model has adopted and I can't see anything good coming from this.

Seriously, have you ever met anyone who wishes that Shadows of Undrentide or Hordes of the Underdark had been chopped up into three pieces and released piecemeal for $12 apiece? This is a classic example of an industry ramming something down customers' throats that they didn't ask for.
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January 22nd, 2007, 16:03
Originally Posted by txa1265 View Post
But if true, your point is absolutely correct
The Episode One stats don't have to be accurate for my point to be correct, and my prediction won't necessarily come true if they are. I couldn't tell you what the opt-in/opt-out ratio will be for any given series. My point is really just that it's not as straightforward as "hooked in FTW".

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January 22nd, 2007, 17:50
Originally Posted by doctor_kaz View Post
I wouldn't use Shadows of Undrentide as a model for a great game. I'm not too wild about the linear "hub-and-spoke" model that Bioware has adopted for their games. Episodic content pretty much ensures that every game will be that way.
Yes and no.

Regarding disliking the hub and spoke model… what do you like more than that? Most of the games I'm playing right now are either hub-and-spoke or flat-out linear, and of the two, I can tell you which one I prefer to play. For me, it's a question of how well the hub and spoke model is muddied up, so it's not as simple as the original Neverwinter's "four directions, four parts of the city, four ingredients" deal.


Seriously, have you ever met anyone who wishes that Shadows of Undrentide or Hordes of the Underdark had been chopped up into three pieces and released piecemeal for $12 apiece? This is a classic example of an industry ramming something down customers' throats that they didn't ask for.
Bad example on my part, then. I'm likely messing up the distinction between "extended content" and "episodic content". The things I've heard that excited me haven't been "Let's turn our big project into three little projects!" The things I've heard have been "Let's release, for lack of a better term, an Animatrix-type game — something that sits between our first game and our second game to bridge the gap." Both games are complete in and of themselves, and you don't need the bridge in order to understand the second game, but for people who want a taste of what's to come, it's out there.

I guess that's actually extended content, not episodic.

And yeah, if we were doing episodic, we'd have to prove that we were committed to it. As a player, I didn't enjoy getting nothing but the first act of Witch's Wake.
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January 22nd, 2007, 18:01
If we look at television, a media that uses a large amount of episodic content, there are a few disturbing trends that could all too easily be transfered to gaming market:

1) Cancellation decisions are based on "sales" figures instead of the quality of the product (in the case of television it is of course based on viewer ratings). An otherwise excellent show like Firefly was canceled in the very first season and the result is a feeling of having been better off not to have seen ANY episodes than having the show stop just when you had grown accustomed to the characters, the setting and the story line. Sin Episodes have already shown that the same situation is indeed possible on the gaming scene as well (Sin Episodes might have been a poor game to begin with for all I know but in any case it is dead now)

2) Not knowing how to quit while you're ahead. So many shows and even movies have suffered from this problem. A show like X-files started out great and became an instant success but then the money machine started rolling and one season took the other until the show was finally allowed to die after 9 seasons … about 4 seasons after the all the "meat" had been eaten, digested, regurgitated and used again several times already. This "trend" is already widespread in the gaming industry with sequel upon sequel and franchise milking left and right so in my opinion there is little doubt that the same will be the case with episodic content. Many "episodes" will be never ending, watered down drudge but unlike the games of today, where the "entire" games is in the box, it will be much harder to distinguish between the good games and the drivel until several episodes have been released.

Now, don't get me wrong. This doesn't mean that episodic content is the Antichrist per default and I'm sure that if anyone can pull it off in the best possible way it will be a company like BioWare (see, I'm NOT on your back Patrick ) but I still think that more bad will come of this than good when seen from a consumer's point of view.

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January 22nd, 2007, 19:52
Originally Posted by PatrickWeekes View Post
Yes and no.
Regarding disliking the hub and spoke model… what do you like more than that?
Open-ended games like Fallout or Baldurs Gate. That feature, to me, has defined the greatest RPGs of all time. How do you make game like Fallout in episodic format? The greatness of open-ended RPG's goes back a long ways. Is this game format basically dead now? Are expansion packs dead now? It sure seems like we're going that way.

I'll at least give Bioware credit for putting out mini-modules whose value is on par with a full game. Kingmaker was an excellent deal for $9 and Witch's Wake would be a great micro transaction if they were actually going to finish it. Still, I'd like to see less of a concrete chapter format that has taken over RPG's lately and a return to open-ended adventuring that used to define greatness in the genre.
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January 22nd, 2007, 19:56
Some thoughts: If episodic content becomes prevalent, I would think that game modding would become a thing of the past. We're already seeing this a little bit with Oblivion and NWN2. Neither game has as robust of a CS as the previous game because the developers don't want free mods that outshine what the company wants to charge for. What if a popular free mod modifies the same area of the engine as a pay mod?

Who does QA, the player? Episodic content would need to come out fairly quickly to sustain customer interest. If that is the case, how well tested are the episodes going to be? Bugginess abounds! You thought we patched too much now….
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