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January 21st, 2007, 22:19
CVG has kicked up the second part of their interview with BioWare's Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk on PC gaming:
In what areas do you think the PC gaming scene needs to develop, and as a developer what efforts are you making to move it in that direction?

Ray Muzyka: In many ways the PC gaming scene is developing in the ways we think it should - developers are taking advantage of the PC's strengths by building online-enabled games (both MMOs and games with connectivity, strong post-release content as featured in BioWare's Dragon Age etc). Some developers are building the more casual games which draw in non-gamers to the PC gaming market and others are focusing on episodic content - both are exciting initiatives.

At BioWare we're trying to be innovative and push the realm of story- and character-based games in new directions. In our upcoming title Jade Empire: Special Edition for PC, we're combining a couple of different ideas - a really strong role-playing game with a great storyline with a martial arts setting and combat system. With Dragon Age we're pushing the boundaries of post-release content and user-generated content - we're really excited about what we have planned for DA to continue the storyline and expand the epic world for our fans.

And for the BioWare Austin MMO we're incorporating a really compelling non-linear storyline and strong characters, together with all the fun things MMO players expect and deserve (great progression and customization, social systems and exploration) - truly a first and what promises to be a major innovation in the field of online massively multiplayer gaming.
More information.

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January 21st, 2007, 22:19
Blergh!

Am I the only one feeling BioWare's status as one of the greats is in a free fall towards rock bottom at the moment?

With Dragon Age we're pushing the boundaries of post-release content and user-generated content - we're really excited about what we have planned for DA to continue the storyline and expand the epic world for our fans.
"World Template Holder" is what I'm reading here. For all those of you who've enjoyed multiplayer and home made mods for NWN this should be good news. For those of us who enjoy the strong singleplayer experiences that made BioWare famous in the first, it sounds a lot like yet another "engine/world teaser" akin to the original campaign in NWN where the joints in the module system was so prominent it made me trip on several occasions.

However, where the NWN problem was mainly caused by focusing too much on the toolset and multiplayer aspect (as I understand it), it would seem that it is a deliberate decision in DA's case since no release date has yet been announced (i.e. it is not a question of running out of time).

Oh well, business wise it makes perfect sense and I always knew it would come to this when KOTOR and later Jade Empire was announced but it is still sad to see one of the last bastions of PC gaming greatness succumb to the lure of the green paper

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January 21st, 2007, 22:48
Originally Posted by fatBastard() View Post
"World Template Holder" is what I'm reading here.
What you read into it is up to you, but that's by no means what's intended.

I'm not on DA, but assuming that the art department can support the story the design department is trying to tell, you're going to be getting a long-ass game. (Everything I say in this paragraph after this is utter speculation, because all these estimates mean nothing until we get to play it and see what works, what gets cut, and how long everything actually taks to play.) We're talking "as long as KotOR if you do the bare minimum, and close to BG2 if you do everything" long.

If you want to rip on the NWN original campaign, go ahead. It wasn't my favorite either, but it's fun to play multiplayer. It also paved the way for Shadows and Hordes, both of which had great stories. But take a look at KotOR and Jade. Do you see BioWare skimping on the story? Rising art costs and the increased cost of conversations means that the games featured fewer side quests, yeah (and that's something we're addressing), but I don't think you can look at any of our recent games and say that we're skimping on strong story-driven games.

Expanded content means that when the main DA game is done, you've got additional stuff to hold you over until the sequel. It means that by the time you go through the game the second time (as an elf instead of a dwarf, for example), you've got some additional plots to play as part of the core game. Maybe it's stuff cut from the core game for time, or maybe it's stuff that we added after seeing how the first game played (and what people wanted). It doesn't mean that the first game is just a placeholder.

Oh well, business wise it makes perfect sense and I always knew it would come to this when KOTOR and later Jade Empire was announced but it is still sad to see one of the last bastions of PC gaming greatness succumb to the lure of the green paper
Or, you know, not. There are probably one or two guys at the company who'd still like to make good games.
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January 22nd, 2007, 00:08
Thanks Patrick, all of that is very encouraging!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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January 22nd, 2007, 00:35
I understand what you're saying Patrick about the rising art and conversations costs, but as far as I know, it is not US, the rpg gamers, which have demanded that game devs. and publishers start making glittery, glossy, (or photorealistic) games. It is, afaik, something
the devs. and the publishers themselves have decided. (I could, of course, be wrong).

If, for instance, I look at the PR for Dragon Age and Mass Effect, at the bioware site, there isn't any mention of the story in the PR for these games. For Dragon Age, it just says something about the exploration of Baldur's Gate, the community of Neverwinter Nights,
and the moral choice of I think Jade Empire or Kotor, or something like that. This just make me wonder —- geee — where's the story in dragon age…

I don't (and that is just my personal opinion) a long game, if that means that the story isn't there to support a very long narrative in the game. I would rather then have a shorter game, which supports the narrative in the game. BG1 still feel like an epic game to
me, even if you just could reach level 7 or 8, simply because narrative supported the main story as well as the side stories or quests in the game.

To me then, it is NOT how many game hours you are able to play the game that makes it a good game; it is how good the story is. A very good story can be told in maybe 10-12 hours while a very boring storing can be told in 36 hours. The point is that I would rather have game in which there is a solid, stable and good short narrative which enables me to
feel that the choices I make really do effetct the entire game world, rathen than a very long storyline where my choices hasn't any impact on the gameworld whatsoever.
Bg1 + bg2 are fine examples of this, as are, imo, neverwinter nights and have I heard, jade empire.

Sometimes people often interpret the same words in a different way and many times this is the basis for the lack of understanding between people. To me, focusing on strong story-driven games may be one thing, while to you, Patrick, and to Bioware, this may mean a totally different thing. Of course, bioware's own interpretation of this could also well have changed over the years…
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January 22nd, 2007, 00:44
One of the reasons why the costs of episodic content has gone up, is probably that
today, you'll ned full voiceovers for all (major) characters, where in the old days
(not that long ago ) you could do with written dialoque, or written and spoken
dialoque for the most important characters.

However, for non-native English speakers, as myself and others, it has proven to be really helpful to be able to read what the characters were saying at the same as they were saying it: sort of: read and hear at the same time. This would mean, at least to me, that
I could get hold of (some) information by reading the things being said, which I would missed, had I not been able to read it also. For hearing impaired peope or deaf people
to be able to read what is being said is great help also.

I think I've read somewhere that I will be possible to turn on subtitles ?
I just wondered if this information still is valid ??
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January 22nd, 2007, 01:09
Originally Posted by aries100 View Post
I understand what you're saying Patrick about the rising art and conversations costs, but as far as I know, it is not US, the rpg gamers, which have demanded that game devs. and publishers start making glittery, glossy, (or photorealistic) games. It is, afaik, something
the devs. and the publishers themselves have decided. (I could, of course, be wrong).
It sure as HECK isn't us. I don't wanna go back to 2-D, but I also don't wanna have the story we want to tell limited by the fact that art is more detailed and memory-intensive.

If, for instance, I look at the PR for Dragon Age and Mass Effect, at the bioware site, there isn't any mention of the story in the PR for these games. For Dragon Age, it just says something about the exploration of Baldur's Gate, the community of Neverwinter Nights,
and the moral choice of I think Jade Empire or Kotor, or something like that. This just make me wonder —- geee — where's the story in dragon age…
Three answers:
1) Does BioWare have to tell CRPG people that the game they're writing has a strong story? That's what we DO. There are always going to be companies with deeper combat engines than we've got. There are always going to be companies wth better graphics than we've got. There are always going to be companies with more side quests than we've got. (Not a self-slam. We don't devote as many art or combat resources to a game as other companies do, because we're working on other stuff.) But if you pick up a BioWare game, you're going to get a world-class story. That's what we deliver.
2) Did you read the PC Gamer article about Dragon Age? There was all kinds of talk about the story — not a lot of plot-specifics, but a ton of "Here's the grim & gritty, here's the moral ambiguity, here are the tough choices we're gonna be giving you" stuff.
3) Mass Effect's demos have hit the conversation system and the combat system. The latter doesn't relate to the story much, but the first is what helps define the story in some ways — hearing your character actually say a line is part of creating a stronger character, and the goal here is that it's going to mean more to hear your avatar actually SAY, "We need to take out that base. If a few people have to die to make that happen, so be it," than it would to just read the words on the screen.

Sometimes people often interpret the same words in a different way and many times this is the basis for the lack of understanding between people. To me, focusing on strong story-driven games may be one thing, while to you, Patrick, and to Bioware, this may mean a totally different thing. Of course, bioware's own interpretation of this could also well have changed over the years…
For me, "strong story" is, yeah, a little nebulous, but a few easy rules of thumb for me are:

1) Do I make a choice that results in a weaker reward (less loot) because the story makes me actually want to do that?
2) Do I get emotionally involved with the characters to the point where I care what happens to them?
3) Do the fighting areas have anything in them to engage me on a story level, not just on a dungeon-hack level?
4) Do your choices affect the story?

BioWare games have always had good examples of #1 — you turn down the reward because you're a nice guy, for example. As we get more complex stories, the choices get more complex, too — which is good, because "Be nice guy, turn down reward" doesn't qualify as a real choice for me at this point. It's not like the 200 gold pieces you pass up is really helping you that much.

I've been impressed with BioWare on #2, but for a non-RPG example, take the "Prince of Persia: Sands of Time". I really liked the story in that game — I thought it was a charming love story with some genuine tenderness, and I was emotionally invested when all the stuff at the end happened (he says elliptically to avoid spoilers).

NWN2 is a good example of #3 — the underground crypts full of undead are nice little dungeons, but there's always a story bit in there to pull you along and remind you about what you're doing. You're not just randomly hacking a dungeon, here. You're always doing something relating to the overall story.

As for #4, the fact that you can change the ending, corrupt or kill your followers, and turn the course of large plots by siding with one team or the other is what makes both KotOR and Jade Empire story-strong games for me.

This is all off the top of my head. I'm sure there are story factors beyond that. But for me, those are the easy ones to gauge whether it's a strong story.

And yeah, every game we're making has those concepts as important priorities in the stories.
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January 22nd, 2007, 01:12
PS: I don't think BioWare will ever ship a game where you can't turn on the subtitles. Forget deaf people and foreign-language speakers. I have to play half of my games with the volume down because I don't wanna wake up my kid! I played all of Hordes of the Underdark on mute, and I watch most of my television shows with the closed-captioning on. The subtitles have to be available for us to playtest on, and you know? If BioWare ever ships a game without subtitles visible and no game option to turn 'em on, I will personally tell you how to edit the .ini file to make them appear — 'cause that's what I'll be doing myself.
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January 22nd, 2007, 01:19
Originally Posted by PatrickWeekes View Post
2) Do I get emotionally involved with the characters to the point where I care what happens to them?
KOTOR did that to me, and now I find NWN2 doing the same. Deekin had a similar effect in soU and HoTU, he was more then just a henchie to me, and so was Tomi Undergallows (Oh, to have had a romance option with Tomi… )
If a game can do that, get me emotionally involved with the NPCs and the gameworld, then it's a winner for me
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January 22nd, 2007, 01:36
Originally Posted by PatrickWeekes View Post
We're talking "as long as KotOR if you do the bare minimum, and close to BG2 if you do everything" long.
Oh well, that's nice to hear. I'm not exactly known for my bright and "happy go lucky" point of view so I do tend to see the black before the white.

Originally Posted by PatrickWeekes View Post
If you want to rip on the NWN original campaign, go ahead. It wasn't my favorite either, but it's fun to play multiplayer. It also paved the way for Shadows and Hordes, both of which had great stories.
Yep, if either of the expansion packs had been the main campaign I would have been hard pressed to find any faults with the game at all. Or a combination. The first chapter of the original campaign along with several sidequests in the following chapters (like the one with the ghost town and the 2 brothers) were actually pretty good but I clearly felt the modular "seems" throughout the campaign.

Originally Posted by PatrickWeekes View Post
But take a look at KotOR and Jade. Do you see BioWare skimping on the story? Rising art costs and the increased cost of conversations means that the games featured fewer side quests, yeah (and that's something we're addressing), but I don't think you can look at any of our recent games and say that we're skimping on strong story-driven games.
That's not what I meant but I didn't write it properly so that's my fault. I REALLY liked KOTOR and I've been looking forward to Jade Empire for quite some time since I'm a nut for martial arts and asian movies. BUT, both games where developed with the "main stream" audience in mind, i.e. the console audience. I'm not trying to start yet another PC vs. consoles debate so suffice to say that KOTOR (and Jade Empire as well judging by reviews) was a "light weighter" when it came to the core gameplay and several "console gimmicks" were put into the game (pazzak, pod racing and turret shooting). Again, business wise this is/was a smart move since even the most hard core PC "fan boi" can't deny that the consoles are where the money is at these days, yet speaking as one of these PC relics it saddened me nonetheless since these "adjustments" made in KOTOR to accommodate the console audience was clearly felt in the game.

KOTOR was a cross platfrom title. Jade Empire was an Xbox exclusive and the same is the case with Mass Effect. Another part of the interview, that I didn't quote went as follows:
Some developers are building the more casual games which draw in non-gamers to the PC gaming market and others are focusing on episodic content - both are exciting initiatives.
While it doesn't say that BioWare themselves are doing this, I can't help but read it as BioWare supporting with words and action the move towards targeting the casual gamer and episodic content.

Originally Posted by PatrickWeekes View Post
Expanded content means that when the main DA game is done, you've got additional stuff to hold you over until the sequel.
In another thread concerning BioWare and episodic content you mentioned the quarterly release of the 4 parts that make up "Shadows of the Undrentide" as an example of episodic releases. That would mean that it would take a year from start to finish and that is simply not a viable option for me. I play a LOT of games and only very few games ever stay on my HD for more than a month, so even regular releases every 3 months is much too slow to hold my interest and I would MUCH rather get the whole shebang in one expansion pack. I haven't purchased HL2 Episode 1 and if I can get "Team Fortress 2" without buying Episode 2 then I'm not going to buy that one either. Once all 3 episodes have been done I'll buy it, but not until they are done. I would be really mad if I had gotten into the Sin Episodes fad only to find out it got cancelled after the very first episode. For that very same reason, I don't watch cliff hanger television shows like Lost, Prison Break or Alias until I'm certain they are not cancelled ahead of time.

All in all I have to say that according to MY gaming tastes (with emphasis on this being my personal point of view), it seems like BioWare started a slide towards focusing on the "main stream consumer"/"casual gamer" rather than the "core" audience ever since the shift towards consoles and lately it would seem that the slide is picking up speed. Of course being 33 I've reached the age where the colours seemed brighter and the air did indeed seem cleaner when I was a child back in the "good old days" … so perhaps I'm just becoming the grumpy old git sitting on his porch in his rocking chair, waving his cane around and screaming at those damn noisy kids passing on the street and resenting change in any shape and form.

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January 22nd, 2007, 01:44
But if you pick up a BioWare game, you're going to get a world-class story. That's what we deliver.
You actually meant to add a couple of "in the future"'s to those statements, right?
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January 22nd, 2007, 01:56
@patrick-so is music and vocal tones, etc. not a crucial part of the story making/writing process for you? i can understand that making and playing games can be done completely in different mindsets. that said, you really should try gaming with headphones on, once you do i doubt you'll go back.
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January 22nd, 2007, 05:20
Originally Posted by Moriendor View Post
You actually meant to add a couple of "in the future"'s to those statements, right?
No, I was actually implying that we write good games with strong stories.

If you disagree, make an argument without hiding behind smilies.

Curious: I use headphones at times, but when we had the new baby, I needed to be able the little dude wake up from his nap. I've played through Hordes four or five times, though, and honestly, at least in Hordes, the presence or absence of music and VO didn't make any difference for me. Maybe it's just that I'm not that much of an auditory-experience person, or maybe it's that the reading works so well for me that I don't need the sound. (Or maybe it's just that Hordes wasn't built from the ground up to provide a certain auditory experience — it might have been harder with KotOR or Jade. I dunno.)

When I do it on a TV show, though, it has to be one where I know the characters' voices — I can watch Buffy with subtitles and be just fine, because I know how Xander would deliver that line.
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January 22nd, 2007, 05:46
I hate those blantent m$ questions, being asked to people whom work (even as contractors) m$, what are they going to do besides pull the line with perfunctatory PR statments?

This is not an attack on Bioware, just personal observation about gamemedia site, suckup qualities.

"as an epic RPG, the digital actors are probably going to be the most credible, realistic characters ever yet seen in a videogame and the uncharted worlds promise amazing exploration and depth."

This is the most exciting part of the whole interview, if this is true, everyone whom cares about story and depth will certianly be pleased to know the best is yet to come.

Trying to look at this objectively I would say they will be going up against Trokia which is going to be damn hard to beat, more specificly they will be going against Bloodlines.
I have enjoyed Bioware games very much, I am not sure they have had the best NPCs in the past, damn good but not the best, still even if they don't achieve "The Best", in my eyes it's a damn noble effort to attempt.

Give'um Hell, PatrickWeeks! :cheer: :standingovation:

OT
Does anyone know how to stop the forced Windows Media Player Streaming on the bottom left of CVG's site?
I don't use wmp but it installs automaticly with the OS, I have it shutdown on almost all accounts even during install using swithes to prevent it from updating, with this exception it will not do anything unless I approve it first.

Secondly the top logo for CVG which cycles is that Java or Flash and can it be frozen prevneted from loading?

Thanks for any tips.

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January 22nd, 2007, 06:54
Originally Posted by Acleacius View Post
I hate those blantent m$ questions, being asked to people whom work (even as contractors) m$, what are they going to do besides pull the line with perfunctatory PR statments?
Well, I'm here because I'm enjoying the discussion. (And, well, because one of you found my blog. For anyone still reading my blog, woooo, I finished my novel, and yes, I promise to post some work stuff again soon.)

I've got a line to walk. There are certain things I can't comment on, because I would… well, I wouldn't get fired, but I would be asked clearly to stop talking here. That's just a duh. So I'm not going to comment on certain things (including which things I can't comment on, since in many cases the fact that I can't comment on it is a clue).

But y'know, I'm not at BioWare for the money. I left my job to be a stay at home dad, since my wife had a really nice tech job in Bay Area California. BioWare e-mailed me on the day we got home with the hospital to say that they wanted to interview me based on another employee's recommendation. My wife looked at me and said, "You know, it'd be crazy to try to move to Canada right now, but this is your dream job, right?" And here we are. I'm not a marketing shill. I'm not an academic game-theory expert. I'm a guy who bought pretty much every BioWare game they made and then nailed his dream job by writing a couple of short stories featuring talking magical swords.

So yeah, there are aspects of our games that I wish were stronger. We're dealing with some of those things in our upcoming games, and I've got hopes. I think Mass Effect will be a step in the right direction in terms of side quests (assuming stuff doesn't fall through the floor in the next few months), and Dragon Age will be an even bigger step beyond that… and Revolver, the secret game, is gonna blow people away. I'm not saying that there are no other good games out there, and yeah, there are specific areas of other games that I think BioWare could really learn from.

But "Haha, your games suck and your writing is lame," is an easy way to help me decide to do other things with my time. (Like learning how item crafting works in NWN2, for example.)

Trying to look at this objectively I would say they will be going up against Trokia which is going to be damn hard to beat, more specificly they will be going against Bloodlines.
I have enjoyed Bioware games very much, I am not sure they have had the best NPCs in the past, damn good but not the best, still even if they don't achieve "The Best", in my eyes it's a damn noble effort to attempt.
Hey, my favorite follower was the tiefling from PS:T. Mmmmm.
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January 22nd, 2007, 08:48
"Well, I'm here because I'm enjoying the discussion."

Doh!, I sure hope you didn't think I was talking about you I even put up a cavot about it being driected that the interviewers.

I meant the site asking Ray and Greg about m$, you know the dx10 stuff and windows for game (crap …) errr…I meant beacon of shining light of rightousness for all of mankind.
Actually several game engine designers currently not employeed by m$ said having to by vista to get dx 10 is nonsence and vista is not needed only to fix XP.

"my favorite follower was the tiefling"

Yummy, tieflings taste like chicken.

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January 22nd, 2007, 09:34
Everything tastes like chicken!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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January 23rd, 2007, 04:18
Originally Posted by PatrickWeekes View Post
No, I was actually implying that we write good games with strong stories.

If you disagree, make an argument without hiding behind smilies.
Nah. Thanks. I think I'll stay right here behind my stupid little smilie face since I'm too afraid to die from being awe-struck if I should be allowed to talk to Your Holiness Mr. World-Class Writer and…

But "Haha, your games suck and your writing is lame," is an easy way to help me decide to do other things with my time.
… [aside from the fact that no one said this] … that's real world-class behavior to threaten to leave when someone makes a harmless joke about the track record of the company Your Holiness works for.
Well, I certainly wouldn't want it to be my fault if Your Holiness Mr. World-Class Writer would pack up and leave because of harmless jokes from my unworthy little self.
So I'll just shut up and will leave you to your 'Thanks, Patrick this' and 'Thanks Patrick that' followers who seem to be more able than me to truly appreciate the presence of a world-class writer on these boards and his willingness to spend time with us unworthy plebs.

Carry on…
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January 23rd, 2007, 04:30
Mo, I think you are OVER reacting just a little, which is most unlike you!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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January 23rd, 2007, 05:00
This is the best thread I've read on this site yet. Patrick - thanks for stopping by - and rest assured not everyone is negative on Bioware products. Far from it!

"For Innos!"
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