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September 18th, 2007, 02:51
The fearsome BioWare PR machine has hit top gear for Mass Effect as we speed toward the November release. IGN has a full suite of coverage with a Greg Zeschuk interview, a preview and a new trailer. From the interview:
IGN: From what we've seen of the game, it seems absolutely massive. Are you worried that some people may be a little overwhelmed by everything?

Greg Zeschuk:
We're not worried that people will overwhelmed by the game. We have made sure that big choices within the game are well marked. So, if you need to progress by performing a particular action, it will always be clear. Things like an essential galaxy will be marked, so you can head straight forward. Plus, there's the fact that people don't have to do everything in the game - there are a lot of side quests and extra exploration.
…and the "extended hands-on":
Like its dialogue system, Mass Effect's approach to combat is to give the player layer upon layer of choice while trying to make the mechanisms for making those choices as streamlined as possible. Both systems are based on "wheels" - the dialogue wheel for conversation (more on that later), and the weapon wheel and power wheel for combat.
The latter two work like this. When you first round a corner and spot a group of enemies, they'll each sport a red triangle above their heads, signaling that they mean you harm. If you think you can take them down with some simple run-and-gun moves, just squeeze the right trigger and fire away. Your squadmates will follow suit. But if you want or need to be more tactical about the situation, hold down the right bumper to bring up the power wheel.
The trailer covers combat and "squad tactics, weapons and biotic powers you can use to finish off your enemies".
Meanwhile, r3dshift wrote in to point out five new Mass Effect clips at Gametrailers.
More information.

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September 18th, 2007, 02:51
We have made sure that big choices within the game are well marked.
i loled @ dis
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September 18th, 2007, 03:36
Very sad news, if they are truly considering, continuing with the m$ exclusives.

m$ has continually demonstrated they are willing to damage the games industry, especially the PC industry, for their own power hold, with stupid, arrogant and destructive decisions.

To me companies like Bioware are the one's with the power stop this crap, if Bioware says "we will make it but it needs to be a simultaneous release", what's m$ gonna do say "no, we don't want your great games on our systems"?

Many companies don't play this exclusives game with m$, it's true most now do simultaneous development and that has certainly caused problems like lower quality titles.
This exclusives deal is ten times worst, not only does the public get the lower quality, Bioware loses sales from marketing PR high points to outdated quality 2 years later.

Can m$ really be paying enough for this?

I would hate to think Bioware is really in such dire straits, but as I have said before we have lost great development studios in the past and if this is what it takes for Bioware to stay in business then so be it.

Doesn't mean we have to like it.

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September 18th, 2007, 04:18
Originally Posted by Acleacius View Post
To me companies like Bioware are the one's with the power stop this crap, if Bioware says "we will make it but it needs to be a simultaneous release", what's m$ gonna do say "no, we don't want your great games on our systems"?
That is, in fact, exactly what Microsoft would do. There's no need to be hypothetical on this. Microsoft has certainly said this to companies before, and will again, and while I would not get into specifics if I had them, suffice to say that I have absolutely no doubt on this matter.

Microsoft has, as I understand it, two divisions. There's one division devoted to "most games published on the 360", and then there's another division devoted to "large titles set as 360 Exclusives". The first division will happily deal with you and help you get the product out. The second division is the one that backs the money truck up and dumps it in your lap, because a) they want to make sure that game happens, and that it's a solid game, so that people are inclined to go buy the console just to play that exclusive game, and b) they want you to have enough money that if you screw up the deal and have to back out, it's gonna sting to give that money back.

It's essentially a golden handcuff — fantastic as long as you don't try to pull away.

Can m$ really be paying enough for this?
For a small to mid-sized company, ohhhh yeah. The exclusive deals on Jade Empire and Mass Effect are what gave BioWare the money to develop those titles (and go since 2005 without a major release without going under) as well as Dragon Age, which still does not have a publisher (and thus still does not have outside financing).

So, from a "BioWare as small to mid-sized company" standpoint, this was an intelligent thing to do in order to buy some breathing room and time to develop independent titles.

Now that BioWare is partnered with Pandemic, and is therefore part of a large company that needs games to be big hits (and, therefore, is more likely to want multiplatform releases for its titles), it will be interesting to see if BioWare's future titles are 360 exclusives. I have no inside information on this — Ray and Greg do not come down to Patrick the non-Senior Writer to tell them their plans — but I suspect that BioWare will faithfully fulfill its obligations on existing contracts and then approach Microsoft from a new and stronger stance as part of a larger company… a company that has the ability to walk away from that truckload of money if it means that an even bigger truckload of money can be had a few years down the road.

I would hate to think Bioware is really in such dire straits, but as I have said before we have lost great development studios in the past and if this is what it takes for Bioware to stay in business then so be it.
I don't think of it as dire straits. I think of it as strategy. You do the established franchises (D&D, Star Wars) to build up your street cred. Then you take a truckload of money to make some exclusive titles for a console that, at the very least, isn't going to go under (like MDK2's Dreamcast did). That buys you the breathing room to make games for your own IP, and then, once you've partnered with another game company to form a larger company, you've got the financial weight to make your own decisions and go from "Company that takes a bunch of money up-front and doesn't see much in royalties" to "Company that doesn't need a bunch of money up-front and makes a ton of money in royalties," along with a stronger negotiating position with publishers that are going to press for things that benefit them and not you (like exclusivity).

This has, no secret, been a couple hard years for BioWare. We haven't put anything out since '05, and very few game companies can survive a 2 1/2 year drought comfortably. BioWare has kept hiring and kept developing, and when Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and the other titles we've got up our sleeves start rolling out, that strategy is gonna come together in a big and happy way… provided we make the games right. And I think we are. Your mileage may vary — you may not always be the target audience for the game — but the games are solid by any standard.

I'm terrible at rock climbing, but I remember the teacher's advice when you get to a point where you can't just keep climbing… where you have to look for a handhold out of reach, kick yourself off the safe handholds and footholds you've got, and shoot up to reach that next handhold. That's what BioWare is doing now. It's not always fun, but it's the only way to get to the next level.
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September 18th, 2007, 05:16
Much as I would prefer that BioWare stayed in the PC-only grognard market, I wouldn't criticise them for releasing platform exclusives. It's been pretty obvious from my position (and Patrick may see it differently as an insider) that Greg and Ray have always wanted to build the business. They're not tied to making a specific type of game for a specific audience (like, say, Troika) and want to a successful business (presumably making what they see as good games).

To that end, they are pursuing an effective strategy that necessarily takes them away from niche markets.

If Microsoft is to blame for signing exclusives, then this was something that was inevitable as soon as they decided to create a console.

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September 18th, 2007, 06:10
Nope. That's about how I see it.

I figure that the docs wanna get to a position where they can build the games that they want to build with as few strings as possible — no publisher, no franchise owner, no anything that keeps them from making the game that they want.

And the best way to do that is to be a successful business that puts out big titles that people will fight for and be willing to make concessions on.

Heck, that's the best way for a company to put out niche games, too — get enough money from major titles that they can afford to make those niche games as expansion packs or small-team projects. That niche game becomes a low-risk game, not a "This either sells hugely, or we go out of business" game.
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September 18th, 2007, 06:11
Interesting, thanks PatrickWeekes

PatrickWeekes
"That is, in fact, exactly what Microsoft would do."
Shocking, it's not like there are many high quality developers out there like Bioware whom are as capable of turning out a such quality products.

"It's essentially a golden handcuff"
I knew it was a lot, didn't know it was so much but it certainly sounds like a m$ strong arm technique.
I remember in the early days, m$ would refuse to even send stock of their console games if the retail store didn't have all m$ games in front of Playstation games, even if m$ games sucked.
It may have gotten so bad that m$ was refusing to send any games to the store, but iirc they ended up getting caught and were heavily fined.

"I think of it as strategy"
Ok, sometimes it's easier if I punch my little gbush voodoo doll "mr gen0cideNator" when I think of painful things!

Dhruin
Well, my writing skills suck if it sounded like I was criticizing Bioware and I am certainly glad it's a strategy.

I still really do believe in the long run the only way to stop this is to stand up to m$, because they will always take the route of sacrificing others for their own self gain.

I think the main point is there are very successful PC developers, whom I agree should do multiplatform titles to stay competitive and ensure longevity but either they need to build on the strongest common denominator and scale down, or at least give each individual platform attention.

The problem is m$ ego/PR that can't deal in realities of "consoles are the weakest platform", so they force developers to create to the lowest common denominator so they can release crap like oblivion and say they are IDENTICAL!
When reality is oblivion is a great game on the console but a decent game on the PC which is made into a good game only by the inclusion of the editor.

Now look at what's happened bethesda is having to spin it's PR more than a year early because they were exposed as completely misleading (we call it gbushin or lying in texas) and they are only at 33% positive on average with a huge majority of 66% not sure or disappointed, on average.
Clearly dealing with m$ on their terms has blowback, so I guess I am saying if Bioware is the nice girl getting mixed up the truly bad guy, just make sure you take some selfdefense.

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September 18th, 2007, 06:30
For a small to mid-sized company, ohhhh yeah. The exclusive deals on Jade Empire and Mass Effect are what gave BioWare the money to develop those titles (and go since 2005 without a major release without going under) as well as Dragon Age, which still does not have a publisher (and thus still does not have outside financing).
What you're saying here is not that MS is dolling up a lot of cash for Dragon Age but that the extra cash from JE and ME helped pay for the ongoing production?

All that coin then was a factor in giving the other two games priority then?

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September 18th, 2007, 11:09
Originally Posted by Acleacius View Post
The problem is m$ ego/PR that can't deal in realities of "consoles are the weakest platform", so they force developers to create to the lowest common denominator so they can release crap like oblivion and say they are IDENTICAL!
When reality is oblivion is a great game on the console but a decent game on the PC which is made into a good game only by the inclusion of the editor.

Now look at what's happened bethesda is having to spin it's PR more than a year early because they were exposed as completely misleading (we call it gbushin or lying in texas) and they are only at 33% positive on average with a huge majority of 66% not sure or disappointed, on average.
I'm not sure Microsoft really forces anyone to do anything. It's BioWare's or Bethesda's (or whoevers) choice to take Microsoft's cash or even develop on the Xbox in the first place.

The need to make multiplatform titles (or take exclusivity cash) is ensured by the desire to make premium AAA games at the cutting edge. Personally, I would be happy if BioWare (or Bethsoft or whoever) created cheaper games with more modest requirements that could be sustained by the sales from our hardcore niche…but they don't want to and, frankly, neither do most of the fans. Most really want the latest, greatest, cutting edge stuff — they just won't accept the price they pay for that is the games have to appeal to bigger markets to justify the costs.

So, if someone is to "blame", it's BioWare etc for pursuing those markets and the public for demanding them. Realistically, while I can be disappointed in that direction, it's hardly unreasonable for them to so so.

———————-

I didn't get the whole Bethesda being misleading bit at all. What did you mean?

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September 18th, 2007, 12:35
Here we go with personifying companies again. "M$" is doing nothing; it's a name for a company, and a company will always do what's best for itself. Sure, MS has done some despicable things, but so have most companies. The exclusive deal thing certainly works the same way as with Sony, Nintendo, etc.

As far as I'm concerned, I'm not unhappy about the Xbox 360 exclusive deal, because I have an Xbox 360. This just means that I will get a quality title for my console. I can understand that if you're only into PC gaming and love Bioware's PC titles, that you'd be worried about this. However, I really don't think any game should have to suffer from multi-platform development (or porting). Bad ports will mostly be caused by financial and/or time pressure, which is a real threat to game development, but if done well, it really shouldn't be a problem.
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September 18th, 2007, 12:58
The other thing to remember is that so many of the multi-platform games are either (a) licenses or (b) sports games, both of which do exceedingly well. Think about it this way - in terms of our interest here, Bioshock is a *huge* game. However, Metroid Prime 3 trounced its' numbers despite Bioshock being on two platforms. Madden sold more last month than Bioshock *ever* will, and the Pokemon DS sold more in a weekend in the US alone than Bioshock has in a month worldwide.

And then think that Bioshock has much more appeal than anything but the absolutely highest profile RPG.

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September 18th, 2007, 13:36
Originally Posted by Thaurin View Post
However, I really don't think any game should have to suffer from multi-platform development (or porting). Bad ports will mostly be caused by financial and/or time pressure, which is a real threat to game development, but if done well, it really shouldn't be a problem.
You are correct, of course, but the smaller platform (usually the PC) does end up with the short end of the stick all too often. It's entirely for financial reasons but that doesn't make some of the terrible UI decisions I see any more palatable.

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September 18th, 2007, 15:03
Yeah, the UI should make up the biggest difference in the amount of work needed. Multi-platform development will actually result in a higher quality product overall, though, since it will encourage healthy coding practices and expose bugs that would otherwise have stays hidden. But yeah, of course considerable time should be given to how to implement the user interfaces for all platforms, but I really don't know if this really encompasses a huge part of the total development time, seeing as how large and diverse a game development project is.

So it all comes down to good beforehand planning and not trying to save as much money on this particular part so they can implement feature X and Y before deadline. Sigh, must be hard to be a game developer these days.

I wanted to mention Blizzard but forgot, because it seems that Bioware wants to be like Blizzard is now: able to do most of anything they do by themselves, publishers and money be damned. Being able to say: "Our game is done when it's done" and then release all games fully polished and relatively bug-free. That must be a blissful situation to work in… and Blizzard's been developing multi-platform (PC/Mac) for years now, although that's arguably not entirely the same as developing for PC and a console.
Last edited by Thaurin; September 18th, 2007 at 15:10.
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September 18th, 2007, 16:39
Isn't Dragon Age a PC exclusive though?
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September 18th, 2007, 18:15
Originally Posted by txa1265 View Post
The other thing to remember is that so many of the multi-platform games are either (a) licenses or (b) sports games, both of which do exceedingly well. Think about it this way - in terms of our interest here, Bioshock is a *huge* game. However, Metroid Prime 3 trounced its' numbers despite Bioshock being on two platforms. Madden sold more last month than Bioshock *ever* will, and the Pokemon DS sold more in a weekend in the US alone than Bioshock has in a month worldwide.

And then think that Bioshock has much more appeal than anything but the absolutely highest profile RPG.
Well, my data says otherwise. NPD (tracking firm) August numbers (for North America):

360 MADDEN NFL 08 896.6K
PS2 MADDEN NFL 08 643.6K
360 BIOSHOCK 490.9K
PS3 MADDEN NFL 08 336.2K
WII PLAY W/ REMOTE 256.8K
WII METROID PRIME 3: CORRUPTION 218.1K
WII MARIO STRIKERS: CHARGED 147.4K
PS2 GUITAR HERO 2 W/GUITAR 145.4K
WII MARIO PARTY 8 138.3K
PS2 GUITAR HERO ENCORE: ROCKS THE 80S 127.1K

And that is just the console version of Bioshock (though, on PC it did a comparatively paltry 77k). Granted, Bioshock head a headstart of 6 days on Metroid Prime 3 but still…
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September 19th, 2007, 01:09
That PC data won't include Steam. I doubt the Steam sales would be enormous but it's still an unknown factor.

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September 19th, 2007, 01:16
Nice data Estel. Are game sales generally this much better on 360 compared to the unit itself? Is it possibly a lack of decent games that gives it a push. PS2 and PS3 combined sales put Sony just about on par with MS on Madden 08.

The continued strong PS2 sales go under the radar a lot thanks to the three new platforms.

This reminds me - I need to install NHL 08 to see if they butchered it again this year.

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September 19th, 2007, 02:06
Originally Posted by Estel View Post
Well, my data says otherwise. NPD (tracking firm) August numbers (for North America):
But by the end of its' first week it had sold about the same as Bioshock, and then outsold it the following week.

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September 19th, 2007, 06:01
Dhruin
"I'm not sure Microsoft really forces anyone to do anything."
Well, if m$ is only putting out cash for console exclusive development it's forcing the industry in that direction with development dollars, instead of funding maximum creative abilities as their pre-console days, they are weakening the industry since this forces development to the lowest common denominator.

"I would be happy if BioWare (or Bethsoft or whoever) created cheaper games ….."
Me too, sadly it doesn't seem possible with predatory publishers/financiers, see above.

" So, if someone is to "blame""
I guess I would have to disagree, it would be like saying;
"If all the gaming websites, were owned by huge cooperations whom force content of what they wanted and not what was best for the industry, whom prevented you from being the Editor/Writer you wanted to be, then people criticized and blamed you for the state of the industry because you needed a job to eat in the industry of your chosen profession".

"the whole Bethesda"
It was a reference to how hard they are having to try currently with F3 and how this is partly to blame on blowback from oblivion.
The criticism is coming from the PC industry for problem which bethesda is admitting like the whole interface issues, level scaling and AI issues which accpetable on consoles but not on PCs.
The PC industry got a port, so m$/beth could say they are identical which was a marketing ploy to sell consoles.

Thaurin
"Here we go with personifying companies again. "M$" is doing nothing;"
Either I misunderstand you or your joking.

"Multi-platform development will actually result in a higher quality product overall"
How is this possible if you are always building and thinking from the lowest common denominator?
It isn't.

"The exclusive deal thing certainly works the same way as with Sony, Nintendo, etc."
Maybe, but an example would help.
Sony and Nintendo have been in the console industry longer and have not tried to overthrow the whole PC industry so they could get console market share, iirc.

"Multi-platform development will actually result in a higher quality product overall.
Then would you mind defining what you consider higher quality, becasue at least from a technical stand point that's not possible due to the hardware limitations?

woges
"Isn't Dragon Age a PC exclusive though?"
I think that's the way it was advertised at least at one time, I'll go out on a limb here, and say I think it will be multiplatform.
If they can do it on both, why not, however if they build it for console first and port to PC, I am guessing there would be blowback.

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September 19th, 2007, 06:43
I think your idea and my idea of what is weakening the industry is rather different. What exactly do you mean by "lowest common denominator"? Cutting edge graphics? Simplified gameplay? I'm not clear.

You're also putting all the blame for not pursuing cheaper games entirely on the publishers, which just isn't accurate. BioWare could fund a modest hardcore CRPG for $500,000 - but they don't and it isn't Microsoft's fault. How about anyone else? The closest thing I can think of is Flagship funding Travis Baldree to build Mythos and it's not really the sort of example I'm looking for.

And would the public buy it, anyway? I think they'd sell enough to make it worthwhile but the evidence isn't clear, because there is no track record *other* than solid evidence the public *does* buy shiny graphics. That isn't Microsoft's fault.

I also don't recall a golden age of MS publishing prior to the Xbox. A few titles here and there, but no track record of funding niche projects to maintain the breadth of the market. What am I forgetting? Dungeon Siege? Zoo Tycoon? Age of Empires? All solid mainstream games but nothing all that creative.

I'm not really interested in defending Microsoft, by the way (and I'm not an Xbox fan), but I think your M$ stuff is overly simplistic and ignores everything else.

Edit: BioWare is clear that Dragon Age is PC only. I'm not silly enough to say it will never be multiplatform but saying "that's the way it was advertised at least at one time" makes it sound like that has changed and just plain ignores regular statements that it will be PC only. We all know things change, but you're reaching.

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