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Default BioWare - More Glamor than Game?

March 30th, 2008, 11:35
I don’t believe there is anything nefarious going on here. I believe that reviews of Bioware games are good faith efforts by professional reviewers, but I also believe that there is a well cultivated sentiment among these professionals and their readers that anything from Bioware is naturally brilliant. Bioware does a good job of not dispelling this myth, putting the effort in the right places to sustain this perception, and even cultivate it, but I think more critical analyzes of the games show that there are deep flaws which are too often glossed over.
So I'm not crazy or alone in thinking that, good to know. Good games, better PR and marketing, and excessive fanboysm from the media, that seems about right.
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March 30th, 2008, 13:51
"Maybe these folks are seeing something I’m not, but every Bioware game since Baldur’s Gate II seems to me like a ghost of an RPG with half-hearted trappings of the genre surrounding worlds of little depth with little choice. "
So true that it's really sad, in terms of scope and visual charm NWN, JE and KotOR just didn't cut it (and from what I hear about ME it seems to be the case with that game as well). Still, odd that Elysium says this while drawing a poor comparison with the IWD series (taking it as a "pair" with PS:T is a bit ridiculous, unfair even because it's three Black Isle games versus two Bioware games). Black Isle made a better IE RPG (read: PS:T) and provided certain better production values (IWD1 intro, music, art, atmosphere) but in general I'd say BG series overcome IWD series with ease. Bioware really earned their success with the BG titles, period. The only remarkable thing one could say about those good old times is that Black Isle and Troika didn't receive the same credentials from the press but that's not Bio's fault.

And is it really that odd that Bioware lived on while Black Isle died during Interplay's demise? Bioware was an independent studio back then, Black Isle was the new Interplay RPG label (how on earth could Black Isle possibly have ended up in the hands of EA like Bioware is now?). Bioware weren't at fault in the big split, Interplay was.

That being said, I often wonder how things would have turned out if Interplay didn't mess things around like that. It might be blasphemy for certain parts of the general gaming audience to say this but I believe that if Bioware never touched the console market that they would have been a better (PC) RPG developer. It's dreadful to see console gamers gloat over basic RPG features or dumbed down features, these guys live in a different universe where there is little room for pre-release criticism. More glamor than substance indeed. I hope Dragon Age can restore some of Bioware's reputation but that's probably just wishful thinking.
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March 30th, 2008, 15:03
Atleast for me baldurs gate and neverwinter nights are heirs to the gold box series so
been a fan is just natural. Ill buy whatever garbage they sell. NWN1 was a bit
poor.

Torment got som mediocre reviews (the game had issues) atleast here so I never bought it until now when its almost impossible to get.

As for other bioware games Im quite happy with them. I really liked both kotors for instance. Played the first one through twice which is rare for me.
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March 30th, 2008, 19:13
I am not a bio fan, but what other option rpg gamers have?? play oblivion?? pfff.

Indeed i have enjoy lot of their games, i mean, there is not much where to choose, what other company thats not bioware is making good games with their own propietary engine?.

PC rpg gamers are just waiting for RPG games come out, usually this days is like 1 game per year, the problem is companys are just moving to make console games.

What PC gamers can expect from this??? just ports from consoles and somethimes some guys come from nowhere and make a hit with one game (witcher cough witcher cough, they use bioware engine aurora by the way).

Example of this?? mass effect
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March 30th, 2008, 21:42
I see that the author has a point, even if I don't agree completely with him. I'm not sure why he rates IWD higher than BG. Yes, he mentions PS:T, but that game was very buggy on release, and at least the German version needs a fan patch to run properly. IWD had a very nice atmosphere and a cool soundtrack. The multiplayer mode worked much better than in the Bioware titles, which made it very suitable for a dungeon romp with friends. Part of the reason for this suitability was the lack of a strong story with strong characters. Whether you had one or many main characters didn't make a difference. I preferred the involved stories of the two BG titles.

But this aside, I see that Bioware recycles the same story and the same characters over and over again. I also see the point that their dialogs often only give two options, a grotesquely selfless option only saints would take, contrasted with an evil option that looks retarded in its pettiness. This was very obvious in KotoR. Strangely enough, the game had an odd fascination for me, nevertheless. For me, they managed to make the Star Wars universe look interesting, and the story, though not revolutionary in any sense, sucked me in. I preferred KotoR II's gray areas, but the latter had other problems. If you look closely at KotoR II and ignore the badly botched last third of the game for a moment, you will see that the story doesn't really make sense. It was a good idea not completely thought through.

Which leaves Jade Empire. I seem to read different review outlets than the author of that opinion piece. The reviews I read didn't really hide the shortfalls of the game. I always took it as targeted for the console audience (similar to later games bearing the BG title), so my expectations were not too high, anyway.

I don't know anything about the latest titles.
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March 31st, 2008, 09:39
I really wish this discussion could have waited until AFTER everyone had a chance to play Mass Effect because then I'm sure all the complaints about simplified Good vs. Evil would be put to shame.

Generally speaking I can sympathize with the author even though I certainly don't agree with him concerning Bioware games. I too have experienced perplexity when seeing the huge interest about the exceedingly boring Grand Theft Auto games or the utterly mediocre Halo series … but that is pretty much just a matter of personal tastes.

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March 31st, 2008, 14:50
I agree a lot with what the guy is saying. I think that Bioware started to go downhill after Baldurs Gate 2 and the guy's statement that Kotor would have been mediocre without Star Wars is spot on. I don't have a big problem with simple "Good vs Evil" stuff, but to me a much bigger problem with Bioware's games is that the actual game design isn't very much fun. The combat in every game between NWN and Jade Empire has been a liability. They don't make open-ended games anymore and, instead, they have adopted this "hub-and-spoke" game design with small little uninteresting areas. I can't remember a single set piece or great dungeon from a Bioware game since Baldurs Gate 2. I don't think that their popularity is due to some kind of master business savvy on the part of the doctors though. I think that it's more due to a complete lack of competition from Western developers in the single player RPG space. Especially on consoles.
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March 31st, 2008, 17:31
To me that is like saying BG would be mediocre without the fantasy / D&D underpinnings … or that walking would be a drag without legs.

I like Bioware's stuff - loved KotOR, thought Jade Empire was solid but over-rated as a 9.9 game, and NWN is one of my faves.

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March 31st, 2008, 18:02
Originally Posted by txa1265 View Post
To me that is like saying BG would be mediocre without the fantasy / D&D underpinnings …
Not really. The Baldurs Gate series (especially 2) was great largely because of its design and gameplay, not because of its fantasy setting. It's not as if a generic fantasy setting consisting of elves and dwarves gives a game any unique charm. The size of the world and the open-ended design was wonderful. The combat was the pinnacle of RTwP games, thanks to the overhead view and the countless tactical options at your disposal. The interface was great once you got to #2.

The same cannot be said of Kotor. The role-playing system was completely unbalanced in favor of melee combat and the combat was pretty weak, outside of getting to watch the Jedi perform their tricks. Basically for combat you just click on one enemy and watch your party go to work while you use a force power or a medpack every few seconds. *Yawn*. Unfortunately, this has become the rule and not the exception for RPG's. The game was full of rehashed quests from Neverwinter Nights and Bioware's other games. The consolized interface was absolutely fucking terrible. The design of the dungeons/levels was pretty boring and uninteresting too. I thought that the best part of the game was the Light-Side, Dark-side points, but that also lacks charm without Star Wars (as evidenced by how wholly uninteresting the "Open Palm", "Closed Fist" crap is in Jade Empire). If you took Kotor and turned the lightsabers into swords it would have been an above-average game, at best.
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March 31st, 2008, 18:44
The article generally sums up my feelings about BioWare and their games. I do believe the press over-rates them to a degree bordering on parody, and I've always thought that BioWare are nothing short of superhumanly brilliant in the realm of marketing.
As the article says, they know how to market a game and traverse the gaming landscape with amazing ability.

Which BioWare games are best or who makes better is not really the point of the article, it's not trying to say BIS Game A is better than BioWare game B. The writer is merely using examples of how strong BioWare is in marketing their product to the gaming collective.

For the most part BioWare make mediocre to "good" games. I've enjoyed what I've played from them, but nothing made me think it was the best thing ever.

But they have their act together, can market a game like crazy, and if you'll notice they have an extremely consistent across the board marketing language.

You know the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views, which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.
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March 31st, 2008, 19:01
Why does everyone keep saying that IWD and Ps:T are Black Isle Games while BG 1 & 2 are Bioware? I distinctly remember the BlackIsle logo being splashed up at the beginning of both BG's.

Also, isn't the reason that Bioware stopped making AD&D games because they lost the license to Atari?

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March 31st, 2008, 19:22
Originally Posted by blatantninja View Post
Why does everyone keep saying that IWD and Ps:T are Black Isle Games while BG 1 & 2 are Bioware? I distinctly remember the BlackIsle logo being splashed up at the beginning of both BG's.
BioWare developed the Baldur's Gate games, but they were published by Interplay through Black Isle. PST and the IWD games were developed soley by Black Isle. There was also some BIS staff helping BioWare out with the games.

You know the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views, which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.
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March 31st, 2008, 19:26
Ahh! Thanks, that makes sense.

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March 31st, 2008, 19:28
IMHO Bioware´s games are in certain ways indeed better than almost every competing product:
- they usually have good writing
- they are nearly bug-free
- they often scale great on a large selection of hardware; they can be played on reasonably old PCs
- the production values are usually pretty good and consistent
- their focus on the mass market is superb (which is bad for us hardcore gamer )

Of course most of their games are overrated by the gaming press, as much as games from other top studios. Take a good 80+% title and slap a Bioware or Bethesda logo on it and you will get 10% more on average. I would rather blame the press for this though.
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March 31st, 2008, 20:15
I think that after Nwn it has been a downhill slide. For me the great thing about Nwn was that you could make your own game. With all the games I've played over the years I'm a bit jaded, but when I can make my own, well then, that's a different kettle of fish altogether. In general I do think they are overrated, but they do know how to market and they know how to support. After 5 years they are still releasing patches for Nwn, now that's support.
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March 31st, 2008, 20:40
I tend to support Gorath in this.

Especially on the first three points, which are important to me, besides.

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March 31st, 2008, 22:33
Originally Posted by blatantninja View Post
Why does everyone keep saying that IWD and Ps:T are Black Isle Games while BG 1 & 2 are Bioware? I distinctly remember the BlackIsle logo being splashed up at the beginning of both BG's.

Also, isn't the reason that Bioware stopped making AD&D games because they lost the license to Atari?
They could have continued to make D&D games, but if memory serves, they chose not to because they no longer wanted to be restricted by using somebody else's IP. I think that one of the issues with D&D was mature content. Doesn't Wizards of the Coast basically have to approve everything that they do? I like D&D, but I have to give them props for having the balls to go it on their own.
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March 31st, 2008, 23:00
Originally Posted by doctor_kaz View Post
They could have continued to make D&D games, but if memory serves, they chose not to because they no longer wanted to be restricted by using somebody else's IP. I think that one of the issues with D&D was mature content. Doesn't Wizards of the Coast basically have to approve everything that they do? I like D&D, but I have to give them props for having the balls to go it on their own.
Yes, wizards of the coast, or worse, The Hassenfeldt Brothers (Hasbro who now owns WotC) has to approve any & all content in games. If I remember my rpg history correctly, didn't Troika meant for you to be really really EVIL in Temple of the Elemental Evil? I mean, flaming churches, and temples and - gasp - burning children and such things? And didn't Troika also want to have children in the game while Hasbro said "NO" since the children could be attacked and die?
I think, you also as part of the evil path could choose to skin people alive ? or something like that ?

I think basically kaz has got the idea: Bioware didn't want to have anything more to with licensed content, especially maybe the D&D content, and maybe also the content from LucasArts. That just didn't fit well with Bioware's recent decisions to go into partnership with both LucasArts and the developer/publisher behind the Sonic franchise. (Sega).

I think it is important to remember that Bioware are telling stories first and foremost through their games, not making a game with a story around it.
I like most Bioware games, but even I can see that Jade Empire isn't an 9.9 game, nor is Mass Effect a 9.75 game…

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March 31st, 2008, 23:16
A minor nitpick about the licensing…

We can't say if BioWare could have continued to make D&D games because they never held the license in their own right. They probably would have been able to sign on with Atari (the rights holder through the acquisition of Hasbro Interactive by Infogrames) - one presumes Atari would have been happy to have a new BioWare D&D title, but who knows?

On topic, Gorath certainly raises good points, including that their focus is not necessarily compatible with hardcore gamers.

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April 1st, 2008, 00:14
Originally Posted by doctor_kaz View Post
They could have continued to make D&D games, but if memory serves, they chose not to because they no longer wanted to be restricted by using somebody else's IP. I think that one of the issues with D&D was mature content.
The second issue was that many players complained about the D&D mechanics behind the combat animations. The visuals of interrupted attacks without a certain flow turned many people who migrated from shooters off.
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