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Default BioWare - Interview @ VentureBeat

March 31st, 2008, 22:28
Dean Takahashi (who caused some controversy with a Mass Effect review when he forgot to level his character) has interviewed the BioWare doctors about Mass Effect, EA and PC gaming. It's a staccato conversation and hard to pick a quote but here's an odd bit:
Takahashi: Do you want to stay in a turn-based world or go real time?
Muzyka:
We have innovations in that area. We’ll have more to say about that later.
Takahashi: What do you think of the different digital business models ahead?
Zeschuk: We think there are opportunities with mid-session games. They can have short, contained games where you can buy digital items. We’re doing an online game in our Austin studio. We see things like episodic game play, new forms of digital distribution. EA is embracing those things.
Zeschuk: The game design has to directly support the business model. That means the game designers have to have a business perspective. They have to think about how to make money.
Muzyka: This isn’t abstract art. It’s commercial art.
I'd suggest "innovation" in turn-based gameplay pretty much always means it just isn't.
More information.
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March 31st, 2008, 22:28
What do you mean by your last comment?

I take it from Muzyka's comment they are toying with a new kind of TB/RT blend? I wouldnt' mind seeing that. RTwP has always been somewhat of a "worst of both world" compromise.
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March 31st, 2008, 23:47
All signs point towards "online gaming" as the next big, huge, gigantic fashion in gaming and related business models.

With this snippet, I really begin to fear that the whole SP gaming might die out altogether (except for Indies, of course).

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April 1st, 2008, 00:03
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
All signs point towards "online gaming" as the next big, huge, gigantic fashion in gaming and related business models.
I was surprised to learn how many people actually spend lots of time with browser games and the likes. These are mostly free (well, you pay by looking at ads), but have a huge following.

But these games you have to buy but stay on the seller's server don't interest me. I want to have something that I can use independently from an online connection. What happens to these games when the company you got them from became bankrupt?
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April 1st, 2008, 00:08
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
All signs point towards "online gaming" as the next big, huge, gigantic fashion in gaming and related business models.
"Next?" Seems to me a heckuva lot of people have lost their shirts in the last few years after seeing WoW and assuming that online games are a license to print money.
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April 1st, 2008, 10:47
The Problem is that any new Online-Game has to beat WoW; Most People wouldn't pay two (or more) monthly Subscriptions, you have only time to play one Game anyway

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April 1st, 2008, 10:53
Originally Posted by Fenris View Post
The Problem is that any new Online-Game has to beat WoW; Most People wouldn't pay two (or more) monthly Subscriptions, you have only time to play one Game anyway
Tell that to me, who still regularly plays tens of single-player RPG's that are lying around unfinished, ranging from the SNES to Playstation to Xbox 360 to PC. But I can see how that wouldn't work with MMORPG's.
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April 1st, 2008, 11:07
All signs point towards "online gaming" as the next big, huge, gigantic fashion in gaming and related business models.
Kinda like the interactive movie.
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April 1st, 2008, 12:35
Originally Posted by doctor_kaz View Post
What do you mean by your last comment?

I take it from Muzyka's comment they are toying with a new kind of TB/RT blend? I wouldnt' mind seeing that. RTwP has always been somewhat of a "worst of both world" compromise.
But most other options favor real-time over the turn-based. Phased combat, favored in jRPG's, feels just like Real Time most of the time … I know it does in Crisis Core: FF VII that I'm playing now …

RTwP is often more like 'continuous turn based' compared to these …

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April 1st, 2008, 13:30
Originally Posted by Fenris View Post
The Problem is that any new Online-Game has to beat WoW; Most People wouldn't pay two (or more) monthly Subscriptions, you have only time to play one Game anyway
I agree. Most companies fail because

a) Blizzard is a far too strong competor
b) money's sucked up (monthly fee)
c) time's sucked up
d) the game's developed too "cheaply" in the hopes that people won't recognize the "cheapness" of a game - I rather believe that people can very well recognize whether a game was developed as a pure cash-cow or with the love of a dedicated developer behind it.

It's as if i was throwing ingredients into a pot and then make a meal out of it - or I carefully measure everything and the taste. One has no love in it, the other one very well.
At least that's what I believe.

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April 1st, 2008, 13:31
No, sadly, the near-future of gaming is this:

short, contained games where you can buy digital items
And, for me at least, if that is the future of gaming (and it will be) then SCREW gaming.

For games like Rock Band/Guitar Hero that's fine. You get new music…and if I think the Kinks suck ass I don't have to pay for their crappy songs. Wonderful. But for other games…having to pay for items or character classes that should have been in the damn game originally…SCREW YOU. Extra content? Fine. New areas? Wonderful. But when it's items/classes/etc…basic gameplay stuff…not cool at all. The worst thing is when they start doing it with online games (and they will)…shooters online is first (which I couldn't possibly give a crap about but it still sucks and is a sign of things to come)…then it will be MMO's where you have to pay extra to unlock the things that become neccessary to compete with all the other suckers.

Is that the game world you want? Me either. But get ready 'cause it's coming. I think it will die the death it deserves…but you're gonna get a year or 2 of it before it does.
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April 1st, 2008, 13:38
This sounds very much as if someone has been looking towards Asia … If I remember correctly, buying in-game items is relatively common there.

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April 1st, 2008, 15:48
The thing that bugs me about it that Bioware seems to have strayed too far from their mission statement 'to deliver the best storydriven games in the world' to the all hail the mighty US dollar. This is what I read into Myzyka's comment abou it, the games, not being abstract, but instead being 'commercial art'.

It is also rather clear to me that Bioware's focus now unfortunately seem to be about making money, not about making the greatest storydriven games in the world that in turn would make Bioware enough money to stay afloat and alive as (an) independent game developer. It's just like they have forgotten about what the meaning behind Bioware were (or should that be was?).

The meaning wasn't *hey, let's sell out to EA to make us, Ray & Greg, very very rich.* The meaning was to be a game developer that made great storydriven games and in that way made money - not to make money first and foremost.

I'm also a bit worried abot the whole SP playng rpg+shooter game dying out. EA has already announced that for a certain shooter they are going to charge people if they want to unlock some of the (best) weapons in the game. I foretelll that we'll see more of this. I also foretell that we will se a business model in which certain game's .exe files are not stored on your PCs at all, but rather on say EA's server(s).
And that you have say like 6 monnths or so to finish the game. And once you have played, you can't play it again - ever. (ok, maybe not ever…) Just to make it so that you're forced to buy the new upgrades, the new bling-bling game etc. etc.

I also predict that there will come a time when people have had enough of this.

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April 1st, 2008, 16:40
I predict that everyone is overreacting very much.
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April 1st, 2008, 16:58
I wouldn't mind buying in game items, even if it's classes, if the actual game play was free. I don't play MMORPGs simply because I don't have the time to compete with hard core players, but if I did, I'd rather play for free an then pay a fee to get to the next level or whatever than get charged monthly for a game I might not have time ot play that month.

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April 1st, 2008, 18:40
Originally Posted by doctor_kaz View Post
What do you mean by your last comment?

I take it from Muzyka's comment they are toying with a new kind of TB/RT blend? I wouldnt' mind seeing that.
Seems to me that BioWare has been blending Real Time and Turn based combat in its RPGs since Baldur's Gate. This is nothing new; rather, it is standard operating procedure for engine design at BioWare.

Now - they may in the future have a new take on that, to be sure. I would say that every game they have released since the original BG has moved more towards real time style overlaying a turn based code structure, or at least, has offered an incremental new spin on that engine design. There is no reason to think that will end any time soon - or that innovations of this thematic approach will be abandoned for some other flavor.

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April 1st, 2008, 18:43
Welcome to the future the shitbox sucking morons is leaving to us !

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April 1st, 2008, 20:55
Wait a minute…. are you saying Mass Effect and Jade Empire are turn-based games? I haven't played them, and suddenly I'm worried I may have been missing out! I didn't know Bioware DID turn-based games… like… ever.
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April 1st, 2008, 21:20
Originally Posted by aries100 View Post
The thing that bugs me about it that Bioware seems to have strayed too far from their mission statement 'to deliver the best storydriven games in the world' to the all hail the mighty US dollar. This is what I read into Myzyka's comment abou it, the games, not being abstract, but instead being 'commercial art'.
Video game companies that don't focus on making money get to make, on average, 0.75 games before they go out of business. It might be a really great three-quarters of a game, but unless a whole bunch of post-company-death fan patches come through, that's all it is.

It is also rather clear to me that Bioware's focus now unfortunately seem to be about making money, not about making the greatest storydriven games in the world that in turn would make Bioware enough money to stay afloat and alive as (an) independent game developer.
And how is that clear to you, exactly? The easiest way to simplify Mass Effect would have been to force you to do the planets in one order, remove leveling, and just make it a straight-line action shooter that happened to have some story-based cutscenes. Heck, to hear some folks say it, that's what we did… except that there are a couple dozen uncharted worlds floating around there, along with a dozen or so talking plots on the Citadel, three or four different ways to talk your way into the labs on Noveria, and at least one planet on which multiple followers may die, and since that planet can be done in different orders, those deaths have to be accounted for on other planets. Hell, the game might have been more profitable if we'd tossed all choices out the window and made a shooter with some well-written cutscenes. We probably could have gotten multiplayer in there, too.

You may not agree with how Ray and Greg have opted to focus on storytelling — you might think that storytelling requires turn-based gameplay for some reason, or you might think that storytelling requires an open world, or that storytelling precludes player voice-over. I don't know what your definition is. But your definition is too narrow, by my standards. I don't love everything Mass Effect is and does, but it isn't lacking for storytelling.

As for what would make the company stay afloat, you must have been looking at BioWare's finances at a deeper level than I have, which is surprising. And moving beyond financial information that you know nothing about and I know little about, moving to EA is, I think, going to make BioWare make better games in the long run, for a few simple reasons:

1) Before this, Ray and Greg spent about half their time, if not more so, traveling to different publishers to do talks about upcoming games and figure out what the best deal for BioWare was. That article about glamor over games in the other thread? All that moving and shaking wasn't something that happened in their spare time. As part of EA, BioWare now has a publisher lined up for every future game, as I understand it — and that means that Ray and Greg can spend less time trying to secure a publisher and more time keeping a closer eye on games. You want BioWare to get back to its roots? This is going to help.

2) If you accept that BioWare games have to have cutting-edge technology (and if you don't, tough luck, because people far above you and me have already answered that one), it makes a lot of sense to be with EA, where we've got a ton of resources that can help teams develop games faster. In Mass Effect, we had to worry about what someone's frelling eyebrows looked like. You wonder why the game is shorter than BG2? It's because you're worrying about the eyebrows, and the tone of the voice, and the way that hand comes up, and where they're standing on the conversation stage, on top of everything you were worrying about in BG2 (is this the right time for this conversation to happen, is this the right node to fire, does this convey the right information to the player?). If working with EA means that our level-art textures come in faster because we get to use an EA-internal-use-only tool, then I'm all for it. EA isn't telling us how to tell our stories. They're giving us tools that get impediments out of our way, so that we can actually get back to telling stories.

3) Most video-game employees are run by people who like making video games more than money. This is great for the games, but not great for things like scheduling, resource planning, and all of the other stuff that makes sure that we ship a polished game at something close to the time we said we were going to do so, more or less around the right budget. Working for EA is going to kick us in the butt a bit and make us design more intelligently. That doesn't mean cutting depth. That means planning smart and executing well so that you don't have to cut that really deep meaningful thing at the end.
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April 2nd, 2008, 00:52
I'm waitiing for the day when not only in-game items are sold, but also in-game plots and stories …

… But wait, we already have that: It's called "NWN Modules" …

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