GamesCom: BioWare Co-Founders Interview Part Two

By Darryl Kaye on September 22, 2010, 7:46PM EDT

The dust has all settled around BioWare's GamesCom announcements now, as the convention happened just over a month ago. However, part two of our interview with BioWare still remained unpublished, until now.

In part two, I was again joined by Lee Bradley and Jamie Feltham as we talked to BioWare co-founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk about future projects and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Part One: BioWare GamesCom Interview Part One Do you think you proved that a game can be just as successful when released in January, because before that everyone was like "What're they doing"? There was a bit of skepticism.

Ray Muzyka: I think when the stats came up for Mass Effect 2, the sales stats was the most successful new product launch in January ever. So it's pretty cool. Shows that we have a strong community that really supports our games and our part was to provide really high quality games, never disappoint them, and always try to make each game better than the last; that's always our goal. You've obviously did Sonic Chronicles, are you interested in working with other existing IPs?

Greg Zeschuk: Sometimes. We're pretty selective with our IPs. We do like to create our own stuff and we were fortunate enough to do that with DA and Mass Effect and Jade Empire in the past, but we also like working with certain IPs. In the case of Sonic, we wanted a bit of a younger targeted game and we thought it would be really great to work with the Sonic universe. We've done Star Wars and Dungeons and Dragons in the past, this is also stuff we're very very familiar with so we like things we already know really well and we like to think that has a very positive impact on the games. So that's really our focus and as far as future use of existing IPs, it's hard to say. Again it goes back to that, it has to be really big, really liked and if the right thing comes along. We're very very selective about that. We've had lots of pitches for IP over the years, but we generally say no. With regards to the markets that you cater for, for example all this week I've been seeing tons of games where the main focus is inclusion. Let's try and get as many people as we can playing by doing lots of things. Whereas Bioware in the key IPs as in Mass Effect and DA, that's not necessarily the case. Obviously you're shipping loads of copies, but it's still a hardcore targeted game.

Ray Muzyka: Honestly, it's more like an onion. We have a core audience and a mass audience and we're really trying to produce a game that's accessible to all levels, to different groups and trying to make an accessible and a rich experience that has a lot of depth that you can dive into and you can also access in different ways. Shorter play sessions; longer play sessions; play with different players or play solo; have a really great time either way. Have a strong emotional interest in the story arc, lots of different activities you can do with combat, progression, customization, exploration, and you just kind of provide a complete package, making sure it's accessible to audiences in the way they access the content. Let them play how they want to play it. May be a more core experience or maybe a more massive experience, but I think people at the end of the day like to be entertained. They like to have a really emotionally connected experience and at that level, everyone's human at the end of the day. They want a great entertaining engaging gaming experience. That's what we try and provide. You seem to be sticking to your guns though and not toning down your content, whereas the rest of the industry seems to be.

Ray Muzyka: We're staying faithful to our fan base. Our community's really important to us. Bioware's community now is very mixed. There's mass market fans, hardcore fans, and everything in between so we try to make games that appeal to the whole range of fans. Moving onto Star Wars: The Old Republic, why choose this area of the Star Wars canon? Because it is such a huge fiction, you can choose in between a movie, or straight out of the original trilogy, and obviously the prequel, why investigate that history of the Star Wars saga?

Greg Zeschuk: Well we're very very familiar with it. Obviously, we had the choice and the opportunity to choose from very different time periods, but for us, one thing, you do work on a license, and one thing we do try to accomplish is actually if we are working with something that's already existing, we like to carve a little piece that hasn't been developed and develop it. We prefer not to use fully formed so when we talked to Lucas Arts years ago, when we started to develop Knights of the Old Republic, that was one of our options, so we jumped at it, thought wow this is great! They were very supportive since it was a time period they wanted to develop a little bit and going back to it is very nostalgic. It has a positive effect on the fans, but also that time period has a huge amount of flexibility. There's a ton of things that are hugely beneficial like during the movies 4,5, and 6, there weren't that many Jedi. It seemed illogical for armies of Jedi to be seen roaming around or Sith for that matter. They're very few force practitioners in that time so you'd actually be unduly restricted to associate too closely to the movies. The thing with LucasArts, again we have great work relations with them working with them for years now and I would assume, I'm not promising anything, but there's a desire to expand on the properties and I think by working together to expand that space, there are new islands and continent they can then use. They've done novels in that space and other materials, so, clearly they value it as a timeframe and we really love working there, because of the flexibility and the fact that we can trace some of the stuff back to what we did in the original Knights of the Old Republic. Do you see The Old Republic as a sequel, because it's obviously growing into a whole genre and it's kind of a big shift in time, a couple hundred years after the original game, could you get away with calling it Knights of the Old Republic 3?

Ray Muzyka: Yea we could probably describe it as Knights of the Old Republic 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. We've used that before and we really mean it. In terms of the amount of content in the game it's crazy. You can play through all of these personalized story arcs, these heroic journeys in the main character classes. They're all different. They're all really refreshing. The worlds can occupy a common world space, but in terms of the personal journey, lots of customization, full voice over for every player character, every NPC in the game and it's all really really fun. It's totally integrated in the game experience too, so it's not in any way an after thought, or a tac-on, it's a totally integrated and seamless with the customization, exploration, combat all in the Star Wars setting that's really set 1000 years before the movies. You've taken on a massive MMO, why take on a huge MMO, and how do you deal with the pressures of developing 3 incredibly high profile titles?

Greg Zeschuk: Well, we like being challenge. That's one of the main things, we like to tackle some of the most difficult complex challenging projects, that for us is exciting. The opportunity to do that is interesting. The potential result of a successful MMO helps the company in a variety of ways, not just the financial. You really learn so much, you see different things, you experience true online gaming and there's a lot of stuff you can learn from it. And those are probably the two driving things, is that it's a worthy goal and you learn a lot. In terms of pressures, I guess there's always pressure. Particularly ever since we shipped Baldur's Gate, we've always had pressure, and higher expectations from our games. So it's not really different territory, not scary. We just make games and hope to make better ones. That's our goal.

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