About Bioware and its MMO “not being Bioware enough”

This is a quick “official” update about my “not Bioware enough” claim (that went further in the comments). I got this in a mail long ago but I rarely check that mail and forgot about it at some point.

First “news” is unrelated, Stormwaltz pointed me that CuppaJo, former City of Heroes community manager, moved from this to this. So from CoH to Tabula Rasa, going through that rumor that revealed to be an half-truth (right about people in CS losing job, false about CoH’s subscriptions falling down that much).

So still inside NCSoft, with just some shuffling. Beside this, I’m kind of worried about Guild Wars instead. Something that SirBruce wrote in that thread now seems to receive some confirmations. It seems that Guild Wars is failing its business plan and trying to compensate through microtransactions. Ugh.

And now the part about Bioware:

I just noticed your post from the 9th about the BioWare Austin studio licensing the Hero Engine. To specifically address your concerns about BioWare Austin not being “BioWare enough,” I thought you be interested to know that the core of the studio is half Austin vets (Rich, Gordon, Damion), and half transplanted Edmonton staff; James Ohlen (our creative director, who’s been with the company since Shattered Steel), Emmanuel Lusinchi (tech designer), and Daniel Erickson (writer).

Okay, I take note.

In the meantime Ubiq (who’s working on the combat system for that upcoming Bioware MMO) pointed to an interview with Simutronics about the Hero Engine. I read it but I didn’t find much that is interesting to quote or comment as it’s filled with very generic claims about how they needed the graphic to be state of the art and how it is all so great. It’s not an interview that actually says something concrete and sounds more like they are just trying to advertize and sell the engine.

HeroEngine is a complete solution for MMO developers. We built a client, a server, a toolset for the development team, and a back office billing and customer service solution. The client is not only an advanced graphics engine on par with the industry leaders, but it is tightly integrated with the server for optimizing MMO performance.

We’ve spent five years building HeroEngine, which is now more than three million lines of code plus middleware like SpeedTree, FaceGen, and other best of breed tools we integrated from other vendors.

BioWare Austin wanted to get up and running quickly, and they liked our ability to let them design, test, and prototype what they envision. We’ve known many of the people there for a long time, and we were on the same wavelength.

They also say that they are going to work on console ports in the future.

Something that caught my attention and may hint something about what Bioware is developing is that in the interview they insist a lot on how the engine is flexible and how the gamemasters can build and tweak content on the fly, so becoming an active part in the game through live events and things like that:

Our engine liberates GameMasters from simply being online customer service reps, and lets them be much more active in improving the gameplay experience. They can operate NPCs and monsters in real time, they can build massive quests and other in-game events…

Now we don’t know if Bioware was looking at that flexibility just to start working on the game sooner or if they instead plan to integrate active gamemasters and dynamic content as well. Actually we know nothing at all about the game. It’s fantasy themed, and that’s it.

So I don’t know, but my spider sense tickled at that point and I suspect that there’s something they are planning. It also reminded me an old post, still from Ubiq, where he said they needed a lot of writers. A content-heavy game, maybe, or maybe there’s another, more subtle, motivation.

Nevertheless my opinion remains the same:
“Licencing technology is like buying a roof for your design potential.”

I still think that “game design” cannot be detached and made independent from the technology development needed to realize a potential.

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