Bioware: as clueless as you can get

The firsts, vague details about the already hyped, upcoming Bioware MMO are coming out from the first interview they released about the project.

As a first comment I’ll copy what Haemish said: “I see a whole lot of naivete in that interview”.


Gordon Walton, co-studio director, BioWare Austin: We announced the game around March, but we’d really started on it in the beginning of December 2005.

James Ohlen, creative director, BioWare Austin: We’ve got a lot designed — we’ve got the GDD [game design document] done, we’ve finished more than three quarters of the detail design documents. We’ve got a couple prototypes up.

And we can talk about the high-level goals: We basically want to bring what BioWare’s famous for to the online space, and one of the things BioWare’s famous for is storytelling … and it’s something that pretty well doesn’t exist in the online space right now. Most “storytelling” in MMORPGs is just FedEx quests — you know, you have to go get some eggs — and it’s presented in a format that’s just a bunch of text thrown at you in paragraph for … and that’s not so exciting. We want to bring a level of storytelling that’s equal to the single-player box games that BioWare has done.

JO: You can’t stop the world from being destroyed by [Sauron], but you can do a lot of things that are personal to your character. You change how your character evolves over the game, the player’s personal story — and a player’s personal story can be quite epic. It can involve parts of the world that, while they’re epic, exciting, and interesting, don’t change the landscape of the entire world for everyone else.

Rich Vogel, co-studio director of product development: One thing we don’t want to do is NPC Pez dispensers, as I call them — go over there, dispense a quest, and then go “vacuum-clean” a zone. We want to make sure you listen to NPCs, because choices matter. And that’s really important.

JO: and they can still — especially when you use things like instances — go on a quest that involves killing an ancient huge red dragon.

JO: In WOW, you get XP when you finish a quest, but the weighting on that is pretty low; there’s not much benefit to doing that over finding the perfect monster to grind and kill. If those quest experience points were a little higher, it would make a lot more sense to go along with the story.

GFW: How many of your key staffers migrated from SOE [which also has a studio in Austin]?

GW: I don’t know that we have a count. Some from SOE, some from BioWare Edmonton, some from other companies completely. It’s not like we had to go knocking. Experienced people want to work on a product that can be successful.

We probably have the most experienced team in the business, as far as building MMORPGs.

JO: we don’t want players to be stuck grinding through the same content over and over again.

RV: is our game going to be a simulation? No. Our game is an entertainment experience.

RV: it’s very important to have directed content … especially if you want to get to a mainstream audience.

JO: If we’re going to create immersive, epic stories that are believable, that really goes against having a simulation-type world.

RV: The key points that we’re gonna do that no one’s done before in an MMOG are bring story, character, and emotion to it. Decisions matter, and NPCs aren’t pez dispensers, and you’re not in a grind.

JO: One of the things we want to do is create more story content than in any other BioWare game before, and we started a writing team earlier than in any other BioWare project — more than twice as big, nine total. The reason is that the world is huge and has tons of paths and options.

So they found the magic recipe for the Endless Stream of Quality Content and No Grind that no one was able to find till today: hire nine writers.

And when it was asked how to “bring the story, character and emotion” the answer is: instancing.

If there’s one thing that irks me is when people disown what they have done in the past (SWG). You know, the more I hear them talk and the more I think that the “dinosaurs” Raph Koster often talks about are those two guys. Rick Vogel and Gordon Walton.

They come from a systemic game, it fails and now they are all for the directed gameplay “because you cannot be successful without”. And because of the WoW “me too” syndrome.

They are just running around aimlessly, glad that they now have “Bioware” printed in their resumes.

It’s not like we had to go knocking. Experienced people want to work on a product that can be successful.

Experienced people are looking for the Bioware name. Between these people are Rich Vogel and Gordon Walton.

For these “experienced people” what matters is their resume. And the fact that now there’s “Bioware” printed there. The rest? Irrelevant. They are leeches.

By the way. I also wrote a bunch of design notes in the past about how to bring “story, character and emotion” (part 1part 2). With the difference that I explained *concretely* how to achieve that. It’s there and you can agree or disagree with it. And surely wouldn’t be the only thing to make a game significantly different to be INDISPENSABLE and EXCUSED in the market. Because if no one feels the need for another cookie-cutter game (beside those “experienced people” who care only about a new voice on their resumes) then it shouldn’t be done.

One thing is an excuse to get a job. One thing is working because you believe in what you are doing. Because you have something to say.

But of course they would say that they HAVE innovative and interesting ideas, but, of course again, they cannot disclose them JUST YET. All those other MMO companies out there are just waiting the occasion to steal all their incredible, brilliant ideas. Okay. Sure. How much time do you want? One year? Two? Three? More? Whatever. Because I’m sure that no matter how much time we will wait, at the end there won’t be absolutely anything new behind the curtain.

Maybe a brick: in the form of instancing, nine writers and, maybe, branching quests (that will effectively double the time of content production).

In the meantime I really have one question. Honest. I hope someone will ask them in an interview in the future. The question is: Why a MMO?


Why a MMO?

Better :)

“Because I want it on my resume” is NOT an answer.

If this project deserves some attention it is because, as I wrote on the forums, there’s Ubiq working on the combat system, and lately he seems more enlightened than usual.

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