BioWare interview Pt. 1
8th Jul 2009 | 17:00
In what was possibly the most in-and-out trip in this writer's career (except for maybe flying to Japan for one day), we sped to a posh hotel in the green fields of Hampshire (UK) for a natter with Greg Zeschuk, co-founder of BioWare, VP at EA and group creative officer of the MMO RPG group.
Three hours of travelling for a 20-minute chat turned out to be worth it though, because Zeschuk had plenty to say. Part two of our chat focuses on everything from BioWare's take on the state of games to motion control and Wii development. Here we talk about Dragon Age.
Let's begin with Dragon Age. We're told there's a greater focus on action in the console versions. Can you explain those changes?
Zeschuk: It's primarily been the whole interface. We literally tore out the PC interface and rebuilt it. It's been a six month process and that actually does change the fundamental experience.
On the PC you almost have a sense of directing the action, whereas on the console side it feels like you're in the action.
Other things that we have to tweak on console versus the PC are some of the balance aspects, because you don't have that huge view of the battlefield that you do on PC. But the story itself, the characters and the main gameplay are the same.
The motivation to redo the interface on the console was because we didn't want console players to feel that they didn't have all the powers that the PC gamers have access to. We didn't want to dumb it down for them, but we wanted to make sure that it was easy to use.
You have a history of creating top-class RPGs. How much influence did you draw on from your back catalogue for Dragon Age?
Zeschuk: We refer back to our own games - the overall themes and structures of Dragon Age: Origins are very much like a Baldur's Gate experience. World of Warcraft did a really good job of characters playing different roles during battle and all those influences are essential to be successful.
So we thought it the right thing to do to go back to our old games and others that are similar to create those easily understood types of roles for the characters and make it easy to play.
Funnily enough, if you actually look at KOTOR, you'll see that the camera, the layout and the way it actually looks is actually very similar, and I think that was very specific.
What are your plans for post-release DLC?
Zeschuk: We've a lot of DLC plans. There's a slight difference on PC and console, because on PC we provide full user tools that let you modify and create your own levels and stories. You can browse a lot of that user content from within the game.
On the console side, it's obviously not really feasible for us to provide the toolset, but we are actually looking at ways to potentially share the content created on the PC on consoles. There aren't really any huge technical hurdles to that.
On top of that, we are creating a lot of downloadable content that'll be on offer shortly after release. We already have a team working on it, because the core content of the game is pretty much done.
DLC will be a big part of this game, continuing the story of the Dragon Age universe. Some DLC might be equipment or loot, but the interesting thing about that is that we won't just give you a new sword, there'll be a little story or new dungeon built around getting that sword. And full expansions packs are a possibility down the road.
What about a demo?
Zeschuk: We've not really talked about a demo. There's a few different ways we could do it. The way the game's set up actually makes it hard for a demo because there are six origin stories and we don't know whether to just pick one or a couple.
And then the really cool thing with the game is seeing what happens when you pick an origin story later in the game - like the way that characters get to know you.
It's not likely that we'll have a demo ready for release, but very shortly after we'll probably figure out some parameters where we chop the game into pieces and make them available for people to experience.
There was controversy over the sex scenes in Mass Effect, and now there are some in Dragon Age. It's common in films, but do videogames need scenes of this nature to portray a story?
Zeschuk: I don't think they need to have them, I think that in certain types of games it makes sense to have them. It's interesting because I think the Mass Effect thing was completely over-blown.
There wasn't even really nudity; it was like the side of a leg. I think some of the press took huge advantage of the situation. The reality was that it was the kind of stuff you'd see on evening television.
That said, I think from our perspective we want to reflect real human relationships. If you're trying to have a relationship with a character we want to reflect that and the impact of the connection with that character. And if that involves some sort of intimate scenes, we want to provide those for the player.
It's based on the fact that this is a sophisticated mature experience. The same way that a kid's anime or cartoon will have a different style of content in it than a really serious drama, this is like a serious drama. Really what we're going for in all cases is emotional engagement, some kind of impact.
I think that's not to say we should overdo it, but very simply we want to say: 'Here's a character, we want this to happen. How can we make this impactful?' Whatever comes from that, we evaluate it and put it in the game if it makes sense.
Look out for the second part of the interview on CVG soon.