BioWare Interview Pt. 2
13th Jul 2009 | 18:01
Here's the second part of our lengthy chat with Greg Zeschuk, co-founder of BioWare, VP at EA and group creative officer of the MMO RPG group. That's one busy-looking business card he carries.
Zeschuk opens up on the PS3 price drop debate, Wii development, motion control and new IP. If you missed it, check out the first half of the interview here.
What's your take on the PS3 price drop debate, and Activision's threat to stop PS3 support?
Zeschuk: I think it's been tough for everyone this last year. On the one hand I think the business is still doing pretty well considering the world economy. I think that this is something that people tend to lose sight of - that games have been pretty strong in the context of the world economy and general economic slowdown.
I don't think it's really fair to poke fun at Sony. Certainly the Wii's been a massive success and Sony's probably not going as fast as they thought it would be but I think that they're starting to make the right moves and the software's coming along. I think it's silly to be saying you're not going to support Sony. The brand itself is still huge and there are millions of [users] out there.
And the generation seems far from over...
Zeschuk: I think this generation's going to be an interesting one because I think it's going to go on for a really long time, which is fabulous for developers and the consumer.
You won't have to be flipping your console every five years and we get the chance to spend time optimising what we make. We get faster and better the more we use these machines and usually, in the past, by the time that we've figured it out they make a new one. I'm excited because I think it's actually a positive that there's going to be a fair amount of time spent on this generation.
So the maximum ability of these consoles hasn't already been hit?
Zeschuk: I think we can still improve on what we do with these machines. The other interesting aspect of this generation is the impact of the online components in both Sony and Microsoft, and even Nintendo for that matter. Xbox Live is a big deal, and Sony's PSN is starting to build up to being a big deal. So I think even Sony and MS will see that there's a benefit in making sure that the platform is robust so they can take advantage of what they're doing online.
Do you think the PS3 needs a price cut as much as some industry figures are saying?
Zeschuk: I don't think it would hurt. I can't really say. Price cuts always seem to help get more volume out there, you have to bear in mind that publishers are a bit self-serving in the sense that they'll say you need to cut your prices so that they can sell more units. So you always have to take that with a grain of salt, but when Sony's thinks it's the right time, it'll do it.
There's always talk of you guys being interested in the Wii. Why hasn't a Wii game from BioWare come into fruition yet considering the Wii's been massively successful for a fair while now?
Zeschuk: I think... we're a little slow. No, I mean, the challenge for us has been figuring out what would be the best possible BioWare experience to deliver on the platform. We've done a lot of platform exploration - we've done our first iPhone game and we've done DS, so we're always looking at platforms. But what's been hard for us and the Wii is figuring out how to best match the kind of games that we make with the Wii experience.
The optimum Wii experience is a game where four people sit together on a couch and play. We've done multiplayer stuff in the past, but our optimal product always engages a player on an emotional level. I'm sure there's ways to do that on the Wii, but we just haven't figured that out yet. Once we do that we could very well do something on it.
So you're still thinking about it, but you've got nothing solid in the pipeline for Wii?
Zeschuk: We're not specifically developing a bunch of stuff, we've just been thinking about it and exploring it, and thinking about Natal as well. When we do act on a platform we really do get behind it, and so we're really just sitting back right now and figuring things out.
So you're still unsure of how to attack the whole motion control rush coming from MS's Natal and Sony's new motion controllers?
Zeschuk: Natal is in a similar situation to Wii. I mean, it's a cool interface but you have to think 'what's the advantage of us making products for it?' That's what we're trying to figure out.
The main thing for us is that we don't want it to seem gimmicky. We want it to be at the core of the experience. There are some neat concepts - I mean, something as simple as being able to use motion control for interface work. We'll be able to do that, which is cool. But, while that's not be entirely gimmicky, it's not the whole game. That's where it gets challenging.
It was said that the BioWare Mythic merger was to focus more on the MMO RPG genre. Is that because you see that genre as the future biggest genre in gaming?
Zeschuk: I think to be fair we were both already doing them, and it's very similar stuff from both teams. There's certainly lots of opportunity for us to share and we already were - speaking a lot and swapping technology. So it's not so much a change in direction but more a realisation that we can do better if we put it all together.
I think Ray [Muzyka, GM and CEO of BioWare] was quoted as saying there may be a possible collaboration project in the future, and that's absolutely true.
EA says it will launch two-to-three new IPs a year. What's your view on the debate over launching new IP versus doing sequels?
Zeschuk: We're almost always working on something new. At BioWare a product only reaches public eyes when it's fully realised and it's on the track to becoming something that'll be released. Quite commonly we're working on stuff that's only theoretical, and so we're always exploring possibilities.
We're always looking out for trends, and when you have a free team you have to figure out if you want to work on something that already exists or do you want a new franchise. It's fairly dynamic - we think it's important to be revitalising a studio by coming up with new things. You don't want a situation where you're forever doing the same thing; people get burnt out doing that.
The cool thing is that they don't all have to be giant console releases, they can be smaller platforms like an iPhone game.
Check out the first half of the interview here.