What BioWare Has Learned

Okay, I originally started writing this earlier in the week after receiving several queries, in regards to Dragon Age 3 – Inquistion. So, I didn’t know when I began writing this that Ray and Greg were retiring from BioWare.

So I want to start this post with wishing Ray and Greg good luck in their future endeavors. Without Ray and Greg’s passion for game development there never would have been a BioWare and consequently I probably never would have entered game development. For ten years I worked and learned and thrived in an environment that is really impossible to describe. It was Ray and Greg who made that possible.

If you would like to read the official BioWare announcement on their departure, including links to blogs they each wrote on their reasons, click here.

Anyways, back to the original purpose for this post. The question I had been receiving was: “Do I believe that BioWare learned anything from Dragon Age 2?”

My answer?

Yeah.

Now, before I get into things I should note that I don’t know anything at all about Dragon Age 3, so I can only comment on what I’ve read online. Specificallly, Mark Darrah’s post, announcing the game.

I think it is clear from how this post has been written that BioWare has learned that they need to be more upfront on who is working on their titles, to help mitigate the idea that BioWare has lost all its original staff. Mark makes it clear that he is a gamer and that he has loads of experience with traditional gaming. Mark was with BioWare from the beginning, well before I started. In fact the first office I shared was with Mark and he helped train me (even though he was in the programming dept and I was in design, there was a lot of overlap in the early days)*.

So, rebuilding some connections, between the developers and the fans is important and BioWare knows it and they show it with this post. And, of course, I’m hardly the only outsider to notice the specific wording of the post (i.e., check out Erik Kain’s observations on the announcement).

I don’t believe this announcement is just lip service, to placate the fans. Everybody working at BioWare wants to make great games. The problem is that the definition of great varies vastly, not just among the fans who will play the game but even within the studio. There’s a constant push and pull, a tug of war between this idea or that idea. Clearly there has been acknowledgement from BioWare over the past few months that they may have been pulled too far in one direction.

This realignment won’t be easy. It also has to be recognized that Dragon Age 2 sold well (and given its hurried development, probably was not an expensive game to make when compared with the first; hence it was probably more profitable) and many gamers enjoyed it. There may in fact now be two fairly differing audiences that will have be served. Doing this in a single title is incredibly difficult and I don’t envy them the challenge.

Anyways, in my opinion, BioWare has listened and has learned, but has a very challenging time ahead, to build a game that will satisfy their wide audience.

On a side note, I have also noticed clamoring for a return of “co-op” in BioWare titles. I’m torn on this. Great story and co-op that feels right is incredibly difficult. I’ll admit that I actively championed removing multiplayer from previous BioWare titles. Though I’m a huge gameplay fan I feel it is incredibly difficult to craft the kinds of stories that BioWare does while also developing top of the line multiplayer. Playing on the studios strengths, it always made sense (to me) to lean towards the single player experience. I’d be really impressed if BioWare can pull off the kind of story experience many players are yearning for (with loads of customization and branching plots) while also allowing co-op that doesn’t feel tacked on.

Okay, I have to go now. Need to finish my writing for the day before I head off to pick up the kid from school.


*”I should mention though that I’ll never play co-op Baldur’s Gate 2 with Darrah again. He was always wandering off and attacking things and getting the party into all kinds of trouble.”