Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk answered MTV Multiplayer readers’ questions and told us about what they’re changing in “Mass Effect 2,” BioWare’s future and how they like to keep players gasping.
During the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco last week, Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, the VPs and MDs of BioWare, answered reader questions (pulled from our Twitter feed) about their upcoming games and what to expect next from the studio.
JoshONeal: Dragon Age: Origins. Will there be CO-OP or multi-player in the PC or console version?
Ray Muzyka: No current plans. This is a single-player game, and we chose to make it so that we really invest you as the character going through the world and make the experience that much more immersive and deep. But there is a social space outside the game. We know the world’s connected and how important that is, so we’ve integrated the community and the game together. There’s a ton of downloadable content planned and also the user content generation tool’s going to release, so user-generated content — at least on PC, and we’ll explore whether it’s feasible on the console systems — will be shared with other players and fans. There’s also servicing of your Achievements and what you’ve done in the game; that’ll be true on all the systems.
fooflex: I’d like to know if they plan on supporting coop in Mass Effect 2.
Greg Zeschuk: Well, we haven’t disclosed a feature set at this point.
Muzyka: But multiplayer is something that, at a broad level, BioWare is interested in exploring in our games in the future. The good news is that we have a great multiplayer game that’s co-op in “The Old Republic,” our “Star Wars” game. I hear that’s going to be pretty big. [smiles]
“When we do the multiplayer stuff we’ll do it as a foundation of the game. It’s not worth it to throw it on after the fact.”
Zeschuk: Yeah, [multiplayer] has to be central to the game to make sense. I think you see examples of games that have thrown in multiplayer modes that don’t make any sense and then you see games that are built from the ground up as co-op experiences. Like “Left 4 Dead,” for example. Single-player is fun but after you play it in co-op, it’s like super fun. And I think that’s the thing: when we do the multiplayer stuff we’ll do it as a foundation of the game. It’s not worth it to throw it on after the fact.
mescalineeyes: I might be a little late on this one, but did you ask why no ME2 for ps3?
Muzyka: Well… on that front, we announced it for 360 and PC and beyond that we don’t have any comment.
Intangible360: Will players be able to move their ME save to ME2?
Zeschuk: Keep your saved games is what we’re telling people now, but as far as how that all works, it remains a mystery. Fortunately, we can apply alien technology.
Muzyka: It’s not a mystery to us but a surprise for fans. But everything we’ve said about moving your games between the products in the trilogy, or saves and characters, was true. And everything in the teaser is also true. So it’s a disconnect. It’s a surprise.
Zeschuk: It’s almost like it was created that way to create controversy.
Muzyka: Really? That’s pretty clever.
Zeschuk: Those rascals!
MTV Multiplayer: So the ramifications of your choices… What if players change their mind? Like Wrex is dead, and by forever, you mean forever. I’m assuming you’d have to start over then…
Zeschuk: Mmmm. I think you’ve got to go back. You can’t rewrite history. You’ve made your choices. First they have to buy another copy, and then they’ve got to play it again.
Muzyka: [laughs] Well, if they already own it…
MTV Multiplayer: But does that complicate things a lot in writing the stories and designing for the second and third games?
Muzyka: We definitely have to plan for continuity, and you don’t necessarily plan every detail out but you have to grand story arc and everything you do in the first game has to be tested against the future products. That’s very true.
Zeschuk: The decisions you make at the end of the first game have to be there in some sense in the sequels.
Muzyka: At least the ones that matter, the ones we choose to bring along.
Zeschuk: It would be — it’s not like every single microbe but the big stuff.
MTV Multiplayer: Like Wrex being dead.
Muzyka: Yes. That was an emotionally impactful moment, for sure. The fact that you talked about that and remember that for us is gratifying because that was intended to make people feel like “Nooooo!” or “I’m badass, I saved him!” That’s awesome.
“I think our industry gets a lot of knocks on the quality of the stories, but they’re certain examples of where it’s really progressing.”
Zeschuk: Yeah, we actually get gasps and things. Because you don’t know what you’re going to see, and I guess that’s the thing about the games we make. We always want that unpredictability to always be a part of that experience. Because with shooters, you have all these bad guys and then eventually you shoot the boss at the end — you kind of know what’s going to happen. What we make is purposefully designed, and you’ll see it in both “Mass Effect 2″ and “Dragon Age: Origins.” It’s getting more and more gray and complicated in terms of — like, who’s the good guy? Who’s the bad guy? It’s not as clear, and I think that’s exciting to make entertainment that’s got mature themes.
There’s also mature writing, the complexity. I think our industry gets a lot of knocks on the quality of the stories, but there are certain examples of where it’s really progressing. We think our stuff is one [example]. It’s getting to the point where it’s very compelling because you’re thinking, not about making the next jump, but what am I going to do with these characters? It’s a very different type of experience.
Muzyka: It just adds a whole layer of additional complexity but in the end, it’s worthwhile because it makes the fans happy and that’s what it’s all about.
Zeschuk: Not many games try to go through that overall arc. You look at most sequels, and they’re like a complete break, a complete start.
SAGExSDX: how much has Unreal Engine 3 improved since Mass Effect 1. has it helped ME2 to be a more technically-sound game?
Muzyka: It’s partly a reflection of the underlying engine technology but it’s also just knowing where we need to invest significant amounts of time and effort to improve how we’re developing the content. Because this is a big game. That’s one of the challenges in terms of streaming the amount of the content that we’re bringing into the “Mass Effect” universe. We have a ton of things that are really straining the underlying infrastructure to its max. And as a result, we have to do a lot of stuff, a lot of pragmatic changes on our end to enable those things to actually work. And the good news is that we’ve actually had the time now to do that. We know where we have to fight the battles, and we’re doing all of them.
MTV Multiplayer: What things are you fixing in “Mass Effect 2″?
“Uncharted worlds, they’re still optional but we want to make all of them feel important… and improving your main passage through the game.”
Muzyka: One of the things that we definitely listen to is fan feedback. We got a lot of feedback about small things and big things in “ME1,” and we’re basically trying to look at all the feedback we’ve gotten. So some of it is about amping up the intensity of the action. “ME2″ is an RPG but it’s a shooter-RPG. We’re really focusing on the intensity of the action experience. And also, tightening the exploration. Uncharted worlds, they’re still optional but we want to make all of them feel important and feel like they’re all augmenting and improving your main passage through the game. They’re still optional but you’re going to really feel rewarded for having gone through them. It’s a much tighter experience as a result. Moment-to-moment intensity, being able to grab control of the conversations that we didn’t do in the first game. Small things too, like reducing the elevator speed times [Note: Update on this here.] and things like that. Those are important to fans. We recognize that.
Zeschuk: Part of making a game is the long learning process, learning how to use the tools and technology, particularly when it’s all new. Now that we’ve learned all of that, we apply what we learned to the sequel.
Muzyka: And even change the content pipeline to enable a bigger game in many ways by actually having a very tight, technically optimal experience. We’re really striving for that. And just the depth of the game is stunning. I think when you see it you’ll be excited. The fans will be excited.
michelmcbride: Ask about the new Bioware studio in Montreal! What exactly they’re doing, long-term plans, etc
Muzyka: They’re working on “Mass Effect 2.” They’re part of the team. The main team is still in Edmonton but they’re an important part of the team, and they’re working on a lot of cool stuff as part of the “ME2″ team.
Zeschuk: There’s the answer. Long-term, I think we’ll see. We’re happy about the studio; Montreal is a fabulous city. We’re bunked up with the folks from EA Montreal, and they’re really taking great care of us.
Muzyka: And it’s going to be about 30 people; half of them are from the Edmonton group and half are new hires. It might grow in the future but our immediate goal is to get to that number.
brianszabelski: What direction would you like to see BioWare go next? More games like Mass Effect and KOTOR, or expand into new genres?
Muzyka: It’s interesting they say “Mass Effect” and “KOTOR” because even those are kind of different in some ways, like space fantasy versus a little harder-edged sci fi. And “Mass Effect 2″ is arguably an RPG-shooter. You will see more stuff along the veins of “Mass Effect 2.” You’ll see more stuff along the vein of “Dragon Age: Origins.” You’ll see more stuff from our MMO team [“The Old Republic] and there’s stuff we haven’t announced yet that’s different from all of those.
Zeschuk: Anything we do will be story-driven. That’s actually one of the most important things — to appeal to the emotional elements of our audience. That’s our focus going forward.
“We want players to feel something.”
Muzyka: We want players to feel something. They’re having that great experience but also having that chill down their neck as they play the games, and feel like they’re getting great value. And we’re never satisfied; we’re never going to release a game that we don’t believe ourselves is better than what we’ve done before.
“Mass Effect 2,” I’m really excited about it because it’s really taking the “Mass Effect” franchise to another level. “Dragon Age” is taking stuff we’ve done in the past with “Baldur’s Gate” and “Neverwinter Nights” to a new level, kind of mashing together the best of features. It’s a pretty exciting combination. “The Old Republic” is advancing the MMO field, I think as a whole. But not disrespectfully — none of these games are done without a lot of respect to their past, either BioWare games that were before or our competitors’ games that we have a lot of respect for. We’re just trying to make what we do better and strive to make each game better than the last.
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