Bioware Boss Talks Up PC Diversity

By Jim Rossignol on January 19th, 2009 at 11:30 am.


Bioware CEO Ray Muzyka has told CVG that PC gaming’s health depends on diversity and accessibility. He says that making games easy to access need not stop them being “deep” experiences.

“I think there are more people playing PC games and more dollars being spent on the PC space than ever before, but it’s taking a different form… MMOs are one way that’s occurring… And there are more people playing flash-based games and casual games, even core games that are played in a casual way, so maybe [they have] a more core experience and you only play them for short bursts or for half an hour or something.”

“We can still make deep rich experiences but we have to make them easy to access, you have make the control system really easy to use, and you have to make people feel like they’re playing an experience that they can play how they want to play it, whether that is long sessions or short sessions.”

We have to wonder what this philosophy will mean for forthcoming Bioware games, such as Dragon Age. In related Bioware news, we’ve heard that the company are now well on their way into the development of Mass Effect 2, the second part of a proposed trilogy of RPGs.

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75 Comments »

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  1. Bananaphone says:

    Really looking forward to Mass Effect 2, one of my favourite games of last year. Hope they get the PC version out at the same time as the console.

  2. Gap Gen says:

    I’d agree with that. I’ve spent about a decade learning the FPS, and my experiences are probably dramatically different to someone new to them. I think some developers are doing it – Half Life 2 wouldn’t ship until Grandpa Newell finished it, I remember hearing.

  3. Kalain says:

    I’m hoping it is something good. But, when someone says ‘Controls are easy to use’, i hear the word ‘Consolised’. Bioware haven’t really let use down, so lets hope they don’t do that with DA

  4. Bobsy says:

    Let’s be honest, Bioware talking about diversity is like a bald dude discussing his favourite hairdryer. Every game they release has been remarkably similar to the games that have come before it (with the exception of MDK2). KOTOR in particular was a fancy Star Wars coating on a distinctly Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights filling.

  5. Willy359 says:

    When you make a game with the idea in your head that people are only going to play it for half and hour at a time, you are moving into the shallow water. I don’t want a game that just fills up a few idle minutes. I want a game so good that I can justify giving it several hours at a time.

  6. Premium User Badge

    James G says:

    I don’t think accessibility necessarily means over simplification, but rather 1) Limiting barriers to access, so that Mr Mc.Newbie doesn’t stand there in GAME wondering if Generic Shooter 6 will run on his system, 2) Making controls intuitive, and providing a fluid in game learning system. The former is admittedly going to be difficult to solve, as PCs will simply never be as standardised ad consoles, nor should they be. The latter is something that you can gain an insight into by listening to some of Valve’s commentaries, the way they develop their controls and UI is fantastic for making the games accessible.

  7. Simon Jones says:

    Surely the accessibility-simplicity debate comes down to the ‘chess’ comparison? ie, anyone can learn how to play chess in about 5-10 minutes and understand all the concepts, but it can take months and years to become an expert. That’s the fine line that game interfaces need to be aiming at.

    Then you’ve got IL2, which I bought on the Steam sale and which has caused me brain explosion before even getting off the runway. :P

  8. Pidesco says:

    So that’s why they’ve been knocking the depth out of their games since going console.

  9. Markoff Chaney says:

    I was enjoying Mass Effect until The Witcher and then Fallout 3 showed me what WRPGs could be. In fact, I haven’t fired ME up once since Enhanced Witcher and Fallout 3 dropped. I, personally, am getting a little tired of the binary aspect of their idea of morality (and it got me down in Fallout 3 as well, but at least I can explore quite a lot in F3 and not have every environment look identical to the last 3 non main quest environments).

    Mass Effect’s story, the heart of a RPG, especially one that seems so based in conversation choices, really can’t seem to touch a Planescape:Torment or Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines. Heck, it doesn’t touch either of the Baldur’s Gates, for that matter… Maybe I should finish it though. I’ll probably just burn through the rest of the Main Quest and hit up that DLC they threw in while I’m at it.

    PCs as a gaming device are not dying. However, when one of the greatest dev teams for RPGs seems to allow consoleization of controls and “streamlining” of interface (which makes for an easy port for them later) it really makes me not so happy like. I hate to keep pointing to the Witcher, but if you want a PC game on a console, re-make the whole damn game. If you want to put a console game on a PC, give me that choice, but I probably won’t buy it unless it is a stellar game, even though I have a 360 USB controller (I bought just for you GFW (I hate you M$ – Push a console while not pushing a significantly larger installed user base because it won’t make you as much money. I hate you so much some times…)) because I want to make the most out of my machine. I want more than 4 video settings. I want to remap my mouse keys. I demand the freedom that is evident in an open platform. I want to dig into ini files and obscure undocumented settings in misleadingly named files. Coming from the days of having to put drivers in your config.sys file in a certain order just to free up 2k more RAM and having different autoexec.bat files made up to tweak resources as well, I can say I love tweaking games almost as much as playing them. Most people, probably not so much. Good for them, get a console or press recommended settings and get on with it.

    Yes, I spent more than the cost of all 3 current gen consoles combined on my computer because I wanted the freedom to do what I want to with whatever I own (or license, as the case may be). I could have made it for less. I could have spent more. I wasn’t locked into only 2 SKUs, one with a hard drive and one without. I was free to make it however I want, and I’m free to support it with updates or to maintain it with no updates and a rock solid driver base that may be a bit slower, but works consistently. This freedom is what leads to increased diversity. This low entry point to development by allowing anyone to release their own works on the web is what allows the diversity to continue.

    If you want sadness, try to see a garage dev try to get his game published by Nintendo. I hope to see Bob’s Game one day, but I fear he may have finally snapped…

  10. Thiefsie says:

    IL2 does that…. but boy oh boy is it fun.

    Look a good few lines down this page for the IL-2 series training articles for a good guide to a few of the fundamentals in IL-2 (beyond the more complex things like engine management, fighter tactics etc)

    http://www.simhq.com/_air/air.html

  11. BooleanBob says:

    Hmm. I’m allowing myself to get excited by Dragon Age, but Bobsy is broadly right; Bioware’s own games have all felt very similar since they made the move to 3D. For ‘more accessible’, I’m personally inclined to read ‘shallower’, which is perhaps unfair of me as, seeing as they make such solid (and occasionally, great) games, I should really be giving them the benefit of the doubt.

    But of course, what they really mean is a more ‘streamlined’ experience: Real time combat, hiding the numbers everywhere, reducing the number of equipment slots, reducing the number of status ailments, reducing the number of classes, so on. It’s the sort of stuff that has RPGcodexers frothing at the mouth, and to be honest, I kind of agree with them. I like the rough edges where the game’s system shows. I like knowing that my character will eventually be able to wear two rings, leggings, a chest piece, a shield, a weapon, an undershirt, a cloak, a codpiece, and so on. I like being able to add up all my various to-hit bonuses and comparing them to the boss’s armour class.

    Here’s the crux: I feel the depth of the game should reflect the depth of the experience, which Bioware themselves like to promise us through sheer quality of narrative experience and the filmic sweep with which said narrative is presented. For all the best writing in the world, and most impressively constructed in-game cutscenes*, and most heart-wrenching fictional romance since Gavin and Stacey, or whatever, if the game treats you like an idiot, you’re going to feel like an idiot, not like the hero breathlessly portrayed on screen. That achievement, for all its fanfare, is going to be a hollow one. That experience, Ray, is going to be a shallow one.

    Mass Effect often struggled with this. I got trapped inside a cave with a live nuke, by a madman who was out for revenge. ‘Ye Gods!’, you think. ‘This is a scrape. I wonder how I’m going to get out of oh, I do the fucking frogger game. Three times. Nuke’s offline‘.

    Sod it. I’m off to kill some dragons, and agonise over how to redistribute the incrementally stat-enhancing spoils amongst my party.

    *both areas for which I feel Bioware can be too generously praised in recent releases: compare the strength of writing in the original KOTOR to its Obsidian-made sequel. Better still, compare the quality of NPC dialogue and overall characterisation in Mass Effect to Baldur’s Gate two. Talia’s a gypsy… in space! We get it. There’s no need (or reason) she would relate that to every utterance she makes in the game. And which makes you feel more like you’re in a movie: the cliché-ridden confrontation scenes between Shepard and Saren, or, say, the intro to Half Life?

  12. Bobsy says:

    As an aside to minigames, I found slicing in Republic Commando (hold button for ten seconds) easily the most satisfying execution of the concept I’ve seen

    Back to Bioware. I bring up KOTOR because it’s an essentially pure distillation of the Bioware design process (plus I’ve not played Mass Effect), rehashing a whole bunch of ideas from previous games. The Big Twist was the Bhaalspawn revalation from Baldur’s Gate with a dash of “I am your father”, the opening dungeon was an opening dungeon, Bastilla was Aribeth from Neverwinter Nights.

    Of course KOTOR went and did all those bits better than its predecessors, but still, it all felt very familiar. Plus Malak was a really rubbish villain.

  13. toni says:

    funny. that coming from bioware after the popcorn no-brains and no-impact Mass Effect. one of the best examples of shallow cash-in entertainment imo. what a waste of computing power. a game about choices ? which ones ? there is only good/bad and it does not change the story in any way. there are no story arcs that completely change the game or exclude you from certain storylines.
    combat was non-existing and just like Fallout3 the WORST of both. I can’t see how fanboys ate that up. And where is the “big” scope it supposedly had ? the planets were barren, you had a little driving minigame with bad physics and then some dungeon crawler without any story-relation.

    I’d say the quests in Fallout3 are leagues better than NO EFFECT. and that is saying something since FO3 features the worst written dialogue known to man (or since Oblivion)

  14. Paul S says:

    Oh, you cynics! You’re all so jaded and wise.

    Mass Effect was great. What other game makes you feel like such a glorious badass? I was Jack Bauer with less moral qualms. And ruder.
    KOTOR was also great, and the twist was marvellous. Yes, it was very “I am your father.” Yes, that was the point. And it was brilliant.

  15. Paul S says:

    Hmm. Those are some serious italics…

  16. Lilliput King says:

    I agree with Bobsy in that the Bioware games are pretty similar, though they are trying out new things in a way. Look at the combat evolution from KoTOR to Jade Empire to Mass Effect. Also I love those games, so I’m bias.

    I’m not sure what it is that makes Bethesda RPGs feel bland and tiresome. Could be the dialogue, could be the voice acting, could be the shocking main plots and the lack of decent NPCs. Whatever it is, Bioware have never had that problem, so its fair to say im excited about Dragon Age. And I guess I trust them not to dumb it down too much (I found Mass Effect’s fps-rpg hybrid “sufficient”).

  17. Subject 706 says:

    Oh yay.
    It all sounds like some lame excuse for Biowares dumbing down of their games. If Mass Effect is a sign of things to come, then i shudder at what Bioware has become.

  18. Matt says:

    What he is saying is true up to a point but Bioware are not the company that I would to for such an experience. Games like Mount & Blade and Jagged Alliance 2 really kick their arses when it comes to ease of control and playing in short or long bursts. Bioware’s convoluted stories and tricksy RTS pretensions are much less approachable and punish casual play much more than so called “dinosaur” hardcore PC games.

  19. RichP says:

    If Mass Effect is a sign of things to come, then i shudder at what Bioware has become.

    Jade Empire wasn’t a big red flag? :D

  20. Subject 706 says:

    Jade Empire wasn’t a big red flag? :D

    I haven’t had the misfortune to play that one. Besides, at the time I dismissed it as a fluke.

  21. Cigol says:

    I just hope they don’t lose sight of what they are trying to do. Even in the original Baldurs Gate games you got this sense they were more concerned with player relationships and ‘emotion’ and as long as they continue down that path, and are allowed to make a few mistakes along the way, I’m happy. I agree with the criticism, I just think so what?

  22. Pidesco says:

    But they’re not following the path of better player relationships. Baldur’s Gate 2 was the last Bioware game where the party NPCs weren’t Dialogue Pez Dispensers. This very artificial nature of Bioware NPCs would be bad enough on its own but, to make things worse, their crap writing really isn’t up to the challenge of making these glorified hand puppets interesting.

  23. Premium User Badge

    Morph says:

    What’s all this Mass Effect hate about? I bought it the other week and am loving the background, characters, dialogue etc. And as Paul S says – I feel like a complete badass.

  24. dhex says:

    mass effect was ok. kind of an unofficial kotor 3. the voice acting was actually decent, but the combat is kind of useless if you have assault rifle specialty.

    or maybe i’m just feeling a bit jaded cause i’ve been playing arcanum all week. (despite the borked combat)

    i figure dragon age will be somewhere between kotor and mass effect, but with a nwn2-esque interface. (at least it looks nwn2 esque from demo movies)

  25. Blaxploitation Man says:

    We PC gamers require needless complication so we can feel smarter then console gamers, why are you trying to ruin everything Bioware? DONT DUMB DOWN YOUR GAMES FOR THE RETARDED CONSOLE BABIES!!!

  26. Anarki says:

    can say I love tweaking games almost as much as playing them.

    I know all too well what you mean…For some reason I enjoy all the patching/updating graphics card drivers, so much so that when I actually get the game running it feels like its over and I generally play the first level and then start trying to get the next game working….

    I can see why console players think we’re crazy

  27. Subject 706 says:

    What’s all this Mass Effect hate about? I bought it the other week and am loving the background, characters, dialogue etc.

    Just you wait. From the inventory to the samey sidequests, to the corridor-levels of the main quest planets, you’ll find a lot not to like.

  28. fodigg says:

    I love bioware and loved mass effect warts and all.

    The problem with Mass Effect was the “sandbox” portions. Bioware doesn’t do sandbox well. They should focus on themepark-style experiences. The plot worlds of Mass Effect were all fantastic.

  29. Panther says:

    What we seem to lack from these larger developers is some range to their products… Bioware is a perfect example of more-of-the-same, which I like (up to a point) but the only advances from game to game are voice acting and graphics. Where’s the stat-heavy, text heavy RPGs of old?

    Oh and for gods sake can designers give us platform specific user interfaces? Mass Effect would have been a bit better if it had a specific PC interface (I’m looking at you, inventory management and conversation wheel!)

  30. Oak says:

    What’s the matter with the conversation wheel? It works fine and looks a lot slicker than it would with numbered options.

  31. Panther says:

    the wheel was designed for a control pad, not a mouse, I would have preferred a list or something. Also, it had an annoying way of selecting the next response when I just wanted to skip through the voice acting.
    Guess I’m old fashioned that way. (or just old)

  32. JKjoker says:

    Mass effect is a very mediocre game, it can be enjoyable but only if you play it on a very particular way (avoiding all side quests, using the mako as little as possible, not taking the story seriously and going renegade for some unintended comedy), its ultra freaking short (however the mako makes it so painfully boring to play that youll be begging for the ending a long time before it comes), the is not a single memorable location or character (mass effect npcs are the least developed followers in a bioware game since NWN1) and the story is as simple and as stupid as it can get

  33. Ziv says:

    I think they should make games like books, meaning not like HL2’s 14 chapters or crysis’s 11 or so, but actually book like chapters. So that every chapter tackles a different subject going for 20-30 minutes so that like in reading a book you can either play a small part of the story (chapter) or keep going through the “book” for a couple of hours reading chapters one after another.
    Another good example is the GTA series, in GTA IV you can just take a cab to the mission and go ahead – or – you can walk to the mission and take acouple in a row, the problem w/ the gta system is that you have to go to a safehouse to save (GTA2 made it even harder w/ an almost impossible to find shop).
    mass effect (which I didn’t finish yet :( ) can have each planet as a chapter or half planet as a chapter.

  34. Nick says:

    I don’t think KOTOR did anything better than BG / BG2. It was still great though.

    As for the evolution of combat from KOTOR to Mass Effect, felt like a backwards leap to me, it was dire in Jade Empire (oh look, 3 attacks per style before repeating the animation, thats not boring at all..) and extremely dull in Mass Effect, thanks in no small part to the stupid AI taking any cinematic effect out of the combat by casually strolling up to you behind cover.

  35. TheApologist says:

    Core game experiences that can be played in 30 mins – agreed.

    That’s why DS took over my life for a while.

  36. jonfitt says:

    “they can play how they want to play it, whether that is long sessions or short sessions”

    Does that mean the end of crappy console checkpoints and quicksaves mandatory in all games?

  37. Clovis says:

    I don’t get the Mass Effect hate either. I thought the voice acting was so good that I turned off the subtitles and actually listened to it. That was a first for me.

    I guess really I mainly enjoyed the first few hours of Mass Effect. After you leave the Citadel (which I though was great), it goes downhill. I really enjoyed the ending sequence. I somewhat enjoyed the side quests but I really have no idea why. They were rather repetitive.

    I suppose what I liked the best was that Mass Effect seemed like a real universe to explore. The races and technology were interesting. Unfortunately, you don’t get to explore very much. I hope the next game will have more than one major city and one minor city.

    I’ve played RPGs in hard-core mode before, but for ME I just turned the difficulty down. I simply had fun tearing through my enemies and getting to the rest of the story. It’d be nice if they upgraded the whole “good/bad” options thing though. That does get annoying.

    For the story and voice-acting though, name a few games in the last few years (sorry, no planescape) that did that part better.

  38. Tim says:

    Wow, big talk. I hope it comes out in ME2. I love bioware games, but they take and take and take. Sometimes I just want to chill out and play you know. Not so much of this investing my whole evening into things.

    I wonder how much this has to do with generations of gamers getting older. I’m sure there’s some statistic floating around on the mean age.

  39. Nick says:

    “Not so much of this investing my whole evening into things.”

    So play one of the myriad other games/genres that cater to that taste?

  40. Angel Dust says:

    I quite enjoyed ME personally although it did have serious problems. One thing I’d like to discuss is this writing and to me there are two main parts to great writing. One is the quality of the writing is, which I thought ME did quite well, and the other is quality of the themes and ideas, The Witcher did well in this area and Fallout 3 of course failed spectacularly on both counts. I think a few games are getting the first part down now, that is they are employing good writers who can actually string two words together. Now they just need something to say.

    I’m an old gamer and used to be resistant to the whole streamlining of games but now I think it really is something that should be worked on. The less time spent thinking about how to play the game and more about just playing it is a very good thing. Part of the reason World of Goo was so wonderful was that it was so effortless and intuitive to play. I just played it and consequently got swept away be it all. Now of course an RPG could never be streamlined to such a level but a lot of RPG’s have pretty useless UI’s. I love inventory management and skill tinkering but make it easy and intuitive to do. Fallout 3’s pipboy was horrendous with far too many mouse clicks required to do a lot of things.

  41. jackflash says:

    I can’t say that I’ve REALLY dug a Bioware game since Baldur’s Gate 2. They’re riding the same console gravy train as everyone else.

  42. Anthony Damiani says:

    Console games have the potential to fill me with rage because they’re often both watered down *and less accessible*.

  43. Markoff Chaney says:

    can say I love tweaking games almost as much as playing them.

    I know all too well what you mean…For some reason I enjoy all the patching/updating graphics card drivers, so much so that when I actually get the game running it feels like its over and I generally play the first level and then start trying to get the next game working….

    I can see why console players think we’re crazy

    Assuming I did this right and don’t wind up with garbled text allow me to say that even if you were kidding, this almost sums me up, but I usually play to around the half way point or so. Only the best games imo go all the way to the end and/or get multiple replays/speedruns/optimized runs whatever.

    I think I got so into the metagame conceptualization of having to jump through so many hoops from the DOS days to get stuff up and running that the puzzle presented of making the game run as perfectly as possible on the hardware provided by modifying only different flags and settings in the software or o/s is now my all time favorite game. It does somewhat dull the gleam in my eye when it works great out of the box… I’ve been playing this metagame around 25 years now, and it has fulfilled my life to a huge degree. My wife, however, thinks I’m just mad. She doesn’t complain when I make her computers and games work better though.

  44. Markoff Chaney says:

    Well the above post is not quite right. The first 3 paragraphs are meant to be quoted from Anarki. Darn new fangled tags! Get off mah Property!

  45. Jason Moyer says:

    Bioware exists solely for the purpose of creating engines for Obsidian to make masterpieces out of. After 10 years you would think this would be common knowledge.

    (Admittedly I enjoyed Mass Effect, even if only because of the carrot-on-a-stick nature of getting one of the girls’ pants off)

  46. Premium User Badge

    dhex says:

    “Where’s the stat-heavy, text heavy RPGs of old?”

    age of decadence will be out this year…maybe?

    that’s my hopeful hope of 2009 in games, beyond fear 2 being so awesome i have to punch myself in the face just to calm down.

  47. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Talking of KOTOR, I never did finish that game. The part of it I saw was fun, I guess, but hardly as good.. and well-executed as BG1 and 2. Then again, I am a bit of a D&D nutter.

  48. JKjoker says:

    Really ? i thought Ashley was a dick and the blue chick and annoying brat, i kind of liked Tali but cant bone that one, there are only 2 types of bodies in the game anyways, male and female they both look the same with different color and you are not shown anything, and they never mention it again… the assholes

  49. Kelron says:

    It’s a shame Bioware’s games have stopped being deep. I’m sure it’s possible to make a game both accessible and deep, but Bioware aren’t doing it. They’re making their games more accessbile with actiony combat and short conversations with a few choices all coloured in and positioned so you know what each option does without reading the text. Bioware and Bethesda between them are bringing RPGs to the mass-market, but by the time they get their they aren’t really RPGs any more. The mass-market doesn’t want the things I love about BG2 and Obsidian/Black Isle’s games.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Uh, hate to break it to you, but I think you have some rose tinted glasses on. A good 90% of the roleplaying in BG was completely superficial. I can count the number of times a dialogue choice actually affected the course of BG2 on one hand, not counting romances. In addition, the only depth to be found in the combat was spellcasters, and that’s questionable at best. Dragon Age is much more complicated than BG on every front, it’s just not as groundbreaking.

      Edit:Holy crap, there’s no way this is damn near a year old. I remember this like it was yesterday,

  50. zythyl says:

    @Psychochomp

    Dialogue choices != good roleplaying.

    Baldur’s Gate II is still the greatest roleplaying game.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Superficial roleplaying=good roleplaying?

      Edit: Two things. I absolutely adore the Baldurs’ Gate games, and I’m not thinking Dragon Age here. In terms of actual player choice and roleplaying, Fallout and Torment wipe the floor with BG.

    • Choca says:

      @Psychopomp : “In terms of actual player choice and roleplaying, Fallout and Torment wipe the floor with BG.”

      The Baldur’s Gate series pushes the player down a road that can lead to many different places, but it’s still a road that you can’t really leave.

      The Fallout series kicks you out in the wild and screams “DO SOMETHING !”.

      So, while I do agree with you, I don’t see the “limited” roleplaying of Baldur’s Gate as a bad thing. BG is about watching how the player will react to the story written by the devs, Fallout is more about writing your own story between a start and an ending written by the devs. Two different schools of design that both have their upsides and downsides.

    • Psychopomp says:

      That’s not quite what I meant, I have no problem with linearity at all. In Baldur’s Gate, more often than not, you’re given 5 or so dialogue choices, that have the exact same outcome. The notion that Biowares games have become dumbed down in that regard is completely ludicrous.

    • Choca says:

      Well the thing is that it was easier to hide the lack of influence of some of the dialogue choices in a text-based game.

    • Wulf says:

      I can’t resist this damn place, but I can’t help but share my feelings on some things I see even if the vast majority disagrees with me.

      /breathes in

      This touches on one of the bones I have to pick with Bioware games in general, and it’s one way in which Obsidian differentiates their efforts from those of Bioware. It’s true that the dialogue choices don’t have many individual outcomes, and little impact on the overall story, but this leads to a deeper issue and one that was one of the things that greatly annoyed me about Dragon Age. It’s also why I likened (and still do) Bioware characters to soap characters.

      Due to the incredibly linear personal evolution of the game, there’s also a linear evolution to all of the charactters as well, and because there’s no real way to pick options that would challenge the characters and allow us to see different sides of them, there’s no way we can actually influence them. Neverwinter Nights 2 is an Obsidian game, and it was the first to introduce the idea of gaining and losing favour with party members, and in Obsidian games this actually means something.

      In an Obsidian game, new dialogue options are opened up, even new game mechanics, as characters come to trust you more, moreover, new content can be opened up, which leads to further evolution for that character that might be missed otherwise. This is all simply marvellous, and I love working every last wriggling secret out of my companions, because in finding out who they really are the story awards them with a greater sense of depth, they become more real.

      However, in a Bioware game, there are lots of dialogue choices, sure, and you can even now gain or lose favour with them, but it doesn’t actually mean anything, they stole the mechanics but they missed the point entirely. In the games that stole it, the whole purpose seems to be to define which characters will betray you/stand by you (as is true to Obsidian games) and which characters will have sex with you (as is thankfully left out by Obsidian games).

      But everything in between, the things that I mentioned that Obsidian do, the extra dialogue, the way one can influence a character, even sometimes opening up different paths of evolution for that character (does Khelgar remain a fighter or become a monk?), is all lost in a Bioware game. So the end result is that the characters you have when they they die/leave or when the story is complete is much the same as the day they joined you.

      That’s where I got the whole televised soap opera thing from, because just like in a soap, there’s very little evolution despite all the talking, they can talk until they’re blue in the face, but they never really change in any soap I’ve seen (look at Phil Mitchell), and when the soap ceases to be or they leave, their character is still going to be the same. Due to the fact that dialogue has such little impact in a Bioware game, the characters are as flat as cardboard.

      I said that in my review, too. And the thing is, it’s so obviously true. I can’t recall any Bioware game where a character became different over time, where they evolved, or where they even provided reasons for being like they are. It’s my point that characters in a Bioware story are there only to push the main storyline along, they’re less characters and more a plot mechanic.

      That’s always been my problem with the limited outcomes associated with Bioware games, and that’s always why I saw Obsidian games as being better. Because even in the incredibly linear Mask of the Betrayer, there was stunningly diverse character evolution. Just look at what can happen with Okku/One of Many, it’s very similar to the Khelgar equation. So many Obsidian characters have that.

      /shrug

      But Bioware games are popular and usually people won’t hear a negative thing said about them, despite them having some fairly obvious deficiencies, at least from where I sit. And a lot of the tiny improvements Bioware has picked up (such as morality) can all be traced back to their partnership with Obsidian. I’ll always see Bioware as a force of entropy, like some instance of anti-originality. And yet they’ll always be popular, it boggles the mind. :/

    • Wulf says:

      Oh and yeah, the evolution of Kreia too in Knights of the Old Republic II.

      That’s the kind of character that a proper roleplaying game has, at least, IMHO.

    • Tei says:

      Re: Bioware vs Obsidian style

      I have learn to appreciate both styles. Bioware seems to produce longer and bigger experiences, and Obsidian seems to create deeper and richer ones. The bioware games last long, and the obsidian characters can be remenbered with fond memories. Probably theres a alternate universe (ultimate universe?) where Biosidian make long, rich and deep RPG’s with characters like Kreia, and soo good combat, his games have replay value after 10 years.

    • Qjuad says:

      Mask of the Betrayer is one of the finest (and most underestimated) RPGs to have emerged in the last few years – plus it probably has the best “evil” ending to any game I’ve played. Definetly highlights the benefit of having a small character roster, allowing plenty of room to expand them. It’s a shame they followed up with Storm of Zehir – killer soundtrack, terrible gameplay.

    • Wulf says:

      “Mask of the Betrayer is one of the finest (and most underestimated) RPGs to have emerged in the last few years – plus it probably has the best “evil” ending to any game I’ve played.”

      Yep, that’s why I got so upset when John called Dragon Age the game of the decade. For me, that’ll always be Mask of the Betrayer, and nothing since has even come close. The problem is, very few people have actually played it, and less have played it enough to understand why it was such an important game in the progression of gaming.

      I don’t know if we’ll ever see characters again that are simply that beautiful, and for all their flaws, they were beautiful, each and every one of them. I want to see more games like that, with characters like that, characters as real as that. I don’t want to take 10,000 steps back from that and call it progression. Obsidian just aren’t praised enough for what they’ve done to further the RPG.

      “Definetly highlights the benefit of having a small character roster, allowing plenty of room to expand them.”

      Yep, and a small roster really is the way to go, because it allows for amazing depth of character, and plot twists and turns, character evolution, and even content based on the characters. That is the kind of thing I want to see more of. I want a game to open up content for a character if I interact with them a lot and say the right things, I want replays where I say different things when I talk to them to have an effect.

      And I agree with you as far a s the ending is concerned as well, but the choices you get between good and evil throughout the story were brilliant, as well. I’ll keep coming back to Okku and One of Many, because that was truly evil, that was a kind of evil that most games don’t even dare to try. The No Russian level of Modern Warfare 2 was sensationalist, but what the player could do to Okku was a real bastard act, not just for sensationalism, but simply because the sadistic bastard would get something out of it.

      “It’s a shame they followed up with Storm of Zehir – killer soundtrack, terrible gameplay.”

      100 per cent agreed on Zehir, but it was commonly accepted that Zehir was something of a gift to the community, it wasn’t really supposed to be a game, it was more of a… how can I put this? It was a feature set for the toolset, with many resources and additions that players had actually been requesting, wrapped up as a game so they could actually get Atari to fund it and publish it. >.>

      What came with Zehir opened the door to a new breed of modules, which is one of the reasons I’m still excited about Neverwinter Nights 2, and it’s really fascinating to see what some people are doing with the new additions, this is why I still follow the Neverwinter Vault.

    • Tei says:

      NW2 is dead for the normal player, worst than dead: is a old game. For gamers to notice anything that expand on NW2, could be better to hidde the fact is a nw2 expansion, and release it as standalone as possible, maybe somewhat like how the witcher did, and create something like Mask of the Betrayer: Director Cut Edition HD. :-) (I knows sounds lame).
      Ok, guys, you win. I am going to move my hands to secure a copy of the mask, if result on a bad game, I am going to hunt you :-)