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BioWare On Why Making a Blockbuster Game Is a Poor Goal 192

BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk spoke at the 2010 Develop Conference about the current focus within the video game industry on making huge, blockbuster titles, and why that is the wrong approach. Quoting Gamasutra's coverage: "'While blockbuster game creation is everything that most game developers working today growing up wanted to do, it's precisely the wrong thing to chase in gaming's contemporary landscape.' Risk-taking from publishers and investors has dramatically declined in recent times, the Mass Effect and Dragon Age studio-runner noted: 'As a result, innovation and creativity [are] being squeezed. Where the bottom of the market had dropped out at one point, now it’s the middle of the market has dropped out. Unless you can be in the top ten releases at one given time, it's unlikely that a triple-A game is going to make money.'" Zeschuk also commented that consoles aren't necessarily the future of game platforms, and that BioWare is experimenting with smaller scale MMO development in addition to working on their much larger upcoming Star Wars title.
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BioWare On Why Making a Blockbuster Game Is a Poor Goal

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  • by allcoolnameswheretak ( 1102727 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @06:09AM (#32911122)

    Strange that it should be BioWare of all game studios to claim such, as they are one of the few creating huge games with a 40+ hours time investment, such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Also these games have been performing very well.

  • by allcoolnameswheretak ( 1102727 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @06:54AM (#32911328)

    I think it's pretty obvious that BioWare has always intended to create blockbusters. Fully voiced games, professional actors, impressive game worlds, fleshed out storyline, excellent writers... "blockbusters" are BioWares success formula, which is why I'm so surprised about Zeschucks statement.

  • by GrumblyStuff ( 870046 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @07:43AM (#32911542)

    I find myself infatuated with Fantastic Contraption [ragdollcannon.net]. It seems simple [fantasticcontraption.com] enough but once I got through the levels and was able to view other player's designs [fantasticcontraption.com], I'm just staring at my computer muttering, "No fucking way.... Ju- oh what. the. fuck?"

    Simple. Awesome.
    Simply awesome.

  • by Robotron23 ( 832528 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @08:01AM (#32911650)

    I agree with most of what you say; I remember suffering through Dragon Age's RAM-eating problems in which over time it would consume increasing RAM...before loading times ended up around 10-20 minutes on even the most powerful rigs. That this wasn't patched for months was pretty awful, and left a lot of customers wondering why this hadn't been ironed out during pre-release playtesting.

    Economically yes they don't 'need' to abandon their cash cows at the top-end. Survival is likely if they remain there. But for reasons we've both elaborated on it would be better for gamers as a whole if they at minimum experimented with modest budgeting and graphics and bring out some new games.

    I applied the term 'need' in the sense of that it would be for the good of the RPG genre. For RPGs on any platform to improve the need is for less focus on filmlike production and multimillion dollar budgets, and more on what has always made RPGs what they are; storyline, character-driven dialogue and novel elements unique to each game: I've already outlined reasons this would be beneficial, as did you in your fine post.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @08:43AM (#32911924) Journal

    >>>If you see it as "play time" (you pay $50 to enjoy yourself for 40+ hours), then it's excellent value for money.

    I severely disagree. Unless there's a strong compelling story (like Final Fantasy), I think most 40 hour games are boring. For excample I thought Zelda the Wind Waker was dull. Like sitting and watching a 40 hour version of the Matrix. Zzzz.

    For me the best games are usually the 10-20 hour ones, like Metroid Prime or Eternal Darkness. Short, to the point, but edge of your seat fun. And in terms of "what developers wants" if I was designing a game I'd rather do Pitfall or Populous or Metroid-type games. Easy to learn but hard to master.

  • Re:Hypocrite (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rpillala ( 583965 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @08:49AM (#32912010)
    Here's some support for your argument: BioWare RPG Cliche Chart [gameriot.com].
  • by bigstrat2003 ( 1058574 ) * on Thursday July 15, 2010 @08:50AM (#32912020)
    The Old Republic is being billed as an RPG which happens to be multiplayer. Bioware's loyal fans should all be paying close attention, because if they deliver on their promises, the game will be EXACTLY what we want.
  • by BenevolentP ( 1220914 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @09:06AM (#32912186)
    Interesting facts: Chrono trigger cost 80 bucks in 1995 in the US (http://www.fantasyanime.com/squaresoft/ctabout.htm). And it took just 3 years for (at least) 30 devs to finish it (according to wikipedia, "Kato and other developers held a series of meetings to ensure continuity, usually attended by around 30 personnel").
  • by Thansal ( 999464 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @09:43AM (#32912606)

    I would say this was true a few years ago, and still true for a portion of the gaming population, however I wouldn't even say it's true for the majority any more.

    There ARE non-AAA titles, and people do look at them differently. Indie developers are growing in popularity, and are viewed differently than the AAA games. There are also casual and those games you find on XBL Arcade, the PS3 store, etc. They might not be casual, or really indie, but they aren't AAA games, and people do view them differently.

    I can say this for my self, and I assume there are others like me:
    I have a price point for video games where I view them differently. For me it's $20. If a game is $20 (or less) I will likely pick it up if it interests me. I don't necessarily need a demo, nor do I hem and haw over buying it, I don't shop around for deals, etc etc. If I enjoy the game I'm happy, if I get a good number of hours out of it I'm really happy. If I don't like it and drop it in a week, I'm a little put out, but nothing big.

    Anything over that $20 price point I have a much stricter limitation on. I have to try the game before I buy it. I have to see good reviews, especially from friends who I have similar tastes too. I will wait for it to drop in price, or go on sale, or whatever. This is all because I know that if I DON'T get a lot of play value out of it, specifically replay value, I'm going to regret the purchase a lot. I do hold AAA games up to a higher standard than I do indie/'cheap' games.

    Oh, and don't forget that the casual games players are a (if I remember NPD's nubmers) majority of 'video game players' currently. These players are very specifically only looking for bejewled and it's cousins.

  • by design1066 ( 1081505 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @09:59AM (#32912802)

    WARNING idealism below, Do not read this post if you cannot handle it.

    #1 reason = OVERHEAD

    The real reason games don't make money is the behemoth corporations controlling the industry and funneling the money into the hands of the pointy haired overlords. It reminds me of an article I read about 4 years ago about how CISCO did not produce a profit that year right before I read the article outing the CEO's compensation: 690 million(Sounds pretty profitable to me, how about you?). Overhead is a made up word managers created to confuse workers and hide the FACT that all of the money is going to them and not the folks who actually create these products. I.E. Overhead = Huge salaries for management.

  • by N0Man74 ( 1620447 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @12:33PM (#32915098)

    Are the extra periods a substitute for a point?

    Please, oh Great Punctuator, tell us exactly what number of players does it take to go between "multiplayer" and "massively multiplayer". 100? 1,000? 10,000? 100,000?

    The first MMO style games had less than 100 players online in a given server. They grew to hundreds, and even thousands in some cases. The vast majority of the time, games support even more than this, but they are doing it by breaking up the player population into tiny fractions (world servers, shards, etc). World of Warcraft might as well be called Worlds of Warcraft, given the segmentation of the game based on world servers.

    Now my example of a game that had potential and traits of a "small scale MMO", Neverwinter Nights can support 75 players per server (as I said earlier). Each server can connect to other servers to create a large network of servers, where each could represent an area or a zone, just like is done in many MMO's. This has already been done in that community, in fact.

    So enlighten us, what is the magic number where it goes from "multiplayer" to "massively multiplayer"?

Forty two.