Bonnie and Clyde. Morecambe and Wise. Zeschuk and Muzyka. Only two of them sound like words made up by someone trying to cheat at Scrabble, but all of them are known for being highly successful partnerships. Whether you're all about murderous crime sprees, dancing with Angela Rippon or setting up Canadian development studios focused on producing globally successful role-playing videogames in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, it takes two to make an impact.
But only one of BioWare's co-founders was able to make it to E3 this year. Doctor Ray Muzyka stayed at home, apparently nursing an illness (you'd think he'd be able to write himself a prescription). Luckily, Doctor Greg Zeschuk did turn up. He sat down for a chat with Eurogamer about BioWare's forthcoming MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and what he thinks of the latest gaming hardware developments.
Eurogamer: Hello, Dr Greg. What brings you to E3?
Greg Zeschuk: The primary thing we're talking about is Star Wars: The Old Republic. We're also touching on some of the follow-ons for Dragon Age and Mass Effect. But really the big thing we're focused on is Star Wars.
Eurogamer: How is SWTOR coming along?
Greg Zeschuk: It's going really well, actually. We've been very busy getting it ready for more people playing it, so it's largely about polishing the experience, and getting it to feel like how it'll feel when you play the finished game.
People are playing it on the E3 show floor and they're really impressed. It's really starting to feel like a BioWare game merged into an MMO.
Eurogamer: Have you had any negative feedback?
Greg Zeschuk: Not really. The interesting thing is there's a surprise factor. One thing I heard was that up till now people never really got a taste for this whole story thing we've talked about. We've talked, talked, talked about it, and made it a big deal, but you couldn't actually experience it.
The feedback I'm getting is that now people have finally been able to play it, they get it completely. For us, that's very much a win condition because being able to experience and understand how the story is interwoven with the multiplayer experience is the whole point of the game. Just from playing for 30 minutes, it's evident that's really powerful.
Eurogamer: Has George Lucas had a go?
Greg Zeschuk: He did initially. He played it a while back. It's interesting in that he's primarily a film-maker, that's his focus, and we work primarily with the people at LucasArts. But you know, I think he's certainly interested in what we can do with the franchise.
Eurogamer: Quite a few MMOs have been released in the last few years, but none of them have toppled the mighty World of Warcraft. Why do you think that is?
Greg Zeschuk: I think MMOs are actually very hard to build. They're technically challenging. It's a challenge just to build enough content to satisfy players. Secondarily, you can't just come with the same game reskinned and tweaked a little bit. You have to come with something different, a different experience.
We don't think so much about the competition as much as making a great game fans will love. You don't have to go beat WOW. If we can capture even a part of that level of success, we'd be extremely happy. It really comes down to flawless execution.
People always say, 'Aren't you scared of competing?' Well, we always compete, with everyone, all the time. We spent the last 15 years competing with ourselves after Baldur's Gate. Everyone always compared our games with that first one, and now they're comparing Mass Effect and Dragon Age.
Eurogamer: Do you wish they'd compare Mass Effect with, say, Cooking Mama instead?
Greg Zeschuk: Yes, that's more fair! We get reviews that are hilarious, that are like, 'It's not nearly as good as Baldur's Gate!' Well, it's totally different - it's not the same game.
If we feel we can really deliver the design we have, SWTOR can be quite successful. It is differentiated, it is fun and the prospect of being a hero or villain in Star Wars Universe is super-exciting for people. If we can deliver that fantasy we don't really have anything to worry about.