Yesterday, BioWare co-founder Dr. Greg Zeschuk delivered a keynote presentation to the Develop Conference in Brighton entitled Creative Game Development: How we do it at BioWare. In it, he discussed BioWare's rise from being two men in a Canadian garage to the triple-A developer it is today.
Afterwards, Eurogamer sat down with Zeschuk to chat about more than just the current gaming landscape. Read on to find out why BioWare's experimenting with smaller scale games, what's happening with Star Wars: The Old Republic, and why Dragon Age fans should just calm down a little bit.
Eurogamer: Why are you turning your attention to more small-scale games when you're so successful doing what you're doing?
Dr. Greg Zeschuk: It's not to the exclusion of the other. It's the opportunity to be broader. The triple-A consoles are one slice of the market. It would be really smart to be in these other places. We tried our hand at iPhone and learned the hard way. We have to be more focused on gameplay. It's like, 'Oh yeah.' That's how you learn.
The concept of gaming is blown out. If we stay focused in this narrow slice you eventually become a dinosaur. You know what happened to the dinosaurs. It's like movies. There will always be the triple-A blockbuster movie, with the Hollywood summer movie. But there is so much cool opportunity in independent films and documentary films. Gaming is just starting to get to the point where those things are becoming viable.
The business model for Flash gaming is starting to come online with advertising. You talk to some of the guys doing browser games in Germany and other places, they're doing really well. It's crazy how many different things are out there right now.
Eurogamer: You mentioned during your presentation you are working on a small-scale MMO, iPhone and browser games. What of that will we see over the next year?
Dr. Greg Zeschuk: We'll see what sees the light of day. We were making a browser game at one point, but we put that on ice. We did one iPhone game. We did this Christmas game on Facebook called Gift of the Yeti. We'll probably come back to that. Not just ourselves but within EA, Dragon Age had Dragon Age Journeys, the Flash version of Dragon Age. That was made by the EA2D guys, who are good friends of ours.
It's almost everything. What gets to the surface will be hard to say. One of the luxuries of that space is the cost to development these things is the tiniest fraction. It's not like it's cheap, but relative to the giant projects. You can explore and experiment more successfully.
Louis Castle said yesterday there are $20 million plus budgets on everything. When you're dealing with that kind of money, tens of millions of dollars, you don't want to be doing R&D and crazy research stuff. That's when you have a sure thing. But if you're talking about a $200,000 budget, then you can look at crazy stuff and do different things. That's why a lot of the creativity is being driven by that space. We don't want to miss that boat.
I touched on the small teams. We've had a few people from inside BioWare who said, 'I don't want to work on giant stuff anymore'. They're really talented. 'What do you want to work on?' 'We want to work on something smaller.' 'Oh, okay.' A lot of the people who are doing our iPhone and other stuff are super-experienced developers, but they're done with the big giant productions, or are taking a break from them. It's a neat opportunity as well.
Eurogamer: How does this smaller-scale MMO fit the values that make BioWare games what they are?
Dr. Greg Zeschuk: When you look at that space the traditional stuff doesn't work the same. Not meaning to disparage the guys in that space, but the folks that are doing browser games, smaller-scale MMO stuff, it's not super-rich content, super-detailed, incredibly heavy duty. It has to be specifically really light. Your download speed is more important than graphics. It's a paradigm shift. That's why you need to have these little mini teams that have a different perspective than the overall ones.
Just to reaffirm, we're still going to do the giant stuff. We're fortunate we can compete in that giant game category. The number of giant games any company should be doing, you have to be really careful. Everyone has to have a chance to be a top 10 title, or else.