Ray Muzyka: BioWare's Illusive Man Finished
BioWare's Dr Ray Muzyka has been answering your questions live on Eurogamer today.
He's told us that Mass Effect 3 is already in production, hinted that co-op might be a consideration and talked about new games, E3 reveals, DLC and more.
Thank you to everybody that asked questions and apologies to those whose didn't get through. Mostly, however, thank you to Ray Muzyka for taking time out of a hectic schedule to talk the Eurogamer readers.
The full transcript of our live text chat with Ray Muzyka follows, with the earliest questions and answers presented first.
Our live coverage has now ended. Here's what you missed: Updating...
Super Moderating Hero: Good afternoon, Eurogamers! Are you all asking questions? Why not? Ray's here and nearly ready to get going.
Super Moderating Hero: Hello Ray! Right, first things first, please can you tell us a bit about yourself, how to pronounce your surname and why you're so famous?
Ray Muzyka: Sure! My name's pronounced Mu-zee-ka, and I'm the co-founder of BioWare a studio with a great history of high quality games. I have a great job in that I get to work every day with the talented and passionate teams at BioWare and to work on some amazingly high quality titles, rich roleplaying and massively multiplayer games . We have some 800 folks at four locations (BioWare Edmonton, Austin, Montreal and Mythic in Virginia) working on great titles at every location!
How does it feel when a game you have helped create is accepted with warm cuddly arms of love by absolutely everyone?
Ray Muzyka: Pretty damn good! It's humbling for all of our teams to get critical and commercial acclaim!
You do a million of these interviews a day* (*figure may not be accurate) and if our own comments section is anything to go by all people want to know about is The Next Big Thing or get some exclusive reveal whereas I'm more interested in looking back over fifteen odd years of BioWare games making. What brings a smile to your face when you look back? And what's the hardest decision you've had to make there?
Ray Muzyka: What keeps me personally motivated and engaged are the great people at the four locations I manage, and the fantastic products we get to build. We're always striving to make each game better than the last so I'm generally looking towards the future and seeing what we can do better.
I like the fact that this industry is a fusion of entertainment and technology, continually changing, very dynamic. The feedback we get from our fans is what makes it all interesting!
What's changed since you became senior big cheese of the RPG/MMO group at EA? What sort of role do you have in Warhammer Online and what sort of interaction is there between Mythic and BioWare? Do you have a swap staff day or perhaps a swap underpants day?
Ray Muzyka: No swap underpants day (that I'm aware of). I play all the games of our four studios and provide feedback to the teams, and they do work together and provide feedback and support to one another depending on what's shipping in a given period. Everyone takes a lot of pride in supporting the other people across the broader group.
And the cool thing is that each one of our locations has a distinct mission that is a different flavor of the overall Group vision of create, deliver, evolve the most emotionally engaging game experiences in the world we take this vision seriously, as we're dedicated to creating really high quality, emotionally engaging games for our millions of fans.
How did you sell Mass Effect 2 to Martin Sheen in order for him to provide his voice talent? Great coup by the way, he has one of the greatest voices in acting history! And who's on your hit list of must-have voice actors in the future?
Ray Muzyka: We have a really talented group of Audio, Localization producers at BioWare who look for the best and brightest actors and actresses to work with on our games. We've been blessed with partnerships with a variety of great talent over the years. We also try to match the role with the voice, so everything's decided on pretty much an individual basis. I can say that I'm personally a huge fan of Martin Sheen Apocalypse Now is one of my two most favorite movies of all time! (Blade Runner being the other in the top two)
Super Moderating Hero: Blade Runner! Aha! So are you the driving sci-fi force behind Mass Effect?
Ray Muzyka: Actually, lots of people at BioWare are fans of that (Casey Hudson, the EP included) - and it's only one source of inspiration for ME. We looked for inspiration to a wide range of books, movies, for design inspiration for Mass Effect - trying to create something fresh and new as well.
You've promised us considerable DLC for Mass Effect 2, which I hope means more than just pace-horse armour. Just how significant will the DLC be - can you give us a rough idea? Or specifics - specifics are good. And dates. And a price. Oh go on, spill the lot!
Ray Muzyka: Well, we've announced the Cerberus Network already, including the new companion character, the Hammerhead missions, the crash site, plus some new gear we worked on those in parallel with the main game, and continued working on them when we submitted the main game into certification. Lots more content planned we have a separate team dedicated to building PDLC in parallel with the main game game team, who have gone on to work on the next installment in the Mass Effect trilogy!
Was the trilogy story already penned out before the release of ME1, or are the sequels being written on-the-fly?
Super Moderating Hero: And...
When creating the compellling universe for Mass effect did you have scientific advisors to ensure that some of the technology imagined for Mass Effect had some basis in fact?
Ray Muzyka: In terms of the story arc for Mass Effect, the writers and project director on the franchise have a vision for the three-part story and they are following it, but at the same time they're also taking fan feedback into account and tuning gameplay and story elements based on the reception of fans to the installments along the way. Important to also note that you can definitely play Mass Effect 2 as a standalone title you don't need to have played Mass Effect 1 to enjoy ME2!
Mass Effect 2 made changes across the board to what we got in Mass Effect 1. Judging by the scores you've now got the formula right, or have you? What's left to do for the third game?
It's early days and I almost feel bad for asking, but what's the development cycle for Mass Effect 3? Has it begun yet? Will it be a two-and-a-bit year wait again? (Is it this-gen?)
Ray Muzyka: Just as we did with Mass Effect 1, we'll gather up the fan and press feedback on Mass Effect 2 and create a prioritized list of what we think will add the most positive impact to fun in the next installment and use that to help us filter what we change as we work on Mass Effect 3.
We haven't formally announced Mass Effect 3 yet (though I can say that the team is working on the next installment in the trilogy now). Hence it's too early to talk about release dates!
Hot of the press, of course, is the iPad - what do you think about it? Would you ever remake old BioWare games to fit new hardware, or are you focused only on new experiences?
Ray Muzyka: Havent really thought too much about the iPad yet it looks cool from the news reports I've seen of it in the past couple days! I know it looks like something I'd like to check out personally, as a technophile!
Have you had the chance to use the Natal technology? If so, is it something you can see a role for in future Bioware games?
Ray Muzyka: I have looked at Natal I attended a great demo of it by Microsoft to EA some time ago and was impressed. Nothing to announce today on that front for BioWare yet though!
Super Moderating Hero: Would it work with an RPG?
Ray Muzyka: Maybe. For best results, I think you'd need to build the gameplay from the ground up to accomodate the motion sensing, much as you would for Wii or the PS3 motion control, or the DS or iPad touchpads.
Super Moderating Hero: BioWare's not been a big supporter of PS3 so far. Is that going to change? And will the Mass Effect series ever make its way to PS3?
Ray Muzyka: Dragon Age was our first title for PS3, and it's done really well. PS3 is a great system and we enjoy developing for it, much as we enjoy developing for 360 and PC and other platforms. I can say that we've got a few titles in development for PS3 right now, as well as a few for 360, across the studios I manage. But I won't say what they are, since not all of them have been announced yet!
Despite Mass Effect being a trilogy, Dragon Age a series and The Old Republic a project that will require constant work (as all MMOs tend to be) - you've still apparently got time to make a New Next Gen Game, according to your website. Are we talking a full-blown game on an equal pegging with those just mentioned? When's work on that going to happen?
Those are nice shoes, Ray! Can you tell us what it is?
Ray Muzyka: Not yet!
Jade Empire is Nathan Fillion's second favourite Xbox game after Halo. I'd imagine the majority RPG fans would agree with that. Will we ever see more of that universe? You can't upset a celebrity.
Ray Muzyka: I'm a fan of Jade Empire too... Who knows? We might return to it at some point. Hard to say when that would be - we've got a lot of projects in development right now!
As Western RPGs take-off (Fallout 3, Oblivion, Mass Effect 1/2, Dragon Age, Fable III), JRPGs seem to be on the decline. What's going on?
Ray Muzyka: It may depend on the audience - JRPGs still seem pretty popular to some Western fans and to Japanese fans. And I know I always check out what Square Enix does. Perhaps the difference with Western style RPGs is that there is generally more opportunity for choice and customization and personalization of the experience.
ME2 seems like a way of making good on a lot of promises from the original - more populated areas, more input into conversations, fishtanks. You obviously had to compromise a great deal to get ME1 made. Do you regret that, or is this kind of wish-fulfillment what sequels, rather than first games, are for? We've certainly seen the same with Uncharted 2, Resistance 2 and Assassin's Creed II.
Ray Muzyka: Sequels are fun to develop - you learn a lot from the first installment, and often things that you didn't know are possible in the original game or would be sought after by the fans, are things that you focus on implementing in the sequel. You're working with an established engine, so you can make focused improvements in the tools and technology. Your team knows the world and IP so you can focus on implementing cool stuff versus figuring out what the history and setting are.
In BioWare RPGs there's typically a black/white morality structure with bonuses for getting to either the top or bottom. If played realistically, however, most people would dabble at both paths, yet there's no bonus for keeping a middle-ground. Will there ever be? It's good to be grey.
Ray Muzyka: Totally agree. And I'd argue that Dragon Age (with the companion character-by-character specific morality assessment) and Mass Effect 2 (with both Paragon and Renegade progression at the same time) show this "shades of grey" better than any past BioWare title to date! We're always looking to innovate with each new game we deliver to our fans!
Super Moderating Hero: How close was BioWare to squeezing co-op into Mass Effect? Was it a consideration?
Ray Muzyka: In Mass Effect? No, it wasn't planned. Interesting idea though!
What are the Dragon Age DLC plans? Will it be like Neverwinter Nights was where it almost becomes it's own entity? Will you be taking non-Bioware companies on? Pehaps giving smaller teams a chance to shine? Also, how about an update to infinite dungeons, that one was awesomesauce.
Ray Muzyka: Infinite Dungeons was definitely very cool from NWN. Check out social.bioware.com for the latest user generated content - as you'll recall, we released the user content creation tools to our fans on PC a while ago and the content creators in the community have been busy releasing high quality content since then! In parallel, we have a dedicated team working on PDLC and expansion content in the Dragon Age universe, and we'll be releasing more PDLC on a regular basis going forward!
Super Moderating Hero: We've got lots of people asking about KOTOR3. Can we knock this one on the head - isn't SWTOR essentially KOTOR3?
Ray Muzyka: Star Wars: The Old Republic is like KotOR3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 in one project. The story arcs in this game will be very satisfying to fans of the original KotOR, and not only that it's a great MMO with the best of breed features of great MMOs - exploration, customization and progression, combat, social and great story with choice and consequence! SWTOR will be awesome... It's already extremely fun to play, I can attest to that!
Super Moderating Hero: Lovely. That's nearly all of the questions! I should ask what else we can expect from BioWare in 2010? Reveals at E3?
Ray Muzyka: Yes!
Super Moderating Hero: And that's all Ray has got time for, I'm afraid. He's probably back on a plane already, uncovering his crew's storylines.