Back stage at Matter in the gargantuan O2 Arena (surely a perfect fit for the next Dead Rising game), BioWare founders Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka sit relaxed and waiting for press to quiz them on the likes of Mass Effect 2 for PS3, Dragon Age II and Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Recently though, the internet threw a spanner in the works. An anonymous rant posted by "EA Louse" raged at the management of Warhammer Online studio BioWare Mythic. He or she even had a dig at forthcoming MMO The Old Republic, saying, "It will be one of the greatest failures in the history of MMOs from EA."
Speaking to Eurogamer at the O2, the Doctors defend their ambitious MMO from that anonymous criticism, and also explain why they believe the next generation of consoles isn't needed yet. Finally, they play a pretty straight bat when bowled questions surrounding Mass Effect 3...
Eurogamer: Do you buy Microsoft's claim that Kinect will extend the life of the Xbox 360 by five years?
Ray Muzyka: I'm pretty sure it'll extend it by some amount. It's hard to say exactly how much.
Greg Zeschuk: On the one hand I'd like to believe it as a developer, because the longer we can get out of a platform the better our games are going to get, the more we'll know about it. But we'll see. No one wants to run off and pull the lever on the next generation yet. Everyone's invested so much on this one. I remember the first couple of years of this generation was really painful. And so it's like, hey, pull the lever, let's do another one.
Five seems... It might be possible. I hope it's a long time.
Eurogamer: Is there much left from the current generation to push visuals? Are you getting to the point where this is as good as it gets on this generation?
Ray Muzyka: Every year you learn a few new tricks about how to optimise more and put a lot more into the animation and figure out new ways to blend animations and fidelity of character expressions and facial expressions and eye movements. The small adjustments make a big difference in the end. We're learning every year.
Our teams get better and better every generation of product. There's still more to do on this current generation of hardware. The next generations of hardware will probably enable even more, but there's still more to do.
Greg Zeschuk: The tools outside the game and your average desktop machine you use to build the content... it's crazy. If you think of the Xbox as a playback machine, we can make more and more complex animations and facial expressions outside it on these better and better workstations and then import those in.
We do a lot of stuff outside the game that generic box A will render regardless. That's what's extending it.
Ray Muzyka: The fidelity of textures goes up, the resolution is higher, more animation content. A lot of that is memory management and optimisation of the content flow.
Greg Zeschuk: You can optimise stuff for years. It's like this never-ending thing and being smart.
Ray Muzyka: Compression algorithms for audio, texture compression algorithms and animation compression. Even a lot of it is real time rendered now, too. The fidelity of that's going up so it's just as high as the pre-rendered animations now.
Greg Zeschuk: The key thing is knowing there's a future and then you're willing to invest that time to optimise. What's always happened is everyone goes, oh, it's just five years. So by year four, forget it. It's a question of when you start working on the next platform. The same guys make this one get even further. It's like, when do you actually swap them onto the next big thing?
If this one can extend, then that would be great.
Eurogamer: Let's talk about Dragon Age II. What's the plan for the franchise? Do you have a story mapped out for X amount of games?
Ray Muzyka: We haven't announced other products in the franchise yet, but we are working on some other ideas in the Dragon Age universe already.
It's more of a universe view as opposed to a chronological story view. We've always seen it as a world and there are many stories being told throughout this world.
We're bringing it to a new area, like Free Marches in Dragon Age II and some other areas, Kirkwall and so on. Dragon Age: Origins had some different areas in Ferelden. Other products in the Dragon Age universe will probably bring it to other places, still.
So it's more of a world view, and there are lots of cool areas we haven't explored yet. So we're excited to show fans those.
Greg Zeschuk: It's probably fair to say it's less precise than the Mass Effect trilogy concept, because Mass Effect had a real distinct trilogy. But a similar amount of thinking went into it.
Dragon Age: Origins, there's an enormous amount of back story. When we create a property like that, you think about major world events. It's fun then to make the games around the major world events.
Ray Muzyka: There's a whole timeline written out, a story arc that goes before and after the Dragon Age: Origins events or the Dragon Age II events. It's neat to see this roadmap of history. We're just showing a snap shot of time in this universe. There's all this other cool stuff on both sides and all this other stuff that's there and gives the world a place.
You might run into characters from other parts of the world. It's not just a random character running around. The two games overlap geographic and timeline overlaps. The last part of Dragon Age II occurs during the tail end of the Blight, when you're fleeing Lothering. You see some flames and you're a refugee at that point and you ascend to greater heights as a champion.
Eurogamer: Have you decided on the massive world event you'll use as a basis for the third game?
Ray Muzyka: Maybe.
Greg Zeschuk: It's called the great Beard Shaving.
Eurogamer: Are we done with DLC for Mass Effect 2?
Greg Zeschuk: We're told we're still in development. We're not done yet. We're still ongoing.
Ray Muzyka: We haven't announced details of the next ones yet. We're still working on stuff in the Mass Effect universe actively. We haven't announced any details of what that is yet, but we're working on lots cool stuff.
Greg Zeschuk: We have a pretty long DLC plan for Mass. We're still doing lots of stuff there.