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Bioware wants to innovate in MMOs

Plus: Muzyka on Sonic and Mass Effect.

Speaking to Eurogamer, Bioware chief Ray Muzyka has said that the EA studio intends to bring innovation to massively multiplayaer gaming with its first MMO.

"We want to be innovators in the space," he said. "We're trying to bring some fresh stuff to the mix. We still have great reverence for a lot the great games, but we're also trying to add some new things."

Details of the game, currently in development at Bioware's Austin studio, remain a closely-guarded secret. Initial rumours that it might be a Star Wars MMO for LucasArts have lost momentum in recent months.

However, Muzyka did provide some hints as to what form the game will take, suggesting that it will concentrate on the strengths his company is known for, with particular focus on enhancing the narrative and character development side of massively multiplayer RPGs.

"Like all Bioware games, we're focusing on story, customisation, exploration, combat... I think it would be really exciting to be able to play a game which has character depth and interaction and story in a way that works within social settings."

Muzyka noted that Bioware has wanted to move into MMOs for a very long time, but only recently felt the time was right. "We didn't go into it lightly," he said. "It's the kind of thing that took us years and years - we wanted to do one for ten or fifteen years. Before they were even called MMOs."

The Bioware boss was in the UK to promote the June release of Mass Effect on PC. He explained that the conversion's extensive overhaul was down to the studio's policy of optimising games very carefully for each format.

"Whenever we bring a game to a new platform, we always look at it with reverence and respect. The conversion to PC was something we only thought of doing late in the 360 development," he revealed, although the decision came before Bioware's acquisition by EA last year. "Right now that's it, that's all we've got in development for Mass Effect, just the PC version and the 360," he added, quashing the persistent speculation about a PS3 version.

Muzyka spoke briefly about Bioware's in-development PC fantasy RPG, Dragon Age. "I've just played it recently myself and it's coming along really well," he reassured us.

"It's kind of the spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights, the fantasy games we've done in the past, and I think our fantasy fans are really going to eat it up, they're going to love it. It's got that rich, detailed universe." He ended by promising more information on it later this year.

Finally, Muzyka discussed the most surprising game on Bioware's development slate at the moment: DS RPG and Sega collaboration, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood. Sonic is "one of my favourite IPs", he said.

He revealed that the game had its genesis in a conversation with current SEGA US boss and former LucasArts president Simon Jeffery. "We used to work with him when he was at LucasArts. He's a really good partner, and we were saying wouldn't it be great to work together again. I told him I was a big fan of the Sonic universe. It's a good way for us to get on to a platform and do something really cool."