BioWare shocked the video/PC game industry a few months ago with the word that the Canadian based game developer of titles like Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic had merged with fellow game developer Pandemic Studios. A few weeks ago, BioWare announced plans to branch out and form their own MMORPG studio in Austin, Texas. FiringSquad decided to get an update on the developer from its co CEOs Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk.
FiringSquad: It's been a few months since the merger of BioWare and Pandemic. Overall what has the transition been like for the company so far?
Ray Muzyka: The transition has been incredibly positive! The partnership with Pandemic has been incredibly collaborative and both studio families continue to communicate more and more all the time. We recently had a “mini GDC” after the Game Developer’s Conference ended, with about 50 participants from each studio taking part. Greg and I have been down to Pandemic many times and Andrew and Josh, the co-founders from Pandemic, have been up to visit us multiple times as well. The feedback on our products from the folks at Pandemic, as well as from Greg Richardson (our peer at BioWare/Pandemic HQ, Greg is VP Commercial Operations of BioWare/Pandemic) and John Riccitiello (our boss, John is CEO of BioWare/Pandemic) has been incredibly valuable. We’ve already made improvements to all of our titles based on this feedback and we’re just getting started!
FiringSquad: Why did BioWare want to launch an MMORPG and establish a base in Austin Texas to handle the development?
Ray Muzyka: BioWare has been considering developing an MMORPG for quite some time – we’ve always felt that developing an MMORPG would be a natural extension of BioWare’s past experiences in developing roleplaying games. Austin has a tremendous gaming heritage with a lot of talent, especially in the MMO space. Austin offers a very friendly environment to game and technology development, with lots of experienced, talented, passionate individuals – and we’ve got a great team at BioWare Austin already as a result! We’re very excited to take the best feature of the MMO space and combine them with the RPG experience we have at BioWare.
FiringSquad: Last year BioWare released Jade Empire for the Xbox which while it got solid reviews also got some critics saying it was not quite the slam dunk they were expecting. Overall was BioWare pleased with the reactions and are there any plans for a follow-up?
Greg Zeschuk: BioWare was very happy with Jade Empire – the team did an incredible job of building a very strong game with a well realized world, a compelling story and some great action combat. We’ve haven’t announced anything about the future of the franchise but we certainly liked the original game!
FiringSquad: BioWare also experimented with downloadable content for its Neverwinter Nights game. Where does BioWare see downloadable games moving to in the future from its end?
Greg Zeschuk: We’ve had a great experience developing downloadable digital content for Neverwinter Nights – our Live Team has made some really great modules and there are more to come! We’ve learned a tremendous amount and look forward to applying our knowledge and experience to other games in the future. The future of digital downloads is huge, both on the PC and on consoles.
One benefit on the PC is that anything goes – any industrious group and simply put up a compelling game or experience for sale and hopefully the customers will flock to it. Also, there are a number of different groups offering different options for downloading content – we’ve got our BioWare store that is focused on selling content and products dedicated to our games (and perhaps other products in the future), IGN has a great Direct2Drive site with a ton of different games available, Valve, of course, has Steam which has made a big impact on the industry, and there are a whole bunch of others. Even EA seems to be getting into the mix!
On the console side Microsoft’s tremendous Live Arcade makes downloading classic games, add-on content and other media painless and easy. I’ve certainly spent a fair amount of time downloading stuff off Live. We’ve also very excited to learn more about Sony and Nintendo’s plans for their online services – the options for gamers are huge!