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BioWare's Greg Zeschuk

One half of the Mass Effect creator shares his opinions on new videogame technologies

Known for epic triple-A gaming properties including Mass Effect and Dragon Age, BioWare is currently in charge of new Star Wars MMO The Old Republic, a project publisher Electronic Arts has said is the most expensive game the company has ever made.

We recently caught up with one half of the management team, Greg Zeschuk, to discusses how BioWare has changed its development practices to suit the downloadable market, his impressions of new motion controllers, 3D technology and the possibilities of cloud-based gaming services.

GamesIndustry.biz Electronic Arts has said that Star Wars: The Old Republic is the most expensive game it's ever made...
Greg Zeschuk

It's big and it's involving, and games like that are so all-consuming, there's so much going on. We have so many people working on it, there's the online side of things, the game side of the project, I can tell you it's large...

GamesIndustry.biz Does that put a pressure on the development team – to be working on potentially the biggest game from Electronic Arts?
Greg Zeschuk

In a sense, but in a I think we've generally worked most of our career, post-Baldur's Gate, under pressure. Up to that point we were obviously just seen as a random developer, but after Baldur's Gate we've always been measured against that release and the success of it. Now in a positive way we keep compounding that problem because we keep making really good products and continue to do so – Dragon Age and Mass Effect both turned out awesome. There's always this inherent pressure in everything we do, we don't necessarily think about the size or scope of the investment or the challenge as much as focusing on what we can do, which is to make the best game possible. Smartest, fastest, strongest. We really try to make sure we deliver what consumers want and hopefully hit it out of the park.

GamesIndustry.biz You've released Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2, and you're still working on those with downloadable content. Since the DLC has built up into a significant part of the business, has that changed the way you develop and create games at BioWare?
Greg Zeschuk

It absolutely has. We actually did our first real DLC back in the early 2000s in the Neverwinter Nights days. We'd been doing it awhile and we thought we had it all figured out until Mass Effect when we didn't get as much out as we wanted and we realised that there was a new level of complexity, particularly with the third-party console stuff going on. You have to change the way you do things a fair amount. We reconfigured the team to a certain degree so that people are destined way before the launch to move into a DLC mode and begin working on that largely before the game is completed. And that's simply because if you don't do that it's hard to get it done and have a nice pipeline working for content for the game. We were fortunate enough in that we were able to get some nice DLC out early and have a nice streaming and ongoing DLC plan. And teams like it, they get a chance to actually do stuff and they have more intimate control over what they're delivering, and it's a smaller team and there's more immediacy of delivering a product.

GamesIndustry.biz Do you have a window to you use the data you get from DLC and Live play to influence the design process, or the type of content you put out?
Greg Zeschuk

It's interesting because we do some experimental stuff and we do use the results. With the Hammerhead DLC it was something we didn't put into the original Mass Effect 2 but then we released it separately. We have some pretty decent metrics from our Live stuff. We don't have the immediacy of Facebook where we can make changes every week and change colours to see what happens, but it's interesting for the development process. It takes longer for us to use that. When we developed the sequel, although we've not announced Mass Effect 3, we did say Mass Effect was going to be a trilogy. If we were to do a sequel we would look a lot at the telemetry and the data from the prior game. When we start a development process we make guesses and bets. We say "we think we have the right number of side characters and quests." And we discover that maybe in play people only use three or four of the characters. That's not a specific example, but if that was the case that would change the way we make future products based on that feedback.

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Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.

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