BioWare: Games Are a Risky Art Form

Tom Goldman

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Aug 17, 2009
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BioWare: Games Are a Risky Art Form



BioWare co-founder Ray Muzyka believes videogame development is an art form that requires an element of risk for innovation.

The videogames as art debate is one that's raged in recent times [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/101815-Ebert-Regrets-Attack-on-Gaming] and I think the conclusion was that videogames are whatever we want them to be. I say let's allow the creators to decide. In the case of BioWare's Ray Muzyka, videogames are definitely art, but they're a risky form of it.

Muzyka told VG247: "We want to... push the idea that games are art, and that art requires a little bit of risk to innovate. It's hopefully what allows us to do something that's always going to be fresh and different for our fans."

BioWare takes risks on its projects to make better games for the people that play them. Muzyka believes that the risks associated with innovation are worth it to give gamers new experiences. "I think we're taking a crazy number of risks on all our projects, and that's for the fans," he says. "We do it all for our fans at the end of the day."

On the other hand, BioWare doesn't jump off a cliff without a parachute all day long and hope to land in the swimming pool. The risk during development must be properly managed to not spiral out of control. Muzyka admits: "We're also trying to constrain risks on all of our projects at the same time, because it's about making sure that we can deliver a game at quality and a certain target of feature-set and scope. It's always a balance, right? But we're definitely ambitious in the way we approach our game-building."

Look at it this way. If a five-year-old creates a finger painting, mother will still put it up on the fridge even if it's terrible. However, if BioWare's art is deemed terrible, people could lose their jobs and millions of dollars go down the drain.

I'm glad I only write about the things these guys say and am not the one responsible for the budgets of multi-million dollar blockbusters. It's got to be tough to figure out exactly what features of lengthy games like really expensive [http://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Age-Origins-Pc/dp/B001IK1BWC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=videogames&qid=1282925428&sr=8-2].

Source: VG247 [http://www.vg247.com/2010/08/27/ray-bioware-games-are-art-art-requires-risk-to-innovate/]

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Jared

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Jul 14, 2009
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Well, if anything I can agree with it. I mean Borderlands took a risk and people loved it, if you dont take that leap of faith you will never know
 

Alandoril

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So artistic risk is directly equated to money involved? Not exactly how I would define it.
 

mattaui

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All art contains an element of risk, it's part of what makes it art. You're putting something out there in front of people and telling them that this is your take on the world, and the only defense to criticism is the piece itself.

Financial risk is entirely different from artistic risk, since you can throw a lot of money at a tried and true concept and it might succeed financially but fail artistically, whereas you can have a commercial flop that is an artistic masterpiece. Plenty of books and movies like that when you compare the box office take to the critical acclaim it got.
 

Booze Zombie

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Maybe and maybe not... if your style is taking risks, then the art is risky, if not, then it's not.
 

Cynical skeptic

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I thought the conclusion was unless someone already agrees a format is art, they will never be convinced otherwise.

But, anyway, bioware? talking about risk? Did I shift over to an alternate reality last night or something? They've been making the exact same game with decreasing levels of complexity since baldur's fucking gate. The closest they came to breaking their own convention was MDK2, and that was just port-monkey work.
 

Loonerinoes

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Cynical skeptic said:
I thought the conclusion was unless someone already agrees a format is art, they will never be convinced otherwise.

But, anyway, bioware? talking about risk? Did I shift over to an alternate reality last night or something? They've been making the exact same game with decreasing levels of complexity since baldur's fucking gate. The closest they came to breaking their own convention was MDK2, and that was just port-monkey work.
Yeah exactly. I mean them making a redesign and overhaul of their combat systems in Mass Effect 2 as compared to Mass Effect 1? Trying to introduce RPG systems fans into shooters and taking the risk with their team, that was used to only RPG mechanics up till that point, to learn the basics of how to make one solid enough for the audience to dig and accept? Totally wasn't taking any risks, right? *sigh* /end sarcasm
 

Cynical skeptic

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Loonerinoes said:
Cynical skeptic said:
I thought the conclusion was unless someone already agrees a format is art, they will never be convinced otherwise.

But, anyway, bioware? talking about risk? Did I shift over to an alternate reality last night or something? They've been making the exact same game with decreasing levels of complexity since baldur's fucking gate. The closest they came to breaking their own convention was MDK2, and that was just port-monkey work.
Yeah exactly. I mean them making a redesign and overhaul of their combat systems in Mass Effect 2 as compared to Mass Effect 1? Trying to introduce RPG systems fans into shooters and taking the risk with their team, that was used to only RPG mechanics up till that point, to learn the basics of how to make one solid enough for the audience to dig and accept? Totally wasn't taking any risks, right? *sigh* /end sarcasm
... All they did between mass effect 1 and 2 was reduce the number of skills, the amount of "clicks" it took to max something out, the amount of XP in the world, and the level cap. They did increase the number of unique weapons and ammo mods by removing the inventory system, but removing an entire system vastly outweighs that.

Reduction is not a risk. Its the antithesis of risk... unless you're building bridges.
 

Tom Goldman

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Games need to constantly take at least small risks in order to move forward. Without taking a risk on a new idea you end up with a 'safe' bet like Call of Duty MW2 and i know we don't want every game to be that.
 

Tom Goldman

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Cynical skeptic said:
Loonerinoes said:
Cynical skeptic said:
I thought the conclusion was unless someone already agrees a format is art, they will never be convinced otherwise.

But, anyway, bioware? talking about risk? Did I shift over to an alternate reality last night or something? They've been making the exact same game with decreasing levels of complexity since baldur's fucking gate. The closest they came to breaking their own convention was MDK2, and that was just port-monkey work.
Yeah exactly. I mean them making a redesign and overhaul of their combat systems in Mass Effect 2 as compared to Mass Effect 1? Trying to introduce RPG systems fans into shooters and taking the risk with their team, that was used to only RPG mechanics up till that point, to learn the basics of how to make one solid enough for the audience to dig and accept? Totally wasn't taking any risks, right? *sigh* /end sarcasm
... All they did between mass effect 1 and 2 was reduce the number of skills, the amount of "clicks" it took to max something out, the amount of XP in the world, and the level cap. They did increase the number of unique weapons and ammo mods by removing the inventory system, but removing an entire system vastly outweighs that.

Reduction is not a risk. Its the antithesis of risk... unless you're building bridges.
Face it, the inventory system was the worst aspect of the game in ME1. Combat was duller because you required points in the weapons just to even handle them better than a five year old, and the entire weapon skill line was unnecessary, because besides the weapon ability, it did nothing.

The only point, ONLY point, for the inventory system in ME1 was just to get the rich achievement, and after that, money became pointless, as did the inventory system.

And my god, hypocritical much? Gutting the entire inventory system was a risk, because there's still ignorants moaning and groaning about how it was removed, and refuse to acknowledge how much cleaner the current one is.
No more searching through fifty unstacked basic weapons just to find that one version of a weapon a roman numeral higher, and armor is more customizable with the inclusion of the tint and pattern sliders, along with the different parts. Removing "defense" from the armor itself allowed for more customization, and removed the unnecessary one-shots that could occur from starting the game on a higher difficulty, along with the weaker damage of a Shotgun I compared to Shotgun V.

But hey, lets just break every game down to its basic structure, click=action, several clicks=more actions, eventually X # of actions leads to credits. Wow, there's no such thing as a different game I guess...
 

Tom Goldman

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Alandoril said:
So artistic risk is directly equated to money involved? Not exactly how I would define it.
Yes, unfortunately that's the case nowadays. Films and games that make big money are generally the ones who play it safe. It's a shame but people like things that are familiar. Challenging familiarity is what innovation and art is all about.
 

Aratus

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Well lets see if making the Star Wars MMO will be a risk that pays off. Im rooting for Bioware, but im still cautious about the whole project.
 

Cynical skeptic

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cursedseishi said:
No, a risk is taking a system people don't like and trying to make it worth a damn.

Yes, the entire inventory system in me1 was pointless once you got access to the specter weapons. Which happens pretty stupidly quick. Afterwards it exists only to swap everyone between tungsten and shredder mods depending on what you're fighting. Maybe upgrade armor/armormods a once every 20-30 hours. But everyone on every level of play hated the system. Attempts at fixing it would've been a risk, removing it is simply kowtowing to focus groups. Focus groups are the antithesis of risk.

Maybe the stupids wanted a completely stripped down inventory/leveling system. But giving people what they want is, also, not risk.

I will also concede that shepard's armor was a decent system. Nice mesh between streamlining and customizational functionality, with (most) additional pieces of equipment fitting in with whatever custom color scheme you used (99.999% of people using glossy black with red highlights, of course). Pretty innovative on the whole. But the fact the DLC armors were one piece/slider rather than full sets (distributed around the game world, dragon age) kinda threw a wrench in everything they were attempting to push forward. Coupled with the fact they were so afraid of people looking like they just stepped out of WoW to get the best stats, they just made the differences between pieces almost completely nil, means every decision about that system completely reeked of "playing it safe." [sub][sub]or... not risk[/sub][/sub]
 

Silver

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Aratus said:
Well lets see if making the Star Wars MMO will be a risk that pays off. Im rooting for Bioware, but im still cautious about the whole project.
If it pays off it'll be because they're not taking any risks, using a really popular world, and not changing anything.

Taking a risk would be actually making a new game instead of a reskin of WoW, just because that's how it's done, and if it worked out it'd pay off proportionally, that would be pretty much the definition of risk, after all.
 

Tom Goldman

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Aug 17, 2009
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Um no offence, but isn't BioWare that one studio that keeps remaking the same game over and over again? Sure, once it's Star Wars, then it's other sci-fi, then dragons, but still the same game. Their only other game is MDK2, which is a sequel. So, um... It's quite ironic to hear BioWare talk about innovation and risks... Especially when every game of theirs makes a fortune anyway.
 

Tom Phoenix

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As much as I love BioWare games, "innovative" [http://gza.gameriot.com/content/images/orig_320200_1_1257581825.png] isn't the word I would use to describe them.
 

Aratus

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Silver said:
Aratus said:
Well lets see if making the Star Wars MMO will be a risk that pays off. Im rooting for Bioware, but im still cautious about the whole project.
If it pays off it'll be because they're not taking any risks, using a really popular world, and not changing anything.

Taking a risk would be actually making a new game instead of a reskin of WoW, just because that's how it's done, and if it worked out it'd pay off proportionally, that would be pretty much the definition of risk, after all.
I think its too early to call it a reskin of WoW, since the game isn't even out yet.

There is a lot of risk in making an MMO in the first place because WoW is the standard that any developer will have to live up to. So much money goes into making the MMO that the only way it will make it back is by getting people to spend a lot of time playing it, so it better be pretty damn good.

Bioware has a great track record for games with good engaging story telling, and I think MMOs have lacked a game like that, WoW was doing well when it first came out but the new story directions make me cringe every time i see an ad for Cataclysm.
 

Tom Goldman

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Aug 17, 2009
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Yeah saying Boware takes risks is a joke. They've always had pretty much the same story and character archetypes, but now even their gameplay is getting homogenized. ME2 was Gears of War with Dialogue and about five skills. Even Dragon Age, which is supposed to be a return to the classic format, is getting a stripped down sequel to "appeal to a broader audience".
 

cerebus23

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i would say bioware needs to take more risks with its writing department, not that the writing is bad, but take dragon age which the main criticism of the game was the rather standard fantasy fair.

contrast that to the witcher, which had a fairly unique story, with a wild end. had all the choice elements of a bioware game, and the character building you had in a bioware game.

if you married a truely unique and epic story with the rich worlds that bioware creates than you would have something truely brilliant, i mean they created a universe for mass effect, inhabited it with different races with different motivations, dragon age had a world with deep history and lore. and bioware simply excels at character banter.

do that with the story and break the mold and raise their games to even more of an art form, game play mechanics aside, inventory systems or lack thereof the story is what matters in bioware games and they need to take more risks in that area.
 

kinky257

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Wait, what? I guess in the sense that they make "rpgs" they take a risk.... but really Biowares body of work is basicly risk free and repeating tropes and themes already established in their other games.