What do people think about Bioware right now?

Hides His Eyes

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Bioware were my favourite game studio for a very long time, they made many of my favourite games including my favourite of all time. But when I heard the statement from a Bioware employee (I think this was shortly before Dragon Age 2 came out) that they were designing the game deliberately to appeal to the Call of Duty crowd, I honestly lost all respect for them.

I'm not normally someone who gets annoyed if developers go in a new direction, I don't normally think in terms of the developers OWING something back to their fans, and I'm certainly not against developers changing and experimenting with what they do - but then I had never heard a developer say something so blatantly cynical and profit-driven before. Change and experimentation I'm all for, when it's for artistic reasons. But when you're known and loved for making story-driven, mostly single-player fantasy and sci-fi RPGs, and you state that you want to make your games more like a series that is primarily multi-player, not very concerned with story and not fantasy or sci-fi (unless you count the paranoid ravings of right-wing Americans whose TVs were broken the day the Berlin Wall was dismantled), that's obviously a pure marketing decision. It's sickeningly clear that they saw the crowds of people playing Modern Warfare and basically said "We want them. If we have to change the style of the game and alienate the fans we already have then do that. They're only fans, they only made us into one of the most successful game studios in the world, fuck them." So I lost all respect for them on the basis that they seemed to have lost all respect for me.

Now I'm aware that since absorbing the reaction to DA2 Bioware have said they're taking all the feedback on board and intend to release a DA3 that is closer to what their core fans like, while keeping the accessible elements that drew new fans. And if they manage to do that then I will be a very happy nerd and will gladly buy the game. But part of me is very doubtful that they will manage it. I honestly don't think you can please everyone, and when you make a game more accessible to people who might not have as much time or enthusiasm for the more complex RPG elements, you necessarily take away some of the freedom and enjoyment for hardcore RPG fans like me.

So as of now, I'm cautiously optimistic about the future of Bioware. And I'm wondering how you other Escapists feel.

I should probably state at this point that I haven't played Dragon Age 2, and my fan-rage reactions was based purely on the Bioware guy's statement and on the concept of making a fantasy RPG more like Call of Duty to appeal to a new market. Who knows, maybe I'd like DA2 :p
 

spartandude

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im going cautious with them, im going to get ME3, but quite frankly it does seem recently that they are making simpler more accessable games (aka dumbing down), but tbh if ME3 sucks (which in all honesty it looks pretty shit atm) i think il take my business else where, whuch kinda sucks because up till recently they were easily my favourate company
 

Hides His Eyes

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spartandude said:
im going cautious with them, im going to get ME3, but quite frankly it does seem recently that they are making simpler more accessable games (aka dumbing down), but tbh if ME3 sucks (which in all honesty it looks pretty shit atm) i think il take my business else where, whuch kinda sucks because up till recently they were easily my favourate company
Yeah, about the same as me then.

I don't think it's inherently a bad thing for a game to be accessible, action-orientated and light on complexity and RPG stuff. But I personally really like serious RPGs where there is a lot of choice when creating a character, and a complex system of RPG mechanics. And Bioware have until recently been one of the only mainstream developers to be really good at that stuff.
 

spartandude

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Hides His Eyes said:
spartandude said:
im going cautious with them, im going to get ME3, but quite frankly it does seem recently that they are making simpler more accessable games (aka dumbing down), but tbh if ME3 sucks (which in all honesty it looks pretty shit atm) i think il take my business else where, whuch kinda sucks because up till recently they were easily my favourate company
Yeah, about the same as me then.

I don't think it's inherently a bad thing for a game to be accessible, action-orientated and light on complexity and RPG stuff. But I personally really like serious RPGs where there is a lot of choice when creating a character, and a complex system of RPG mechanics. And Bioware have until recently been one of the only mainstream developers to be really good at that stuff.
oh yh theres nothing wrong with accessibility its juts when they seem to abandon story for pretty explosions and the rpg elements seem to be dropped somewhere, why im getting flash backs to Phantom Menace?
 

efrafa_6

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I think they make average to slightly above average games that are barely finished products and just release everything else as DLC to rake in dat $$$. I've never bought a Bioware game and probably never will.
 

Jandau

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In general, I think they've grown too big and stretched the original team that made Bioware great too thin. Add to this the oversight by EA which has pushed them into several questionable directions and it's not looking too great...

Mass Effect 2 was a good game. But even here, the damage was starting to show. The main plot was kinda crap (and by "kinda" I mean "real fucking") and the RPG elements were a bit too streamlined. However, the gameplay was better, the subpolots were good, the characters were interesting and the excellent background of the ME universe held it together.

Then came Dragon Age 2. This is where it became evident that there was a problem. The game simply didn't have the production values or the quality that other Bioware games had. It was inferior to Dragon Age 1 in visuals, writing, plot, characters, gameplay, pretty much every department. The cut corners were pleantiful and obvious, with content being reused over and over and over again. Add to this a very small number of locations (which were also reused constantly), lazy combat design (nonsensical wave combat and health-bloated bosses) and a slew of other problems, you get a game that was obviously rushed by Bioware's B- or C-list team.

The likely reason for that was that resources were being shifted to The Old Republic. Yes, at this point someone will tell me that those were separate teams. Maybe, but that doesn't mean that they can't put all the good designers and developers on the TOR team. Also, it doesn't say anything about the funding or deadlines. I'm sure the DA2 people did what they could with what they were given, which probably wasn't much.

Now TOR's come out, and while the general reception is positive, the complaints make it fairly obvious that it too was dumped out too soon, likely to meet the Christmas deadline. From what I understand, crafting was only implemented a month before release, and as a result it's utterly crap, with most crafting skills being pointless and one of the wto good ones (Slicing) had to be nerfed in the first patch for being too profitable. There are plenty of other pieces of evidence that the game was shoved out the door before it was ready, like a raid where someone forgot to change the placeholder names for enemies, so they're named Boss Beast 1, Boss Beast 2, etc.

All in all, it has me worried. Worried for ME3 and DA3. Worried that they've taken on yet another project (C&C:Generals 2). Worried that the Bioware that I am a fan of no longer exists, its members spread across a bunch of substudios under the direction of EA.

At this point it could go either way. In the near future it all hinges on Mass Effect 3 and how well they'll fix TOR. If Mass Effect 3 manages to at least match ME2 in overall quality, that would be a good start. If the fixes to the broken parts of TOR are swift (crafting, ability delay, bugged class quests) and they also manage to follow up with some much needed features (dual specs, UI customization, mod support) and more endgame content to satisfy the hardcore crowd, that would be another good sign.

In the long term, the question is what will happen with Dragon Age 3. The ME franchise didn't suffer such a terrible drop in quality, so I'm less worried about ME3. But DA3 has to make quite a few big changes in almost every aspect to save itself from the wreck of DA2...
 

Zack Alklazaris

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Bioware has been scaring me a little over the past few years. I feel like I've been riding around in a car with a friend since childhood having the time of our lives then suddenly they decide to take a short cut. The whole "Oh man I hope you know where your going." comes to mind.

The last thing I want to do is bail out, but if what happened to DA2 happens to ME3 I will not trust them again for a long time.
 

Hides His Eyes

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j-e-f-f-e-r-s said:
I've always thought Bioware were a bit overrated by their fanboys, but until recently they've still been a fine developer. Their stories have never held up to all the praise given to them, but they're one of the key studios responsible for the wave of moral choices present in games. And Jade Empire is a ridiculously good game.

Recently though... it's like others have said. They're simply getting spread too thin. All the old guard have either left the company (as the lead designer for DA: Origins did) or are now trying to manage teams spread out across the entire American continent. As far as I'm aware there's no longer a single Bioware studio. There's the Bioware working on Mass Effect. Then there's the Bioware that's been working on The Old Republic (Bioware Austin? Is that the name?). Then there's the Bioware team working on Dragon Age. And now there's 'Bioware Victory', a Bioware studio in name only that's working on the new Command and Conquer game. In the old days, Bioware worked on and released one title at a time, and I honestly think they were stronger games for it.

It comes down to branding. EA spent a shitload of money acquiring Bioware, and now they want to get that name out there as much as possible in order to start making their money back. So instead of one (or at most two) titles in simultaneous development, we've got a whole bunch of titles getting developed as quickly as possible in order to make a profit. Before being acquired by EA, Bioware spent something like six years developing DA: Origins. After being acquired by EA, they spent a year and a half working on DAII. To me, that says everything.
This is really interesting and makes perfect sense. I think perhaps the games industry as a whole should learn that a "one game at a time" policy makes for much better games.
 

Fappy

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Jandau said:
In general, I think they've grown too big and stretched the original team that made Bioware great too thin. Add to this the oversight by EA which has pushed them into several questionable directions and it's not looking too great...

Mass Effect 2 was a good game. But even here, the damage was starting to show. The main plot was kinda crap (and by "kinda" I mean "real fucking") and the RPG elements were a bit too streamlined. However, the gameplay was better, the subpolots were good, the characters were interesting and the excellent background of the ME universe held it together.

Then came Dragon Age 2. This is where it became evident that there was a problem. The game simply didn't have the production values or the quality that other Bioware games had. It was inferior to Dragon Age 1 in visuals, writing, plot, characters, gameplay, pretty much every department. The cut corners were pleantiful and obvious, with content being reused over and over and over again. Add to this a very small number of locations (which were also reused constantly), lazy combat design (nonsensical wave combat and health-bloated bosses) and a slew of other problems, you get a game that was obviously rushed by Bioware's B- or C-list team.

The likely reason for that was that resources were being shifted to The Old Republic. Yes, at this point someone will tell me that those were separate teams. Maybe, but that doesn't mean that they can't put all the good designers and developers on the TOR team. Also, it doesn't say anything about the funding or deadlines. I'm sure the DA2 people did what they could with what they were given, which probably wasn't much.

Now TOR's come out, and while the general reception is positive, the complaints make it fairly obvious that it too was dumped out too soon, likely to meet the Christmas deadline. From what I understand, crafting was only implemented a month before release, and as a result it's utterly crap, with most crafting skills being pointless and one of the wto good ones (Slicing) had to be nerfed in the first patch for being too profitable. There are plenty of other pieces of evidence that the game was shoved out the door before it was ready, like a raid where someone forgot to change the placeholder names for enemies, so they're named Boss Beast 1, Boss Beast 2, etc.

All in all, it has me worried. Worried for ME3 and DA3. Worried that they've taken on yet another project (C&C:Generals 2). Worried that the Bioware that I am a fan of no longer exists, its members spread across a bunch of substudios under the direction of EA.

At this point it could go either way. In the near future it all hinges on Mass Effect 3 and how well they'll fix TOR. If Mass Effect 3 manages to at least match ME2 in overall quality, that would be a good start. If the fixes to the broken parts of TOR are swift (crafting, ability delay, bugged class quests) and they also manage to follow up with some much needed features (dual specs, UI customization, mod support) and more endgame content to satisfy the hardcore crowd, that would be another good sign.

In the long term, the question is what will happen with Dragon Age 3. The ME franchise didn't suffer such a terrible drop in quality, so I'm less worried about ME3. But DA3 has to make quite a few big changes in almost every aspect to save itself from the wreck of DA2...
You just saved me from an equally massive post. I agree with everything said here.
 

Jandau

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Spot1990 said:
Jandau said:
It was inferior to Dragon Age 1 in visuals, writing, plot, characters, gameplay, pretty much every department.
Visuals? How so?

Writing, plot and characters is debatable. I liked the characters in DA:2 Varric and Anders in particular. I never understood why Isabella pissed people off (apart from the fan service redesign), she was just Zevran with tits. Everyone's inner feminist got all outraged about her though.

The only character I didn't like was Fenris.

Plot? I liked the plot. It was a nice change from the usual saving the world from certain destruction thing that's been done a million times. It could have been tied together better admittedly (None of this "and three years went by" crap. But I liked how it was more about politics and civil unrest than Armageddon.

Gameplay again debatable, I prefered Origins overall but there are a few things DA 2 improved upon.
Visuals - Backgrouds were ugly, character models stood out and didn't fit into the scene, texture work was inferior, the stylized cartoonish look came off as cheap.

Writing, plot and characters IMO isn't debatable. You're free to like them, but the game wastes its strongest characters (Arishok in particular), the final villain is pulled out of the arse, the whole thing is unpleasantly disjointed. The list goes on. It was poorly written. Not terrible, but definitely not up to usual Bioware standards, with a few exceptions (Varric, Arishok)

Gameplay was atrocious. Wave based combat that completely ruins any concept of tactics? Bosses that are nothing but bloated sacks of HP? The list goes on. One of the best things about DA1's combat was the tactical aspect of it, forcing you to think about what you're doing, plan things out, lay down ambushes, etc. DA2 basically spawns wave after wave of enemies on top of you. That's it. No planning, no formations, no clever use of abilities. Just spam your shit untill they stop coming.

DA2 was an OK game, but I don't look to Bioware for OK. It was their worst game to date. If some no-name studio had put it out as their first major title, I'd say "Not bad, keep it up", but when the best RPG developer backed by one of the largest publishers in the industry puts out something like that, it's disappointing.
 

DustyDrB

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Spot1990 said:
Jandau said:
It was inferior to Dragon Age 1 in visuals, writing, plot, characters, gameplay, pretty much every department.
Visuals? How so?
Yeah...visuals? I thought it was well agreed upon that Origins is an ugly game.

OT: I still like BioWare. I'm not saying they don't have issues, but they're still one of my top three developers (in no order: BioWare, Obsidian, Nintendo). I also liked Dragon Age 2 despite its flaws. I'm hyped for Mass Effect 3. Absolutely hyped.
 

Wolfram23

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I can't think of a Bioware game I really liked... so... yeah. Then again, they didn't really hit my radar until Mass Effect because I was mostly gaming on N64 and Gamecube 10 years ago.

I remember wanting to play Baldur's Gate but never did.

I also don't play MMOs anymore so I don't know about SW:TOR
 

Zhukov

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Eh, I like 'em.

When it comes to characters and dialogue, they're the best in the business, bar none. Their quality fluctuates wildly in every other department, but I can forgive them that because they are one of the precious few game developers who are capable of making me give a shit about their characters, an ability usually reserved for other and better story-telling mediums.

I couldn't give a damn about the scrapping of "complex RPG elements and mechanics". I don't buy a game, any game, for the sheer uplifting joy of adding +2 to strength or swapping out a heat sink III for a heat sink IV. If I want to watch numbers get bigger I have a calculator on my desk.

Granted, DA2 was a bit of a mess. I enjoyed it, but I'm not about to defend the recycled dungeons or disjointed plot. That said, I'm not sufficiently fickle to condemn a developer for one sub-par game.
 

Hides His Eyes

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Zhukov said:
Eh, I like 'em.

I couldn't give a damn about the scrapping of "complex RPG elements and mechanics". I don't buy a game, any game, for the sheer uplifting joy of adding +2 to strength or swapping out a heat sink III for a heat sink IV. If I want to watch numbers get bigger I have a calculator on my desk.
Then your tastes simply differ from mine, but I know I'm not alone in liking complex RPG elements, and I stand by my statement that Bioware used to be one of a very few mainstream companies who got that stuff right, and it's a shame that those aspects seem to be falling by the wayside.

And at the risk of going off (my own) topic, it's not about watching numbers increase. It's about giving the player the freedom to make a character of their own, with a set of skills and powers that they have chosen and get to watch progress, rather than having all that stuff handed to you. The best way to do this is with a numbers-based system of gameplay, as opposed to pure action. If there was a game with the character customisation and control over skills and abilities of Neverwinter Nights, PLUS the dynamic combat and thrilling gameplay of an action game then obviously I would lap it up, but those two things are... not mutually exclusive, but at odds with one another.
 

Hides His Eyes

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j-e-f-f-e-r-s said:
Hides His Eyes said:
This is really interesting and makes perfect sense. I think perhaps the games industry as a whole should learn that a "one game at a time" policy makes for much better games.
The problem is that the industry now runs on the idea of 'potential profit'. Developers could quite easily work on one title at a time, putting their all into each game, and turn a nice profit at release. But that's not enough for publishers. They think "If one game will make this much profit, imagine how much two games could make." It doesn't matter that the number they've come up with exists only in their head. The industry doesn't simply work for profit anymore. It works for maximum potential profit. And that means developers get overworked and spread out across multiple projects.

It'll lead to a crash sooner or later. You can't have an industry this highly strung without something burning out somewhere and bringing the whole edifice down.
Yes, I think you're right. "Maximum potential profits" seems to wreak havoc wherever it rears its head.
 

Soveru

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They're more of a brand than a developer now. I now wait for the day EA becomes BA- Bioelectronic Arts
 

Soveru

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They're more of a brand than a developer now. I now wait for the day EA becomes BA- Bioelectronic Arts