Videogames, politics, science, all the important things in life.

Okay so one more Bioware post

Posted by nfinit on December 27, 2009

So Destructoid’s Anthony Burch somehow managed to trick Bioware head honchos Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk into answering real, substantial questions regarding the games industry, particularly their views on the downfall in popularity of Japanese role-playing games in the wake of the current console generation.  Their answers, while more or less correct, were kinda weird coming out of Bioware.  I’ll explain.  First quote:
“The fall of the JRPG in large part is due to a lack of evolution, a lack of progression,” Zeschuk said. “They kept delivering the same thing over and over. They make the dressing better, they look prettier, but it’s still the same experience.
Greg Zeschuk is entirely correct here.  The fundamental Japanese RPG experience hasn’t evolved terrible much since the height of the 16 bit days.  It’s very much mired in traditional expectations, and as a result it’s grown stagnant despite the best efforts of standout titles like Persona 4 and The World Ends With You.
That said, it’s an odd opinion coming out of Bioware, who’ve basically been remaking Knights of the Old Republic for the better part of a decade.  I’m not saying the KOTOR formula doesn’t make for good games, obviously it does or Bioware wouldn’t have stuck with it all this time, but the whole open-world-but-it’s-not-really-points-on-a-map formula really needs an overhaul with Jade Empire 2 or whatever it is they wind up working on after Mass Effect 2.  And as far as JRPGs focusing on window dressing, it’s hard for Bioware to say this with a straight face when you’re spending the GNP of Uruguay on voice talent for Mass Effect 2.
And not for nothing?  Dragon Age and Mass Effect 1 were kinda hideous.  It’s 2010, you might wanna start looking at hiring some texture artists.  Unless it turns out Micheal Dorn is pretty good at drawing realistic faces for 3d models, maybe you ought not to be spending that money on Worf.
Okay, second quote:
“My favorite thing, it’s funny when you still see it, but the joke of some of the dialogue systems where it asks, ‘do you wanna do this or this,’ and you say no. ‘Do you wanna do this or this?’ No. ‘Do you wanna do this or this?’ No. Lemme think — you want me to say ‘yes.’ And that, unfortunately, really characterized the JRPG.”

It’s always been my major complaint about JRPGs that they’re not really role-playing games– they’re menu-driven novellas wrapped around strategy games of varying degrees of quality. This is why many of my favorite JRPGs– Shining Force, Vandal Hearts, Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea– do away with the entire “RPG” bit and present instead a robust, low-frills turn-based strategy game.

But again, Bioware isn’t entirely without blame here. Bioware likes to tout that the decisions the player makes in one of their games have real, substantial effects on the game itself, but the honest truth is you don’t really have nearly as much control over the plot as Bioware would like us to believe. Exhaustive side missions aside, Bioware RPGs are actually remarkably linear– there’s an opening sequence exposing you to the universe, you’re given a handful of locations to visit at your leisure, then once you get bored with doing that you meet up with everyone for the final fight with the Big Bad. Maybe an optional location or two will open up, maybe you get to chase away party members, maybe you get some optional side quests, but for the most part the stuff that has to happen happens in the same order and you really have no effect on their outcomes save for variations in dialog trees and video clips.  It’s a big difference from something like a Bethesda RPG where the player is given pretty much total control where they want to go and when they want to end the game.

The point of all this is that after spending the past year addicted to Mass Effect and Dragon Age (and no doubt Mass Effect 2 in a couple weeks), I’ve come to notice that Bioware has become more than a bit predictable. Not that Bioware doesn’t make outstanding games, but I’m pretty sure ME2 isn’t going to do much to break the KOTOR paradigm established back in 2003.

That said, Square Enix have taken Bioware’s criticisms to heart. For the Xbox 360 version of their new JRPG title Nier, Squeenix will utilize an exciting new technology they call “Bioware Filtering”:


One Response to “Okay so one more Bioware post”

  1. Sparkster said

    Oh man, that looks hideous. Seriously, hideous.

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