The BioWare Technique

Mass Effect is the most graphically impressive of BioWare’s titles, with huge environments, detailed landscapes, and some of the most expressive facial animation seen in a videogame. However, is it essential for the development of the RPG that the visuals are great? After all, there have been some great RPGs with poor graphics, and vice versa. “I think it’s two legs of the same body,” says Laidlaw. “Graphics are still not perfect, but in Mass Effect they’re so much closer than they’ve ever been before. We’re not over-writing it as much as we were because we don’t have to. In Neverwinter Nights it was a person with a fixed facial expression bobbing his head, whereas there are real subtle moments in Mass Effect when characters are looking at one another, and you can absolutely tell what they’re thinking - we couldn’t do that before.”

As for the voice acting for the characters, directors are hired by BioWare to translate the writers’ visions into a language that the actors can understand. “It’s important we stay closely involved so that it doesn’t turn into something that feels cartoony or over the top, and that it matches the mood and the story we’re trying to tell,” Karpyshyn chips in. “If we have these realistic-looking characters, you want to make sure the acting is realistic and suits what you’re seeing on-screen.”

Above: BioWare takes acrack at furry fanficin the upcoming Sonic Chronicles for DS

Finally, we ask about the MMO that BioWare’s Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka announced not too long ago, and whether a story-driven online multiplayer RPG is going to be infinitely more difficult to create. “In an MMO you have thousands of people simultaneously doing dances and stuff - that’s a nightmare from a rules standpoint, and a nightmare in terms of world consistency,” says Karpyshyn. “But it’s like one of those nightmares you wake up from with a ‘Yeah!’ - a good quality nightmare, an ‘I just kicked Freddy Krueger in the nuts!’ kind of thing. It’s a massive challenge, but not so different to what a single-player RPG has - instead it’s a matter of a grander scale. I mean, I’m not on that MMO project, they might all be in tears down there! No, actually the MMO team are all a bit giddy they’re all ‘Look at what we’re doing!”

June 2, 2008