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We quiz BioWare's Dr. Raymond Muzyka on everything from Mass Effect PC, to the mysterious MMO and LucasArts projects...
During EA's Games Studio Showcase in London earlier today, we sat down with BioWare's CEO, Dr. Raymond Muzyka, to talk about everything from the upcoming release of Mass Effect on PC, to the mysterious MMO and LucasArts projects, as well as a few quick words on Dragon Age.
TVG: Do you think Mass Effect on PC is visually superior to the Xbox 360 version?
Well, you know, you can run it at a higher resolution for the higher end video card systems. We support all the bells and whistles - shaders; higher resolutions; higher texture details and thinks like that - so it does really look good on a high-end system. If you have a really awesome machine, it's going to be higher resolution and it's going to look better.
TVG: I understand you've tweaked the control interface for the Mako drop vehicle. Can you tell us a bit about that?
It's a camera independent control system. So, when you play it, it works really well with mouse and keyboard. Basically, you push it in a direction and it goes in the direction you want. The camera, control, and the direction you drive in are not linked in one axis. They're actually independent, so it actually plays well. It feels very natural and in tune to the PC.
TVG: Has that tweak come from feedback on the Xbox 360 version?
In part, but also - like all the other features in the game - we're first and foremost driven by what would be best for playing on the PC system. Each game we do, we try and optimise it for the system we're on, and so we'll make changes that make it better for PC.
TVG: You also mentioned that there's an improved decryption system in the game which is part of the omni-tool?
Yeah, the omni-tool is worn on your wrist - it's a hacking device - and you'll see it sometimes in the game and during the cut-scenes. It's fun to play. It's a little mini-game on its own.
TVG: And how's that different to what we saw on the Xbox 360?
The 360 version didn't have a circular thing. Because the PC system is based on the directional pad (W, S, and D for forward, back, and right) this allows for a 3D, circular Frogger kind of thing on the PC version. On the Xbox 360 it was based on button pressing - you had to press the button in different sequences - so it's really orientated around the controls for each platform. As it turns out, the decryption mini-game on PC just happens to be more fun. But they're both designed, first and foremost, for the controls on each system.
TVG: Are there any other features of the PC version that will be different from the Xbox 360 game - any other things that have been tweaked?
One of the big changes is the tactical HUD. It allows individual squad command controls, so you can actually tell your party - individually as opposed to a group - where to go. And then you can give them specific individual orders - again as opposed to a group - for what they're going to do when they get there.
Additionally, we've made it so that the main character can do more abilities in order on PC, so they can chain their abilities. And if you put those two things together, you have more control of your squad and main character, so you can enact more interesting strategies. This adds a lot of tactical depth and makes the combat feel like a brand new game.
We changed the inventory screen so that it's optimised for PC in the process, so that we've made it even easier to use. It's very clear which item you have equipped and which item you want to look at, as well as your categories and upgrades. Everything is really in tune to the mouse and keyboard, and that enables you to double click on a square (as opposed to scrolling over it) and then all of a sudden you bring up the upgrade screen and it feels really good - it's fast; it's accessible.
TVG: The Batarian expansion has already been made available as Xbox 360 DLC. How will PC gamers be able to get hold of that?
Basically, it'll be made available as a free download at launch. It's not in the box, but basically you just download and install it immediately, and it's free for PC fans.
TVG: I'm unaware of exactly how much DLC is available for the Xbox 360 game at the moment...
Right now there's just one pack, but we have plans to do more in future for Xbox 360 and PC. We haven't announced any details on that yet though.
TVG: And those will be as available for the PC version as they are for the Xbox 360?
Potentially. We might do ones that are designed for one system or the other, or we might do some that are shared. We can't say for sure, but I think we generally want to support both platforms with DLC.
TVG: Obviously, the KOTR games came out on Xbox consoles and then PC, and this is the same for Mass Effect. Is there any reason why BioWare seems to prefer the Xbox systems over Sony's PlayStations?
We're working for all systems right now, so I wouldn't say there's a preference for one system or the other. I think we try and build certain games for platforms with Microsoft as a partner, as with most of the involvement for Mass Effect, so that was a natural choice for 360. We made the choice late in the cycle of development for PC, but we've always talked about it being an Xbox 360 exclusive and we'll be supporting multiple iterations through the lifetime of the 360, so that's still a goal. But now we're moving on PC as well. We haven't announced any other plans, so that's basically our focus right now.
We have other products in development as well for other systems. We're doing a DS title and some titles for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC as well. We're part of a third party publisher now at EA so...
TVG: Any chance of a heads-up on what any of those titles might be?
No. The only thing we've talked about so far is that we're doing an MMO; we haven't said what it is. We're doing Sonic Chronicles for DS and SEGA - it's a really cool DS RPG. It's got speed; it's got great characters; it's E for everyone; it's very acceptable. It's really fun and I'm playing it on the plane as I travel back and forth.
Dragon Age: we'll be showing that later in the year. It's an epic, aspirational, fantasy opus. Anybody who's liked BioWare RPGs in the past like Baldur's Gate or Neverwinter Nights - they're going to love Dragon Age. It's got this rich, deep, aspirational fantasy and we're going to be showing that later on in the year as well.
TVG: I understand there's also a LucasArts project in the works as well...
Yeah. We haven't said what that is yet.
TVG: Any chance of some juicy insights on that?
Not yet, no.
TVG: Still just as it is on your website then...
Maybe later. There is something we're developing.
TVG: And the MMO and the LucasArts project definitely aren't related in any way?
We haven't any comment on that.
TVG: Mass Effect is scheduled as a trilogy. Are you working on the second game yet? Or are you working on 2 and 3 at the same time?
We haven't announced any future products yet for Mass Effect, but it's a trilogy. Naturally, the team is free of Mass Effect 1, so they're probably working on something in the Mass Effect franchise now, in addition to post release content. We generally work on our games one at a time. Whether we have a broad story-arc in mind, historically at least, we haven't worked on two instalments in the same franchise at the same time. We always have plans, but it's usually one game at a time. We have seven project teams in BioWare so, having said that, we do have a lot of stuff at the moment. There are over 500 people in our dev team in Austin, Texas.
TVG would like to thank Dr. Raymond Muzyka, BioWare's CEO, for taking the time to talk with us about all things BioWare. Mass Effect on PC is due for release on June 6th.