The folks at NowGamer have wrangled up a lengthy article-style interview with BioWare doctors Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk about the company's history, how they managed to resurrect the RPG genre, their partnership with the now defunct Pandemic Studios, and what their plans are for the Dragon Age and Mass Effect franchises.
(The RPG was in trouble,) Muzyka concurs. (People would tell us it was dead, but the thing is, we just didn't believe them. We always felt that a great story, great characters, great world, profession systems. there was always a place for that. A lot of it was based on the confidence we had, having played a lot of those games in the past. We felt, '˜Hey, we can add something to that mix. We can bring back what people loved about RPGs in the Eighties'. And we're always trying to keep doing that. Things change and we're always adding new things, but the core goals remain unchanged.) Great memories. If only they'd release the Infinity Engine to the public...
Baldur's Gate put the doctors BioWare to the test: they had to resuscitate an ailing genre, stitching together pieces of past classics Wizardry, Wasteland, Ultima, Pool Of Radiance as they went along. The result was one of the most original games of the decade, one that set the stage for more or less every Western RPG made since, where the themes of choice, morality, and love were made paramount, and expressed through open-ended gameplay. (This was the first time we had a chance to really see our vision,) Zeschuk explains, (which is to create an emotionally compelling narrative where people really felt that they were part of the story. It was a great start.)
Infinity was used to masterful effect in Baldur's Gate II: Shadows Of Amn, released alongside BioWare's other project, the sequel to Shiny's surrealist shooter MDK. Shadows Of Amn presented a darker world and deeper storyline than its predecessors, and was even better than the original. Along with Planescape: Torment and Fallout, it is often considered one of the three prime contenders for the best role-playing game of all time.
(The goals were pretty straightforward with Baldur's Gate II,) Zeschuk says. (Just '˜more, better', basically. We took the lessons we learned, and when you get the opportunity to create a sequel, you can apply it to the next game. That's what we're doing with Mass Effect 2 now, and Baldur's Gate II benefited from that. Baldur's Gate was a big success, but Baldur's Gate II was a success right out of the gate. We made a list of 100 things we wanted to improve, and we got all the way down that list.)