VideoGamer.com has once again been given the opportunity to grill BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk, and this time the conversation covers their development philosophy, the ongoing Star Wars: The Old Republic closed beta test, the changes being made in Dragon Age II, and more. First, some context:
Q: I was going to say. If Mass Effect 2 is a 'minor hit', I can't wait to see a major one. 10 million units sounds like an unreachable goal. I don't even think StarCraft II is expected to sell ten million, and it's probably the most anticipated game of the past few years. Anyway, on to Dragon Age II:
GZ: Well, we need to sell 10 million units. That's actually the new target, right? We do Top 10 games, our stuff is quite successful. I know Mass [Effect 2] is number eight so far this year, in North America. Sometimes I'm facetious when I say some of those things, knowing that we can sell a few million but seeing that someone else can sell 25. You're kinda like, 'Well, that's a hit!' We always joke that if we only do half as well as Blizzard on Star Wars: The Old Republic, we'll be quite satisfied. We've been very fortunate.
Q: You've said that you need to take on feedback. In the case of Dragon Age 2, you recently released some new screens and they were met with quite a lot of criticism - but it wasn't exactly constructive, it was more, "Urgh! I don't like that!"
Q: What's your reaction to that?
GZ: What you don't listen to is the loud internet commentary. The loudest voice is probably not the one you listen to. You listen to the person who put a lot of thought into it, who went out of their way to provide feedback. We're starting public testing for Star Wars: The Old Republic, and the fans are encouraged to write up their perspectives in the private forums. You're not allowed to break NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) - if they want to talk, they can talk all the want in their official, appropriate area. It's interesting to read, and the incites of the fans are valuable. I think there's a sort of thuggish mentality of the crowd on the internet, with people jumping on board. I think it would be very rare that you would find valuable things in the comments section of anything. Occasionally there's stuff, but we're not swayed by it. You can really be reactive to that. We tend to be very analytic, we put it down and move it around until we actually understand it. But I think one of the ways we make great games is by being really, really open to criticism.
Q: That's all very well with constructive criticism, but what would you say to one of the "urgh!" people if they were sitting here right now?
GZ: I'd say, hey, they're entitled to their opinion, but also take a look at the final game when we're done. It's pretty hard to get the full picture That's actually part of the way we've been doing PR the last little while. We haven't specifically been provoking our fans, but we've doing stuff to drive them a little bit up the wall. If you look at the Mass Effect thing with Shepard being dead, or the Marilyn Manson thing [with Dragon Age]... this isn't in the same vein, but you come to expect the response. At the very least, you want people to talk about you. We absolutely stand behind the stuff we're doing with Dragon Age 2. The whole difference is 'played it' versus 'not played it'. That's the litmus test. It's like, "Hey, great. Hold the comment, remember the game, then play it and make your decision at that point." It's funny. On the one hand people don't like change, on the other hand they'll complain if it's all the same. There will be people who say, "Oh, I like Dragon Age just the way it is! I want more of just that!" And then when you give them that they'll say, "Why didn't you make the graphics better?" It's this funny Catch-22, so we in a sense pre-empt them and push it in an innocent direction.