Friday, 14 October 2011

Game Developer Conference Round Up

Bioware were at the Game Developer's Conference 2011 in Austin, Texas this week and participated in a few panels. Both Darth Hater and Gamasutra have coverage.

First up was a panel about localization. This was mostly about that they have to build in different languages (or the ability to have them) from the start. It did end with a surprising cost to add another language:
"The number to do one more localization in The Old Republic is a 'make another game' number for most companies. It's a 7 digit number."
That's like a million or more. Quite expensive but I guess in SWTOR they have to do all the voice overs as well as just translate the texts.

Next was a panel about how Bioware writers work with the development of a game. Darth Hater have an actual transcript. They talk about how theme and style is more important than characters, plot and dialog:
He explained, "Theme, style, and setting integrity are more important factors and require collaboration. …Theme is the oxygen of narrative. You don’t need to see it to notice when it’s missing…Theme is what gives a game a life."
Certainly the integrity of the theme of a game like Mass Effect makes it feel like you are in a living, real universe, not one that is constructed around the shoot-em-up you are playing.

The next panel was one on extending a game into the community, again Darth Hater have a transcript. Daniel Erickson has already said that Bioware want to get stuff like an API and armory-style features out quickly. They mention that they won't be leaking absolutely everything about the story lines:
2:03 - Question: What about audience burn out?

Erik Olsen: That is something we worry about at BioWare because we are doing a story based game. We try to withhold information so players don't get overwhelmed or lose the sense of discovery. We know the day a game launches that information will be on Darth Hater or another site but we still try to hold back.
The last panel on Day One was entitled "Double Coding: Making Online Games for Both the Casual and the Hardcore" and Massively have the details. Damion Schubert said in the panel that the model that Blizzard use, of "easy to play, hard to master", with hardcore and casual, is too black-and-white, and people are really on a continuum.

He then talks about how they try to get everyone to become an invested gamer, by front loading the fun. None of this talk was about SWTOR anyway, but it is interesting to see that they may be aiming away from the serious complexity of a title like WoW and for something more in the middle
ground, and maybe have lots of options at end game:
Endgame presents a whole new batch of potential pain points, such as a player hitting a progression wall or a feeling of extreme repetition. It's here, Schubert argues, that devs need to give players as much variety as possible so that choice can relieve these instances of pain instead of forcing a confrontation between the pain and that player's investment.

Finally on Day Two there was a panel on how Bioware can monitor what is happening in game, and do rapid content creation. One of the most interesting and "big brother" things to come out of that talk was:
2:25: Q: How do you stop or catch leaks?

A: With all the data tracking we have we can see a single ability used at a single location for every player. If a leaked video shows a player wearing a certain piece of armor or doing donuts on a speeder in a certain zone we can find them very easily
So yeah. Watch out, beta leakers!

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