Nov 1, 2007

1up digs for evidence about Bioware MMO being about Star Wars KOTOR

From a 1up article :
The LucasArts and BioWare announcement yesterday revealed the two companies haven't been forced to stop hanging out, despite revealed plans for the Canadian developer (alongside Pandemic Studios) to be acquired by Electronic Arts. As pointed out in the previous story, both Pandemic and BioWare indicated that folding into the EA empire didn't mean a disassembling of their existing publisher relationships.

"I don't think this necessarily closes as many doors as you think. BioWare, Pandemic right now have existing publishing relations with many companies and we're excited to continue those," said Pandemic President and co-founder Josh Resnick to 1UP.

BioWare and LucasArts confirmed this again, but the release didn't detail what the collaboration is -- but signs have pointed in the direction of a Star Wars MMO. Since December 2005, BioWare has been cranking away at a mysterious MMO down in Austin, Texas. Sony Online Entertainment, the folks behind Star Wars Galaxies, are located in Austin, as well, and BioWare confirmed to us almost a year ago an unspecified number of SOE employees migrated to BioWare when they moved into the area.

Obviously, BioWare has already shown LucasArts they have a deep respect for Star Wars and ability to create compelling new characters and stories within that universe -- hello, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Employment listings for the Austin studio have listed work related to a "fantasy" project, leading some to believe the MMO is culled from BioWare's work in the D&D world. Ignoring that Star Wars could easily be construed as fantasy, a D&D MMO already exists in Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach, and another team at BioWare is already hard at work on the D&D-influenced Dragon Age. It'd be a bit excessive.

It's no mystery that Star Wars Galaxies hasn't been as successful -- critically or commercially -- as hoped. Much needed gameplay reboots came months and years into the release cycle, and while expansion packs were marked improvements, it was too little, too late for many. For ages, rumors have existed that LucasArts was shopping for someone else to take over the reins, but given the heavy backlash SWG received, it's hard to discern who simply has an agenda against SOE's handling of the game.

BioWare has remained steadfast in its silence about the MMO, being especially touchy about whether it's based on an original BioWare IP, something completely new or an existing license. They were most cagey in an interview with GameSpot regarding the EA acquisition, where BioWare co-founder and co-CEO Dr. Ray Muzyka couldn't provide a straightforward response on whether the MMO was an original IP.

GS: Right, but judging by John's [Riccitiello, EA CEO] enthusiasm, it sounds pretty safe to say the MMO is an all-original IP. Would that be fair to say?

RM: [Long pause] We haven't revealed any details about the game. It's super secret right now.

That's certainly a strange answer to an otherwise straightforward question.

So far, there's no "smoking gun" that indicates BioWare is working on a Star Wars MMO, but given BioWare's past experience with the franchise, their inability to comment on the nature of the IP the title's based on and yesterday's announcement citing the collaboration between BioWare and LucasArts as covering "ground-breaking interactive entertainment product," it certainly sounds like the folks in Austin are cooking up something a bit more ambitious than just another RPG.

> Source : The Evidence for BioWare's Star Wars MMO

Oct 30, 2007

Gamespy's analysis after the official announcement

From a Gamespy article :
At this point the rumors and speculation are clearly pointing to a Star Wars-based massively multiplayer online game. BioWare's impressive track record, its strong collaboration with LucasArts on the critically acclaimed Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and the current state of Star Wars Galaxies make this a natural fit for both parties.

When asked about how this announcement would impact Star Wars Galaxies, the Star Wars-based massively multiplayer online game developed by Sony Online Entertainment and published by LucasArts, BioWare played this one close to the vest. "No details of the actual product have been announced yet, so we are unable to comment on any impact the collaboration will have on existing BioWare or LucasArts products."

Source : LucasArts and Bioware Working Together Again

Official announcement : LucasArts and Bioware working together

Official press release :
SAN FRANCISCO, CA and EDMONTON, CANADA — October 30, 2007 — LucasArts and BioWare today announced that they have entered into an agreement to create an interactive entertainment product. The product, details of which will be unveiled at a later date, will be developed and published by BioWare and LucasArts, and will push the boundaries of the gaming market by utilizing the strengths of both companies to deliver an innovative, high-quality experience.

“LucasArts has a deep commitment to developing compelling stories and characters for the unique medium of interactive entertainment, and we have been searching for a developer that shares this value. We found this in BioWare,” said Jim Ward, president of LucasArts. “Through our previous collaborations, we know that BioWare has an impressive ability to blend gripping stories with technological advancements, and we believe that our upcoming product will deliver an experience that will span the traditional boundaries of video game entertainment.”

“BioWare’s mission is to deliver the best story and character-driven games in the world, delivering powerful emotional experiences to our fans.” said Ray Muzyka, chief executive officer, BioWare. Added Greg Zeschuk, president of BioWare, “The collaboration with LucasArts allows us to combine our passion for creating high quality and innovative experiences with those of a company dedicated to bringing only the finest games to market.

A LucasArts + Bioware website has been opened. It currently only contains this press release and a form to sign up for updates about this project.
> Thread about this announcement on the official Bioware forum

Oct 19, 2007

Anonymous source close from Bioware says the game will be about KOTOR

From a Primotech article :
A source close to BioWare confirmed to us today that the studio’s upcoming untitled massively-multiplayer online RPG will be centered around the Star Wars universe, specifically that of Knights of the Old Republic, which the developer released in 2003. The game garnered critical acclaim and spawned a less-popular sequel, released by Obsidian two years later.

The game is being developed by the company’s Austin studio, formed in 2006 and headed by BioWare Creative Director James Ohlen, whose past credits include the first KOTOR, Neverwinter Nights, and Baldur Gate’s I and II.
> Source : BioWare’s Upcoming MMO Based in KOTOR Universe - Primotech - October 19th 2007

Oct 9, 2007

Job ads from Bioware website contain some clues

Having a look at the job ads at Bioware Austin Studios website, for people to work on the MMORPG projetc, we can find some clues in both direction.

Clues for a non Star Wars MMO, but rather a fantasy game :
- Writer job ad : "Familiarity with the fantasy genre and role-playing games is a must."
- Visual Effect Designer job ad : "Successful candidates will be able to research, conceptualize, and animate natural effects (water, smoke, foliage, dust, fabric); as well as fantastical effects (spells, explosions, powers, etc.). You must have an interest in fantasy."

Clue for a Star Wars MMO :
- Cconceptual Artist job ad : "Interested applicants may forward their resume and submit a 2D portfolio. Please include samples from at least three of the following categories: Environment - Architecture, Interior architecture, Character/Costume design, Creature design, Vehicles and technology, Props, items, objects"

Jul 20, 2007

Some details about the project (but no clues about Star Wars) - Eurogamer

From an article :
The key points that we're gonna do that no one's done before in an MMOG are bring story, character, and emotion to it. Decisions matter, [non-player characters] aren't just Pez dispensers, and you're not in a grind," Rich Vogel, co-studio director and "MMO veteran", told the magazine.

"You're really compelled to get on and play what's happening today, kind of like watching a series like Lost on TV - putting page-turning in an MMO. It's going to be extremely challenging thing to do, believe me."

The staff at BioWare Austin are also huge fans of World of Warcraft, particularly how polished the game is - something they hope to emulate. But having played in Blizzard's world for so long there are naturally areas they feel they can improve upon, specifically the fabled endgame.

"We have big plans for endgame content that we can't talk about because it's a major part of our design," James Ohlen, lead designer who's work includes Knights of the Old Republic and Neverwinter Nights, told Games For Windows magazine. "We think it's a very important aspect of the game, and we don't want players to be stuck grinding through the same content over and over again.
> Source : BioWare MMO rears head

Jun 12, 2007

Some details about the technologies used for the game engine

From a 1up article :
For the MMO, Bioware will be employing a new type of technology called StreamBase, a type of "complex event processing" that has also caught the attention of U.S. intelligence agencies. StreamBase was developed through funding by In-Q-Tel, an investment firm that specifically supports technology that the CIA is interested in.

The complex event processing will serve Bioware by analyzing events taking place in their world at a rate of up to 350,000 messages a second. From there, the tons of mini-events can be cut into groups based on timeframe or type. This will allow for natural, smooth adjustment of the game world to the number of players and their actions as well as help in monitoring when certain players are causing problems. Bioware technical director Bill Dalton expects the new technology will allow their game to "do more than match" the current expectations of MMOs with titles such as World of Warcraft.

The game's name and setting remain unannounced, but Bioware did confirm that they're currently planning for a 2009 launch. According to the article, the development of the title has also been split between the Austin, Texas studio and Bioware's Edmonton, Canada studio.

> Source : 1up : Bioware MMO Scheduled for 2009