I spoke to the men running the studio behind many of the world's biggest role-playing games a couple of weeks ago, to discuss a variety of things. I left with a bonus: The BioWare Vision Statement.
Here is that vision, from the mouth of Ray Muzyka, EA's general manager for (as he named them) BioWare Edmonton, BioWare Austin, BioWare Mythic and BioWare Montreal: "Create, deliver and evolve the most emotionally engaging gaming experiences in the world. That's the vision for the BioWare group across the four studios, and they all have different ways to approach that."
He mentioned this during an interview in San Francisco tied to the 2010 Game Developers Conference. I had been needling Muzyka about his propensity for using the phrase "emotionally engaging" a lot. But, he said, that's the BioWare vision, something that he said came clear in the past year after a series of meetings with the heads of the studios.
Emotional engagement, he said, is what great role-playing games can create between the games and their players. "These experiences just pull you in... The features of classic RPGs help do that, they facilitate that. The journey of an explorer gives you the sense of awe and mystery as you enter new places. You feel like you're the first person to see it.
"The tension of combat and feeling like you're going to get your ass handed to by some gigantic creature or some kind of space monster or something like that. Or a villain in a contemporary setting...
"[There can also be a] sense of pride in your progression of a character.
"There are lots of emotions you can have interacting with other characters in a game: hatred, love, loyally, friendship, remorse, sadness, grief — all kinds of different interesting emotions. As long as you're engaging people in that level, we think that's a more compelling experience."
Muzyka's colleague, BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk offered his way of looking at it: "People are thinking about our games after they play them. The average game.. you play it, you experience it, your go back to work or home and it doesn't stick with you. Somehow, our stuff sticks with you. It's the character interactions, all these things that Ray discussed. It all lives with you after."
BioWare's four branches currently have several projects in development, including future installments of Dragon Age and Mass Effect as well as Star Wars: The Old Republic. Mythic's ongoing project is Warhammer Online. The Montreal studio's project(s) is/are unannounced. Expect the above goals — or an attempt to attain the above — to be targeted in all of those games.