During my recent interview with BioWare co-founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, we talked about the obvious things like Mass Effect and Star Wars: The Old Republic.
We also discussed Command & Conquer.
Why were we discussing Command & Conquer? More specifically, as I asked both men, why should we think of the upcoming Command & Conquer Generals 2 as a BioWare game? After all, wasn't Generals 2 in development at the former EA LA studio, which was known briefly as Victory Games? And wasn't that studio simply re-branded as BioWare Victory? Is there really anything BioWare about this game other than the name?
Should I be so cynical?
"I hope not," Muzyka said to me.
"We want to bring BioWare quality," he said. "We want to bring a compelling story to a real-time strategy kind of experience."
We're talking about a real-time strategy game that's part of a series that, if it was ever known for story, was known for cheesy live-action sequences starring hammy actors and, once pro wrestler Ric Flair being attacked by a bear. (To be fair, that was from the goofier Red Alert sub-brand of C&C games.)
Muzyka nevertheless sees a "really interesting opportunity to add more story into that space. We see that as an opportunity to kind of innovate and give people more." Vague enough, sure, but Muzyka does have the presence of mind to temper expectations, saying that story would be added "in a way that's appropriate for the genre. We want to make it more compelling, immersive experience for real-time strategy fans."
He and Zeschuk are both senior executives at BioWare these days. Neither is making games day to day, but their visions influence their teams. They sound as if they do respect the RTS genre for what it has been. Says Zeschuk, "Ironically, the original C&C is the first game we played in the basement when we were supposed to be working on BioWare." And Muzyka remarks that, "if you think about the combat mechanic in [early BioWare game] Baldur's Gate, that was heavily influenced by RTS mechanics."
BioWare games have always been about story and choice. It remains hard to see how those values would apply to or evolve a Command & Conquer, nor is it yet convincing that the BioWare Victory effort really is anything more than the application of a successful studio brand name on an existing crew of creators.
We'll hopefully see more of Generals 2 in the months to come. And with that, we'll get a sense of how BioWare the game is—and whether that's something Command & Conquer needed or not.