Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A game a decade

It's only been a month since I finished Dragon Age. I've still got some DLC left to play but currently I'm first playing through Mass Effect 2. What a luxury problem! Two instant classic games were released by Bioware less than two months apart. And now Bioware announces that they will release Dragon Age 2 by march next year. All this while developing the Dragon Age expansion planned for march this year and creating more DLC for Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2. They're doing all this while creating the next big mmorpg, SW:TOR! The quick expansion pack release for Dragon Age already had me worried. How can they create all this in such a short time frame?  We know that the EA programmers all work 72 hours a week but even then, how do they pull this off?

Let's take a look at Biowares archive:

It seems like Bioware is creating games at an increasingly faster rate while their quality is even improving. I liked both Mass Effect and Jade Empire but they weren't on the same level as SW: KOTOR. I personally didn't like them as much and their metacritic scores are in the 80th percentile. Both Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2 have a 90+ score and I love both games.

Reading all this I couldn't help but think about Blizzard. They've been my favourite developer for a long time now. I still remember playing starcraft, diablo 2 and warcraft 3 for the first time. And one day they created WoW. I must have spent more hours in WoW than in all the other games I ever played combined. If I were to create a top 25 of my favorite games it would probably contain four Blizzard games. Sadly, it's been a long time since I had the joy of playing Warcraft for the first time:
Blizzards last game, WoW was released five years ago! They have been creating nothing but creating expansions for WoW since 2004. Blizzards philosophy has always been "done when it's done" so it's no wonder that Starcraft 2 got pushed back to Q2 of this year. I wouldn't be surprised if they pushed it back again. Of course, it's hard to argue with success. Which developer wouldn't wish they spent a decade creating WoW? It's clear however that even Blizzard wants to create more games at a faster rate. Splitting up Starcraft 2 in episodes should have done the trick. But they still take as long to create one episode as most developers take to create one new game. Let's hope that the two sequels in the trilogy will be created faster.

Valve already tried to use episodic gaming for Half Life 2. The episodes would make sure that their development time went down at the cost of games with a smaller duration. It's a great idea but we're still waiting for episode 3 two years after the second instalment. At the other end Valve also released Left 4 Dead 2 this year. Releasing a sequel a year after the original caused quite some outrage but once people got to play the game it all calmed down.

In the end it doesn't really matter how long it took you to develop a game. Create a great game and we'll enjoy playing it. But I sure wish that Blizzard had some of the stuff that the Bioware developers are taking.

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