BioWare senior developer: DA2 was a one-year production

#1 Posted by Metal_Mills (3036 posts) -

Over at SomethingAwful a poster said this. Take this with a grain of salt because although the post seems genuine you can never be truly sure as the poster isn't verified.
 
 

Well, nobody asked for my opinion, but here it is. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a senior designer at BioWare but I did not work on DA:O or DA2.

fake edit: so I basically just spent an hour writing a magnum opus defending DA2. I deleted it after reading it back to myself and seeing a long list of excuses. Bottom line is, the game had a one-year production cycle and no amount of clever development can disguise this fact.

I will say that I am in awe of what they did from a technical standpoint- I simply cannot fathom how they accomplished as much as they did with that deadline. Most dev cycles of a game this size take 4-5 years; DA:O took nearly 7. You also have to factor in that there was no recycling from the first game and between pre-production and the time it takes to QA and gold-push a game you can lose a few months. BioWare games can be even worse about this because of the unusual amount of story variables involved. In essence they produced the vast majority of DA2 in about eight months. loving amazing.

That said, BioWare stands in a tough position. Their highest rated game, Mass Effect 2, got a metacritic score of 96 which is almost impossibly high. That game barely cracked 2 million copies sold. Compare this to the XBOX-only sales of Fallout 3 (3.5 million), Oblivion (3.5 mil), Fable 2 (4 mil), Red Dead Redemption (4.2 mil), Assassin's Creed (5 mil), forget BLOPS (12 mil). Dragon Age sold roughly the same as Mass 2, and both games cost and took about the same amount of time to produce as anything else on this list. So you have to wonder, why are BioWare game selling so much less with such higher quality?

Anyway, I'll let you come to your own conclusions about the state of Dragon Age 2 which, incidentally, had almost exactly the same first-week sales as DA:O. I will say, however, that once I stopped punishing the game for the sins of its fathers I ended up really enjoying it.

 Most of DA2 was developed in 8 months! If that's true, then holy shit. When you look at other games that have small development cycles they are normally a disaster. Kotor 2 was a fucking mess with no ending and reused a lot of stuff and tons of content cut or missing. It makes me wonder how the game would have been if they gave it a standard 2 year cycle. Probably would have been amazing.
 
http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3393011&userid=0&perpage=40&pagenumber=223#post389494745
#2 Edited by TheSeductiveMoose (3625 posts) -

It could have benefited from recycling some stuff from DA:O.

#3 Edited by Dany (7887 posts) -

I still find it shocking that these Bioware games do not sell. Hopefully all of hte good will from ME2 will lead to good sales for ME3.
 
Considering that the production was only a year is crazy and it was able to fit in so much stuff is absurd.

#4 Posted by Vaile (355 posts) -

I would have gladly waited one or two more years for a higher-quality product. 
 
No question.

#5 Posted by Master_Funk (740 posts) -

It sucks that there are tona more people buying COD than MAss effect 2, but unfortunately, most people ONLY buy COD and maybe some sports games, so it isn't surprising

#6 Posted by TheDudeOfGaming (6078 posts) -

Ok...even i can't stay pissed off at the things i didn't like about Dragon Age 2...IF they really did produce most of the game in 8 months. 
Shame about the sales though,they really make some amazing RPG games.

#7 Edited by ricetopher (1046 posts) -

Not surprising at all. Hopefully the next Dragon Age gets the time it actually needs.

That being said, for a game with a one year development cycle and little re-usage, thats fucking ridiculous.

#8 Posted by salad10203 (654 posts) -

Well at least ME2 on PS3 sold well, right?

#9 Posted by Hailinel (25203 posts) -
@Dany said:
" I still find it shocking that these Bioware games do not sell. Hopefully all of hte good will from ME2 will lead to good sales for ME3.  Considering that the production was only a year is crazy and it was able to fit in so much stuff is absurd. "
How can two million in sales be considered not selling well?
#10 Edited by ryanwho (12082 posts) -

I don't know why people think this excuses anything. It still sells for as much as a Blizzard game or Nintendo game or any other dev that actually gives their games the time they need. If you want to get special treatment for cutting corners and costs to save time, sell your game for less. Sell it for 60, people compare it to other 60 dollar experiences.

#11 Posted by mazik765 (2316 posts) -

The sales parts of that is really worrying to me.

#12 Posted by Shayera (40 posts) -

We're playing a beta. They will sell us the other half of the game through DLC.

#13 Posted by Liquidus (946 posts) -

I really hope this allows BioWare to focus entirely on Mass Effect 3 then. I know it's selfish but I can't wait for that goddamn game!

#14 Edited by Marz (5668 posts) -

They had a game engine to work with, so it's not like they had to build it from scratch to make dragon age 2.  The gameplay was fine and I found the combat to be be fairly fun (i played PC version).  It was harder to cast spells without tactical view but i coped with it.   If there's anything that suffered from this short production cycle was the story.  It did feel kind of all over the place and could have used a few more months to polish it out.  

#15 Edited by EthanML (459 posts) -

Wow, I had know idea ME2 was outsold that badly by the likes of even Fallout and Fable, nevermind CoD. Thats a bit sad.

#16 Posted by EuanDewar (5094 posts) -
@Metal_Mills:
Considering Kotor 2 was developed by Obsidian I don't think we can see that as a standard.
#17 Posted by ryanwho (12082 posts) -

Whoever decided having an 8 month gestation in addition to overhauling the textures and character models just made a stupid design choice. Assets are the most time consuming part. Once those are in place, creating content takes significantly less time. If you only have time for one, make a good game that looks like the last game. Works fine for Epic. Worked fine for Galaxy 2. I just hope they're aware enough of what's happening outside of their yesman bubble that they learned something from this experience.

#18 Posted by AgentofChaos (1565 posts) -

You have to hand it Bioware, they're able to make such quality games in such a short time because they have a pretty clear vision of what they want these games to be.

#19 Edited by phrosnite (3518 posts) -

I'm actually very curious to see the first month sales( it's too early for that obviously). I'll be on watch for the next NPD Invisible Walls' segment...
 
Also let's hope that TOR does insanely well so that Bioware can do whatever they want and I know that if that happens, Bioware will be releasing a 96% game every time.

#20 Posted by ryanwho (12082 posts) -
@AgentofChaos said:
" You have to hand it Bioware, they're able to make such quality games in such a short time because they have a pretty clear vision of what they want these games to be. "
People never gave Obsidian that kind of credit when they made much less flawed games than this in the same amount of time or less.
#21 Posted by Kear (109 posts) -

I'm a little suprised at the sales on ME2, thought it would be higher.   I love Dragon Age 2, I'm not claiming it's perfect, but I'll take an imperfect game that I really enjoy every year and a half over a perfect game every four years.  Especially since a game can take longer to make and still be no better.  I think there was some great changes in the gameplay and storytelling in DA2, and I'm looking forward to see what they do with both in future dragon age games.

#22 Posted by ryanwho (12082 posts) -
@Kear said:
"

I'm a little suprised at the sales on ME2, thought it would be higher.   I love Dragon Age 2, I'm not claiming it's perfect, but I'll take an imperfect game that I really enjoy every year and a half over a perfect game every four years.  Especially since a game can take longer to make and still be no better.  I think there was some great changes in the gameplay and storytelling in DA2, and I'm looking forward to see what they do with both in future dragon age games.

"
Quantity over quality? People like you are what EA and Activision count on.
#23 Posted by Vaile (355 posts) -
@ryanwho said:
" @Kear said:
"

I'm a little suprised at the sales on ME2, thought it would be higher.   I love Dragon Age 2, I'm not claiming it's perfect, but I'll take an imperfect game that I really enjoy every year and a half over a perfect game every four years.  Especially since a game can take longer to make and still be no better.  I think there was some great changes in the gameplay and storytelling in DA2, and I'm looking forward to see what they do with both in future dragon age games.

"
Quantity over quality? People like you are what EA and Activision count on. "
#24 Posted by TheSeductiveMoose (3625 posts) -
@ryanwho said:
" @AgentofChaos said:
" You have to hand it Bioware, they're able to make such quality games in such a short time because they have a pretty clear vision of what they want these games to be. "
People never gave Obsidian that kind of credit when they made much less flawed games than this in the same amount of time or less. "
Especially considering Obsidian had a much smaller budget.
#25 Posted by EveretteScott (1541 posts) -
@Slayer22 said:
" It sucks that there are tona more people buying COD than MAss effect 2, but unfortunately, most people ONLY buy COD and maybe some sports games, so it isn't surprising "
What's "tona"? Is that a lot of tuna?
#26 Edited by Subjugation (4734 posts) -

Definitely taking that with a grain of salt. I'm very skeptical of that post legitimately being from a senior dev. That aside, what would suddenly make Bioware push games out in a year when they clearly should take longer? Is the evil of EA starting to rear its ugly head? The KOTOR 2 mess wasn't even Bioware, it was Obsidian if I remember correctly. I'll admit when I found out what the last boss was I facepalmed pretty hard. Talk about one of the largest anti-climaxes in gaming. 
 
If DA2 was really developed in about 8 months, what they accomplished is actually kind of impressive. This is all relatively speaking of course. I can only imagine what it would have been like with a proper development cycle. Stop sticking your dick in my apple pie EA!

#27 Posted by LordCmdrStryker (346 posts) -
@ryanwho said:
"Quantity over quality? People like you are what EA and Activision count on. "  
 That's not what he said.  Can you even see us from way the hell up there on your high horse?
 ...
Jackass.
#28 Posted by jozzy (2042 posts) -

I read before that Mass Effect 2 sold pretty crappy  (relatively) and I couldn't believe it, but apparently it's true :(
 
DA2 with it's one year production cycle must've been a ton cheaper to make than DAO, so I bet they are not dissatisfied with similar sales numbers. I don't get why they didn't lower the price for it though.

#29 Posted by Animasta (14718 posts) -
@TheSeductiveMoose said:
" @ryanwho said:
" @AgentofChaos said:
" You have to hand it Bioware, they're able to make such quality games in such a short time because they have a pretty clear vision of what they want these games to be. "
People never gave Obsidian that kind of credit when they made much less flawed games than this in the same amount of time or less. "
Especially considering Obsidian had a much smaller budget. "
I still liked KOTOR2 better.
 
Of course, the cut content patch makes a lot better, but still :)
#30 Posted by blueduck (964 posts) -
@weeman105 said:
" Definitely taking that with a grain of salt. I'm very skeptical of that post legitimately being from a senior dev. That aside, what would suddenly make Bioware push games out in a year when they clearly should take longer? Is the evil of EA starting to rear its ugly head? The KOTOR 2 mess wasn't even Bioware, it was Obsidian if I remember correctly. I'll admit when I found out the last boss was SPOILER WARNING: Click here to reveal hidden content. I facepalmed pretty hard. Talk about one of the largest anti-climaxes in gaming. 
 
If DA2 was really developed in about 8 months, what they accomplished is actually kind of impressive. This is all relatively speaking of course. I can only imagine what it would have been like with a proper development cycle. Stop sticking your dick in my apple pie EA!
"
So anything good is Bioware but anything Bioware does bad is EA?
#31 Posted by Jimbo (9937 posts) -

I don't know whether that guy's legit or not, but yeah DA2 was turned around very quickly - you only have to count the months between Origins and DA2 to see that- and it's impressive what they achieved in the time they had.  But... so what?  They aren't going to get a pass because they did well in the time they had.  They aren't going to get an A for Effort, because this isn't high school.  The game is what it is, and what it is is a game that to many people feels rushed.  I don't think it's fair to say 'most' games this size take 4-5 years nowadays... but 2-3 years, sure, which is still twice as long as DA2 had.
 
"Dragon Age sold roughly the same as Mass 2, and both games cost and took about the same amount of time to produce as anything else on this list."  This clearly isn't true, and clearly contradicts what he had earlier said about Dragon Age's development time.
 
Why were Mass Effect 2 sales so low compared to its score and the other games listed?  Because you can happily play any of those other listed games without playing their predecessors, and also because ME2 came out in January.  Many people will have passed on ME2 simply because they didn't play ME1, and ME1 wasn't rated quite so impossibly highly and it only released on one platform at launch - a platform which obviously had a much smaller install base in '07 than it does today.  Expecting sales to spike up midway through a narrative trilogy is crazy optimistic - unless the first game does gangbusters then it's unlikely the following games will.

#32 Edited by ryanwho (12082 posts) -
@LordCmdrStryker said:

" @ryanwho said:

"Quantity over quality? People like you are what EA and Activision count on. "  

 That's not what he said.  Can you even see us from way the hell up there on your high horse? ...Jackass. "
I'd love for you to explain the semantic difference. Sounds like you wanted to agree with him until you realized people like him are why Guitar Hero and COD get a new game every year. And now you're angry and you're calling names. Bummer for you. The question is would I rather have games like Starcraft 2 every decade or games like COD every year. Would I rather have a game like DAO every 3 years or a game like DA2 every year? Well bud, a lot of people would rather have the better game that takes longer to make. Clearly a lot of people are fine having a COD every year, in between watching Michael Bay movies that abide the same "quantity>quality" mantra. But that's not necessarily what most RPG players want.
#33 Edited by ProfessorEss (7472 posts) -

   @Metal_Mills said:

...Fallout 3 (3.5 million), Oblivion (3.5 mil), Fable 2 (4 mil), Red Dead Redemption (4.2 mil), Assassin's Creed (5 mil), forget BLOPS (12 mil). Dragon Age sold roughly the same as Mass 2, and both games cost and took about the same amount of time to produce as anything else on this list. So you have to wonder, why are BioWare game selling so much less with such higher quality?

"Such higher quality"? I enjoy Bioware's games but I don't find them to be on a quality level above the games mentioned here.
 
Quite frankly, between things like texture pop, poor animation, load times and overall scope I think one could argue that Bioware's titles (tho great) are of lower overall quality than any of the games listed here.
 
I'm sure it'll turn out to be fake but if it wasn't, that's a pretty crazy thing to say and pretty presumptuous to assume people agree.
#34 Posted by ricetopher (1046 posts) -
@blueduck said:
" @weeman105 said:
" Definitely taking that with a grain of salt. I'm very skeptical of that post legitimately being from a senior dev. That aside, what would suddenly make Bioware push games out in a year when they clearly should take longer? Is the evil of EA starting to rear its ugly head? The KOTOR 2 mess wasn't even Bioware, it was Obsidian if I remember correctly. I'll admit when I found out the last boss was SPOILER WARNING: Click here to reveal hidden content. I facepalmed pretty hard. Talk about one of the largest anti-climaxes in gaming. 
 
If DA2 was really developed in about 8 months, what they accomplished is actually kind of impressive. This is all relatively speaking of course. I can only imagine what it would have been like with a proper development cycle. Stop sticking your dick in my apple pie EA!
"
So anything good is Bioware but anything Bioware does bad is EA? "

For what its worth, consider this interview with the series composer

Unlike other titles from Bioware, this [score] was kind of a rush job. EA really wanted to capitalize on the success of Origins, so the game was really being pushed hard to be released now.

Saying Bioware can do no wrong is silly, but this specific case was apparently EA involvement.
#35 Posted by Ihmishylje (413 posts) -
@ryanwho said:
" @AgentofChaos said:
" You have to hand it Bioware, they're able to make such quality games in such a short time because they have a pretty clear vision of what they want these games to be. "
People never gave Obsidian that kind of credit when they made much less flawed games than this in the same amount of time or less. "
I did! :D
#36 Edited by Subjugation (4734 posts) -
@blueduck said:

" @weeman105 said:

" Definitely taking that with a grain of salt. I'm very skeptical of that post legitimately being from a senior dev. That aside, what would suddenly make Bioware push games out in a year when they clearly should take longer? Is the evil of EA starting to rear its ugly head? The KOTOR 2 mess wasn't even Bioware, it was Obsidian if I remember correctly. I'll admit when I found out the last boss was SPOILER WARNING: Click here to reveal hidden content. I facepalmed pretty hard. Talk about one of the largest anti-climaxes in gaming. 
 
If DA2 was really developed in about 8 months, what they accomplished is actually kind of impressive. This is all relatively speaking of course. I can only imagine what it would have been like with a proper development cycle. Stop sticking your dick in my apple pie EA!
"
So anything good is Bioware but anything Bioware does bad is EA? "
Considering a short development cycle severely screws with the quality of a game and publishers are the ones telling developers "We want your game out the door by Q3 so we can milk holiday sales", it's safe to say yes. It doesn't make much sense to think that Bioware would willing go from taking 7+ years on DA:O to shoving DA2 out the door in under 1 year purely of their own volition. How many times have we seen good development houses go to hell once large publishers acquire them and start slapping deadlines on everything? Developers want to make their game, publishers want black numbers at the bottom of their bank statement. 
 
So, if EA was behind the short cycle I put the blame on them. If it was Bioware, then obviously I blame Bioware. I just really strongly suspect it was the publisher. 
 
Edit: @ricetopher: That more or less confirms my suspicion.
#37 Posted by LordXavierBritish (6320 posts) -

Oh boy, I hope Dragon Age becomes an annualized series. 
 
That'd be great.

#38 Posted by ryanwho (12082 posts) -

I really don't think Bioware would have melded with EA if it meant they get no sway at all on development cycles. Let's just call it an even split, heads at EA and Bioware wanted to try an experiment and it didn't work. Or, it worked out but people won't fall for it a second time. Either way, let's hope they learned something.

#39 Posted by ricetopher (1046 posts) -

Two interesting tidbits to also consider 

From a blog from one of the former lead designers on the DA team:

We were nearing the end of active work on design content for Dragon Age… there was still a lot more bug fixing/polishing/ and fill-content generation ahead but the core plot/writing and level design was finished. My work was rapidly shifting into that of reviewing what the team had put together.

Discussion on Dragon Age 2 began around this time and looking ahead I knew that I wasn’t going to be satisfied with what Dragon Age 2 would be. Party control/tactical combat are huge factors in my enjoyment of a role-playing game as is adopting the role of the hero (i.e., customizing my character). I was fairly certain Dragon Age would transition towards more of a Mass Effect experience, which while enjoyable is not the type of role-playing game I play. Could I be the lead designer on such a title? Certainly… though if I were going to work on a game adopting a set-in-stone protagonist I’d rather work on something lighter, like a shooter.

Through a series of circumstances it was decided that with my not wanting to participate on Dragon Age 2 it was time to transition in a new lead to finish the Dragon Age console versions and ramp up for Dragon Age 2. I moved out of an active lead role though I stayed on for several months performing quality assurance and helping with the transition. I completed the game several times during this period and racked up the second or third highest bug totals… so, still busy but doing something quite different.

Interview with the executive producer of DA2:

ZAM: As a final question then, to get back to Dragon Age 2… In comparison to Dragon Age: Origins, would you say that your level of satisfaction and confidence in Dragon Age 2 is much higher than Dragon Age: Origins?

Mark: I'm actually much happier with Dragon Age 2 than I was with Dragon Age: Origins. Don't get me wrong, DA:O was a great game, but when you do development on DA:O for as long as we did (five years), the game starts to drift a little bit, in terms of overall vision. Dragon Age 2, because it was developed over the course of about a year and a half, has been able to stay a lot truer to its original vision, so it's a purer implementation, I would say.

ZAM: So it's like the writing process; if you write a book over five years, it can drift around as you chase different narrative threads, but if you write a book over the course of a year, you stay focused on the path you choose, and you end up with a cleaner story. Is this approach of more focused development going to be the path you plan to take with development in the future?

Mark: I'm not saying that we'll be doing a Dragon Age a year (chuckles), but I don't think we'll go away for five years again.

#40 Posted by ryanwho (12082 posts) -

Its funny hearing from the workers and comparing that to what the foreman is saying.

#41 Posted by phantomzxro (1583 posts) -
@ProfessorEss said:
"   @Metal_Mills said:

...Fallout 3 (3.5 million), Oblivion (3.5 mil), Fable 2 (4 mil), Red Dead Redemption (4.2 mil), Assassin's Creed (5 mil), forget BLOPS (12 mil). Dragon Age sold roughly the same as Mass 2, and both games cost and took about the same amount of time to produce as anything else on this list. So you have to wonder, why are BioWare game selling so much less with such higher quality?

"Such higher quality"? I enjoy Bioware's games but I don't find them to be on a quality level above the games mentioned here.  Quite frankly, between things like texture pop, poor animation, load times and overall scope I think one could argue that Bioware's titles (tho great) are of lower overall quality than any of the games listed here. I'm sure it'll turn out to be fake but if it wasn't, that's a pretty arrogant thing to say and pretty presumptuous to assume people agree. "

I would disagree with you on that all the thing you stated are in every game listed above. Maybe it is a bit presumptuous for him to say that but one thing is for sure that they are putting in a lot of work on the Mass effect and dragon age games. Granted i think on a technical level look wise it on par with all the games listed (maybe red dead may have the edge) but under the hood ME and DA are doing a lot more then what other games are doing.
#42 Posted by EvilTwin (3324 posts) -

I'll take KotOR II over Dragon Age II any day.

#43 Posted by UltorOscariot (212 posts) -

Yeah, it's pretty hard not to leap to the conclusion that EA forced this, assuming this forum post is the genuine article.   
 
Bioware has made these games for a long time now.  It's not in their history to release a game that even Bioware fans, myself included to a large extent, see as forced out early, half baked and incomplete.  If this is true, it's impressive what they were able to accomplish given the time frame.  But that doesn't excuse it when it's clear as day that corners were repeatedly cut.  I'm going to approach my next Bioware purchasing decision with much more skepticism, when it used to be a day 1 buy/pre-order the collector's edition because it was always a sure thing. 
 
Is he implying that EA didn't make money on Mass Effect 2, or is this some arms race BS where they made money on it, but not as much as Activision does on whatever shooter they peddle that year?  Even thats not an excuse though.  Don't Call of Duty games from Treyarch and the remnants of IW occur on alternating years, meaning its probably likely they get somewhere near 18 months of dev time?  Regardless, I do not want this to become a trend where EA ends up killing the Bioware goose to get the golden egg quicker and cheaper.  

#44 Posted by phantomzxro (1583 posts) -
@Hailinel said:
" @Dany said:
" I still find it shocking that these Bioware games do not sell. Hopefully all of hte good will from ME2 will lead to good sales for ME3.  Considering that the production was only a year is crazy and it was able to fit in so much stuff is absurd. "
How can two million in sales be considered not selling well? "

Yeah i don't think it is bad at all, anything that sells a million is a hit. The problem is after that they expect to sell more then more and it goes on like that. Also it is something i'm sure they look like when they see every other major game AAA game selling more.
#45 Posted by Metal_Mills (3036 posts) -
@weeman105 said:
"
 I can only imagine what it would have been like with a proper development cycle. Stop sticking your dick in my apple pie EA!
"
This probably.
 


#46 Posted by ryanwho (12082 posts) -

Movie production companies make room for every kind of profit margin, because they understand certain talent can only make certain kinds of movies. Game publishing isn't like that but it should be. No movie production in its right mind would try to make blockbuster summer flicks exclusively.

#47 Edited by mosdl (3243 posts) -

If this is true, its confusing why they Mass Effected the DA2.  If ME2 and DA:O sold the same, why make all these ME2-like changes to DA2?  Why not simply take the Origins engine and build a brand new game on top of it, Awakening was a lot of fun.  Make it look a bit better and write a good story/characters.  Making it ME2-like wouldn't make it sell better

#48 Posted by ricetopher (1046 posts) -

People coming in here blaming only EA are being silly. Its obvious theres some personnel changes and disagreement within Bioware, and this is going to result in design changes. The moral of all of this (for me), is to not expect another game like Origins. 

My greater fear is if this is a Bioware-wide thing or only within the Dragon Age team.

#49 Posted by ProfessorEss (7472 posts) -
@phantomzxro said:
Granted i think on a technical level look wise it on par with all the games listed (maybe red dead may have the edge) but under the hood ME and DA are doing a lot more then what other games are doing. "
Really? I don't see it.
To be honest, I can't even really figure out what you think is going on "under the hood" in ME/DA that's all that complex.
#50 Posted by Brendan (8027 posts) -

I'm glad I'm not the first person to say that I'm skeptical of the legitimacy of the post, but I am a little sad it took until the second page to find someone who finally said it.  Does anyone really think a developer with a shred of respect is really just gonna lay it all down on the internet and potentially throw their team under the bus?  

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