In the latest in a series of interviews with notable speakers from this October's GDC Online, BioWare Austin's Georg Zoeller speaks out on the processes and tools his team uses to generate and tune MMO content in Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Originally hailing from Germany, Zoeller moved to Edmonton to join BioWare in 2003, and has since held a number of positions at the company, working on titles such as Neverwinter Nights, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age: Origins. In 2009, Zoeller moved to BioWare Austin to serve as principal designer on The Old Republic.
Here, Zoeller provides an in-depth look at the BioWare's production processes in anticipation of his talk, "Rapid MMO Content Iteration and Validation with Spatial Analysis in Star Wars: The Old Republic," which will outline the various techniques the studio uses to test and validate the game's content.
What would you say are the biggest challenges facing MMO content generation?
Achieving the required -- and expected -- volume of content without compromising quality. MMO players are pretty unforgiving when it comes to quality - you usually get one shot to get it right. Your launch sets the trajectory of where your game is headed and quality of content, even more than quantity is a major contributing factor to success of failure.
Content wise, these games are insanely large undertakings. For example, in Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Planet Alderaan, which is one of 17 planets in the game, holds more creatures than the entirety of Dragon Age: Origins, a game offering 60-80 hours in a single playthrough that took us almost than 5 years to create.
We have thousands of differently voiced characters in the game, all with dialogs and quests that not only need to be written, recorded, staged, scripted and animated, but also tested and validated -- the most engaging quest isn't going to keep a player around if it fails to work.
In order to make the creation and validation of that much content manageable, you not only need more people, you also need to be a lot smarter in your workflows and tools.