29 de Enero de 2022
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Interviewing Rob Bartel, Principal Designer of BioWare, by Palafoxx and Immortality.

BioWare | En Español | Comment the interview


Palafoxx e Immortality - First off, we'd like to start the interview with a bit of history. BioWare and yourself have developed a quantity of games. What can you tell us about your job? How many people work with you at BioWare?
Rob - BioWare's Edmonton studio now has well over 250 employees and we are continually hiring. Of these, close to 50 work in various capacities within the Design Department, where I'm considered a Principal Designer. My role within the department is somewhat unique in that I have my fingers in a lot of different pies, ranging from writing actual game content to behavioral scripting to community management to marketing to personnel management to business development. I'm currently spending the bulk of my time on an upcoming unannounced project.

P and I - How many games have you worked on?
R - I've played a significant role in five full games, three expansions, and all of the premium modules, as well as a lesser role in various other projects. I joined BioWare in May of 1998 and have been involved in all of their titles except Shattered Steel and the Gastroenterology Patient Simulator.

P and I - Which games were the best in your view to create and which were the most fulfilling?
R - I think one's first game is always the most magical and for me, that was Baldur's Gate. We were a completely unknown company at that point but we knew we were onto something. There's always something invigorating about being the underdog and really re-inventing the industry.

P and I - So you've been around for a while, when BioWare was BioWare. Now BioWare is BioWare|Pandemic, and Neverwinter Nights 2 is being produced by Obsidian... Can you explain a bit to us why all this company changes occurred and how did it affect you?
R - As with Knights of the Old Republic, we had the option to create the sequel but chose not to. Licensed properties such as D&D and Star Wars are wonderful and they played a fundamental role in shaping BioWare into the company we are today but, once you pass a certain threshold, they begin to offer diminishing returns. For both licenses, I've been grateful that our talented friends at Obsidian have been able to pick up the torch and really run with it. Hopefully there's another up-and-comer ready to accept that torch once they're also ready to move on.

As for our merger with Pandemic and financial backing from Elevation Partners, it's been a very positive experience thus far. All three groups have some extremely smart and talented people at the helm and it's really been about finding ways to help each of us do what we do even better. In some cases that involves providing strategic funding. In others, it's been about sharing new technologies and processes. In still others, it's simply been about sitting down and talking honestly, sharing our advice and experience on different issues.

P and I - You were there when the Infinity Engine was created, then Aurora Engine, then Odyssey. Which of these engines were nicer to work with and got you the best results?
R - Each engine has come with its different strengths, weaknesses, and compromises but I think Aurora was our biggest leap forward. The engine itself had to accommodate such a broad range of inputs, permutations, and complexities. On the toolset, it was also the first time that we had ever had a dedicated team of programmers focused entirely on development tools. BioWare's Tools Department, now 25 programmers strong, has played a vital role in every subsequent game and continues to grow and evolve with every day.

P and I - Your last games, KotOR, Jade Empire and your next release, Mass Effect have been created for Xbox first. Should we assume BioWare is leaving PC as its secondary platform and favoring the consoles from now on?
R - Assume nothing. =o) As a company, we made some important tactical and strategic decisions to gain development experience on the Xbox and Xbox 360 and we look forward to continuing growing our presence there. All else being equal, however, the ideal world is one in which we can release our products simultaneously across all available platforms. In such a hit-driven industry, that's really the Holy Grail for a developer. I think you'll continue to see us taking steps in that direction and our merger with Pandemic is an important part of that.

P and I - Will this also occur in next releases?
R - On a strategic level, I think we've achieved the bulk of what we needed to with our Xbox-focused releases. I don't foresee us ever reverting to a situation where we're developing *solely* for the PC but I think you'll see us spreading the joy around a little bit more after Mass Effect. That said, of course, strategies can definitely evolve and change - the industry is definitely in flux right now so it can be hard to predict exactly where our upcoming projects will end up.

P and I - Jade Empire took a chance on action roleplaying. This is of course tied to the kind of platform it's being developed for. Do you think that if Jade Empire was designed primarily for PC this fact would be different?
R - Jade's original console focus definitely helped shape its design but the truth of the matter is that, throughout its history, BioWare has always placed an emphasis on exploring and expanding what it means to play an RPG. With Baldur's Gate, for instance, we injected some RTS elements and gorgeous art into the traditional RPG genre which was largely on life support at the time. With Neverwinter, we explored some of the pen-and-paper concepts of sharing your own stories, leveraging a live DM, and adventuring alongside your friends. KotOR was our first RPG experiment outside the realm of D&D as well as our first console RPG. Jade experimented with our own IP and some more action-based combat. It's all part of a longstanding tradition of experimentation and innovation here at BioWare and that tradition is still very much alive.


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