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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

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BioWare's Greg Zeschuk Discusses RPGs
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

A.V. Club has posted a new interview with BioWare cofounder Greg Zeschuk. The developer discussed the company's popular role playing game franchises including Baldur's Gate and Dragon Age, covering topics like cinematics, romance, dialog trees, and how the genre is evolving.

AVC: Starting with Baldur’s Gate II, your games have also become well-known for the romances that the player forms with other characters in the game. With Dragon Age, the gay sex scene made the news. People are scared that their kids will just all of a sudden end up in this situation in a tent with the bisexual elf, and that’s not really at all how it works.
GZ: No, not even remotely. [Laughs.]

AVC: Do you think there’s a better way to communicate that there’s a whole context and a lengthy relationship leading up to these scenes? Or do you think these controversies just flare up and move on?
GZ: On one hand, at a very high level, demographics are going to help us on this, because sooner or later, people who have actually played games are going to be in most of the decision-making positions in the Western world. So 20 years from now, it’s all fine and it’s all going to blow over, because everybody kind of gets it.

And secondarily, I think there’s always an agenda with these things, and so it just comes down to debunking it. It’s part of making the games that we make. We feel really strongly that we want those options available. We want people to feel that there’s something for everyone, there’s someone for everyone, there’s relationships there. It reflects the real world in our minds. So you know… On a personal level, I don’t get frustrated with it anymore. It’s part of the price of doing business, in a sense.

AVC: We’ve seen experiments in natural language processing and other ways to conduct a conversation in a game. BioWare’s titles continue to use dialogue trees, where players choose from a handful of options. Are you looking for ways to move past that? Or do you like them, because they’re a good way to encapsulate the most meaningful options?
GZ: The problem with natural language processing and the thing that really holds the technology back, is that when it crashes and burns, it’s horrific. I think we would be in a position to really take a serious look at it, once two things happen. Number one, it becomes much more flawless, like in terms of how well it works, how reliably it can respond, it doesn’t have any horrible failure cases. And secondarily, to get there, you need a reasonable level of processing power. The interesting thing about a dialogue-choice system is that we’ve devoted so much into all kinds of other systems for processing, and dialogue choices use zero processing. So suddenly, if you want to have a great natural language processor, you need to dial down your graphics to make it work. Once you have a demonstrated system that works really awesome and doesn’t cost a lot from a performance perspective, then I think we’ll be all over it.

But you know, the user experience is maybe a third thing to think about. How do you actually interface with that? Do you have your microphone, and you have to have voice recognition plus natural language processing working together flawlessly to actually get the key you need to open the door? And if it doesn’t work that well, then it’s not going to be fun to play.
Read the full Q&A at the page below.

AVClub: Greg Zeschuk Interview
Dragon Age: Origins

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