First off, a huge thanks to Bioware and EA for treating us to a spectacular event. Being the weekly guy, I don’t go to too many events but let me tell you, it was incredible. Bioware and EA gave us a great show and we got an interview with the founders of Bioware itself, Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk. Thanks everyone!
So as we and many other websites reported, Bioware have launched Bioware Ireland, a call centre in Galway, Ireland. First off, it’s great for our economy which has been suffering as of late but it’s also great as it’s helping the games industry expand in Ireland. I studied Games Design in college and once I had finished I came to the realisation that to get a job within the games industry I’d have to leave Ireland. It’s never a nice position to be in, having to leave your family and your country behind. Now, granted Bioware Ireland doesn’t do “games design” it’s still in the games industry, part of the global machine that will ensure The Old Republic makes it to the shelves and in tip top shape. So, both as a gamer and as an Irishman I was thrilled to hear that Bioware were coming to Ireland. It truly is brilliant news and news I hopes entices more companies to set up shop here.
So after getting off the coach from Dublin to Galway- by the way the coach was lovely. Hell, I could have lived out the rest of my days on those seats!- we entered the front doors of Bioware Ireland. I knew it was going to be good when I was greeted by a massive poster of Commander Shepard from Mass Effect 3. After gawking at that for what must have been 10 minutes, I looked over by the stairs which led to the second floor. Along the wall next to the stairs were framed covers of magazines which featured Bioware games- Joystick, PC Gamer, PC Gaming and Player just to name a few. Then up along the second floor there were these beautiful glass logos of every Bioware game from MDK2 and Shattered Steel to Dragon Age and Mass Effect. This place wasn’t just a random building that happened to house Bioware employees, no, this was the house that Bioware built. We were then ushered into the main hall where the stage was set for Ray and Greg.
Ray and Greg made their way to the stage with a flurry of applause. These were the guys. Without them Bioware wouldn’t even exist, MDK wouldn’t have gotten a sequel, the Archdemon wouldn’t have been defeated, we wouldn’t have found high adventure on the Sword Coast, the Reapers would have taken the galaxy and the Old Republic era wouldn’t have been explored beyond book form. Needless to say expectations were high. Their first presentation- a small one before the bigger one- basically just introduced them and what they are attempting to do with The Old Republic. It was a little taste but they seemed to be impressed by what Ireland could offer them both in terms of work force and tax incentives. For now though they took a break as we all waited while Enda Kenny was en route to Bioware Ireland.
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At this point I took a little time out to survey the area and take a few pictures while the likes of RTE were setting up their jumbo cameras and the general feel of the place became busy. One thing I noticed was that some doors were labelled as locations from Bioware games. For instance, instead of, say, “conference room” it was The Sword Coast (from Baldurs Gate) and even Kirkwall (from Dragons Age). I looked up and could see a good few more of these rooms on the second floor but didn’t feel like I had the authority to go up myself. Needless to say this motif appeared to go throughout the building. These doors, much like the glass game logos, are a lovely little addition to the building and convey a great sense of respect and humour Bioware have for their work. I loved it. From there I took a walk around taking pictures of random artwork on the walls- concept art, a large logo of Star Wars and a massive canvas poster of The Old Republic. It was all a pretty incredible experience and, for a gamer such as myself, it was like Disneyland. That said, it did still seem like a work place and a place that once all the employees manned their stations would be quite efficient but didn’t feel like it stifled creativity or expression. It was wonderful.
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But the time finally came for the real presentation to begin. Click below to watch the full thing that I recorded. Apologies if the video is slightly shaky at times.
After the presentation Greg and Ray sat down with the taoiseach and talked him through a slideshow of Mass Effect 3 images.
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Then began the nervous wait before we had a chance to interview Ray and Greg themselves. I had nerves but good nerves. I mean, these were the guys who founded Bioware. Bioware games that I played and meant a lot to me flashed by in my head as the realisation kicked in- I would be sitting across from them in due course. While I waited I tried out Star Wars: The Old Republic for myself. As someone who doesn’t like MMO’s in the slightest I sat down at the PC to see what it was like.
Why don’t I like MMO’s? I find them slow, unresponsive and for games that have worlds populated by real people… a little lifeless. But how did I fare with TOR? Pleasantly surprised actually. Once I got to grips with the controls- thanks to the helpful Bioware employees- I found myself enjoying it immensely. First off, the visuals are extremely slick. The look of the game reminded me of the Star Wars films concept art by Ryan Church- lavish colours and beautiful backdrops. I chose the Bounty Hunter class and started a mission on Ord Mantell where I had to destroy a number of generators or communications towers of some kind. The combat is quite different depending on what class you choose so while I was using a Blaster and taking pot shots at renegade droids I looked to my left and saw another journalist playing as a Sith, wielding quite an effective Lightsaber as he sliced his way through enemies. But every class has their pluses and minuses. As a Bounty Hunter I couldn’t get close too my foes but the Sith who sat next to me was unable to attack them from a distance. It’s a nice trade-off that no doubt helps keep each class vastly different from one another. So when you play the game choose wisely, dear readers, you can’t go back.
As someone who doesn’t like MMO’s I must say TOR took me off guard. I only got a small taste of what is to come but I was quite impressed. It’s the first MMO that captured my attention and didn’t seem like the missions were an afterthought. Put it this way- if you’re a fan of MMO’s you’ll love TOR. If you’re a fan of Star Wars you’ll love TOR. If you’re a fan of both? Be prepared to immerse yourself in the Star Wars universe like never before, my friend. If this game appeals to you it may just envelop a large part of your life and what’s reassuring is that Bioware seem to be ready to support and produce content for TOR for years to come. Breaking into the MMO market is tough but Bioware are sure taking a good stab at it. Will it de-throne World of Warcraft? Does it even need to? Time will tell, dear readers, time will tell. But for now I’ll leave a full hands-on article to another TGL member who will no doubt post it soon enough but I was impressed and that’s coming from a self proclaimed MMO-phobe.
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At that point we were ushered outside the conference room which, once I gawked inside, had Greg and Ray being interviewed by another journalist. Again, the outside of this room had Bioware logos on the glass- the Paragon and Renegade icons from Mass Effect, in fact. We entered the room to a friendly handshake by both Greg and Ray and with a large poster of Commander Shepard at my back we dug into the questions. Again, I must skip by this part as TGL will post the full interview soon enough. Needless to say they were friendly, a joy to chat with and clearly in love with the Star Wars universe. I left the room with a real impression that The Old Republic would pay off, that with these guys behind it Mass Effect 3 will live up to what came before it and that Bioware will continue produce quality content. After we left that room I took another go of TOR and generally just revelled in the fact that I both met and interviewed the founders of Bioware. It was a true pleasure as both a journalist and as a gamer. Brilliant.
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Leaving Bioware Ireland we spotted both Greg and Ray relaxing after what was without a doubt a long days work. They gave us all a wave and a thank you and that was it. Then it was back to Dublin as everything winded down. I got on the coach with an incredibly memorable experience behind me and a keen interest of how TOR will do once it’s out and how gamers will react to it. I may not be the most MMO avvy person out there but I think it’ll do well, very well indeed. This is the MMO you’re looking for.