The BioWare voice actor panel was really interesting at Dragon Con 2015. I don’t really have any cool information to share from the event, it was mostly a chance for fans to get close to some of the big time voice actors for Mass Effect, but it did reveal something interesting about development at BioWare. One of the critical things I brought back from not only the panel, but also from an interview with one of the previous BioWare developers, Mark Wilson, is that BioWare works as a team – a large team.
It’s not a small team of a few people, but instead a large team all working for the same goal. This is impressive and relevant because we often think of a video game as being a few people and sometimes this is true. Smaller studios, like the ones working on Shroud of the Avatar or studios in their infancy. From the panel, we all learned that BioWare literally has a host of systems and software in place for various components to not only work together, but even to do so from across the globe, maximizing the talent they can pull in.
This is important for a few reasons and really notable, but you’ll need to give me some time to explain it all. First, they literally can pull in talent from anywhere, especially with voice acting, and not worry about immigration or moving someone to their studios or flying them in and hoping to goodness they can get all of the voice work done during a limited time visa WHILE paying for the hotel.
No, they can just pull in anyone from anywhere to do voice acting for them, maximizing their reach for talent. They can also weave together large groups of developers, voice actors, programmers, level designers, artists, 3d modellers, riggers, etc. and build a massive game, all with talent from everywhere. This is impressive and shows the power that the bigger studios have, but also, it brings us to another point.
Game studios are more than just one person. Even smaller studios like Richard Garriot’s Portalarium or Mark Jacob’s City State Entertainment are more than just the leaders, it’s a team. Bigger studios have bigger teams and more cogs in the system, but there is always more than one person’s ideas going into the game making process.
The interesting result though is that most players never think of this. They never, ever, think hey maybe there is more than one person calling the shots. Maybe there is teams of people, meetings which involve several key players, and a lot of feedback moving around inside of a studio. It’s not just a single person who makes a change to the game, but lots of different people who come to the conclusion on what’s the best direction for the game to take.
This also includes forces beyond those who directly influence or work on the game. For instance, there is multiple layers, from programmers, to developers, all the way to investors and publishers, all of which work in groups to determine what is best for them. If developers are given mandates from a publisher, then their hands are tied, but they have to collectively work on ideas to implement.
Likewise, with large teams, it requires a lot of time to move things through the process. For instance, if you’re wanting to add a small map to the game, you have to first draw up the master design document, then pass it out to various teams, who all have to coordinate. As the map is being fleshed out, they have to ping each other with their progress and adjust based on the direction the different teams are taking.
The map has to be made. Then it needs textures, which an artist will have to do, for the ground. Buildings will need to be modeled and put into the game, then artists will have to texture the buildings once they have the specifications for the building (assuming they don’t use prefabs or a master set of textures). Then, NPCs will need to be added. Anything unique requires another group to design the character and if it needs animations, that’s going to require someone to rig the model AND animate it as well.
If there is dialog, then the story writers have to come in and write the dialog. It needs to go through editing cycles. At this point, even the smallest change is going to require the teams to work together to bring everything together.
So what might seem like a “little bit of content” is actually a lot of work from a lot of people, who all have to come together to design, program, and implement it. Smaller teams can probably produce the changes faster, in the sense there is less people involved, but because there is less people involved the longer it takes each of the steps, which is a bit of give and play on the idea.
Ultimately, what I’m trying to say here is that a studio is more than one person, and as such we all have to be mindful of not only the people who are prolific (community managers, lead developers, etc.) but all of the people working behind the scenes and other factors. Providing feedback, especially feedback that would lead to the game being a positive experience (even if it’s already a great game, anything that makes it greater for instance), is the best we can do, instead of just focusing on a few people within a company.
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Star Wars: The Old Republic Game Page.