Ray Muzyka is general manager and CEO of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect studio BioWare. When he talks we listen.
Muzyka, who also serves as GM and vice president at EA, had plenty of interesting things to say about the state of the industry at large and the developer's upcoming plans when we caught up with him recently.
2008 was a good year for games. What were your highlights and what are you looking forward to this year?
Muzyka: There were almost too many good games to count last year. I played Fallout 3 recently and I enjoyed that a lot, it was a great game. And Warhammer had some interesting twists for the MMO space.
LittleBigPlanet on PS3 was very cool. There were a lot of great games on a range of systems really showing the artistry of games and showing a lot of things that had never been done before as well.
I'm really excited to be in the games industry right now, because if you look back at the last 30 years and see where people have come and then imagine where people are going in the next 30 years...
It's no longer a technology limitation but more a limitation on the artistry and the craftsmanship and [whether you] can create a world that feels real and elicits emotional engagement with the player and the audience.
2008 was a record year for game sales, but the industry faced lots of challenges and there was also a rash of studio closures...
Muzyka: The economy is definitely challenging right now. I think what happens when things get tough - and it's tough in a lot of industries right now - is that there's a flight to quality. So the developers who make great games and have good reputations and brands that mean something to fans and deliver the next game that's really good... will do even better in a time like this, because people are going to focus their dollars on those.
If things continue to be challenging, will publishers opt for safe bets rather than going out on a limb with new IPs?
Muzyka: I don't know. I can only speak for ourselves, and BioWare and EA are really focused on developing high quality new IPs, but you know, sequels can be good and can be really high quality.
I'm excited about developing sequels for games like Mass Effect or Dragon Age: Origins in the future.
Sequels empower creativity because you have the technology and the tools developed and the team knows what the world is and they know what it means to develop something else in that universe.
If they focus on quality they can really invest in that and try to make sure that the next iteration is really awesome. Sequels empower that because, despite a few constraints, they can enable creativity, so I think there's a place for both sequels and new IPs in a portfolio.
Thinking about game design trends last year, there was a notable increase in community features and we had some really great co-op gameplay...
Muzyka: Left 4 Dead
Exactly, and I was wondering what you think might be buzz trends this year, or what you'd like to see more of?
Muzyka: I'm excited by engaging our audience emotionally and we can do that in a range of ways. It can be single player and offline, or multiplayer and online.
You can have content creation tools by the fans - we're doing that in Dragon Age: Origins and we have a lot of post-release content planned as well. We're working on an MMO so we have the social space multiplayer interactivity with the open public.