How much time do Bioware think we have…?

I’m a big fan of Bioware games; from Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights through to the Mass Effect Trilogy, and The Dragon Age’s; I’ve even got their new MMO ‘Star Wars: The Old Republic’ on pre-order. So this isn’t really a criticism in the general sense, but with the number and complexity of the games they’re throwing at us, it’s damn near impossible for the average person to devote anywhere near enough time to play them all to the level they deserve.

The popular methodology for the latest Bioware games, such as the Mass Effects and Dragon Age’s, is extending the story and building on previous storylines and relationships, in the same way a film does. You can watch only ‘The Empire Strikes back’ but if you don’t watch ‘A New Hope’ or ‘Return of the Jedi’ (even excluding the ewok bits) you’re not getting the full experience and you miss a lot of the purpose of the film.

The fundamental difference between games and films is that films only last 90-120 mins each generally. While games can be so expansive these days that they could have an estimated gaming experience of 70 hours or even more… trying to watch even one film that lasted 70 hours without the use of some kind of paralysing agent would be nigh on impossible.

Don’t get me wrong the complexity and involvement of the storylines is a fantastic step in the gaming experience. 5-10 years ago, the best you got in a sequel was a different number at the end of the title, some improved graphics and a few different gameplay options which at best were only 50% accepted by the sequels players anyway.

Although the trouble with all this dynamic and integrated storyline is that you need to spend a lot more time on these titles than you would do normally. For instance, if in the future you owned all 3 of the Mass Effects and you wanted to play the final chapter with a new character you would have two options.

  1. Play with a pre-created character. Pro – Its already there and you don’t need to spend any additional time playing previous titles. Con – You have no attachment to this character. You haven’t struggled and connected with this character. In effect I think the gamers who love storylines would find this a much more hollow roleplaying experience.
  2. Go all the way back to Mass Effect 1 and play through the first two games as you would normally, doing all the side missions to fully flesh out your character so that when you go to Mass Effect 3 you have your battle-worn character all ready to go. Of course, doing this is like spending 6 days making your lunch; I’m sure it will be perfect and a wonderful experience, but is it worth going through all that waiting when there’s a Pot Noodle in the cupboard you can eat in minutes.

…and this is just one game. At the moment, I’m trying to juggle a new playthrough of Dragon Age: Origins as well as finishing my Mass Effect (Mr Nasty playthrough). Not to mention the other games, I enjoy playing from time to time. Oh yeah, and working, sleeping, spending time with my girlfriend and generally just staying alive takes up a large portion of my life too.

It’s worth stating that many of you probably have no problem with just using the standard pre-built characters, probably because you enjoy the more action side of the game, the storyline is an added bonus but not the be-all-and-end-all. In which case, I envy you… you must have so much more free time.

It does all make perfect sense from a business perspective. If you bought the second in a series of games and the stories are intrinsically linked; chances are, most people are going to go and spend more money on the previous titles and be curious enough to buy any follow-up chapters plus any Downloadable Content.

Bioware, you’ve moved both ‘Mass Effect 3’ and ‘Star Wars:OldRepublic’ back until the first quarter of 2011 which has helped me a lot, “Thank you”. It gives me a breather but I still have a lot of work to do, and I hate using the word ‘work’ in connection with gaming…

So what do you think?

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