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BioWare founders to receive lifetime achievement awards

Founders behind the Mass Effect studio to be honoured at GDCAs

by Aaron Lee @develop-online

BioWare co-founders Dr Ray Muzyka and Dr Greg Zeschuk are to receive Lifetime Achievement Awards for their contributions to games at the 13th Game Developers Choice Awards next month.

Muzyka and Zeschuk, known throughout the game development community as the ‘BioWare Doctors’, met while in medical school at the University of Alberta where they learned they shared a passion for video game development.

They founded BioWare in 1995. The studio has created some of the industry’s most influential and revered role-playing games, such as Baldur’s Gate (coming to Linux), Star Wars: Knights of the Old RepublicJade EmpireDragon Age andMass Effect.

The Doctors left the studio late last year to focus on new ventures.

“The BioWare Doctors are truly a unique breed. Not only have they created some of the most emotionally-engaging and beloved games ever made, they are two of the most passionate, engaging, just all-around nice guys anyone could be fortunate enough to meet. Anyone, be they a long-time colleague or a fan who’s met them only once at an event like GDC, can tell you they treat everyone like a friend, and I am so pleased we can show them our deep appreciation this year with this award,” said Meggan Scavio, general manager of all GDC events.

“There’s no denying the deep footprint Ray and Greg have made, and how much their dedication and leadership will be missed in our industry. We’re proud to honour them with the Lifetime Achievement Award as they parlay into their next careers.”

The GDCAs, are held yearly at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Lifetime Achievement recipients are chosen by the awards’ advisory committee, which includes luminaries such as Doug Lombardi (Valve), Mark Cerny (Cerny Games), Harvey Smith (Arkane), Raph Koster (Playdom), Chris Charla (Microsoft) and John Vechey (PopCap).

Muzyka and Zeschuk will be honoured at the Game Developers Choice Awards ceremony, on March 27th, at 6:30 pm at the Moscone Convention Center, during GDC 2013 in San Francisco. The ceremony is open to all GDC 2013 attendees.

For more information about the 13th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards, visit the official website.

Reblogged from: develop-online.net

”linux-game-gaming-gamer-news” title="Linux Game Gaming News

Bioware’s Infinity Engine Now Open-Source, With Cross-Platform Support

BioWare first made their mark with the release of Baldur’s Gate over a decade ago. The game, powered by the Infinity Engine which they developed in-house, heralded the rebirth of the RPG genre, which had been on the wane in the mid to late 1990s.

The Infinity Engine went on to serve as the backbone for Black Isle Studios’ Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment, and also Baldur’s Gate II.

The engine itself was remarkable for its ability to use painted backdrops as an environment in which characters—viewed from a ‘god’s eye view’ perspective—walked through.

While the engine was officially put to rest by its developers, modders from GemRB have been hard at work in creating an open source version of the Infinity Engine, which they’ve currently succeeded in using to run BioWare’s and Black Isle Studios’ titles on platforms from the Linux to the iPad and the Android.

The GemRB developers say that the engine can even be used to build a new Infinity Engine game entirely from scratch, opening development possibilities for interested RPG makers.

While it would be great to focus development on one game at a time, ideas often occur for other games that are just too good to let go. This section is for those ideas, so that they can be recorded and not lost. If you’re submitting a completely new idea, it might be good to see if your idea can eventually be incorporated with an existing project in some way, in effect bringing to bear the best traits of both. If you’re going to hassle about licensing issues, please license your content under the GPL 2 to allow the greatest utility to the GemRB project… If indeed, you want GemRB to use it.

New game development should be modeled off the game template, this gives you an outline and a couple questions directing you where to start creating an entire world, it’s inhabitants, and major events. Other, more realistically ambitious templates include: Plots, Characters, Locations, Items, and Capabilities.

If you’re filling out a template, you should fill out the sections relating to the idea you’re adding and then provide appropriate links to the ideas in the other sections (if you’re making a character, fill out the character information, but just provide a link and short description to the town the character lives in – fill out the town’s information on the town’s own page).

The 25 Most Memorable Quotes From GDC Online 2011

Last week’s record-breaking GDC Online conference in Austin, Texas saw so much insight, knowledge, advice, and discussion that even the most ardent attendee missed a wealth of valuable information.

While we couldn’t have possibly given proper attention to all 145 lectures, Gamasutra’s extensive coverage is a valuable resource for those who couldn’t make it out to the show last week.

We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite quotes from the show — part of the UBM TechWeb Game Network, as is this website. Our 25 favorites are presented below, in no particular order.

“A few Kotaku articles and IGN front pages do not make a hit game.”

-BioWare San Francisco’s Ethan Levy, from an insightful and open talk about how the studio’s social game Dragon Age Legends attracted a lot of temporary Facebook likes, yet wasn’t a big hit.

“That’s bullshit. Are we going to start hiring 10 year old kids to make games for 10 year old kids?”

-Veteran MMO developer and former Free Realms creative lead Laralyn McWilliams (who recently joined iWin) discusses the flaw in thinking the only path to attracting more female gamers is to hire more female developers. Instead, she says, stop making games for yourself and learn to give your audience what it needs.

“What they’re doing looks a lot more like e-commerce than game design.”

-EA Playfish’s Tom Mapham on how analysts and product managers are running usability tests and market research on over a terabyte of daily data generated by players of The Sims Social.

“We like living here because we’re wizards!”

-Veteran MMO developer and current Playdom VP of creative design Raph Koster describing game development is like a fairytale. His Thursday talk encouraged the game dev wizards in attendance to embrace their powers and take back control instead of constantly trying to keep up with the real world.

“A community is not a customer.”

Club Penguin executive producer Nicole Thompson explains the finer points of fostering a community at GDC Online’s first ever Community Management track. If your community doesn’t feel involved, it’s not really a community at all, she stressed.

“We also ignored MySpace.”

-PopCap co-founder John Vechey lists off several of the reasons PopCap has remained a success, and how he sees the company going for at least another 30 years.

“I’m inherently super-duper lazy, so if I think of something, it’s going in.”

Valve writer Eric Wolpaw responds when asked if he has a larger vision of his games’ worlds than what players experience on screen. Teammate Marc Laidlaw agreed, saying that creating things that don’t make it into the game is “kind of counterproductive.”

“Rarely waste an opportunity to fire a brilliant jackass.”

-Jeremy Gaffner, executive producer at Wildstar MMO developer Carbine Studios, on how an “irreplaceable” employee who does solid work but is abrasive to everyone in the studio might not be so irreplaceable after all.

“Designers are really worried that their great idea is going to be misunderstood or unfairly judged if it’s seen too early.”

League of Legends design director Tom Cadwell, stressing that providing feedback early and often, even if something isn’t “ready,” is a great way to avoid design pitfalls.

“My job is to get everyone on the internet to want to have a beer with me.”

-Sega community manager Kellie Parker who, along with Microsoft’s Kathleen Sanders, provided an insightful overview on the role of community manager, the differentiation between community and PR, and how to best deliver bad news.

“They would be insane not to.”

-Gaikai’s David Perry responds when asked if the next generation of consoles would implement cloud gaming capabilities.

“We really wanted to solve the Candy Land problem.”

-Amazing Society VP and founder Jason Robar on how Marvel Super Hero Squad Online was designed so that if your child asks you to play with them, you might actually enjoy it instead of wincing in pain.

“If you’re engrossed in the minutia of running your team, who’s actually saying, ‘Well what are we going to do next? What are the threats, and how are we going to mitigate them?’”

League of Legends lead producer Travis S. George warns that one of the worst things a game producer can do when a game is in trouble is to dive in and take control instead of delegating.

“I basically play Halo 3 in solo non-network mode for 45 minute stretches, a few times a week.”

-Author Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash, REAMDE) explains his gaming habits: playing Bungie’s first-person shooter while on an elliptical machine.

“If you don’t make it fun in the first three minutes, you’ve failed.”

-Blizzard SVP of creative development Chris Metzen on engaging your players through proper storytelling.

“I tell you, it’s not easy.”

-Eidos Montreal’s Mary DeMarle discusses the incredible Excel spreadsheet that contained the entirety of the studio’s multi-faceted Deus Ex: Human Revolution in one document.

“Players are genius at missing stuff.”

-BioWare’s Gordon Walton discussing with community experts how there’s “always an opportunity to help” new players.

“Theme is the oxygen of narrative. You don’t need to see it to notice when it’s missing.”

-BioWare Austin writer Hall Hood (Star Wars: The Old Republic) on how a story’s theme can be even more important than characters, plot and dialog.

“Last year, we came here and told you that everything had to be a farm.”

-Playdom’s Dave Rohrl who, along with co-worker Steve Meretzky, provided their annual humorous talk on social gaming trends. Unfortunately, it seems like too many people listened to them, as they said that the mechanic has been overdone now.

“You click through everything until it explodes with blood and treasure.”

-Blizzard’s Kevin Martens’ mantra for the upcoming Diablo III. He, along with several other writers and designers, provided a fast and off-the-cuff talk about their inspirations and what makes a great gaming moment.

“If you dock a ship and you’re wearing a monocle, people come and fight you.”

-CCP Games’ Ben Cockerill outlines the strong pushback from EVE Online players after the company introduced controversial in-game items.

“On iOS you have 10 phones you have to care about, on Android it’s over 100.”

-PopCap’s Giordano Bruno Contestabile on mobile development essentials. One hundred may sound like a big number to someone new to mobile development, but it’s nothing like the bad old J2ME days!

“Writers don’t often get to sit at the adults table.”

-Game writer and Extra Lives author Tom Bissell calls for writers to be ingrained deeper in the development process.

“It’s pretty easy for a sandbox to turn into a desert.”

-Telltale Games’ design director Dave Grossman finds the balance between giving a player total freedom and having their fates dictated to them.

“Everyone who’s had a shower has had a good idea.”

-Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell reinforces his belief that creativity is not about having great ideas, but owning them.

GDC Online: Online Games Should Incorporate The Community’s Stories

When it comes to online games and persistent worlds in particular, immersion is bigger than the game itself. Online communities sprawl outside the bounds of the product into community groups, Wikis, forums and all kinds of fan outlets. And it should — the more ways fans have to engage with a game, the more invested they become in its world.

BioWare’s Gordon Walton moderated a panel of community experts at GDC Online who talked about the importance of community and some of its future steps. “What we’re talking about is how do we get players to eat, breathe, think, live our properties even when they can’t be playing?” he posed.

Walton’s panelists were Curse marketing VP Donovan Duncan, BioWare’s Erik Olsen, producer of Star Wars: The Old Republic, Red 5 Studios founder and former World of Warcraft team lead Mark Kern joined him, along with Cody Bye of Zam, which rovides a network of wikis rich with information on many online games.

Curse is a 70-person company that acts as a community and content platform for about 30 games. “In terms of what’s really different, you don’t just throw up a website… and people are immersed and think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. There’s a lot of research that goes into it,” Duncan explained. “A big part of it is working with publishers and making sure there’s clear expectations and understanding early on.”

“At Zam, we’ve essentally created a Google for World of Warcraft… integrating that with the sort of old technology that we’re used to has kind of been our way of progressing things forward,” says Bye.

Bye says Blizzard loves the fact that not only is ZAM’s work useful to the community, but it saves the studio time they’d spend providing tech support to people who were simply stuck. “I think that the users also gain something on top of that, because they can see content that they’re planning to do or don’t have the time to do.”

“It’s not just about getting the information about the game out there so you can find it, but getting you the information that’s relevant to you,” suggests Olsen. “I think what we’re going to try and do, theoretically… is more of a predictive nature, where we look at what your character has done, that, ‘hey, this might be the next area for you to continue.’”

“We still have players who are essentially new, and they’re still looking for… helpful advice to them is, ‘where should I go next? Is there something else I missed that’s nearby?” Olsen elaborates.

“Players are genius at missing stuff,” agrees Walton. “There’s always an opportunity to help.”

How can the climate outside a game enhance the stories? “As game makers we provide the stage… but we don’t do enough to take those stories out of the community and highlight them and integrate them in the game,” opines Kern. He remembers an in-game event in a MUD called Gemstone he used to enjoy back in the day, and how he felt when a player “newspaper” highlighted his achievement in an in-game event.

“It was such a high as a player,” he says. He visualizes being able to go out into the community and find those personal stories and integrate them somehow so they can be a bigger part of the game world. “That’s where the cool stories come from,” adds Kern.

EVE Online’s community may be “different” than many expect, says Bye, but the developers at CCP have done in his view a strong job of recusing themselves from taking “god” roles and letting players create massive and tangible stories and events in the game.

Olsen recognizes that there’s equal appeal in feeling like a writer of a story versus feeling like a participant in a strongly-crafted narrative. Donovan asserts that even “small-group narratives” can be important; the actions of one’s guild in an MMO create meaningful storytelling for the players.

“There’s an opportunity for people to focus on even micro-narrative, which doesn’t necessarily require as much from the developer,” adds Donovan.

“There’s time to democratize stories in games,” agrees Kern.

Still, exploring this true player participation is still fledgling, Walton suggests. While community sites and extensions like those with which some of the panelists work, presenting guides, forums and tools, have flourished, developers are only beginning to explore new ways to explore this passionate player behavior.

Yet investment in cultivating deeper community resources, both in terms of times and finance, is key to the long term health of a game and a brand. Mobile platforms and social networks, which give people entirely new opportunities for avenues to connect when they’re not playing, will play a major role.

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