Ray Muzyka interview by CVG (May 12, 2008)

From Sonic Retro

This is an interview conducted by CVG, with Ray Muzyka. The interview eventually goes over the subject of Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood.

The Interview

CVG: What was behind the decision to lead on the Xbox 360 with Mass Effect rather than releasing then two versions simultaneously?

Ray Muzyka: Well, it was nice to focus on one system, and obviously our publisher Microsoft had an impact in the decision as well. We were working with them, so we announced it and developed it as an Xbox 360 exclusive right from the start.

We've always had a goal of releasing multiple iterations on the 360 during its lifetime, so we're excited about that opportunity as well still. Late in the 360 development we made the decision to bring it to PC.

DLC: Any plans for more after Sky?

Ray Muzyka: Oh yeah, we have big plans for post-release content with the franchise for both Xbox 360 and PC. We haven't released any details on that yet but it's something we want to actively support.

CVG: So no hints on when the next lot will come?

Ray Muzyka: You know, it's all about the quality. We want to make sure it's a really great experience; and we also want to do different things, we like experimenting and trying different things for post-release content.

We did a lot of post-release content with Neverwinter Nights, we're planning to do more on Dragon Age in the future as well and Mass Effect and other products we have in development.

We just want to make sure we're satisfying what the fans want first, so often it's good to get their feedback and say, "What kinds of things would really be exciting to you?", and how can we put those in the game.

CVG: Sex scene controversy - how did that go down?

Ray Muzyka: It was an interesting experience. But at the end of the day, we're proud of the content in the game. It's all appropriate for the rating that's been assigned, the Mature rating, and it's got adult themes.

It's very tasteful, but it is an emotionally intense scene, and there's a number of similarly emotional scenes in the game, not just romances but across the board - different relationships between characters.

I see videogames as an art form, and they're an emergent art form. They're a commercial art form, but they're still art regardless. And the good thing I think is the fact that people are talking about that kind of scene; it had an impact on them.

It proves that videogames are an art form and proves that Mass Effect is an innovator in that. It's in some ways leading the way and willing to push the envelope a little bit and actually deliver stuff that's really compelling.

CVG: What are the chances of a PS3 version of Mass Effect?

Ray Muzyka: We're not commenting on any platform extensions... we're not really talking about future titles.

But, you know, Mass Effect is Xbox 360-exclusive, Microsoft is a great partner, we're bringing Mass Effect now to PC and we're going to make sure it's a great experience for our PC fans.

In the future on other products, we're a division of Electronic Arts now, and we're working on all the different platforms across the board, pretty much.

CVG: The PS3's gaining momentum this year, while speculation from some suggests Xbox 360 has reached its peak. How do you see the current console generation panning out?

Ray Muzyka: I think it's a really great time for the industry in terms of there's a lot of choices and there's a lot of great content. I always think first and foremost it's the content that drives the platform's success.

I think the Xbox 360's had an amazing run and there's still lots of great stuff on the horizon for it so I think it's going to continue to do well.

I think PC games have a lot of great content. There are MMOs, there's downloadable content, there's all different kinds of revenue models available on PC as well, and that's exciting.

Wii's obviously done well, amazing penetration, lots of people playing the system; and new types of games too, so they're bringing in new kinds of consumers too and I think it is great for the industry.

And I play my PS3 a lot and I'm looking forward to a lot of titles this year. If anything I think it's poised to have one of the best years ever.

And the fact that there are alternatives - and handheld games as well, DS, PSP and mobile games, you could go on and on. There are so many choices. I don't think that's a bad thing at all, I think it's good that consumers have a choice now that videogames are becoming one of the most prevalent forms of entertainment.

CVG: It's definitely not the underground scene for spotty geeks it once was...

Ray Muzyka: It's no longer like it was 30 years ago, videogames aren't like Pong - they're a much richer experience. Mass Effect is an example of that.

It's equally satisfying to play a game like Mass Effect than it is to see the best Hollywood blockbuster. That's an exciting thing.

Videogames have always been my hobby and I'm passionate about them and I think the fact that more and more people are playing them. The industry is just maturing and I think its best years are still ahead of it.

CVG: How do you think the new mainstream explosion, particularly on Wii, will evolve the industry?

Ray Muzyka: I think Wii has expanded the definition of gaming, and I think that's really good. Games continue to evolve over time, just as we're not making the same games now as we were 20 years ago, 15 years ago, 10 years ago. We're making new kinds of games now and that'll continue to change over time.

The Wii has actually broadened our definition - it's brought in new consumers, right? And you can't argue with the fact they're playing, they're actually using the Wii and the DS and other systems that are actually a little different from conventional types of gaming systems.

It doesn't mean conventional types of gaming systems are going away, they have millions and millions and millions of units out there. What we do is we really think about who our consumers are and try and make content that they're going to find really fun.

CVG: Sonic Chronicles on DS is certainly a step outside of the usual high-end Bioware production...

Ray Muzyka: It's still recognisable as a BioWare game. It's got story and characters, using the Sonic universe, but it's really designed for DS, a younger audience.

As a result it's going to appeal to all ages but it's also going to be appropriate for younger people and as a result it's going to play differently. But that's really just being aware of who your audience is and Wii is not different. Different kinds of people bought the system; they deserve to get the kind of content that they want.

CVG: How's Sonic coming along then? Working out for you? We normally associate you guys with working on the high-end kind of stuff?

Ray Muzyka: It's really fun. I'm a huge fan of Sonic. My Genesis has been signed by Yuji Naka. I've had it for years and years - it wasn't because of this deal, it's like way before that. Sonic is one of my favourite games on the Genesis.

I actually think it's going to be one of best handheld games when it comes out, from an RPG experience.

But we're not abandoning our traditional market. Mass Effect is an example of where we're trying to innovate and do some different things in terms of digital actors and we're continuing that with games like Dragon Age.

We haven't announced much about that recently but we have big plans to talk about that a lot more later in the year. It's sitting in BioWare's sweet spot. It's delivering this epic, aspirational fantasy experience that the fans of Baldurs Gate will love, Neverwinter Nights, and it's going to be equally rich.

CVG: You think Sonic can be made to fit a universe where he isn't constantly running at speed?

Ray Muzyka: You know, there's a surprising amount of depth in that universe when you explore the TV shows and the comics and all the novels and all the games.

It's got a lot of very action-orientated elements - you'd expect that with Sonic. You'd expect the characters to move really fast, and they do, but they also interact and have a little dialogue. You can get as much or as little into that as you want.

There's back-story for the characters you can find out and there's also this really compelling quest that takes you around the world so you get to explore some of the Sonic universe. It's kind of a mix of different elements and it's going to be really fun for Sonic fans, but it's also going to be fun for people that just want a great experience on the DS.

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