Must we always save the world or preserve the existence of humanity in our video game role-playing games? Must the stakes always be so high? I recently asked one of the principals of RPG super-studio BioWare about this.
Between discussing the impending launch of Dragon Age: Origins or teasing the features of Mass Effect 2, BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk has devoted energy toward convincing gamers that it will be exciting to grandly save humanity once again.
When Zeschuk and I spoke a couple of weeks ago at the Penny Arcade Expo, however, I asked if there was any reason BioWare couldn't or wouldn't make a role-playing game about something more pedestrian. Must the preservation of all life always be the motivation?
"Like you said, it's almost like there's a formula," he said. "Save the world: Check." Zeshuck and I both know that a lot of gamers want that feeling of being a hero. That's a big draw.
Half-joking, I said to him: Why not have an RPG just about having a good week?
"You've got to go to work," Zeshuk riffed. "You've got to finds your clothes." As he threw these ideas out, I realised they didn't sound that appealing. But Zeschuk liked the idea of making an RPG that's about less pressing matters than the preservation of all life.
"We have had conversations about having a game that would have much more intimate moment to moment experience, not so much like saving the world," he said. As a means of loose comparison, he brought up Milo & Kate, the virtual person project showed by Peter Molyneux at this past E3. "It's not quite like the Milo stuff, but taking the character technology and taking something like—mundane is the wrong word—but something like sitting around the table." His idea sounded more like indie games I've played or heard about that centre on the simpler moments in life, like the dinner part in Facade.
BioWare's epic Mass Effect did involve a lot of visual and interactive technologies designed to make conversations more nuanced and engaging. So it's easy to see how the company could enable the creation of more quotidian role-playing games.
Zeschuk could also see fans taking BioWare's tools and doing it themselves. He's high on the potential for the mod-making tools in the PC edition of Dragon Age and told me he's already seen someone recreate a key scene from Hamlet with them. Smaller-scale RPGs could be made through that. "Funny enough, I think that's the stuff people will do with the tools," he said. Smaller creators could pull that off as BioWare devotes energy to the grander endeavours.
"I wouldn't say we're limited by our creativity," he said. "But we're limited in the scope of things we can undertake."
Here's to the creation of a Having-A-Good-Day RPG. Who wants to make it?