October 1, 1999

BIOWARE INTERVIEW

Greg Zeschuk Talks MDK2


Bioware are a relatively new company to the gaming world. After the moderate success of their first title Shattered Steel they surprised the world with one of the biggest titles of 1998, Baldur's Gate. This massive online game (which was released on 5 CD's) set new standards for the gaming community and launched Bioware as one of the hottest game developers today. For the last year Bioware have been busy making a sequel to Shiny / Planet Moon's 1997 smash hit MDK. It was only a matter of time before a sequel was made, but it was a surprise that Shiny handed development to another company. With PC and Dreamcast versions of MDK2 expected before then end of the year, I thought it would be great to have a chat to one of the geniuses at Bioware, Greg Zeschuk.

Bioware have been around for quite a long time now, but are still fairly new to the games business. Why the switch from TV animation to games?
Actually BioWare started in games (approximately 5 years ago) and then created an animation division after we were established making games (about 3 years ago).

Click To Enlarge Image MDK2 is your big upcoming release, but Baldur's Gate was your real entry into the games community. How has the success of that online RPG changed the company?
We've got a lot more options than we had previously. Also, people seem to take us a lot more seriously as a developer. After our first game, Shattered Steel, we had accomplished the milestone of having a moderately successful published game under our belt. After the amazing success of Baldur's Gate, we had accomplished the even more coveted milestone of having created a hit game.

Click To Enlarge Image MDK2 is of course the sequel to Shiny Entertainment's 1997 hit game. How was it that Bioware ended up with permission to develop the sequel?
Our publisher, Interplay, owns a majority share in Shiny. Shortly after the release of MDK Interplay was interested in having a sequel made but Shiny didn't have any free development resources to make it. We had been working on 3D engine technology and Interplay inquired if we were interested in doing the sequel. Being huge fans of MDK we agreed and here we are, nearing completion of MDK2 for PC and Dreamcast.

Do Shiny have the ultimate say in what is incorperated into the game or are you pretty much on your own with the title?
Shiny does not have any ultimate say in regard to MDK2 - we certainly have spoken to Shiny and Planet Moon about MDK and listened to their advice. We're quite fortunate that Shiny and Interplay have confidence in our ability and are allowing us a pretty free rein with MDK2.

Click To Enlarge Image Shiny, have a great reputation for humour in their games. Earthworm Jim is their most comical series, but MDK also had a sense of humour to it as well. Is MDK2 going to follow this trend or is the style different to the original?
We do have humor in the game. One of our goals from the absolute beginning of the development process was to make an "offbeat" game with a unique sense of humor. We've got a number of cut scenes that are quite entertaining as well as funny little situations within the game. Only the final product will prove if we have got an adequate funny bone.

When did work on MDK2 begin?
We started the initial work almost 2 years ago - a certain amount of this time was spent doing research and development. We've been making content for 1 year.

How is development of the title progressing and when should we see a release of the title?
MDK2 is moving along very nicely. We're in the stage of development where it is very easy to add new content and develop gameplay. We're aiming to have MDK2 done on the Dreamcast for the North American market by the end of this year - it should be out to the rest of the world in the beginning of 2000.

How helpful have SOA been with development on the Dreamcast?
Amazingly helpful! We've got nothing but good things to say about SOA - they have always been available for questions and advice. I'd say that they are an essential part of the team.

Are you using WINCE or Sega's own libraries to develop the game?
Click To Enlarge Image We are using SEGA's libraries to develop MDK2.

Does the Dreamcast have any shortcomings that you have had to figure ways around?
There's nothing that I would describe as a "shortcoming" in the Dreamcast. As far as other console systems currently available it is massively more powerful. And compared to the PC it is at least comparable to our mid and upper level target systems.

Will there be an online component to the game at all?
None.

Of course there was one part of MDK that really grabbed peoples attention, the sniper mode. Will this mode return in the sequel?
Sniper mode will return for Kurt in MDK2. The largest different between MDK and MDK2 is the addition of Max (the six-legged robotic dog) and Doctor Fluke Hawkins (the nutty old professor) as player characters.

Each character has a unique set of powers and this directly influences the gameplay. Kurt returns with the Sniper mode, Ribbon Parachute and Chain Gun. Max has 4 arms in which he can hold weapons - as a result he's a walking assault team. Max also has a jet pack. Doctor Hawkins is the most unique of all of the characters. He starts with no weapons at the beginning of the game but he is able to build weapons and useful devices out of household items.

Click To Enlarge Image One thing I have noticed is that the game worlds in MDK2 seem a lot more colorful then in the original game. What is the reason behind this?
Probably the biggest reason is that we have more colors to work with. The original MDK was done in the days of paletted textures where you were only allowed 256 colors per level. We've got a lot more color available thanks to the great technology in the Dreamcast and the current state of the art PCs.

Are there any plans for a MDK3 in the future?
Nothing at this time. We're concentrating on getting MDK2 finished and making sure it's a great game.

Thank you very much for you time....
David Warner ~ Dreamcast Australia


Bioware can be found at : http://www.bioware.com

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as I did in conducting it. If you have any comments or questions E-mail me at : phantom@winshop.com.au