Bioware: You Stab Me Through the Heart

By Chad Awkerman

May 13, 2010

Dear Bioware,

Honestly, you’re one of my favorite developers. Why must you go around spouting nonsense like you’re some elitest RPG god, assuming that only your brand of RPG is the only way RPGs can be done? I loved both Mass Effect titles, I loved Dragon Age: Origins, I’m looking forward to your upcoming Star Wars MMO. These are all awesome games in their own right, why must you go around shooting your mouth off willy-nilly? It makes you look like a bunch of jerks.

Seriously, give me a break. I realize this was just one person, blah, blah, blah. When someone speaks in an official capacity for the entire company, it reflects on you all. Do I discriminate between this RPG and that RPG? No, because if I did, I would have never even tried and fell in love with Mass Effect. Final Fantasy XIII, Mass Effect 2, JRPG, WRPG, whatever – they ARE ALL RPGS, whether you think they are or not. Live and let live, people. Stop trying to degrade other franchises to make yours look better, because nine times out of ten it has the exact opposite effect.

With all that being said, no one can really define what a video game RPG is. The line, “because it is not linear it isn’t an RPG” doesn’t work. Mass Effect is linear. You still must progress the story from point A to point B to point C, start to finish. Branching dialog does not a non-linear RPG make, my friends, especially when people tend to choose the dialog based on what it will get them instead of on any semblance of directing the story. It is fake, it all is. You give everyone a fake sense of being able to mold and direct the story, but really the linearity of Mass Effect isn’t unlike the linearity of JRPGs in general.

Mr. Erickson said this, quoted from StrategyInformer: “You don’t make any choices, you don’t create a character, you don’t live your character.” Let me dissect this for a moment and explain to you why he is wrong.

“You don’t make any choices.”

Say what? JRPGs are full of choices, even Final Fantasy XIII, the game he was specifically addressing, just not the same kind of choices you seem to think are the right ones. You do realize that “choice” is a very broad word and it can mean a plethora of different things. Choice in exploration, choice in dialog, choice in equipment (whether it is what you equip, how you upgrade it, who you put it on, etc.), choice in side-questing, choice in what attacks to use when – the possibilities of “choice” are endless. You can not in any way, shape or form claim that you don’t make any choices in JRPGs. That is just silly.

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“You don’t create a character, you don’t live your character.”

Since when does creating a generic character define what is an RPG? I will give Mass Effect a prop here, because it is slightly different than many WRPG models in that the character itself is very well defined. It is Commander Shepherd, regardless of how the player designs their Shepherd. In that regard, it is like many JRPGs – you are playing with a pre-set character to tell a specific story. In Mass Effect, you have the character and you are telling a specific story. You’re going from point A to point B with Shepherd, regardless of what she/he looks like.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – I feel that generic characters, although highly customizable, ruin the depth of the RPG experience, because they aren’t connected to the story or the player in a way that a pre-defined character is, already being integrated into a story and its lore. I can’t care about my player-created character in Dragon Age: Origins as much as I would a very well defined JRPG hero or heroine because my character in DA:O is just that – generic. If you would have done DA:O like you did Mass Effect, and give us a pre-defined character, although letting us change their gender and/or appearance, I would have connected with the story a lot more. Oh, wait, I’m sorry, is that too much like a JRPG for you? It couldn’t be, you did it in Mass Effect. ‘Nuff said.

In conclusion, I wish more companies would stop trying to discredit others – whether their competitors or not – and start concentrating on just making great games. The statement by Mr. Erickson is ridiculous and ignorant, at best, and reflects badly on your entire company. Like I said at the outset, I love Bioware and I love your games. Live and let live. Realize there are many different avenues and design philosophies to the same genre. This goes for more than just the RPG genre, as well. I could turn right around and say that Mass Effect 2 isn’t an RPG because it doesn’t have inventory management and you don’t get experience and/or ability points and/or [insert point type here] from killing enemies – both traditional RPG markers. See what I did there? Any schmo can come in and make a statement like that. It is ridiculous when it comes from me, and it is ridiculous when it comes from you.

I still love you, though.

Your bestest pal,


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Chad Awkerman

Chad joined the DualShockers staff in mid 2009 and since then has put much of his time into covering RPGs, with a focus on the Japanese side of the genre, from the obscure to the mainstream. He's a huge fan of iconic games like Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VI and Persona 4 yet enjoys the smaller niche titles, as well. In his spare time he enjoys experiencing new beer, new foods and keeping up with just about every sci-fi show on television. He's married to an intelligent, beautiful Southern Belle who keeps his life interesting with witty banter and spicy Cajun cooking.

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