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Apparently BW had interest to make an MMO long before ToR came out.
Daemian over at swtor.com wrote this nice little history article and i thought i link it.
Let's talk a little bit about history*. Some of these conversations must seem awfully familiar to Bioware by now. I've emphasized some of the key points and concepts.
Many people don't realize BioWare have been MMO fans since the early 90's with the original NWN. They've been dabbling and experimenting with the MMO genre since 1996 with a little known project called RPG Battlegrounds, to the persistent world servers of Neverwinter Nights, all the way to the present.
They didn't have the technology or the resources for an MMO at the time, but it was their experience with RPG Battlegrounds that led to the initial creation of Baldur's Gate using the D&D license. The same arguments used today regarding deep story vs fast action were used back then to pit RPGs versus hack-and-slash action games. And back then, it was the same companies being talked about.
'Blizzard's Diablo had paved the way for a much leaner, action-based, dialogue-averse role-playing game model, so something as unashamedly hardcore as Baldur's Gate seemed destined to sink. "The RPG was in trouble," Muzyka concurs.
The result was one of the most original games of the decade, one that set the stage for more or less every Western RPG made since... eventually becoming one of the highest selling RPGs of the nineties.'
Following that was BGII. "The goals were pretty straightforward," Zeschuk says, "Just 'more, better', basically. We made a list of 100 things we wanted to improve and we got all the way down that list."
'Lead designer James Ohlen describes the game as the one where management allowed him to go "a little crazy" in terms of the content on offer.'
Next came Neverwinter Nights and the Aurora Toolset."The game was based on the concept of building an internet-like model for a massively multiplayer game, allowing the end users to host the server. The belief was this model would create a potentially infinite massively multiplayer game framework. The game was named after the original Neverwinter Nights online game, the first graphical MMORPG, which ran from 1991 to 1997 on AOL." - Wikipedia
'The result was a game and community that still thrive 7 years on.'
Breaking the mold yet again: RPG on the console? Nah. Oh, yeah. KOTOR. Also known as "the prospect of having to produce a deep, non-linear RPG for a format once considered anathema to that sort of thing." Sound familiar? They succeeded so well in changing that perception that now some gamers are saying 'Bioware is a console developer' as an argument against them succeeding in the PC MMORPG market.
Jade Empire took the concept of the alignment system from D&D and the force from Star Wars to experiment with refining the concept of light and dark outside of the standards of those IPs - "the opposing philosophical schools of Open Palm and Closed Fist."
'With driving sections and a much more immediate approach to combat and dialogue, Mass Effect was also Bioware's most action-based videogame to date.'
Dragon Age: Origins was Bioware's 'first RPG to abandon the dualistic model.' "There's no black-and-white system of good and evil here. You're going to have to do some things that are kind of grey." - Ray Muzyka
Now they've set their sights squarely on the MMO market with SWTOR. And everyone's asking... "How many of BioWare's current fans double as WoW zealots? Zeschuk considers."In an MMO such as The Old Republic we're creating an environment that's fully expandable for mass numbers of players, with a Bioware-quality story. The experiences are different but can be both very fulfilling and cater to numerous gaming styles." '
Not only did Bioware help resurrect a dying genre to the point where today a game like Mass Effect 2 has sold in the multiple millions within the first week, they are intimately familiar with the deep and varied history of MMOs.
You can find the article in it's intact format (I edited out the parts that didn't refer to the history part) and the rest of the forum posts here http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=226490&page=58 If that doesn't for some reason put you on page 58, you can go to it manually.
Just thought that be interesting to share.
Help me Bioware, you're my only hope.
Is ToR going to be good? Dude it's Bioware making a freaking star wars game, all signs point to awesome. -G4tv MMo report.