Part 1 of 2, by Bruce Venne
Demonstrations or demos are an important tool for BioWare to let people know about the games we have in development. It is always a challenge to put a demo together. We have the challenge of creating a ten to fifteen minute slice of the game that showcases all the RPG elements that our fans expect in a great role-playing game, some exiting combat in order to make the demo interesting to watch but framed by the story. The demo has to tell a story since rich-story-telling is a hallmark of any BioWare games. Subsequently there is a lot of stuff in the soup that eventually becomes a game demo. Having all of those game elements colliding into one another can lead to chaos. Our demos tend to be very complicated. Things can go wrong.
I personally have had no major problems while demoing Dragon Age: Origins (tminstoreslaterthisyearforpcandconsoles). None whatsoever. Each demo has been like a flawless gem shimmering in the moonlight. The game will crash occasionally, but not enough to be considered embarrassing. The best thing to do if a crash happens is just load the game back up and keep going. Letting it bother you will cause more problems than the crash itself. If you think about the crash, or worry about the game crashing you lose your focus and can’t concentrate on the demo.
So I haven’t had any publically embarrassing moments, but I did make one mistake which no one noticed but me. And, for the record, I am blaming society.
So, last fall we (Dan Tudge the Executive Producer on Dragon Age, I and marketing folk) went down to the EA studio in Redwood City for a sales meeting. Teams gather together and showcase upcoming games to the sales people at EA so they know what they will selling and how to market it.
So we arrived at EARS the day before the sales meeting to set everything up and do practices run. This allows us to make sure the pc survived the trip and the audio people at EARS work out the audio setting for our demo. No problems, everything went smoothly. So then I packed the demo box back up and brought it back to the hotel.
At 7:30 the next morning (note the time it’s important) we set the demo box back up for the meeting. The box was set up backstage of the theatre where the sales meeting was taking place. So it was dark, let me just say that in my own defense. It was really dark. Also it was 7:30 in the morning, so I wasn’t as alert as I could have been, and I guess I was also more nervous than I thought I was.
So I set up the demo box. But the set up of the cords seemed … off. Like I plugged the cord in the bottom of the box except the outlet on the back of the machine had always been at the top. So my keen QA powers of observation kicked in and I thought (I actually thought this) well I guess it has changed, no problems here! Then one of the EARS IT guys comes over and asks if we are using a different box from the day before. A light bulb flashed in my head, and then fizzled out … nope it’s the same box. No problems here!
The demo itself went great. It seemed to go by really quickly in comparison in how long we had to wait to do it (we were the second last group to present) So afterwards I start un-hooking everything to back up the demo box. Then I go to snap open the computer to remove the hard drive (for security reasons I carry the hard drive with me on flights to and from events) but I can’t find the latch on top of the machine. Then it hits me.
The computer was upside down.
Bruce Venne got a job in the BioWare QA department after spending two week sitting on a crate in James Ohlen’s office playing Knights of the Old Republic. Afterwards, Bruce got his own desk, in the hallway of the old Whyte Ave office, to test the NWN expansion packs. He now applies his English degree and Library Technicians diploma to design testing on Dragon Age, and filing monthly reports to HR about the behavior of the Marketing department during press tours.