Set in a fictional world inspired by Chinese mythology, Jade Empire is a role-playing game in the latter stages of development at BioWare, the same company responsible for the excellent Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. The game is currently scheduled for release in April, and BioWare recently announced that it will produce a limited-edition version of the game with additional content for those who preorder it. We got in touch with Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, joint CEOs and co-executive producers on Jade Empire, to find out as much as we could about the game's preorder bonuses.
GameSpot: How is development of Jade Empire going? Where are you guys in the process now?
Ray Muzyka: Development on Jade Empire is going really well. We have a great team working on the game--smart, creative, passionate, and hardworking--and they're really putting their hearts and souls into making the game great. Our goal at BioWare is to always try our best to make our next game even better than the previous ones, and Jade is shaping up really nicely. Jade Empire is an awesome action-RPG--it should appeal to both RPG and action fans. The combat is very fun and exciting. With dozens of fighting styles (martial arts, weapons, magic, and transformations), it should really appeal to action fans who enjoy real-time combat and martial arts ass-kicking goodness! As well, Jade Empire will definitely appeal to RPG fans. The story and characters in Jade Empire are some of the best yet in any BioWare game. The story is really engrossing. Speaking personally, even though I know the plot twists, I'm still finding that playing through the game again is very compelling. The art, animation, and audio in the game are absolutely stunning. We're pretty sure that fans will see Jade Empire as one of the best-looking and sounding games on any system when it comes out.
At this point in development, we're definitely in the polish phase. Some cutscenes are still being finished up, and we're continually tightening the interface and story design and continuing to fine-tune the combat balance, but most content is now in the game, and you can play through the entire game start to finish. It's a really fun part of the project. There's a lot of work still going on, but the team can see--and play--the fruits of their labors over the past three years now, and the results are really amazing. I'm really proud of the folks who have worked and are working on the game. They've done an awesome job.
GS: Why did you decide to do a limited-edition version?
RM: We wanted to offer a limited-edition version of Jade Empire as a special thank-you for the fans who preordered the game.
GS: When did the decision to make a limited edition happen?
RM: We planned to release a limited-edition version of Jade Empire all along in the development cycle. Along with our publishing partner, Microsoft, we wanted to offer those who preordered Jade Empire something unique. The result is the limited-edition version.
GS: How did you settle on the content to include in the limited edition?
RM: The main thing we considered was what our fans would find exciting and compelling. Our fans have told us that getting an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how the game was made would be really cool. We also knew that additional content would be really popular, so we added a bonus character as well as an exclusive new fighting style.
GS: What content can fans look forward to in the limited edition?
Greg Zeschuk: The first thing a fan who purchases the limited edition of Jade Empire will notice is the unique packaging. In particular, the original cover art has been modified to have a holographic background and a completely different background color than the regular version. We've been working with Microsoft on the packaging for a while now, and it looks really sweet. We've had a great time working on the custom package because we require actual proofs of the package rather than just digital versions, so we've got a whole bunch of cool Jade Empire hologram box prototypes around the BioWare offices.
Inside the swanky new package is a new character model (Monk Zeng) and his new custom style (spade staff). Monk Zeng is one of our favorite playable characters. He's one of the more unique designs and looks awesome in-game. His spade staff is also one of the more powerful weapons in the game. The limited-edition package also includes the full-length Making of Jade Empire video produced by G4TechTV. The Making of video includes a lot of custom footage from the BioWare offices, scenes from the motion-capture sessions, game footage, and interviews with BioWare's Jade Empire team members.
GS: How did the inclusion of a new character affect development?
GZ: The inclusion of an additional character and weapon style hasn't adversely affected development at all. We have always been planning for the content to be provided as part of a presell program released independently from the main game. Perhaps the main challenge in creating the unique character and weapon style has been to make sure we're always testing the special content along with the regular game content. Fortunately we've got a really strong QA team working on Jade Empire so all of the various permutations of the game and characters are being fully tested.
GS: What can you tell us about the new character and his fighting style?
GZ: Monk Zeng is a very interesting character modeled after the classic monk out of literature and films. He's one of my personal favorites and, like all characters in Jade Empire, can be customized into your own personal martial arts master. One of the really interesting things about the Jade Empire system is that the choices you make throughout the game, both in terms of the moral challenges you make in regards to following the way of the Open Palm or the Closed Fist and in terms of the styles you pursue, really define your character. The martial arts master you create in Jade Empire evolves significantly over the course of the game.
I don't want to spoil any surprises about the spade staff, but I can say that it is a legendary weapon with a great backstory. In addition, when you use the spade staff, your character will have awesome moves that will allow you to totally dominate the battlefield!
GS: So is there any way to get the character in the regular version of the game? Will there ever be? Such as an Xbox Live download?
GZ: We are considering creative ways in which players that don't initially purchase the limited edition of Jade Empire might be able to use the custom content. However, at the current time the only way to either play as Monk Zeng or to use the spade staff style will be to play the limited edition of Jade Empire.
GS: Thanks for your time.