A game like 'Myst' may be a gorgeous slide show that preserves its beauty at the expense of speed. A game like 'Doom' sacrifices almost everything for action. But the eye soon adjusts: the degree of detail more than adequately conveys infinite claustrophobic labyrinths populated by howling monsters.
If you want an MMO, there are plenty out there. The difference with a single player game is that in the same way you lose yourself in a good novel, you can lose yourself in a single player story. You see it in all these games, where you can fill your house with turnips or decorate your armour with a dragon skull.
The trade-off between speed and image quality is a key constraint of first-person action games, and the job of developing a workable engine involves constantly optimizing both elements. Gamers dream of the day they'll be able to haul their arsenals through three-dimensional environments of photographic clarity, playing 'Myst' with a meat ax.
There's a misunderstanding that I've always tried to address straight on when this question comes up, which is that a 'Half-Life' story can somehow exist outside of a game. It can't. The story is created through the process of trying to figure out how to best use the features of the engine within the interesting set of constraints it poses.
I think it's important to have scaling challenge because there are players who I feel play 'Dragon Age' for the wonder, story and exploration but wouldn't enjoy getting their butts handed to them. We do still have easy mode – it's not a pure story mode in that there's zero combat, but it's not super-challenging.
I don't just write a script, and then someone takes it away and builds a game. I am continually getting input in order to create a big suspension field to hold the gameplay together so that the gamers aren't doing arbitrary tasks, so that they are doing things that seem meaningful.
The first 'Half-Life' movie treatment pitched to us climaxed with a tearful reunion between enslaved Vortigaunts and their Vortiwives and children. The last one I saw had Black Mesa invaded by a cavalry unit, just so as to feature a scene of bullsquids tearing into armored horses.
The ideal engine of a 3-D game is an intricate and elegant construct of code that allows players to speed through solidly built virtual worlds. The engine allows every picture on a monitor to be drawn there quickly enough to convince hand and eye that it is instantaneous.
'Doom' aficionados expand their adventures as far as their imaginations and artistic abilities allow. Once players have exhausted the 'authorized' levels of 'Doom,' they can go on to explore thousands of additional unauthorized levels available in kits and on the Internet.
We built 'Jade Empire,' then we built 'Mass Effect,' then we built 'Dragon Age.' With those last two, when you're dealing with two big ideas that are on their third iterations, you develop some strategies for managing your lore, or you drown!
'Dragon Age' needs to have big story moments. It is a game about character first, and the party is an absolutely central part of that. I want to keep pursuing interactivity with the world: taking crowds to the next level or having things catch fire because you indiscriminately cast a fireball into a wheat field.