BioWare co-founders Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka are leaving the company. According to their own announcements on the issue, they’re not pulling a Pete Molyneux and going indie. They are very explicitly retiring from the games industry altogether.
Now would be an excellent time to bring up the BioWare video from Mr. Nerdrage. I love this video not just because I agree with it, but because he takes the points I’ve been arguing for years and puts them into a nice organized package.
I’ve said or touched on many of these same points before:
- Tone at the top: The leadership sets the values for an entire company.
- Just because a company is big and powerful doesn’t mean it’s being run optimally, or even competently.
- “All our games should be like FIFA” and “all games should have multiplayer” are great examples of what you get when non-gaming executives look at sales trends and make broad decisions for developers, ignorant of the fine details.
- Games should be getting cheaper to produce, not more expensive.
- The “we make money to make games” versus “we make games to make money” mindsets will ultimately produce different sorts of products. This circles back to the “values” point in #1.
The frustrating thing about the story of Zeschuk and Muzyka leaving BioWare is that everyone has a strong desire to read between the lines. We want to know what’s been going on at BioWare over the last few years. How did SWTOR end up as such a soulless, ugly, broken, disappointment? Was the Mass Effect transition move from “thoughtful” to “shooty” something that BioWare chose, or something imposed by EA? Was the smaller scope and art recycling of Dragon Age 2 a result of a creative decision, or from executive pressure to make Dragon Age a FIFA-ish yearly title? What happened to the small, creative company launched by three passionate guys that turned it into a grinder of perma-crunch and revolving-door contract work? How can a company change so fast in such a short time?
Basically, how much blame can we put on hated EA and how much can we spare Zeschuk and Muzyka?
Of course, unless someone writes a tell-all book we’ll probably never know. In fact, not even then. We don’t know, and we can’t know. All we can do is guess and argue and speculate, which is what we’ve been doing since EA bought BioWare in 2007.