Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The great exodus - Bioware begins to fall apart


I would assume many avid gamers have heard the news about the departure of two of Biowares founders yesterday.  Its great they are leaving under amicable terms and they have something new planned for themselves, but the departure will no doubt kick the rumour mill into hyperdrive. 

For those not in the know, Bioware is a canada based games developer responsible for some of the best PC roleplaying experiences to date.  Huge titles of the time such as Baldur's gate I&II, Neverwinter nights and knights of the old republic put the developer squarely on the map.  Their more recent fame comes from the astoundingly good Mass effect series of sci-fi RPG games.

The recent furore surrounding the botched ending to Mass effect 3 which I was part of like so many others, started a vicious cycle of anger and flaming, but not toward Bioware but EA.  Now Bioware made good on their promise to fix the ending and I count myself as one of those satisfied with the way the game ended, but many are still upset with how it was handled.  Some point the finger at producer Casey Hudson who made numerous claims of divergent endings being influenced by your own decisions in past games and then claiming the end was already written months prior to release, only to find that the end was quickly written around two months before completion.

Other internet mouth pieces claim that the influence of the dark force of EA was the cause of Biowares problems with Mass effect 3.  Its true that when a company is absorbed by a bigger one, the quality of work begins to change based on the input and desires of the new owner and EA could be blamed for some of the friction in Bioware.  Rumour's will probably already be flying around that Gregg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka left due to disagreements with EA boss John Riccitiello.  Its not hard to imagine this being the case since EA has been relatively wasteful with the developers it has bought previously.  Gregg and Ray both claim to have lost a passion for game design they once had and after so long in the industry thats understandable, its not like musicians or filmakers who can take long breaks between their work, games developers are in constant need to begin working on new bigger and better projects the second a game is finished. 

I spent a month working at a developer for Sony and found that although the atmosphere was great and the work done incredibly difficult but ultimately rewarding when finished, the people were under constant stress to improve or complete tasks quicker.  That kind of pressure burns people out and this is worrying because these people are very creative and dedicated and losing them so soon is a loss for gamers everywhere.  We all know about the horror story of L.A. Noire developer team bondi.

Sadly with the departure of two of Biowares founders it can only be the beginning of a larger collapse of a once great developer.  EA did some firefighting by revealing a new Mass effect 3 DLC "Omega" and also hinting at the next game in the franchise but with these key personalities gone and other staff leaving before them, my hopes for a good Mass effect 4 are pretty low.  No doubt it will be all flash and big budget, but the core pieces that made Mass effect what it was will be missing.  It wouldn't surprise me to read a year from now that Bioware has been shutdown and the remaining staff spread out across other EA developers or simply laid off. 

Another factor to consider is the almost colossal failure of the old republic.  Bioware would have made a far better singleplayer star wars adventure if they had been given the time and left to their own devices.  MMO development is extremely costly and the old republic certainly cost EA considering they went full throttle in trying to make a WoW killer.  Although the game recieved praise from critics, fans didn't take to it so well and now the game languishes as a free to play product after years of development and millions of dollars spent.

So in closing I hope this isn't the end of Bioware, I would like to thank Ray Muzyka and Gregg Zeschuk for bringing such awesome games to us all.  Thanks for reading.

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