One Of The Reasons I Like BioWare (And EA, Too)

I’ve taken some heat of late for being a little too cozy with Electronic Arts and/or BioWare, and it’s true that I make no effort to hide my affinity and admiration for that studio in particular, and my favourable opinion (which has emerged over the course of the last few years) of EA in general.

Here’s part of the reason why:

BioWare co-founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk stressed the importance of a gamer culture within a publisher, telling Gamasutra at E3 that it’s advantageous for everyone in a company to play games, from high-level executives on down.

Muzyka said John Riccitiello, CEO of BioWare parent Electronic Arts, and EA Games label president Frank Gibeau play games often, sending down feedback from the highest levels of the corporation.

“Frank and John play a lot of games,” said Muzyka. “Frank gives great feedback in MMOs and RPGs, and shooters. They’re passionate gamers, they play everything [including] social, mobile. You’d be surprised about how much they play. For us, it’s actually part of the reason we’re proud to work for them.”

Muzyka didn’t imply a meddling executive trying to design a game from up high, rather the input is welcome. Zeschuk added, “It’s important to have a context, because if you don’t play your own products, and you don’t really have a context of what you’re making, [you have no reference].”

Zeschuk said, “It’s interesting — across the whole organization [at EA], everyone plays. The marketing guys play. Some companies just don’t. Some people think ‘I don’t need to play, I’m just in marketing.’ But how do you really know what [the company’s product] is? That’s what’s great about EA, it’s full of gamers who are really passionate about the products.”

Developers and executives who will play and enjoy games in general, and in particular the games their people produce, deliver a couple of important messages to both their developers and the fans that buy their games: “we do this because we love games” being one, and “we stand behind our work” being the other.

Those are attitudes I can respect, and…well…the proof is in the pudding. BioWare makes some truly great games, and EA as a whole has in fact moved away from murderously milking franchises, and toward pushing out good, solid, enjoyable games rather than branded shovelware. Look at the slate of games gracing the front page of Origin if you need further proof.

And then compare the with one of the criticisms leveled at Activision’s Bobby Kotick.

3 Responses

  1. Sanctimonia Sanctimonia says:

    That’s a hell of a thing. I’m completely outside the loop of the military industrial complex that is the AAA games industry, but I hope what you’re saying is truly the case and not just some artifact of marketing bullshit that happened to find a target.

    I feel weird saying this, but go EA. I’ve always thought it sinfully strange that the majority of employees at any company, from the bottom to the top, don’t know what they’re selling to people in any meaningful way. Specialization to the end. If EA wants to foster a culture of participation and informed action by encouraging employees to know their own business then I have nothing but praise for them.

    And no, I’m not being sarcastic as I usually am. That is profound news in my book. I guess if DNF is finally coming out then it’s truly a year for flying pigs. 🙂

    • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

      Sanctimonia: It’s no bull. Every BioWare guy I’ve known is an avid gamer, and speaks openly about the gaming culture at the studio. Heck, I had a seasonal programmer of theirs living in the basement suite last year; he flat out said that his entire team lost a week of work when Starcraft 2 came out.

      A family member who has worked at two separate EA studios tells similar tales, and also informed me that many EA dev houses boast large game libraries that employees are encouraged to make use of.

      Now, to be fair, I’m sure that other publishers and developers maintain similar cultures. But equally, some do not, and few do at all levels of their corporate structure.

  2. Sanctimonia Sanctimonia says:

    Hopefully the trend will trickle up and eventually permeate to other types of businesses as employees come and go.

    At some point it will become mandatory that red tape is eliminated, as the down side of the business cycle will reduce the global cash flow and the gamble of a AAA game will outpace the reward. Downsizing will mean promoting the most successfull smaller games to maintain a consistent and even revenue.

    Maybe then the slave culture will be banished, and fools coding long into the night in their basement will be celebrated. Recent college grads will just go on to program TI calculators.