No Souls Were Sold: An Insider Perspective on EA's BioWare

Did BioWare change when the studio was bought by publishing giant Electronic Arts? asks Sinan Kubba.

"In 1995 Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka had two passions: medicine and role-playing games. If the two young doctors weren't tending to Alberta's sick they were playing table-top adventures or talking about translating them into video games. When they co-founded BioWare with fellow doctor Augustine Yip, medicine still represented Muzyka and Zeschuk's day jobs as they tried to balance their passions."

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dedicatedtogamers2417d ago

I've been a Bioware fan since the days of Black Isle and Interplay. Bioware has definitely changed. For the better or for the worse? I guess that depends on whether you like how their older games used to be, but there's no doubt that modern Bioware is VERY different, the most notable difference being that they are fully on board with EA's DLC-whoring ways.

Genecalypse2416d ago (Edited 2416d ago )

Id say much much worse. Compare the writing of the Baldurs Gate series to Mass Effect, while I enjoyed ME, it doesnt stand a chance against BG. Look at how much 'effect' your choices have in those games, how much depth and customization there is, compared to the ones now. Theyve dumbed down, simplified and casualized their games to 'get the Call of duty audience". This no doubt coincides with nickel and diming DLC as well, that EA makes them do.

All in all Im sad to see them fall this far, they seem more concerned with sales numbers and making money than making good games. IIRC right after Skyrim came out Bioware said they wanted to take influences from those games. How transparent can they get? First it was the COD audience, then Skyrim sells 10+ million and Bioware/EA start foaming at the mouth with greed, if only theyd take influences from the Witcher 2

Look at the trainwreck that is Dragon Age 2, that is modern Bioware

PersonaCat2416d ago

Dragon age was my first game from Bioware, as last gen I never owned an Xbox so I didn't get to experience anything from them. Dragon age is my favorite game this gen by far. Putting in maybe a few hundred hours per character, I instantly fell in love with Bioware. Then they came out with DA2 (or Dragon Effect) I don't know what happened with them for that type of game to even get released. Recently I've been playing SW:KOTOR and that game is just so amazing. Old Bioware >>>>>>> Casual Bioware

Captain Qwark 92416d ago

i wouldn't say anything bad about them for the most part. look at their track record, the only bad game they have made in ten plus years is dragon age 2. they lost their way with DA2 but in their defense they thought the market was changing and wanted to adjust to stay relevant. you seem to forget that they are a business as well and if they want to remain here they need to sell games. if they want to make the games they truly want to make then selling out on 1 or 2 to get a huge budget for the next is just practical. toss in the fact that they clearly learned from their mistakes ( removing most rpg elements of ME2 and bringing them back in ME3 ), id say they're doing just fine. the reason they said that about skyrim is becuase it shows that even deep rpgs can sell, which if anything gives me hopes that DA3 will see the return of more traditional bioware ( even though skyrim is shallow compared to its predecessors its still deeper than most )

dedicatedtogamers2416d ago

I know I'll get a lot of flak for this, but I'd say Mass Effect 2 is much more of a trainwreck than DA2. At least DA2 had most of the skills and customization from the first game, the writing was still decent, and a good number of your choices carried over.

ME2? Weak overall plot, less interaction with your squadmates, fewer skills, a LOT less carryover from ME1, and a TERRIBLE ending.

Problem is that ME2 was a huge commerical success, so you can bet they'll stick with that formula.

hazelamy2416d ago

and if you believe that, i have a bridge for sale.

SpartanGR2416d ago (Edited 2416d ago )

Sluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrr rrpppppppppppp

Bercilak2416d ago (Edited 2416d ago )

It seems pretty clear to me that EA has changed--and continues to change--Bioware.

1. After EA acquired Bioware, Bioware implemented EA's "Project Ten Dollar" where they provided day one DLC for free to people who bought the standard edition of the game new, but they sold the same DLC for $10 to make it available to people who bought the game used. Presumably, it was intended to help recoup some of the losses they realized because people bought their games second-hand. Fair enough.

2. "Project Ten Dollar" (not so quietly) went away. Now, when people buy the new standard edition of a Bioware game, they no longer get day one DLC included, but have to pay extra for it (recall that people who bought a new standard edition of Dragon Age got the DLC free). With Bioware's newest game, Mass Effect 3, if people want the DLC included with the game, they have to buy the Collectors' Edition, which is $20 more than the standard one. I predict that Bioware games will never again include day one DLC with the standard edition of a game. And before EA acquired Bioware, they never released any day one DLC.

3. Bioware released an incredibly buggy and subpar expansion pack for Dragon Age, Awakenings. It was clear that this expansion was released without having the quality control that it needed. This implies that it was pushed out the door before it was ready in order to capitalize on the sales success of Dragon Age.

4. Bioware released Dragon Age 2, which also proved buggy and often contained the exact same environments throughout the game. According to the article, lead designer Mike Laidlaw said that the reason for this was "to expand content". The length of Dragon Age 2 doesn't support his statement; it's shorter than the first game. More likely, environments were reused to shorten production times in order to meet an externally imposed deadline. As Fedor says in the article:

"I guess I could lament the pressures of delivering a product within a certain fiscal quarter, but delivering a product on time and on budget is just good business. If the schedule is hampering the quality of the product, then it was as much our fault for not planning timeline and budget effectively enough. So it sucks, but it's not something I could exclusively blame EA for."

Yes, delivering a product on time IS good business--if the product is of sufficiently high quality and you get to decide when "on time" actually is. Bioware no longer does either. As a wholly owned subsidiary of EA, EA dictates release dates, mandates the use of its own QA standards and ultimately determines if a game is "good enough" to release in a particular fiscal quarter. The sloppiness of DA: Awakenings and DA2 seem to show that pretty clearly when these games are compared to pre-EA Bioware releases.

5. I could add more but real life intrudes so I'll end with a final point on why Bioware games suffered after they were acquired by EA: look at the picture of John Riccitello on page 2 of the article.

Would YOU buy a used car from this man?

Saladfax2416d ago (Edited 2416d ago )

All of your points are quite apt, and lord knows you could probably go all day with it.

The biggest one in my opinion is the whole putting out a "good enough" product because of time constraints. When you have a company as reliable and successful as BioWare *used* to be, it should always be a matter of taking as much time as they need to make the game right.

Like Blizzard, or Valve, or countless other companies. I mean, yeah, Blizzard has jumped on the money train, but at least they still put out pretty darn good products.