Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bioware Founders Call It Quits, Rock Dies A Little Inside

Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka, the founders of BioWare, have officially announced their retirement from games. Read on for Rock's heartfelt thoughts on this devastating departure.

Coming to us from PC Gamer, this news really hits me right in the nostalgia. And by nostalgia, I mean balls. For most of my life as a gamer, BioWare has made some of my all time favorite games. Baldur's Gate. Neverwinter Nights. Knights of the Old Republic. Mass Effect.  Over the years, BioWare has produced some of the most influential and highly regarded games in the industry.  And now I'm afraid that the glory days may be gone. However, the announcement that BioWare heads Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk would be retiring isn't what's scared me. Come with me as I delve into the genesis of my fear.

No, not that fear!

To be honest, I started being scared a few years ago when Dragon Age: Origins was released. Amidst confusing marketing, DA:O came out with a lot of people not really sure what it was. Was this the hardcore RPG in the vein of the beloved Baldur's Gate series?  Or was this a hardcore action game? I know which one I hoped for: I wanted and was promised a return to Bioware's fantasy RPG roots. Watch this trailer and tell me if you get the impression that that's what DA:O was.


What the fuck was that? This looks like some kind of action movie or something! In reality, the game plays nothing like what you see in the trailer.  In fact, the game plays kind of...balls. I found DA:O to be a pretty mediocre game that really suffered from an identity crisis and tried to do too many things at once, while at the same time feeling constrained.  With a lame story, mostly forgettable and stereotypical characters, and unexciting environments, the game left a lot to be desired.

The good stuff

But hey, Mass Effect is pretty awesome, right? God damn right! With Mass Effect, BioWare created a unique, compelling universe with an incredible story and amazing cast of characters. True, the series' third chapter is its weakest, but as a whole Mass Effect has become my absolute favorite sci fi series of any medium.  It seems clear to me that if Bioware has an "A" team, they must be the ones who worked on Mass Effect. Dragon Age? I don't know, "C" team?

What the hell happened? How does a studio go from making consistently excellent games to hitting a home run every second or third? Sure, a studio can lose its way sometimes, but I feel that something else is going on. I think that external forces are dragging down one of the treasures of the industry.  You know what I'm talking about, so I'll just come out with it. EA is killing BioWare. That's my take.

Not pictured: any hope I had left for BioWare

EA bought a solid gold studio with an amazing reputation and a positively massive following.  In just a handful of years, they've taken a company that rarely released anything that was even average, and made it into one that's lucky if one in three games is a hit. Need I remind you of the catastrophe that was Star Wars: The Old Republic? How about the supremely underwhelming Dragon Age 2? I've always felt that if you leave creative people to create, with some management, you will get their best work. As soon as an independent studio like BioWare gets swallowed, some of their autonomy is bound to disappear.  It's simply at odds with the way a company like EA works. There was a lot of talk when the purchase happened about how this was only going to help BioWare make better games, and I called bullshit on that immediately. Independent studios can not continue to function in the way that they have once they get bought up by a company like EA!

So I think that the entire purchase was a huge mistake.  Sure it's helped EA make some decent money (except for that costly MMO! BOOM!), but I feel that it's stifled BioWare creatively and now the games industry is being robbed of two of its most amazing creative minds.  From the PC Gamer article, the Doctors' statements are pretty positive, with Dr. Muzyka planning to turn toward "promoting educational, health, and animal rights charities". Dr Zeschuk with be exploring the craft beer industry. I don't think it's fair to lay these departures solely at EA's feet, but I can't help but think that things might have turned out differently had BioWare stayed independent. Here's hoping that one of the greatest studios in the industry will continue on and somehow find a way back to their former glory, because  this news is truly incredibly saddening to me, friends.

Rock wishes the Doctors all the best in their new endeavors.


  1. Aww c'mon. It's not like EA has bought out and then killed other beloved franchises or developers before.

    Command & Conquer & Westwood

    Also, quite ragging on DA or I'll be forced to do a comprehensive review.

    -Definitely not Jonesey

    1. I'd love to see a defense of Dragon Age. Both Rock and Adam have played it, and neither of them had a lot of great things to say, despite both playing it for dozens of hours.

    2. First I'd have to finish my decidedly non-defense of Train Sim 2012, which would mean playing/enduring more of that awful piece of let's say 'software', a chore I'm planning on dealing with this weekend.

      Surely not Jonesey

    3. I agree with Chris. As someone who's loved western RPGs, DA:O should have had me. I'd love to hear from someone who actually enjoyed it.