BioWare Beat: BioWare Is Bleeding Bigwigs
Most people who’ve left BioWare’s warm embrace in recent months – well, voluntarily, I mean – have been tediously professional in talking about their decision to leave. No criticism, no confirmation of popular opinions about the corporate parent, just dull old platitudes of being excited about their next move. Boring! But finally, the delicious moment we’ve been waiting for has arrived: someone high enough up to matter is also willing to vent their spleen.
That person would be SWTOR lead designer Daniel Erickson. In the last 24 hours, both he and SWTOR Executive Producer Rich Vogel have announced their surprise departures from BioWare. This comes less than a month after cofounders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk simultaneously resigned, and while it might not be iron-clad proof of trouble behind the scenes, it certainly confirms that an exodus of top talent at the Mass Effect developer is officially a thing1.
For his part, Vogel left to take a rather sweet job with Bethesda: he’ll be heading up the Dishonored publisher’s new Battlecry Studios in Austin. But Erickson appears to have abruptly quit his job. He isn’t telling precisely why he left without anything to cushion his fall, but in his first post-BioWare act, he finally joined Twitter, and his inaugural tweets have been a truly epic list of lines in between which many things can be read.
After starting by saying “As part of leaving BioWare I’m officially starting a twitter account for job hunt and design thoughts,” he tweeted a remark that appears to be a comment on his former place of employment. “When 90% of the industry,” he says, “is saying the exact same thing (social, mobile, FTP!) a huge number of people are going to lose that race.”
He doesn’t name any names, but does he have to? I mean, really, do we need him to draw us a map? (HINT: it’s a map of Redwood City, California.) Sure, this could be a reference to the numerous job interviews he’s had in the 24 hours – or 2 weeks, if the rumors are true – since leaving his job. But fortunately, just in case he might have been misunderstood, a couple of follow up tweets he posted a few hours later clear things up nicely:
“Job hunt thoughts: If you think a monetization approach is the same thing as a game idea I don’t know why we’re talking.”
“I keep hearing companies are making games for people who don’t like games. I keep mentally replacing “games” both times with “hats.” Why?”
I’ll say it: There is no way this can be read as anything other than a lightsaber sized middle finger aimed squarely at Erickson’s former employers, BioWare, and corporate parent Electronic Arts.
Here’s the thing: If you’ve ever seen a building with more than 3 stories on fire, you know how rats stream out of every nook and cranny they can find, the smartest and fastest of them finding the safest and quickest escape routes, while those slower, dumber, or simply in terrible position to pivot quickly end up stuck, forced to go down with burning building. It’s actually quite terrifying, and it’s exactly what it feels like when you work for a major company on the edge of collapse.
Just to be clear, Erickson and Vogel are not a couple of rats. But it’s certainly starting to look like the building from which they are fleeing is on fire. (That building, by the way, is in Redwood City.) From our point of view, it looks as though those with the means to survive, or the opportunity to go elsewhere, are piling out the door, leaving behind only those who like the way things are going, or simply can’t afford to leave. This isn’t necessarily proof of ill fortunes for the developer, but it can’t be denied that the flood of recent news isn’t exactly positive. We’ll be paying close attention to matters BioWare in the next few weeks; it’s almost certain there are many shoes left to drop. In the meantime, current BioWare employees might want to update their resumes.
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1. also a thing: played out Gangam Style parodies. Seriously, stop that.
This has been BioWare Beat, Game Front’s ongoing look into the… evolving fortunes of the studio behind Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age 2.