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.

Follow Ross on Twitter.

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.

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12 Comments on BioWare Beat: BioWare Is Bleeding Bigwigs

ticklefist

On October 4, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Bioware Beat, huh? Bookmarked.

Patches

On October 4, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Actually, it’s probably EA ‘building’ that is on fire… And it just happens that the fire is spreading close to Bioware part of the building right now…

Jared

On October 4, 2012 at 10:51 pm

How is EA financially?

Ross Lincoln

On October 4, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Thanks, Patches, I’ve made a slight change clarifying my intent, which is the point you just made.

R.J.

On October 5, 2012 at 7:21 pm

I really feel for the people who are trying to make games with companies like EA looking over their shoulders. Yes, games are expensive to make, and yes corporations like EA make profits the number one priority, but they really don’t seem to see that they’re smothering their own products with all this emphasis on squeezing every dime out of a property with things like smartphone apps and facebook tie-ins. Think of how much better those games would be without all that extra garbage diverting resources. As Erickson’s tweet suggests, starting from the question of, “How do we make money?” isn’t going to deliver a quality game. The first question should be, “How do we make a good game?”

And his tweet about the “hats” is spot on, too. Again, this is a corporate move done in the interest of profits, but it ends up diverting resources on frivolous things all done in an effort to “expand the audience.” Doesn’t it seem a foolish to try to appeal to people that weren’t interested in the first place? If the audience for a game is big enough to justify a sequel, then actually make a sequel. Don’t make another game and call it a sequel. If it didn’t sell well enough, move on and make something else. Monkeying with something in an effort to please everyone typically just results in some mediocre game that doesn’t know what its audience is.

quicktooth

On October 6, 2012 at 2:34 am

And THIS is the hard-hitting eloquent and hilarious Journalism that got me closely following the games press for the last ten years (there was a gap after I stopped reading print, but, The Internet). GameFront is the best games publication out there, period. The Truth, with a Smile, and Not Pulling Punches (in particular not lying outright about companies, their games, and so on; specifically not claiming a terrible game or company is “great” or even “good”). I salute you, Gamefront. I’ll be watching this article series with GREAT interest (and amusement) :D

Maay

On October 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Well, if “social, mobile, FTP” is the future of games for 90% of the industry, then then we’re in for hard times. When 90% of an industry branch thinks the same, that’s against diversity, and lack of diversity means death sooner or later. And if social, mobile and free to play is the future, then looking at how Zinga’s making the front page, the future isn’t looking good at all.
I sure hope that the industry gets a swift kick in the butt, by companies that thrive while putting “good game” before “good money”

Sachel

On October 7, 2012 at 1:35 am

Some of the higher ups have left and it’s great that they can voice their opinion but believe me that’s not the case for the folks lower down the food-chain, though you can hear it in the trenches.

Just to give a hint as to how rocky and strife filled some of the crew are:

During my interview a few months ago my first few questions where summed up as this:
“You already know about the ending controversy. If you did not agree with the writer how would you go about trying to change it?”

Also they where working on final touches of Javek in January of 2011 and fought damn hard to keep him in the game till the hammer came from on high.

Swcloud99

On October 7, 2012 at 12:03 pm

EA is burning, next target: Ubisoft.

Red Menace

On October 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm

The Axis of Evil: EA, Ubisoft and Activision.

Maay

On October 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm

@Sachel
And that is why I feel for the people who are left behind when the bigwig flee. Guys, if you read this, keep the spirit alive ! Stay true to what you believe in ! Continue creating good games first, worry later about the money it’ll generate !

Kevin

On October 7, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Hopefully Erickson can put the debacle that is TOR behind him, because let’s be blunt: his serial arrogance and incompetence in public relations played a role in that games collapse. Granted, the game being a steaming pile of bantha poodoo was mostly the cause of it, but he didn’t help things.