With Casey Hudson Gone, BioWare Can Get Fresh Eyes on Mass Effect

A lot has happened at BioWare since the release of Mass Effect 3. In many ways, it’s a different company.

The latest major change at BioWare is the departure of Director Casey Hudson, who announced he was leaving the company last week after 16 years there. Hudson became a big force at BioWare with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and he’s been at the helm for the entire Mass Effect trilogy, BioWare’s biggest property.

Hudson also is arguably the force behind the ending of Mass Effect 3, and seemed to be the architect of BioWare’s response to it, at least as presented to the public. It was Hudson who first seemed to misinterpret what fans were complaining about the ending’s lack of closure, rather than other fundamental flaws with what BioWare originally shipped. He seemed to be most stalwart on BioWare’s position on the ending, and the rest of the company has followed his lead on the series ever since.

But today, Hudson is gone from BioWare, vacating the post of executive producer on a new, unannounced project as well as the next Mass Effect title — which he held at least in name, despite the game being developed by BioWare Montreal (Hudson worked at BioWare Edmonton). Hudson has appeared as the face of Mass Effect for its entirety up until now, and was at least billed as being in a leadership position of the next iteration of the series.

Now that he’s gone, BioWare is free to move the series in a Hudson-free direction — which, in all honesty, could be the best thing for it.

Hudson still has a lot of support among BioWare fans, but for those who felt burned by the Mass Effect 3 situation, he’s the embodiment of that bad experience. Whether a fair correlation or not, it was his face attached to the creation of the ending, his final call for it to go through to players, and his apparent position that players’ complaints weren’t to be taken as seriously as those players might have liked. As the creative lead on the project, he bears ultimate responsibility for the ending, and most assume, perhaps rightly, that he was the driving force behind BioWare’s response to the controversy, which many players found disrespectful and frustrating.

It’s hard to say whether Hudson should bear all the blame for those things. BioWare received plenty of less-than-polite comments and complaints after ME3 wrapped up, presented alongside the legitimate and measured complaints of members of the fanbase, and those rude comments may well have warped the perception of fans’ complaints too far for real acknowledgment or understanding to ever take place. We also have no understanding of the internal workings of BioWare after the ending controversy, and we likely never will. But Hudson certainly became a symbol for what many would consider what was “wrong” with BioWare in 2012.

More than that, however, he represents the old guard of Mass Effect. It has been his creative vision driving the sci-fi projects of the studio for years — as far back as KOTOR. Hudson’s departure leaves new blood free to take control of Mass Effect, and new perspectives alone might mean a lot to reinvigorating the franchise.

The fact is that Hudson has been in control of Mass Effect throughout its life, and though he’s surely influenced the next title greatly, the situation surrounding Mass Effect 3 suggests that change is needed if the series is to survive. In fact, BioWare itself largely could stand a paradigm shift in the public perception: in many ways, it has already undergone one, with the departure of founders Drs. Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka, and now with Hudson, as well. A big chunk of the company’s old leadership is now gone.

BioWare went through a lot of changes between today and 2007, when Mass Effect was first released. It has suffered a few controversies, and not just on Mass Effect: it took public relations blows with changes that came with being acquired by Electronic Arts, and it had to deal with fallout related to Dragon Age II. Mass Effect 3, by far the most tumultuous, is requiring the most work from BioWare to rebuild. Perhaps that’s best done without the personalities of some of the company’s older players getting in the way.

Since BioWare means to continue pushing the Mass Effect franchise forward, it’s not hard to see Hudson’s departure, somewhat unfortunately, as a potentially positive development for the next game. With him, Hudson takes both the good and the bad of the past — and leaves room for BioWare to look in fresh directions and cultivate new voices.

Hudson has been a powerful force for BioWare for his 16-year tenure at the company. It’s possible to see controversy around the ending of Mass Effect 3 as his lasting legacy, but it’s also unfair. His work at the company helped bring about KOTOR, an RPG that has had a major effect on the landscape of the genre among western game companies. The very nature of the controversy surrounding Mass Effect 3 reminds what a huge and important force the series was for many players. Hudson’s leadership on the good stuff shouldn’t also be discounted.

Still, the wounds among the Mass Effect fan base, for many, are still open. A future for the series without Casey Hudson at the helm may be what it needs to survive — at least among many players.


Phil Hornshaw is senior editor at GameFront. Read more of his work here, and follow him and GameFront on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

Join the Conversation   

* required field

By submitting a comment here you grant GameFront a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate or irrelevant comments will be removed at an admin's discretion.

10 Comments on With Casey Hudson Gone, BioWare Can Get Fresh Eyes on Mass Effect

SweetPea

On August 14, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Ehh, I’m not sure if him leaving is really a good thing. Sure, I hated the ending and how BioWare responded to it, but I blame EA for that, not just Casey Hudson personally. It was EA that cut the development time in half and turned the rest of the series into generic shooters. I still believe that if they had enough time, they could have made a lot better game with a sensible ending. I’m also pretty sure it was EA that gave the instructions on how to handle the ending controversy.

And as you said, Hudson has been the leader of the Mass Effect team from the beginning. He had a big part in creating the first game, which many of us consider one of the best RPGs of all time. He’s clearly not incompetent. So… I don’t know, you may be right, but I don’t think his departure will help the franchise. Getting rid of EA however, would definitely help.

thedog

On August 14, 2014 at 10:30 pm

Sorry SweetPea, but there is no way I can even come close to agreeing with you. For one, he wasn’t in charge when Kotor was made. His decision making has not been good. He is obviously not leader material. Leaders handle their crew and the public with equal passion. His public speaking skills are only equal to a 5th grader who had peed in cheerios. I really don’t know how much EA had to do with it all but he still should have done soooooo much better. You say he’s not incompetent, well as someone in charge he pretty much was. With someone over him guiding him, maybe not so bad. His role as a bad guy maybe overblown, but I’m not so sure. People can believe what they want but I for one will not shed a tear for his departure. In fact I will make a toast now that he’s gone. I do agree with your last statement though. EA has damaged their rep maybe beyond repair, but hopefully they will return to some of there past glory. We will see.

VinceP1974

On August 14, 2014 at 10:52 pm

“Still, the wounds among the Mass Effect fan base, for many, are still open.”

Oh for the love God… please… I agree the endings were atrocious…but get over it already to any of you who still have “open wounds”

Dragon84

On August 14, 2014 at 11:54 pm

Bioware is dead, only EA remains, there is no bright future left for a dead developer. Long live CD Project Red the true kings of the RPG realm!

MAURO

On August 15, 2014 at 12:16 am

“A future for the series without Casey Hudson at the helm may be what it needs to survive — at least among many players.’” What is that, an instantaneous census? Get me out of that ”many”, I don’t think this was Casey’s fault… and I don’t think that his leaving is good. Only if EA leaves maybe ME could survive Indoctrination, with all the rushing and forcing the RPG into an action game. This would be the perfect time for them to leave, maybe even late. First and foremost, a company shouldn’t listen what the fans would like to see, that thing simply BRAKES their freedom for creation somehow, somewhere. They should hear their customer’s complains only, to fix problems and not to prevent it. To prevent it, a job well done is obviously the key to try. Just take a look at ME3. Bioware’s creativity was slowly reduced to the land of limitations and requests – this is pathetic. Poor Bioware, they were indoctrinated by some tyrant dumb-ass publishing company and a whole bunch of confused fans. Not just because of the damn fans desires and EA’s big BS kind of management, but also because they made mistakes. Mistakes that aren’t just Casey’s case, it is a company right? If Mass Effect is a so democratic accomplishment, ME’s fall is also on you dear game and dear article writer.

SweetPea

On August 15, 2014 at 2:26 am

@thedog
All I’m saying is, he did a pretty good job with Mass Effect 1 and probably even ME2. He screwed up with ME3, there’s no denying that. But EA also played a big part in that. And call me naive, but I don’t think he’d repeat the same mistakes he made with ME3. Anyway, I’m not here to defend Casey.

What I’m trying to say is: what do we gain by removing him? Not much. Whoever takes his place, is going to be controlled by EA, just the same. As long as that’s the case, I don’t have any hope for the franchise, or BioWare in general.

Can of Bloke

On August 15, 2014 at 2:49 am

We don’t need fresh eyes on Mass Effect. The fresh eyes in this case have been present for two and a half years, and came from the fans who could see through the under-developed histrionic bull and PR skullduggery that the game ultimately became. The ending was what finally sent BioWare’s reputation into the toilet, but the danger signs were already there with From Ashes, the inclusion of multiplayer that you needed to play for hours in order to get your EMS high enough to see all the single player content (which turned out to be a poorly-lit 15 second scene of an anonymous soldier inhaling on some rubble), and of course all the problems present in DA2 as well as the almost complete abandonment of ME’s RPG and customisation options with its sequel.

The common factor in all of this is that EA had bought BioWare by this time, so it’s safe to say that EA has had a huge negative impact on the team’s creative output. But just as it would be unfair to completely blame Hudson for ME’s failing (that’s what Mac Walters is there for), it would also be wrong to suggest that EA is 100% behind BioWare’s poor service. EA did not force Hudson and Walters to change the ending just because it was leaked to a few people. EA did not force Hudson and Walters to write the ending by themselves in a vacuum with nobody else from the team present in the process (hence ending Mauro’s “BioWare’s a company” argument before it’s had a chance to get going) all while continuing to make public statements of technical assurance and player choice that they knew were not going to be present in the finished product yet kept promoting them anyway. EA did not force Hudson and Jessica Merizan to post a ridiculously self-congratulatory Youtube interview in which they sucked each other’s genitals for 15 minutes while talking about how everyone loved the ending really and they were doing the extended cut out of the goodness of their hearts, despite their own social network poll showing otherwise. These decisions were all up to the people at the top of BioWare, not EA.

None of this will make any difference to the series, because there’s no way the series should even exist any more. It ended with the third game. That was always the intention and is also one of the asinine defences BioWare’s dwindling fantoys still like to dredge up, that somehow the entire third game was an ending despite introducing new characters and having its own three-act structure. Everything else that can come from this is just a money-grab from a company losing ideas fast. The fact that Hudson’s gone won’t change that, it just might mean that people won’t get shot down as much, but considering the rest of the people responsible for BioWare’s failings are still present I won’t hold my breath.

thedog

On August 15, 2014 at 9:03 am

Sorry SweetPea, but I am going to have to call you naïve if you really believe that. I could pretty much guarantee that he would screw up again that bad. His attitude to the fans shows his mind set. He gave us the finger for heavens sake. Mass Effect 3 wasn’t his first screw up and wouldn’t have been his last, if he had stayed. He is ok when someone is above to reign him in and guide him. He doesn’t have enough leadership skills to be at the top though. In fact he sucks really bad.
VinceP1974, no offence but pull your head out of your backside. Whining like a little girl isn’t going to make anyone stop, in fact it will encourage them, just to p. you off. Those wounds may never heal and if you haven’t figured that out, well your not the brightest bulb in the box. On every forum and in every discussion, it is always the same. If you don’t like it then just don’t read any Bioware articles cuz you’re going to see some. Just saying, quit complaining when you know what you’re to find before you find it. So for the love of god, quit ing and let your wounds fester.

JackI

On August 15, 2014 at 12:25 pm

I’m not gonna say it was all Casey’s fault…all I’m going to say is that with him gone I may actually buy the next one.

Will wait for the reviews first, though.

R.J.

On August 15, 2014 at 11:06 pm

I’m not terribly sad to see him go. I certainly agree he was there for the best of the times, but you have to be fairly dense not to understand why people were so upset about the ME3 ending. At some point, common sense has to be a factor.