Posted on August 14, 2014, Phil Hornshaw 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 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 F. 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’s 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.