Electronic Arts is currently working hard to shed its image of choking the life out of its studio acquisitions. But does that match up with the truth?
At GDC, Gamasutra had the chance to speak with Ray Muzyka, founder and CEO of BioWare, which was acquired by the megalithic publisher late last year. Have things really changed? And what does the future hold for this unique development studio?
I last spoke with you right after the announcement of the EA buyout, but things have become clearer. I saw John Riccitiello speak at DICE about the city-state model. When I first heard you guys went to EA, I thought that it must mean that EA is changing. Then when I saw that speech...
Ray Muzyka: John knows us really well. We worked with him for two years, and he knows what Greg and I are like, and Andrew and Josh and Greg. We know what he's like, because we worked with him directly beforehand for three years. He was our CEO at VGH, at Pandemic.
I think he knows we're pretty passionate about what we do, and he knows that we fit into it in a certain way. We're good at something, and we really strive to make good games. We care about our fans and our employees, and we're not going to abandon those values. I think his talk... I found it pretty inspirational, too. I don't know what you were going to say about it, but...
I was impressed. But I know that I did talk to some developers afterward and they were like, "Yeah, right."
RM: The proof's in the action. I see myself... I've got to take a leadership role in order to show that we can be successful within that framework, and BioWare can continue to be successful within the framework. I'm excited about that opportunity.
I think the proof is out there. As he said himself, if you look at what happened with Westwood and Origin, I think those are sad stories. And Bullfrog. But if you look at what happened with Maxis...
RM: Or DICE. We've heard very good success stories. And Criterion as well. They're all making great games, and they have great people, and they're doing really well. They've actually got unique brands, as well. They're starting to make something and resonate with the fans. It's what it's about, right?
You guys are very plugged in to your fan base. Absolutely, I think. Many developers are, but I think you guys... Matt Atwood was talking about in the demo [before this meeting] how you're plugged into the fact that you have to make sure Mass Effect is a PC game when it ships on PC.
RM: Yeah. We want to tune it and customize it and really spend the time. A lot of the time, that's about making the control system better. Actually, it's fun when you hear the demo teams getting really excited about the demo, because over the next three days, they're getting more and more excited about playing it and trying different tactics out.
The upcoming PC version of BioWare's Mass Effect
The run-and-gun combined with the better squad controls enables new types of tactics to be done in battles, so actually it's almost like playing a brand new game, which in many ways it is, because it's higher graphics, and we're trying to improve a lot of things.
But trying to make these improvements, sometimes they have exponential effects and multiple effects when they work together. You can really see it. Because the tactical infrastructure stuff is already there, and there's the opportunity for really interesting tactical battles, which I think PC fans love. The fact that you can run-and-gun it down the center while your guys are deployed on the side of the squad individually is a subtle enhancement, but it's a huge impact on the gameplay in a good way.