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Let's discuss Bioware...

Started by Starfox, Aug 24, 2023, 09:45 AM

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Starfox

For those who haven't read that yet:

State of BioWare (as of August 23, 2023)

What does it all means? Well, let's try to read between the BS lines there. And first things first, let's remember that BioWare is currently working on what should be two massive titles, Mass Effect 4 (or 5, depending on what fans you ask because some of them consider Andromeda to be #4 -- I don't because Andromeda doesn't belong to any "cycle", especially not Shepard timeline, but we're all entitled to our opinion) and the next iteration of the Dragon Age series, Dragon Age: Dreadwolf.

Mass Effect 4 is supposed to be a revival of the Mass Effect franchise so something pretty big considering the very passable reception that Mass Effect Andromeda had. Dragon Age Inquisition was the last real "success" of BioWare despite of its flaws and they have been desperately trying to score something since then, to no avail. They had a success with Mass Effect Legendary Edition but let's face it, it's not a true success as this is a remaster of a beloved trilogy that was sure to hook up old fans whom were going to draw the new generation of gamers in it. And that worked. In term of new games and new IP, BioWare achieved literally nothing those past 5 years.

Also, to read correctly BioWare announcement, one must keep in mind that they are not in charge. Electronic Arts is. They have been the owners of BioWare since Mass Effect 2 in which they were fortunately uninvolved creatively, most of the game being completed by the time the acquisition was finalized. They are also the one who botched the release of Mass Effect 3 with the initial and unfortunate consequences we all know because the game had to be out in time as an exclusivity for the unveiling of their dear Origin online store (or "let's copy Steam" effort). So keep in mind, what BioWare is announcing there is likely the result of decisions made by Electronic Arts, not them.

So what do we have here...

QuoteIn order to meet the needs of our upcoming projects, continue to hold ourselves to the highest standard of quality, and ensure BioWare can continue to thrive in an industry that's rapidly evolving, we must shift towards a more agile and more focused studio. It will allow our developers to iterate quickly, unlock more creativity, and form a clear vision of what we're building before development ramps up.

Ooh, that's starting very hard. So first "highest standard of quality", well, I haven't really seen any of it since Dragon Age Inquisition (2015) but... whatever. I just don't see what standard they are trying to preserve. "To ensure a return to our former highest standard of quality" would have been more correct.

"continue to thrive in an industry that's rapidly evolving", understand there: our overlord (Electronic Arts) is not happy that we are not bringing any new money so they decided to kick our asses a little by reducing our funding.

"we must shift towards a more agile and more focused studio", quite frankly this one just looks like typical Electronic Arts PR bullshit that I have read countless times in the past and that makes me wonder if the whole thing was even written by anyone at Bioware or if they were just handed the text to put online by the PR department of their masters.

"It will allow our developers to iterate quickly, unlock more creativity", that seems like EA telling them "cut the crap and get off your lazy asses. you haven't done anything really new in 5 years and we're not paying for shit. So more games, faster, and by creativity we mean: money makers!"

"form a clear vision of what we're building before the development ramps up", well, that might be the only part I'm in agreement with in all of that. Because considering the mess that the various announcements regarding the upcoming Mass Effect 4 (or 5) have been and how contradictory and/or subject to vastly different interpretations by the fans they sometimes were, a clear vision of a project before starting the development is sorely needed. One should always know where a project is going before starting it. One doesn't start to build a house and draw the plans later.

So right now, you could accuse me of pessimism. "Why are you like that Starfox?" you ask. "These are all good things they announce!" And true enough, it might seem that way, until the next bit hit you in the face.

QuoteTo achieve this, we find ourselves in a position where change is not only necessary, but unavoidable. As difficult as this is to say, rethinking our approach to development inevitably means reorganizing our team to match the studio's changing needs.

As part of this transition, we are eliminating approximately 50 roles at BioWare.

Does that still feels good to you? Am I the only one who finds weird that a studio that is currently engaged in the production of two massive projects pertaining to their most successful IPs is suddenly letting 50 people go? Shouldn't they be hiring instead to ensure that quality and production speed are there and that success is at the end of the line?

"reorganizing our team to match the studio's changing needs.", and this is where my understanding starts to fail... What "changing needs"? Aren't they developing two massive titles?  Because if so their needs should be increasing,or at the very least stay at the same level, not decreasing,

I'll spare you the rest of the "communique" (you can read it yourself if you're so inclined) that is mainly the usual crap about how this decision won't affect the current projects and how they will indeed be better for it... blah-blah Already read that kind of thing a gazillion times, especially coming from Electronic Arts, each time they are starting to think about closing a studio to cut down their losses. They did it numerous times with other studios they bought before, heck even to studios they created themselves. Stuff like "... rethinking our approach to development inevitably means reorganizing our team to match the studio's changing needs." is generally what comes before the axe. In short it's the very last warning shot: Either your next game is a money maker and fast, or you're dead as a studio.

Thing is, their next project won't be the new Mass Effect 4 (or 5, whatever). Their next project will be Dragon Age: Dreadwolf as stated in this very "communique". Is that the best choice to deliver a money maker while gamers are still wild about Mass Effect Legendary Edition and want more while Dragon Age: Inquisition is a distant memory for most people and completely unknown to the new generation? I let you be the judge. But if the next game doesn't deliver, there might not be a new Mass Effect at all, not before a long time, and it might not even be developed by BioWare.

So what about the 50 people that they are letting go? First, my thoughts go to them because I've been in this situation and that sucks. Second, who are they? Because there is a bunch of possibilities there. First, and that is the optimistic one: they are all people that are multiplayer development oriented and as BioWare seems to refocus on single-player games, they are not needed anymore. This is the only case in which BioWare announced move would make any kind of sense.

Second: they are the reminder of the old BioWare, the "old guard", those who are the most likely to rail against what BioWare has turned into and are not needed by a studio wanting to embrace a new vision. That would effectively mean that the old BioWare, the studio that brought us Knights Of The Old Republic, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, Dragon Age... is effectively no more. Just a name with people who weren't even there for the glorious era of the studio. I think I prefer to believe in the former option rather than this one because this would be far too depressing.

So will BioWare finally join the cohort of studios that Electronic Arts successively bought and broke these past 30 years or will it become a new phoenix? Well, for now the final outcome is still in the air.

Firing people while you're in the middle of a development cycle has never been a good sign though...

Guess what it means!

Silver Sorrow

They fell just short of hitting all of the buzzwords. Reminds me a bit of...


So in essence, yeah: if this game doesn't make as much money as, say, Baldur's Gate 3 and Hogwarts Legacy combined, then Bioware will sleep with the fishes. Not a bad idea, considering that the real company died when E/A bought it.

Huh...I vaguely recall when the founders left, called all of the people who didn't like ME3's ending a bunch of stupid backwards assholes, and disappeared with their golden parachutes into whatever well-deserved realm of obscurity sell-outs go when they peace out.

And I remember a bunch of posts on the ME:Andromeda's blog gushing over how great they thought the local Pride parades were.

I guess (because I have no way of knowing for sure) my point is that Bioware has been a lousy mess for years now and it would probably be a blessing if they were put out of their (and our) misery once and for all. Sucks for the employees, but there's always work for can-do go-getters in the food service industry. Yes, I would like fries with that. Oh, you worked on Anthem, huh? Well, good for you. No, I don't want any ketchup with that.
It seems because through time and space
Though names may change each face retains the mask it wore

Starfox

Well, isn't that peachy. I just learned (because 7 of the 50 fired employees filed a lawsuit against BioWare) that most of the people that were laid off worked on Dragon Age: Dreadwolf, the other on Mass Effect 4/5. Interestingly among the people who worked on Dragon Age were the original writers for the previous DA games -- which seems to nicely fit the theory that they are getting rid of the "old guard" and not just of people whom are of no use.

You'd think that since they wrote the other DA games, those people are the most qualified in term of lore significance and hence useful to have at hand. And BioWare is getting rid of them right in the middle of the development cycle of the next DA game? What the hell is going on at BioWare right now? Do I want to know? Probably not. I suppose that the "Dreadwolf" in the next DA title is referring to the Inquisition character Solas. So yes indeed, what good would be people who wrote the story and lore for Dreadwolf in Dragon Age: Origins and worked on the relation to Solas in Inquisition? Better to get rid of them and let rookies do the job. They'll bring fresh ideas... might not be accurate but at least they'll be fresh...

By the way the lawsuit regards the severance package which according to the employees is well below even the industry standards and nowhere fit for people whom, for some of them, worked for 15+ years in the company.

I won't lie, I wasn't particularly enthused when they announced a new Dragon Age and Mass Effect but now, I'm downright apprehensive...

Guess what it means!

Silver Sorrow

Duke Nuk...uh...Dragon Age Dreadwolf: ten years in development hell (engine flip-flopping' starts, stops, restarts, midstream directional changes), revolving-door staff...they might as well call it Dragon Age Forever and cancel the thing, already. Just pull a Disney: cancel it, erase the hard drives, and consider it a tax write-off. It's probably cheaper in the long run.

As for the next Mass Effect? I don't know. It has the same stink as the Thief reboot all over it: nowhere as good as the original and bound to piss people off more than anything else.
It seems because through time and space
Though names may change each face retains the mask it wore