BioWare Co-Founder On Surviving the ‘EA Bear Hug’

Jan 29, 2013 by  

BioWare Co-Founder On EA Bear Hug

Last September, BioWare co-founders Greg Zeschuk and Ray Myzuka left the company after a lot of thought and deliberation – a move made all the more surprising given that the studio’s newest game, Dragon Age 3: Inquisition, had been announced only the day before. Now, four months after retiring from the games industry, Dr. Greg Zeschuk talks about the myriad factors that resulted in his timely departure from the company he helped found.

BioWare is a mature and strong company, with game franchises like Star Wars: Knights of the Old RepublicMass Effect and Baldur’s Gate under its belt. While the studio has fallen under a bit of scrutiny due to the controversial Mass Effect 3 ending and the questionable longevity of Star Wars: The Old Republic, BioWare is still one of the most powerful and influential developers in the industry. It is because of this power and influence that BioWare has managed to evade the fate of fellow Electronic Arts companies like Pandemic.

In an interview with Polygon, Dr. Zeschuk talks about surviving the “well meaning but vigorous” corporate culture at EA, which he characterizes as a “bear hug.”

“I think one of the reasons that we survived and succeeded within EA was that our company was mature enough and there was enough good people throughout to handle the EA bear hug — something that is well meaning but vigorous. We needed to be strong to survive that and I think we did and you evolve from that as well.”

Fair or not, EA is often identified as one of the most universally disliked publishers in the gaming industry. In fact, gamers went so far as to vote it the worst company in America. The company’s “bear hug” has lead to the closure of once great studios like Origin and Pandemic, leaving many gamers to view EA’s business practices as unfair and destructive more so than “well meaning.”

Dr. Zeschuk discusses how he and his longtime friend, Dr. Myzuka, made sure BioWare would remain stable, even after their departure.

“The reason we contemplated it and executed it over a longer period of time than a lot of folks do, was simply we wanted to make sure it was setup to be successful. We still love the people, love the games, love the company, it just had to succeed without us and we wanted to make sure there were great leaders in place to make that happen.”

When asked what actually factored into their finally deciding to leave BioWare – whether it was the negative fan reactions to Mass Effect 3 and The Old Republic or the “EA bear hug” closing in on them – Dr. Zeschuk simply said it was everything all at once.

“Everything’s a factor, there’s nothing that’s not a factor, but there’s no single one thing. I think the best way I can describe is: Do the same thing for twenty years and it’s very, very intense. It’s very high pressure. It’s very high stress. It’s challenging. It’s sometimes rewarding and sometimes it’s not. And you just get tired of it after awhile. That is probably the easiest way to for me to describe it. Sometimes you just need to change things.”

To see what Dr. Zeschuk is up to now, head over to his new website, The Beer Diaries.

Ranters, what do you think about Dr. Zeschuk’s take on the “EA Bear Hug”? Do you still have faith in BioWare now that Zeschuk and Myzuka have moved on? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Source: Polygon

 

6 Comments

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  1. Considering I am sure he signed a NDA when he left EA I doubt anything he says now (or for the next few years) is the full truth.

  2. He’s still obviously giving a politically friendly and safe answer. He’s acknowledging precisely nothing by saying, “it was everything!”

  3. I wouldn’t exactly call the ending to ME3 surviving the bear hug. Let’s just say they crawled away from it with only partially fractured ribs instead of broken ribs and a punctured lung.

    • …not to mention Dragon Age 2, where they may as well have slathered themselves with honey, walking backwards into a cave with a live salmon haning out of their pants.

  4. EA (while not deserving of the worst company in America title, they did NOT work hard enough for it) seems to thrive on streamlining (to the detriment of the product) anything they get their hands on, in order to maximise executive profits.

    I liked the end to ME3, but ever since ME2 I have hated the turn the graphics department took. ME1 was beautiful, and then when ME2 came out I saw what cut rate textures and simplified color pallettes could do to a wonderful game. It was heartrending. It seems that all the major dev companies are in a war right now, and gamers are stuck in limbo Ranting about the BS way the games THEY made famous and incredible (by buying in record numbers) are being picked over by greedy company execs who smell a profit. Sometimes free enterprise is a real bitch..this is one of those times.

  5. While I don’t think anyone from BioWare can really tell anyone why things are as they are there now, I do agree that it probably any one thing that made the two Dr’s leave, the company does seem to be working at cross purposes. On the one hand the company say’s they want to “reach a wider audience”, but on the other hand both DA2 & Mass Effect 3 feature fairly polarizing end states that divide that same wider audience they are trying to reach. If they are going after the players that just like the action/battle stuff that’s fine, but it would suit the company long term to not polarize the fan’s quite so much. In retrospect DA2 seems to me not to be as serious an offender at this, mostly because the DA franchise is not following a single character. I’m not sure however if all the people who purchased ME3 will purchase the next game in that franchise after seeing how the end of that game divided the fanbase.

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