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 Republic, Mass 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.