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These are 3 Reasons why BioWare Ended up Losing its Edge

In Gaming, Op-Ed by Rodion Schizmin5 Comments

Once they were one of the trendsetters in role-playing games. The developers from BioWare with each new game pleased and surprised the players. They complemented the genre with many new features. Many other studios borrowed a lot from their creations when designing their own games. Since the legendary Baldur’s Gate series, every new game from BioWare added something new and at the same time was a logical continuation of the previous games of the studio. However, we cannot help but notice a huge slide downwards since Dragon Age 2. The studio, with each new game, disappoints their fans, and the games’ ratings inexorably fall. What is the reason behind this regress? How did the once legendary studio become the object of ridicule and memes for the gaming community? Let us find out.

The departure of many key figures.

During their early years, BioWare made some of the best games of their time.

Each studio passes through permutations. Sometimes they are insignificant and in this case do not greatly affect the overall development of the games. Sometimes the withdrawal of several significant people changes everything. Three medical students founded BioWare in 1995. The team brought together the enthusiasts of role-playing games and were passionate about creating stunning role-playing adventures. They made their games complex, exciting and original. That is why these games have become classics of the genre and influenced many others.

However, in recent years, we have heard a lot about the departure of many scriptwriters and game designers. Even its founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk left the studios. Another major loss was Casey Hudson, the general director of the original Mass Effect series. He left BioWare in 2014 and that is a pretty bad sign when the major developer leaves its creation. Who came to replace them? The result is visible in the latest games of the company. Apparently, the new employees and the management prioritize different things rather than the quality of the design and the story. Therefore, we come to the second reason.

Bringing politics into their games.

A lot of their modern characters seem more like cosplayers than actual inhabitants of the world.

Yes, no good has ever come out of it. Every time when someone tried to hide political agitation behind the subject of art, it turned out very poorly. Games are not an exception. Even in ancient Rome or Greece, authors and poets were reproached for corruption and politicization. Even at that time, people understood that art applies directly to the person, not to the state or dominating ideology. Art should show and give one a choice, show life from its many angles. Art lets a person decide and never terrorizes a man with certainty. When the creator tries to impose an ideology in his work, all interest and depth are lost in a moment. It feels like you are watching the news on your TV or read someone’s political speech. Fortunately, the world is much bigger and unusual than your everyday newspaper.

Watching the plot and the heroes in the latest creations of the studio, you begin to understand that something is out of place. In these games, the logic of the world and the logic of the characters are violated. A brutal mercenary is unlikely to behave like a Starbucks employee. The world based on the European Middle Ages looks extremely unnatural when elements of 21st century’s culture are added to it. In the last Dragon Age, with its excessive pathos and clumsy tailored world, it was far too over the top.

Especially when you compare it with much more logical and elaborate universes. Pillar of Eternity and Witcher 3 are wonderful examples of how to create a realistic fantasy realm. What was the cause of such an obvious inflection towards political waste paper instead of a deep and ambiguous universe? It is hard to tell. Perhaps this is just a trend of the time or maybe a desire of new employees to go this way. Maybe something else.

EA age. For good or bad.

Selling out to a big corporation is always a double-edged sword.

At a certain point of its growth, the studio was acquired by the EA, a well-known corporation. You can argue eternally whether this was good or not. On the one hand, when an independent developer finds a sponsor, it loses some freedom of expression. Developers start following strict rules and outside control over the creative process is present. On the other hand, the studios benefit from stability and confidence in its product. It is already financed and developers know what they need to achieve. Such control can help greatly. That is why most of the Early Access failures, which never reach the full release, are games from Kickstarter or simply attempts from independent studios.

You can see certain trends in BioWare games after EA acquired them. Just look at the most successful and awarded games before and after this occurred. Only Dragon age: Origins and Mass Effect 2 were undeniably successful and did not cause heated discussions on the net. You can recall the standard EA DLC that BioWare injected their games with. A new set of swords or 200 different shirts for your character are always a nice thing to buy. Alas, that is the policy of major publishers and it can damage the development pretty badly.

What’s next?

Now, after Mass Effect: Andromeda we can accurately see the motion vector of the company’s games. Once the cult Dragon Age series, which originally claimed to be a renovation of hardcore tactical RPGs, became a console action. Mass Effect, an awarded space opera, that set the bar for entertaining role-playing games, is teeming with bugs and disastrous facial animation problems.

We cannot say with certainty what will happen with BioWare next. Every time after the release of the next game since Dragon Age 2, I want to think that this time it will stop. That the studio will return to its origins and will create an intelligent and unusual game again. Every time since then their new game has been a disappointment bigger than the previous one. 75 on Metacritic is not the level of the old BioWare, but, perhaps, there is nothing left of this old BioWare. However, I will still wait for another game from them and hope that this will be a good one.

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Comments

  1. It’s tome to realize that the Bioware of old is long gone and it will fall to a company like CDPR to bring the magic into gaming.

    1. Author

      Sure, it is frustrating. But still we got a lot of promising indie studios to help the genre get its former glory.

      Also, like you said, guys like CD Projekt Red are the new hit makers, so we’ll just hope they stay thistle way and continue creating smart and deep products.

  2. Keep in mind that this was created by Bioware Montreal NOT Bioware Edmonton which created prior games. Edmonton is working on a new IP from Bioware so the decision to have a rookie team with only 5 years under it’s belt to work on the project was the bigger mistake.

    Also stating that politics and art never work is bullshit. As a musician myself I almost find that insulting. Art is the best medium to express and share your views. Not everyone will agree but that’s not the point, the point is that your medium gives you a voice. Just take a look at the countless artists through history that used music to express political and cultural views.

    As for the game it’s self, yeah they more then likely screwed the pooch trying to appeal to a smaller subset of gamers on certain topics. EA and Bioware’s job is to sell a product and make as much profit as possible. This means they took their focus off other assets in favor of others thinking it would be enough for fans.

    TL;DR: Bioware Montreal made the game not Edmonton. Politics in art is normal but that doesn’t excuse the poor management and rookie mistakes that clearly plague Andromeda and made it one of the worst in the series. Besides what I mentioned, pretty much everything else in this article I can agree with. Good write up!

    1. Author

      Thank you for you comment. I highly appreciate that you cared to share your opinion on this subject.

      However, I still stick with my views on politics and art, but maybe I should clear some things up. When I talk about politics and art, I mean that some artists try to impose dominating ideology through their art and this never ends well. Just because the State always has some kind of ideology and it’s pretty one-sided. The purpose of the art is to encourage people to think themselves, not to follow the guidelines of those who hold power.
      Usually, when artists expresses his views, it’s totally fine, but when through his art he creates an illusion of some ideas being the only right ones, he clearly loses the point in his art.

      When it comes down to music, I have a lot to say myself and if you want to talk about it specifically, you can give me your contacts. Honestly, I can’t think of any great musicians I like, who blended politics and their music. Especially when they followed the official ideology of some country.

  3. Can’t agree with the politics point. That comes down to personal opinion. The fuckups of Bioware in the last 5 years had next to nothing to do with politics. ME3’s ending, while we still have little definitive answers as to why it happened, pretty much involved politics in no way. Inquisition’s major issues were the gameplay and combat system, and the MMO style fetch quests. Andromeda’s issue was EA not assigning the resources and talent that an ME game deserves and Bioware’s Montreal studio was inexperienced, understaffed, and practically soulless due to the large amount of contract workers. This has everything to do with EA and talent leaving, and next to nothing to do with politics. In fact, MEA was a step down from their usual politics, and there’s a fair amount of controversy about tokenism from LGBT fans. Finally, Bioware has always been progressive and political, and I think its a mistake to say only now they’ve gotten political. This is the same company that put the first gay character in Star Wars then had to hide it because Lucasfilm freaked out.

    At best, politics is the shit icing on the cake for SOME people. But look at the opinions from reviewers on their recent games and you will find little mention of politics. And look on /r/games, NeoGAF, Giantbomb, IGN. Pretty much everyone will be bitter about Inquisition’s MMO stylings, or Andromeda’s facial animations. But political posts are usually few and far between, and most acknowledge its just their opinion. I frequent reddit, and even in the most “anti-SJW” site, politics is far from people’s minds when criticizing Bioware games.

Care to share your thoughts?