The Doctors Bail on a Lost Biocause
Bioware took the final step toward electronic artlessness this week with the simultaneous resignation of the company’s founding Doctors, Greg Zeschuck and Ray Muzyka. It is perhaps a sign of the times that the departure of the duo, which may have once occasioned a sorrowful farewell, has mostly provided a fora for burned fans to criticise the Doctors for leaving their studio in such a proverbial hole. It seems to be a case of the greater portion of gamers realising that after recent mediocre entries in the Dragon Age and Mass Effect series, there really is not much left that is worth saving at the bloated entity which shares its name with the once loved Edmonton studio, Bioware.
Bioware has been at pains to stress continuity this week, talking up Mass Effect‘s Casey Hudson as heir apparent to the Doctors, while revealing new (albeit disheartengly familiar) projects in the studio pipeline. Gamers are set to receive new sequels to the over-played Dragon Age and mass Effect franchises, while Casey Hudson is apparently working on an entirely new property for next generation hardware, which will almost certainly turn out to be another thrid-person shooter masquerading as an RPG.
Meanwhile the future of the Bioware doctors remains largely unknown. The fact that the Doctor’s resignations were simultaneous appears to indicate that they have been planning to make an exit for some time now, perhaps due to the creative malaise which has gripped the studio since the Electronic Arts takeover – a fact that they must have seen coming when signing onto that Faustian pact. In announcing their future plans, neither Doctor mentions plans to re-enter the gaming world, though this is not unusual given that they are both likely to remain under non-compete clauses for the next year or more. To this end it sounds as though Muzyka has no plans to pursue future game development, though one would not be at all surprised to see Zeschuck leading a smallish independent studio in two years time, as his plans to launch a site featuring boutique beer interviews hardly sounds like a fulltime undertaking.
Holidaying overseas can be something of a crap-shoot when it comes to obeying the often-times capricious discrepancies in a foreign nation’s laws, yet one tends to be lulled into a sense of relative security when travelling between Western nations, owing to an encompassing similarity in legal values. This however can make for an all the more surprising turn of events when somewhat mundane laws fail to line-up between states, case-and-point: the arrest of two of Bohemia Interactive’s game developers this week on espionage charges for the simple act taking holiday footage of an International Airport.
The two in question, Ivan Buchta and Martin Pelzar (or David Zapletal and Pavel Guglava in earlier reports), allegedly developed an interest in visiting the island of Lemnos while creating a fictionalised version of the location named ‘Limnos’ for their forthcoming game, ArmA III. According to the pair’s Lawyers they are guilty of nothing more than taking holiday footage of the airport, yet the Greek Government is claiming that the two were responsible for taking footage of Greek military bases from restricted locations (through which civilians may come and go as they please?). Strengthening the case for this being a tragicomic overreaction on the part of the Greeks is the fact that back in 2001 a group of aeroplane fanciers (two Dutch, twelve British) were arrested on espionage charges for taking footage of military planes at a Greek airshow. This group was then convicted of the charge when it went to court, and were only freed when the initial ruling was overturned on appeal. On the other hand, proof that the Greek’s espionage laws are a bit wonky is not the same as proof that the two Bohemia developers were doing nothing wrong. One thing that does seem a little off is the fact that Bohemia Interactive would allow two of its key employees to go on an international holiday when the studio should probably be looking to enter the production’s crunch period ahead of a 2013 release.
Sony Could Fail
Sony has been around for so long, and has been such a force in gaming that it is often quite easy to think of them as a deep-pocketed company that will be around forever, when the truth is that their position is quite a bit more dubious than it was around the turn of the century. Back in September 2000 Sony’s Market Cap Value was worth a cool 100 billion dollars, in December of 2007 this value was down to 54 billion dollars, while September 2012 saw their Market Cap Value fall to 11.69 billion dollars – this is bellow Nintendo who command a 15.9 billion dollar Market Cap Value. This by itself would not be such a bad thing if it was not accompanied by the fact that the company holds 166.22 billion dollars in total assets against 135.61 billion dollars in total liabilities. Sony’s total liabilities are actually 5.95 billion dollars greater than those of Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Electronic Arts combined, or to put it another way, if Sony’s debts were called in the company would have to liquidate over eighty percent of their total assets.
Blame for Sony’s woes has been attributed to a culture which holds above all else the creativity of its engineers, which in turn has made them uncooperative, and has lead to heavy losses. Perhaps the most famous example of this was Ken Kutaragi going drastically over-budget when designing the PS3, and then failing to mention it to then CEO, Howard Stringer. Even now that Sony is in a dire financial hole, Kaz Hirai has confirmed that “I don’t think that everybody is on board, but I think that people are coming around”. Let us all hope that they come around quickly, else they might be the most independent engineers in the unemployment line.