News: Bioware Is in Dire Need of a Physician

The Doctors Bail on a Lost Biocause

Bioware Biohurt
One has run out of feels for their Biohurt.

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.

Grecian Dramedy

Mega Man Derp
The Greek Minister for helpfulness.

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-playstation-psx
One will always love this grey box of magic.

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.

14 comments

  1. I just wanted to say that Ethos is a witch and, also, SCIENCE.

    I’m kind of sad to see that Bioware isn’t retiring Mass Effect. After fixing that shitacular ending I was amazed to see they really did manage to make it not terrible. It went from a 2 to a 9 for me. The creators ditching the place isn’t inspiring confidence.

  2. The first Mass Effect was pretty decent (if nowhere near as good as Jade Empire, KOTOR, or even DOA), but I lost interest in the series part-way through ME2, and really don’t care for another game in the series.

    It has been milked – let it go guys…

  3. Sony always seemed to me like a company that wasn’t well organized, and simply had a hard time putting itself together. And I’ve heard that comment about them put forward by others on occasion, as well. But that article really shows WHY this is the case.

  4. It’s a megalithic company of another era. Company culture is the hardest thing to change.

    I love that Sony makes extremely well engineered products, but that does them no good if they are not profitable.

  5. If anyone doubted the death of Bioware before, they have no further reason to keep faith.

  6. I think Mass Effect has enough lore and backstory to create more games. It’s just I don’t think that the writers are creative enough to make something interesting. It was basically Shepard’s story and that story ended. Future installments I picture like Star Wars prequels. They’ll have all the elements, but entirely miss the essences of what made the other games. Mass Effect 2 had an intro (it was cinderblock punch to the dick as opposed to HOLYFUCKINGSHITOMGAESOME) that hit me like FFVII’s intro hit me in 1997. But the world is just so well realized that either they need to do something in the future or they need to do some sort of “secret history” sort of thing which has less than a George Lucas written thing of being done well.

  7. I don’t care whether or not they have enough material to make a competent ME sequel, because I’m not interested in playing a ME sequel of any caliber.

  8. @EP: Clearly you are labouring under a non-traditional definition of ‘fun’.

  9. ME2 sloughed off any pretence of being an RPG, at which point I said ‘yawn’.

    I don’t really have much fun playing barely competent third person shooters…

  10. The shift between ME1 and ME2 was that they “streamlined” or “dumbed down” the backend. Which terminology you go with depends on whether you liked the changes or not. ME1 had the D20 Morrowind or Alpha Protocol type thing where behind the scenes dice rolls determine success or failure. ME2 went with normal hitboxes and simplified stuff.

    There’s things I liked about both ways they went with it. Getting rid of that fucking inventory/drop system was a definite improvement. (And then they fucked up buying weapons in ME3, again.) The character progression was definitely oversimplified in ME2. I think the overall shooting was better in ME2 because I’ve never liked the looks-like-an-action-game-but-not-really thing where a headshot isn’t necessarily a headshot. They also included an actual cover system instead of leaving it to the player to use the boxes in that copy pasted warehouse that appeared in ME1 3,251 times. Granted, the control scheme using the same button for a bunch of different things was pretty stupid, and they repeated this in ME3.

    ME2 is really a game you play for the story and just sort of tolerate the gameplay. Kind of like most of the games in the Legacy of Kain series. If you took the Archangel Dossier at the first few hours of Mass Effect 2 and upon the mission’s reveal it brought an ear to ear grin to your face you’ll enjoy the game greatly. If it drew a “meh”, then you won’t.

    Mass Effect 3 the shooting and action are pretty good. The main complaint I had with that aspect of the game is that the enemy AI is determined by the difficulty level. I don’t remember if ME1 had a difficulty setting, but reviews said by default ME2 was too easy and to play it on Hard, so I did and died plenty (the loading times sucked). ME3 if you play it on Hardcore, which I did for a little under the first third of the game, is pretty satisfying. There’s still the shared into/out of cover/press forward to leap over cover thing which is annoying, but you can get used to. But the thing is the enemy AI is really good. You’ll be in a large area with lots of Cerberus assholes coming at you. Depending on your Shepard’s class and your squad choice (mine was Vanguard/Garrus/Liara which isn’t exactly ideal) the goons will actively try to flank you repeatedly and you’ll constantly need to adapt or be mopped all over the floor.

    If you give the third game a chance I think you’ll find they did, finally, figure out the shooting part. They never did figure out boss fights though.

  11. But I never would give ME3 a chance, because the world has become far too mundane and tedious for me.

  12. Yeah, I was going to say, ep. If somebody’s turned off a series, someone’s turned off a series. If SN was turned off by ME2, there’s no way that ME3 would turn him. Yes, the battles are the best in the series, but it’s not like it’s a different game. It’s absolutely more similar to ME2 than the original. And while I like the whole trilogy, I agree that the first one was the best in the series by far.

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