Former Bioware developer, Manveer Heir, has spoken to the Waypoint Radio podcast about the development culture at EA studios.
The design of EA’s games and the ethos behind them has come under scrutiny following the recent closure of Visceral Games and the redistribution of its single player Star Wars title, which many considered to be a repositioning away from the single-player story experience in favour of a more monetsiable model like the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront 2.
Manveer Heir was a developer at Bioware Montreal before its closure earlier this year. He left the company just after production had finished on Mass Effect Andromeda. "I’ve had Game of the Year and RPG of the year with Mass Effect 3, it’s one of the proudest moments of my entire life, and Mass Effect Andromeda coming out was painful a little bit, even though I’d already quit by then. I quit as the game went to manufacture.
But the impression that EAs policy when it comes to game development is for multiplayer focused games that encourage the players to return and spend money. And it’s something that concerned the developer when Mass Effect Andromeda changed its focus to be open world.
"I would say the last couple of years I was having concerns about a bunch of parts of the game, including the open world stuff is obviously the biggest concern. But that wasn’t just me, there was loads of us on the gameplay team.
The part we didn’t know how to do was the more open world stuff, which is interesting when you see the way EA and the rest of the industry want to go right now. Open worlds are one of the most difficult things to make.
"It’s definitely a thing inside of EA, they are generally pushing for more open-world games and the reason is you can monetise them better. The words in there that were used is ‘have them come back again and again’
"Why do you care about that at EA? The reason you care about that is because microtransactions. Buying card packs in the Mass Effect games, the multiplayer. It’s the same reason we added card packs to Mass Effect 3. How do you get people to keep coming back to a thing instead of ‘just’ playing for 60 to 100 hours?
"The problem is that we’ve scaled up our budgets to $100m+ and we haven’t actually made a space for linear. good single-player games that are under that. But why can’t we have both? Why does it have to be one or the other? And the reason is that EA and those big publishers in general only care about the highest return on investment.
"They don’t actually care about what the players want, they care about what the players will pay for. Those are subtly different things. So what’s happening here is that you’re seeing a cynical view about EA and you’re going to see this from other publishers as well."