Ex Bioware Boss Says EA Is Excellent at Giving Creative Freedom and Didn’t Impose Frostbite Engine
Former Bioware boss Aaryn Flynn left the company in July 2017, as you might recall, with Casey Hudson taking his place as the studio’s General Manager.
Flynn had been there for over seventeen years. His credits include Baldur’s Gate II, Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, Dragon Age: Origins. Then he became the Bioware boss and oversaw the production and development of Dragon Age II, Mass Effect 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Mass Effect: Andromeda.
During this year’s Game Developers Conference, the former Bioware boss was featured in Kotaku’s Splitscreen Podcast and he got the chance to speak about working inside Electronic Arts, sharing opinions that are very much different to what people usually think of the company.
[On whether EA execs require studios to add microtransactions and similar stuff]
Not in my experience, no. They have an ambitious business plan and they want to do certain things, everything from growing market share to entering new markets, but those are very good goals, there’s nothing controversial about those goals. They have a very solid business plan that everybody is aware of and everybody works hard to deliver.
I think they are a great company to be a part of because they care very much about the creative process – they care about that – so they want you to be successful, and they will do whatever they can to help you be successful. Every company has got constraints and thinks you gotta do, things you have to get done, but they are excellent at giving creative freedom for sure.
Another common belief among gamers is that Electronic Arts forced Bioware to adopt Frostbite engine, which in turn led to many of the studio’s recent issues as the engine wasn’t that adequate to develop roleplaying games. However, Flynn clarified that it was Bioware who decided to go with Frostbite among a set of options.
No, not at all. It was our decision. We had been wrapping up Mass Effect 3 and we just shipped Dragon Age II and we knew that our Eclipse engine, that we shipped DAII on, wasn’t going to cut it for the future iterations of Dragon Age.
It couldn’t do open world, the renderer wasn’t strong enough, those were the two big ones. We thought about multiplayer as well, as Eclipse was single-player only.
We talked internally about three options. We could have burned down Eclipse and started something new internally, we could have gone with Unreal Engine, or we could have picked Frostbite which had shown some really promising results on the rendering side of things and it was multiplayer enabled.
When it came down to it, we talked to folks and they really liked the Frostbite option and again, back to this idea of being part of a community, there were more and more teams [at EA] that were considering Frostbite. It was a decision that I made after all of the technical deep dives in probably late 2011.
He also still believes that it was the right choice.
Oh yeah, I think so. Being part of a community – everybody at EA is on it now – that is powerful, it’s a good place to be. It’s a credit to the Frostbite team how they keep so many diverse titles on one engine, everything from FIFA to Anthem, it’s amazing to me.
I hear that, and certainly we would look at things and say ‘Oh man, we got a lot of work to do on this’, but it’s tough because it’s also true that the titles are ambitious. So is it the ambition or a specific technical issue [that’s causing problems]?
Bioware’s next big game, the online action RPG Anthem, is also powered by Frostbite. It will release in early 2019, supposedly before March, for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.