BioWare's development director of their Montreal studio, Dorian Kieken, has stated that the developers' relationship with EA has given BioWare full autonomy and freedom when it comes to their own games, with more control than ever before...it's all down to the fact the EA cares for just one thing: the bottom line.
"For the very first time we have control of things that we've never had control of before, things like marketing. Marketing used to be a department we were always negotiating with, but that is part of our group now," Kieken told GI.biz.
"Ultimately, EA comes to the BioWare boardroom and says. 'Here is the amount of money you have, and here is the amount of money you need to generate in X years. The way you do it is your problem.' So the growth of Bioware Montreal is in the context of the other Bioware studios. It's because we're successful with the Mass Effect series that we can grow a studio. It's all within the Bioware label strategy.
"[The trust] is something very new... I have a lot of respect for John Riccitiello. He is trying to move the company towards a vision that is very smart, with a sort of city-state culture. Basically, you're accountable only to generate revenue. I like that relationship of responsibility."
It's that responsibility which Kieken says has led BioWare to branch out from its focus on high-end RPGs, looking towards wider audiences to match the faith shown in them by EA. But he also admits that expansive moves have come at the risk of alienating "core" fans. It is with that in mind, he says, that BioWare are looking over the ending to Mass Effect 3 and asking fans for input on Dragon Age 3. He refutes the claim that this compromises BioWare's art, suggesting that in this industry of interactive entertainment, the games are as much the audience's too.
"If someone gives a well thought out criticism, something that is tangible, those are the people that we try to reward as much as possible. And we want to reward them, because that feedback is how we make better games," he says. "On the opposite side, opinion that is too emotional, we won't reward that in the same way. The more you put that as your philosophy, the more you start to have a culture where people are trying to be more analytical with their feedback.
"Fan feedback and fan reaction has always been really important top us when doing our games, so taking the stance that this is our art is something that Bioware has never done in the past anyway. The further you go into listening to criticism and how you should change, and you take that to its extreme, you will start to lose your vision and your integrity. But we're not taking that road.
"I believe in a balanced approach. It's a fine line with dangers on one side or the other, but it's the healthy one. And I think it's representative of what gaming is. It's not a two-hour art-form that's imposed upon you. It's interactive, so you're going to have your say on it."