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Game developers are like flowers, says EA CEO

Electronic Arts has a reputation among gamers for swallowing talented game developers only to later turn them into excrement. EA CEO John Riccitiello knows it, and told Game|Life at DICE, "We at EA blew it, and to a degree I was involved in these things, so I blew it."

Developers fallen victim to EA’s previous mismanagement include the once great Origin Systems, Westwood and Bullfrog. "When I talked to the creators that populated these companies at the time, they felt like they were buried and stifled," Riccitiello said.

EA Sports is notorious for making small changes, sometimes the most significant of which is a roster update, every year to its sports games and selling them for full price. While that model may work for a select genre, it’s largely inapplicable everywhere else. EA may have figured that purchasing a developer for solely the IP would be a winning idea, but one that is now proven to fail without the adequate inspiration behind it.

"The command and conquer model," said the EA CEO, "doesn't work. If you think you're going to buy a developer and put your name on the label... you're making a profound mistake."

Such was the topic of Riccitiello’s talk at the DICE conference, informing listeners that he would put forth a "new model" of "how publishers and developers can work together in the future," hoping to avoid the mistakes of EA past.

With EA’s most recent acquisition of BioWare and Pandemic, for which the publisher paid $860 million, the company now has to makes sure it doesn’t mess with a good thing.

"Creative teams can be thought of as flowers in a hothouse -- you move the temperature up or down a few degrees and the flowers will die," Riccitiello said.

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Cautiously Optimistic
By noirsoft on 2/11/2008 10:31:33 AM , Rating: 5
While many pessimists will surely sound off, the bluntly honest comments from the conference give me some hope that EA may actually follow through on these changes, which would benefit the industry as a whole. I'm willing to give him the chance to earn developer trust again.

RE: Cautiously Optimistic
By Master Kenobi on 2/11/2008 10:39:43 AM , Rating: 5
Well given EA's track record even if they wanted to change, the question is how long until we start seeing results?

RE: Cautiously Optimistic
By StevoLincolnite on 2/11/2008 11:07:08 AM , Rating: 2
It's to late... the damage has been done... we will never see Dungeon Keeper 3!

RE: Cautiously Optimistic
By Ryanman on 2/11/2008 3:29:28 PM , Rating: 2
I don't understand how a multi BILLION dollar corporation has the WORST QA and bug fixing in the industry. The absolute worst.
I disagree with 2142 being worse than BF2. I found there to be half the amount of bugs (although, admittedly, only slightly refined gameplay)
From Black and White 2, to BF2, To Crysis, every single game I have ever played from them has been nothing more than a steaming pile of bugs. I swore off all EA games, but my idiot cousin bought me Crysis (which was only kind of fun and looks worse than any of my other games). The only way to get them to fix these things is to STOP buying madden every year and STOP allowing them to publish a game that is still terrible after being through 41 bug fix revisions.
If you have to eat and crap out a couple more star developers, I give you permission EA. Just hire more than a couple dozen monkeys to fix the bugs with your titles.

And btw I'm kidding about the developer thing, but I'll be damned if it's ignorant of them to not improve that aspect of their buisness.

RE: Cautiously Optimistic
By dflynchimp on 2/12/2008 6:07:45 PM , Rating: 2
nah, I thought Crysis looked great. And I wasn't even running it at full specs either (no way in the name of god...with my 8800GTS 320MB)

different standards, I guess, but you can't really say it looks :worse: than other games...

RE: Cautiously Optimistic
By Gul Westfale on 2/11/2008 11:13:18 AM , Rating: 4
they need to change. many gamers i know (and play with) are wary of buying EA games. here is a partial list of EA failures over the last little while:

- battlefield 2: excellent game with waaaaay too many bugs. the biggest problem was that a server disconnect bug (which was known to EA and acknowledged by them) took several months to fix.

- battlefield 2142: a planetside mod for BF2, sold at full price. all the same bugs as BF2, plus a few new ones...

- CnC3: buggy to the point where i still cannot play online with my desktop (i have to use laptop; and i have tried 2 routers and 2 different wireless cards in the desktop), unbalanced, broken online features, etc etc. at this point (after the nth patch) it's not actually bad but online populations have dwindled.

- EA sports: i don't need to say anything about that, do i?

if you add to that the fact that all the good people from the studios they have acquired are either gone or in positions where they obviously have little control over the product that EA releases, then it's no wonder why a lot of people think EA sucks (myself included).

i sincerely hope that they will actually make some changes, and that these changes are for the better. put talented people in control of projects, not some beancounter. and try to have some respect for your paying customers... not likely to happen, but i hope i'm wrong on that. time will tell.

RE: Cautiously Optimistic
By mmntech on 2/11/2008 1:21:57 PM , Rating: 3
I think you can add in-game advertising to the list. Seeing Burger King ads in the Burnout: Paradise demo ruined that game for me. There's a place for it but EA has taken it to an excess at little or no benefit to gamers. I don't want a quest in Mass Effect 2 to involve Shepard standing in line for a Wopper, or having the Burger King join your party. I wonder what his stats would be. Probably really high persuade and stealth.

I wrote on my blog (not on this site) about the big publishers limiting developers not too long ago. (There's my own plug) I was really worried about EA buying BioWare. Like the others here, I'm now cautiously optimistic. The gaming industry does need some major reforms. Maybe it's just me, but I think smaller, independent studios make better games. The big guys like EA seem to water down their products and are unwilling to take risks. That's why they produce the same stuff over and over.

RE: Cautiously Optimistic
By Domicinator on 2/11/2008 3:47:33 PM , Rating: 2
BF2142 was not sold at full price, at least not everywhere. I paid $30 for my copy on launch day.

RE: Cautiously Optimistic
By borismkv on 2/12/2008 4:29:40 PM , Rating: 2
Don't forget Crysis. The biggest Charlie Foxtrot I've ever played. The sinlge player campaign was awesome in points, but then it ends with absolutely no story resolution (probably because EA wants to force gamers to pay 150 dollars for a complete story rather than the typical 50). Multiplayer has devolved into pure drivel. It is apparently so easy to hack the game that there are 4-5 people at a minimum with some kind of cheat, meaning that a good multiplayer game is impossible now, and with no way for the majority of people to kick cheaters, it's not worth playing anymore. Which is a shame. The power struggle MP mode is really quite fun. Reminds me of C&C:Renegade, the game that got me into the FPS genre to begin with (Another game we'll never see a sequel to thanks to EA's crap business model. And it was in development when EA bought Westwood).

RE: Cautiously Optimistic
By Bonesdad on 2/13/2008 6:36:04 PM , Rating: 2
man, I'm glad I never bought Crysis...

RE: Cautiously Optimistic
By 3kliksphilip on 2/11/2008 11:57:46 AM , Rating: 3
They can start by allowing me to skip the EA logo every time I try to play one of their games.

RE: Cautiously Optimistic
By FITCamaro on 2/11/2008 12:51:28 PM , Rating: 2
I made my own version. ;)

RE: Cautiously Optimistic
By leexgx on 2/11/2008 1:16:35 PM , Rating: 2
you can norm remove the movie files from where it is installed

BF2 1.3 patch basicly Killed BF2 with the server crashing bug and 2142 is an mod just to make more money

RE: Cautiously Optimistic
By christojojo on 2/11/2008 1:38:52 PM , Rating: 2
Personally, I don't mind developers making mods, esp. stand alone ones. That is if they fix the problems in a time efficient manner.

I would like to see BF2/2142 engine (patched properly of course) used for official mods for Star Wars (First Strike is nice but not enough players), Lego, C&C, (i know they're working on it)and a bunch of others.

Side Note: I think i would be cool to have the commander to be the only player with full force powers.

RE: Cautiously Optimistic
By Mr Perfect on 2/11/2008 1:14:12 PM , Rating: 3
If your EA game is anything like BF2, you can simply delete the EA logo movie and it will never play again. For BF2 there is a folder full of .BIK files, if you delete(or rename) the EA logo .bik you no longer have to watch the thing. Same goes for the Copyright notice, Nvidia promo, and even the game's own intro movie. Personally I removed all of the startup ads, so the game loads straight to the main menu.

RE: Cautiously Optimistic
By Proteusza on 2/12/2008 6:19:09 AM , Rating: 2
I think EA needs to do more pride-swallowing.

First, they need to sit down with Valve. And Valve needs to tell them the way things are. how to make good games. how to make gamers like you. I know many of you may like Steam, but compared to EAs download service, its awesome. Do you know that, with EAs service, you can only download your game for 6 months? After that, buy it again. You can buy an extended download period (up to 2 years), but that costs money, and will still expire? Steam? Once you have bought the game, its yours, forever. As long as Valve exists, you will be able to play your game. EA's service just cant compete, in fact they should swallow what is left of their pride and join the Steam network. Even if they need to pay Valve large sums of money to provide networking, it will be worth it. Right now, Valve's online presence is the best by far available on PC.

Also, they need to double the size of their QA department. By that, I mean they need to hire at least 1 more person, but preferable about 2000. They need to test their games, not just for bugs, but for playability. Is this fun? Are we just selling graphics? If they did more of that and less hyping, we would see better games. Hellgate London was terrible - it was rushed, and it showed. EA's QA department shouldnt have allowed it to be released until 1) they fixed all the bugs 2) they improved the skill selection. but no, EA wanted a quick buck, lets rush out the competition to WoW. Epic fail EA, epic fail.

EA suffers from having a bad case of groupthink, and corporate think, and they need to change their mindset to succeed. If they carry on like they are, they will get what they deserve - bankruptcy and the scorn of all gamers and game developers.

RE: Cautiously Optimistic
By Polynikes on 2/11/2008 12:44:45 PM , Rating: 2
I hope you're right. Gaming in general has been stagnating, IMO. Publishers have had a serious case of aggravated sequelitis.

I can change...
By Proteusza on 2/11/2008 10:49:28 AM , Rating: 1
Makes me think of South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, when Saddam Hussein sings about how he can change. Yeah right.

EA has sundered their reputation too much to ever be taken seriously again I think.

RE: I can change...
By fic2 on 2/11/2008 11:33:50 AM , Rating: 5
Yeah, what's the old saying - Fool me once shame on you, fool me thirty-seven times, well I'm just a big ol' dumb*ss.

EA is probably just telling people what they want to believe so they will buy the next round of crap, again.

RE: I can change...
By Screwballl on 2/11/08, Rating: 0
RE: I can change...
By Nekrik on 2/12/2008 3:49:26 AM , Rating: 4
Way to stray off topic to take a shot. Where in the article that you linked do you see MS making any promises to change? If anything they deny any fault in the matter. There's also no proof that they shafted consumers, it seems more like some opportunistic dumb-asses.

Great news...
By enlil242 on 2/11/2008 10:34:04 AM , Rating: 2
Now, fix and/or complete Medal of Honer: Airborne for the PC so I can play online!!!

RE: Great news...
By Tsuwamono on 2/11/2008 10:46:41 AM , Rating: 2
i play online all the time? possibly a Pebkac error for you? lol

RE: Great news...
By enlil242 on 2/11/2008 11:35:10 AM , Rating: 3
LOL, I had to Google "Pebkac." Nice. Just like the "ID 10 T" error I see alot. ;-)

No, I could never sign in early on. Even after creating a new persona. It was difficult and frustrating. Expecially when it took me a hundred tries to get a name that was not "in use." (Including vague and obscure ones)

Most online games let you choose any name in the options and play. MoH:A stifled many gamers, and caused issues logging in. That may have been fixed at some point, but it seemed it wasn't in their (EA's) interest to differentiate between the PC and console versions of the game, and made many in the mapping and modding community not supprot it.

I sold mine early on and was going to wait how it all played out. Glad to see you are playing fine. Are there many servers online these days?

By an0dize on 2/11/2008 11:16:05 AM , Rating: 2
However unforgivable C&C Renegade et. al. was, this is definitely a step in the right direction for EA. Their current approach of taking a quality product, then dumbing and watering it down to the point where it can appeal to the masses is great for making a quick buck; but enough crappy titles and eventually people stop buying.

RE: Promising..
By an0dize on 2/11/2008 11:18:04 AM , Rating: 2
... and let's not forget about the Ultima Online disaster...

As a Game Programming Student
By DKWinsor on 2/12/2008 4:30:44 PM , Rating: 2
As a game programming student, EA will be my last resort. Apparently they used to coerce employees into 80 hour weeks and not pay overtime. Plus, wouldn't working on another iteration of the same NFL game be so boring?

By bassjunkie on 2/13/2008 6:49:43 AM , Rating: 2

EA Dice
By leidegre on 2/13/2008 2:41:32 AM , Rating: 2
I meet with some representatives from Dice yesterday. They were bought not too long ago by EA. And they were at first very skeptic about being a EA subsidy, but yesterday they actually told me that EA does not meddle and mismanaged their company and games. So I really think, as EA is such a large publisher is actually doing something good.

RE: EA Dice
By bassjunkie on 2/13/2008 6:49:11 AM , Rating: 2
Because they make them to much cash..

The few EA games I own...
By iFX on 2/11/2008 11:39:09 AM , Rating: 2
... I happen to like very much.

Im shot now
By bassjunkie on 2/13/2008 6:47:50 AM , Rating: 2
Its not just that level they destroy good talent.. it happens on all levels, next month I’m loosing my job because we are being moved to Romania because its cheaper to outsource there.. what this really means is my department with all its talent is being shown the door without a question on who’s good or not, its all about head counts and numbers.. hopefully I won’t get sacked for saying this if they find out who I am :)

EA suxorox they destroyed my love for the gaming industry.

I would like to believe this...
By Maximilian on 2/11/2008 12:24:38 PM , Rating: 1
But i dont, i really dont think EA can change at all. Why? Because they need creative people with innovative ideas to make great games and last i heard a good chunk left to make their own studio, also based on the trash they release i think theyre on the RIAA and jack thompsons payroll to destroy pc gaming and get us all on to consoles where theres no piracy :P

Even if they do change as someone said already the damage has been done, simcity is ruined and theme park?? Whos heard of that?? Oh thats right they never made another theme park its all rollercoaster tycoon nowadays and IMO RCT 3 released 2004 STILL isnt as good as theme park world back in 1999. C&C isnt what it used to be... with C&C3 the storyline and interesting environment created in tib sun is gone and they seem to be totally ignoring the red alert series for some batshit crazy reason.

Nah... theyve had their chance, they screwed it up, lets hope in 5-10 years activision blizzard swallows them up and puts those EA sports fans out of their misery.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke
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