At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Jason Schreier and I sat down with Aaryn Flynn, formerly of BioWare, to talk about his time working under EA on games like Dragon Age: Inquisition and Anthem.
Among other things we discussed the cultural shift when EA bought BioWare, leaving a studio after spending most of your career there, and the weather in Edmonton. Listen here:
Download an MP3 here. Below is a lightly edited transcript of part of our chat, during which Jason asked Flynn to name a common misconception about how EA operates.
Jason Schreier: It seems like EA has been making some misguided decisions recently. I mean, Star Wars Battlefront II was obviously a debacle last year. I think that was the tip of the iceberg for a lot of people, seeing what happened to Mass Effect: Andromeda, seeing a bunch of other stuff that has happened to EA over the years. I like to take the nuanced perspective and be like, hey, EA is a company that treats a lot of people pretty well. It also does some horrible things, and there are a lot of nuanced things here…
Aaryn Flynn: (laughs) The nuanced perspective: "horrible things."
Kirk Hamilton: Horrible, horrible, horrible… (laughs)
Jason: OK, ok, horrible is a relative term.
Kirk: Atrocities, they commit atrocities.
Flynn: (laughing) Yeah, atrocities.
Jason: EA has committed genocide.
Kirk: Some war crimes.
Jason: EA Has Committed Genocide, that will be the headline of this.
Kirk: "EA: Atrocities and Horror."
Jason: No, but [EA] has also done some things, there's a lot of money at the top of the company that is not going down, there's definitely some decisions that seem to be made in the interest of pleasing shareholders rather than pleasing fans. As someone who has been in the trenches with those executives there, what kind of perspective do you get that you think people don't see, that you think people should know about?
Flynn: I guess the biggest one would just be, don't think that there are these edicts about anything like that. It's never a case that it comes own, and it's like, "thou shalt do this." It's quite an open company in my experience. I've had the privilege of having conversations with folks in very senior positions about the status of things, and things like that. And again, these are conversations we have, you know, it never goes that way of "thou shalt do this" and "thou shalt do that." It's never that. It's always, "Look, what do we think we can do? This is what we're trying to achieve, can we do this? Do you think we can?" It's more that than it is anything else. It's unfortuante [when] things don't work out, and that's tough, and everybody should be held accountable to that, and that's how it works when you're in business. But it's not the case that there's some power-hungry monster at the top. It's not that.
You can listen to the rest of the conversation in the full episode. As always, you can find Splitscreen on Apple Podcasts and Google Play. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at [email protected] with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.
We'll have a bunch more podcasts coming from GDC, so stay tuned.