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Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts

The Star Wars: The Old Republic Website has word of staff cuts at BioWare Austin, the development studio behind Star Wars: The Old Republic, the sci-fi MMORPG. The update from Doctors Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka does not say why this is happening, but does that this about the future: "Rest assured that we remain dedicated to delivering a high quality service in SWTOR to you, our fans, and we will continue to support and grow Star Wars: The Old Republic over the weeks, months and years to come." VentureBeat has a follow-up comment on this from Electronic Arts:

BioWare has restructured its studio in Austin today. Of the employees impacted, some will be able to join other projects within EA, others will leave the company. These are very difficult decisions, but it allows us to focus our staff to maintain and grow Star Wars: The Old Republic.

BioWare Austin remains a large and important part of BioWare and EA, working with other studios around the world to continue to deliver a high-quality service and exciting new content for Star Wars: The Old Republic.

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96. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 25, 2012, 16:36 StingingVelvet
 
Verno wrote on May 24, 2012, 11:12:
I must have missed that news release, when was DA2 considered profitable? Or is that just an assumption because it had a shorter dev cycle? Also I think it remains to be seen just how strong the Mass Effect franchise is. Mass Effect 3 sold really well but it was the end to the trilogy and the ending was almost universally panned by both critics and fans alike.

Employee comments on DA2. The game sold less than Origins but had like 1/5th the budget and made a decent profit. The DLC sold poorly though, indicating poor reaction to the main game, which along with forum reaction is why they are in damage control mode.

I know you disagree but personally I think 90% of DA2's problems were from being rushed. Simplistic battle design, spawns from nowhere, repeated content, one city, etc... all of that can be rooted in the rush. If they have real time to develop the next one I won't have a problem being optimistic about it.

I think Bioware as a traditional RPG studio is definitely done like dinner.

Depends what traditional RPG studio means. Are they done making high profile games and being a big studio for EA? Nowhere close. Are you saying they're going to make more action RPGs like Mass Effect and less CRPG love letters like Origins? Of course, but that's market mandated.
 
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95. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 25, 2012, 00:09 Prez
 
StingingVelvet wrote on May 24, 2012, 10:48:
As for DA2, Bioware employees have been surprisingly blunt on their forums about having a mandate to shit out a sequel in record time to capitalize on the release of the original.

But Crushbug (the Bioware developer who is a member here on Blues) absolutely SWORE that the EA acquisition of Bioware would have absolutely no effect on Bioware. So, where did the mandate come from? At this point, it doesn't matter. Be it internally from Bioware higher-ups or from EA, it still proves that the Bioware that made DA: Origins is dead. I personally believe it was EA that killed them, as that's their modus operandi.

 
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94. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 24, 2012, 11:47 wtf_man
 
StingingVelvet wrote on May 24, 2012, 10:48:
I don't really know enough about the TOR numbers and MMO history to argue that aspect. It makes sense to me that you cut people once the game launches and have a smaller maintenance team, but you could be right in saying the opposite.

MMOs are huge beasts to develop and maintain. 99 out of 100 times, they run out of money and launch incomplete (beta level at best), and frantically try to fix the game before they lose all the subscribers. This is why we get flop after flop. That... and mostly it is the same old shit with different paint... which people get bored with rather quickly.

When you start small, have something decent to launch, and grow the game... there seems to be a better chance for success (Eve online for example). Most of these publishers and studios are playing the "WOW lotto", though... and losing bad.

If they'd stop focusing on the "WoW lotto", and actually build MMOs that have plenty of diversity in the gameplay (Like EQ vs. Asheron's call... completely different gameplay), instead of trying to ride the "that was successful... let's build a clone" ticket... we might see less flops. Unfortunately, publishers, especially, feel that there is "less risk" by cloning "what has proven to work". The problem is, that just doesn't work in an over-saturated market, that costs big to develop and maintain, that charges a fee, and that people are getting easily bored with. It's a recipe for disaster... and we've seen train wreck after train wreck in the last few years. (Vanguard, Age of Conan, Warhammer Online, Etc. etc.)

So, back to what I was saying about starting small... the formula in the early days... like EQ was a long term investment. They grew the game with an expansion around every 8-10 months. They grew their development team as well. Now, granted, at some point there was a peak, and they started reducing developers... but that was years later. And because of the age of the engine and all of the tools built... it has taken less and less people to maintain the game and still create expansions.

That seems like the proper development formula to me. TOR basically blew their wad on "being fully voiced over"... which was a good enough gimmick to get people to like the game... but not keep them around. Now they are in a catch-22... they can't add content fast enough, especially because of the voice-overs... plus they have reduced staff. The lack of end game is the biggest complaint... and they can't fix it fast enough, as they bled subscriptions since Late January. When your playerbase can reach the end of the game before the subscription kicks in... and there is no end game... and you can't add content in a timely fashion... and you are losing staff... you have a VERY serious problem. (aka train wreck in the waiting)

StingingVelvet wrote on May 24, 2012, 10:48:
Bioware studio in Texas was built for TOR and is not really going to be considered a failing of the brand if the game tanks. That's my main point.

Well, I'm not exactly trying to say the sky is falling for Bioware, either. A 300 million dollar flop, most certainly hurts the name, IMO. And if DA3 were to fail, there would be even more damage to the name. AND... EA is ruthless with studios. That was my point.

StingingVelvet wrote on May 24, 2012, 10:48:
As for DA2, Bioware employees have been surprisingly blunt on their forums about having a mandate to shit out a sequel in record time to capitalize on the release of the original.

If that is true, and not just an excuse (I haven't been following DA2), that is actually another (albiet different) example of EA destroying Bioware.

StingingVelvet wrote on May 24, 2012, 10:48:
DA2 was a special case and I don't think EA will repeat that mistake.

Well, I hope not. We'll see if DA3 has the DA:O magic or not.
 
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93. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 24, 2012, 11:12 Verno
 
I must have missed that news release, when was DA2 considered profitable? Or is that just an assumption because it had a shorter dev cycle? Also I think it remains to be seen just how strong the Mass Effect franchise is. Mass Effect 3 sold really well but it was the end to the trilogy and the ending was almost universally panned by both critics and fans alike.

I think Bioware as a traditional RPG studio is definitely done like dinner.
 
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92. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 24, 2012, 10:48 StingingVelvet
 
wtf_man wrote on May 24, 2012, 10:04:
In other words... EA has already started putting this game into "slum-lord mode". We saw how well that worked for Warhammer. If that $300 milllion investment number is true (not to mention what it's cost to launch and manage the game for the last 5 months) , EA seems to be cutting their losses early, on a game that underperformed BADLY (compared to investment). Meaning, they probably don't have faith that it can be turned around either, and they are seeking the easiest path to get most of their money back. (by cutting Staff and milking what they got until it's dead - just like Warhammer).

I don't really know enough about the TOR numbers and MMO history to argue that aspect. It makes sense to me that you cut people once the game launches and have a smaller maintenance team, but you could be right in saying the opposite. In any case, the Bioware studio in Texas was built for TOR and is not really going to be considered a failing of the brand if the game tanks. That's my main point.

As for DA2, Bioware employees have been surprisingly blunt on their forums about having a mandate to shit out a sequel in record time to capitalize on the release of the original. I think if EA ordered that they have to be understanding of the result and pleased it was still profitable. Honestly many people here would scream the opposite but for a quick cash-grab with a more console focused design I still thought the game was very enjoyable and look forward to the real Dragon Age sequel we will probably get in a couple years.

With Mass Effect stronger than ever despite the ending complaints I just don't see the studio as in jeopardy. Maybe the MMO part, but not the rest. I guess your point is that if DA3 fails and maybe something else THEN they would be on the bubble, and I suppose that makes sense, but I don't see those future failures as anywhere near probable. DA2 was a special case and I don't think EA will repeat that mistake.
 
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91. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 24, 2012, 10:04 wtf_man
 
Not meeting expectations by a longshot, EA would most likely consider DA2 a failure. But since it managed to make a little money... the impact isn't as bad.

I disagree with you about TOR, especially if the $300 million investment number is correct... between that and maintaining it, they'll probably never get ROI.

I just read somewhere that the layoffs are 40% of Bioware Austin. That's nearly half the studio, and I believe larger than Mythic's first round of layoffs. Also some are saying the patch notes for 1.3 are very underwhelming, implying that the staff cut is hurting the development speed (which is already a huge problem). The Warhammer pattern is repeating itself. Another couple rounds of layoffs and server merges, then Bioware Austin will be insignificant.

Now, granted that isn't all of Bioware. But if DA3 flops, that will be another taint on the "branding", because EA uses famous studio names to tout their AAA games. If there is enough tainting to the brand, they won't hesitate to rename. They've done it plenty of times in the past, so there is a track record there.

Will a spiraling TOR (like Warhammer), and a failed DA3 be enough to kill Bioware's name? I doubt it... but it will be well on its way.

As for TOR being turned around... I highly doubt that will happen... especially when they are laying off instead of hiring. In the early days of MMOs... you never heard of staff being laid off after launch... if anything they increased the team and split them into live vs. expansion pack teams. One doesn't build an MMO, then fire 40%, if they are going to truly support the game. We're not talking the coffee gophers and receptionists here... we're talking practically the whole QA team, the community managers, coders, and artists, etc. (from what I've heard).

In other words... EA has already started putting this game into "slum-lord mode". We saw how well that worked for Warhammer. If that $300 milllion investment number is true (not to mention what it's cost to launch and manage the game for the last 5 months) , EA seems to be cutting their losses early, on a game that underperformed BADLY (compared to investment). Meaning, they probably don't have faith that it can be turned around either, and they are seeking the easiest path to get most of their money back. (by cutting Staff and milking what they got until it's dead - just like Warhammer).

This comment was edited on May 24, 2012, 10:21.
 
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90. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 24, 2012, 05:09 StingingVelvet
 
wtf_man wrote on May 23, 2012, 09:38:
How many more failures Bioware has left before they get the same treatment, I don't know... but I can't imagine they have wiggle room for too many more.

I'll repeat: what are these multiple failures? DA2 was mediocre and profitable, not a failure. TOR is pretty much a completely different studio and it will make a profit, no one can really say otherwise with its initial sales and still over 1,000,000 subs. It has years and years left on it to turn a profit.

You could say those two games underperformed, but that's a far cry from failure, and EA knows the TOR group is 99% a different studio entirely and the DA2 team was told to shit out a quick profit.

Bioware is fine. Hell, they're expanding the name to more products like Command and Conquer. They are not on a bubble at all, in any way.
 
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89. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 23, 2012, 20:41 Nucas
 
i've liked TOR strictly as a co-op version of knights of the old republic that i play with a couple friends. i've played the consular and trooper plots so far, and i admit that's all that keeps me playing. when i've exhausted the storylines that interest me, i'm going to cancel it. i'll confess i never played WoW, but from what i recall seeing when i saw unfortunates subjecting themselves to it, TOR looks like basically the same game with the same mechanics.

i think it'll be good for the genre that the mighty bioware with god's own budget are still going to fail, and it's because of sticking to the staid old formula.
 
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88. Re: removed May 23, 2012, 20:12 ColoradoHoudini
 
SWTOR brought absolutely NOTHING new to the table.. it really was plain.

Looking at Rift, which was older and had less money/experience.. that game turned out 2x better than TOR.
GW2 looks like it will set the bar impossibly high as well (from what I have experienced)
 
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87. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 23, 2012, 17:09 sauron
 
Cutter wrote on May 23, 2012, 14:39:
wtf_man wrote on May 23, 2012, 10:48:
sauron wrote on May 23, 2012, 10:29:
The one thing that bugs me about LOTRO is that it caters to soloing almost too well. MMOs really start to rock when they encourage (but don't force) well-coordinated group play, and LOTRO just doesn't do that early enough. Apparently it finally gets going at endgame, which is supposedly a lot of fun.

With most MMO's design... you can't have one without the other...that is "encouraging grouping without forcing it". The way they do this is by creating content that you can't possibly solo and HAVE TO "Look For Group". That, my friend, is STILL forced grouping... it's just limited to certain content instead of majority of the content like old-school MMO's were.

Guild Wars 2 is the first MMO that I've seen turn this mechanic on it's head. Most of the Content is Coop only (like oldschool), but they've removed the need to "Look For Group", because the overal design promotes coop, instead of making PVE competitive (No Kill Stealing, No Loot Stealing, No having to form a group first, Etc. etc. Just help kill the shit!!!)

This is a fresh approach to a stale genre, IMO, and I enjoy it immensely. Once one has played a "coop approached" MMO instead of the traditional "solo vs. grouping" MMO, I don't think they'll ever go back.

Yeah, I've had a blast with that. And I notice - so far - at any rate that sort of co-operative style play encourages more postive behavior too. People don't have a need to rag on each other and people are always helping out with kills or rezzing each other. A big step in the right direction.

Is that an open beta? Might have to give it a shot if it is. Thanks!
 
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86. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 23, 2012, 14:39 Cutter
 
wtf_man wrote on May 23, 2012, 10:48:
sauron wrote on May 23, 2012, 10:29:
The one thing that bugs me about LOTRO is that it caters to soloing almost too well. MMOs really start to rock when they encourage (but don't force) well-coordinated group play, and LOTRO just doesn't do that early enough. Apparently it finally gets going at endgame, which is supposedly a lot of fun.

With most MMO's design... you can't have one without the other...that is "encouraging grouping without forcing it". The way they do this is by creating content that you can't possibly solo and HAVE TO "Look For Group". That, my friend, is STILL forced grouping... it's just limited to certain content instead of majority of the content like old-school MMO's were.

Guild Wars 2 is the first MMO that I've seen turn this mechanic on it's head. Most of the Content is Coop only (like oldschool), but they've removed the need to "Look For Group", because the overal design promotes coop, instead of making PVE competitive (No Kill Stealing, No Loot Stealing, No having to form a group first, Etc. etc. Just help kill the shit!!!)

This is a fresh approach to a stale genre, IMO, and I enjoy it immensely. Once one has played a "coop approached" MMO instead of the traditional "solo vs. grouping" MMO, I don't think they'll ever go back.

Yeah, I've had a blast with that. And I notice - so far - at any rate that sort of co-operative style play encourages more postive behavior too. People don't have a need to rag on each other and people are always helping out with kills or rezzing each other. A big step in the right direction.
 
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85. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 23, 2012, 13:47 Creston
 
Prez wrote on May 22, 2012, 20:44:
Okay, I'm gonna get creamed for this, but I didn't think the last one was that bad. It actually set up the original trilogy nicley. Take away the goofy shit like that crap with R2-D2 and replace whiney Christiansen with someone who could actually act and you may have had something. You have to admit the opening space battle scene was pretty sweet, right?




Right??






Helllllloooooo?

Let me just give you two examples.

I can't go on living. My heart is broken. My twin babies, only hours old, will just have to fucking take care of themselves!

and

"It's over, Anakin! I have the higher ground!"

The dumbest sentence ever uttered in movie history. It made Jar Jar Binks look like fucking Plato.

Creston
 
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84. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 23, 2012, 10:48 wtf_man
 
sauron wrote on May 23, 2012, 10:29:
The one thing that bugs me about LOTRO is that it caters to soloing almost too well. MMOs really start to rock when they encourage (but don't force) well-coordinated group play, and LOTRO just doesn't do that early enough. Apparently it finally gets going at endgame, which is supposedly a lot of fun.

With most MMO's design... you can't have one without the other...that is "encouraging grouping without forcing it". The way they do this is by creating content that you can't possibly solo and HAVE TO "Look For Group". That, my friend, is STILL forced grouping... it's just limited to certain content instead of majority of the content like old-school MMO's were.

Guild Wars 2 is the first MMO that I've seen turn this mechanic on it's head. Most of the Content is Coop only (like oldschool), but they've removed the need to "Look For Group", because the overal design promotes coop, instead of making PVE competitive (No Kill Stealing, No Loot Stealing, No having to form a group first, Etc. etc. Just help kill the shit!!!)

This is a fresh approach to a stale genre, IMO, and I enjoy it immensely. Once one has played a "coop approached" MMO instead of the traditional "solo vs. grouping" MMO, I don't think they'll ever go back.
 
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83. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 23, 2012, 10:29 sauron
 
nin wrote on May 23, 2012, 09:52:
Steelcamp wrote on May 23, 2012, 09:40:
To comment on LOTRO...If they would open up the CREEP side like they have for the freep side...I would go back to it.

I would love to build up an Orc from level 1.


I've tried LOTRO 2-3 times now, and while it's certainty not bad, it doesn't seem to hold my interest...

The one thing that bugs me about LOTRO is that it caters to soloing almost too well. MMOs really start to rock when they encourage (but don't force) well-coordinated group play, and LOTRO just doesn't do that early enough. Apparently it finally gets going at endgame, which is supposedly a lot of fun.

The group dynamic is one of the things that FFXI was really good at, but Square Enix made grouping almost mandatory so if a tank or healer wasn't online you were SOL. It was too much the other way.
 
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82. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 23, 2012, 09:57 ASeven
 
StingingVelvet wrote on May 23, 2012, 09:25:
Cutter wrote on May 23, 2012, 05:48:
People can ignore a one-off failure, but when it starts to develop into a pattern as it is with BiowarEA then people aren't so quick to jump on-board and part with their hard-earned cash. You also have to rememember that you're talking about ever expanding budgets whilst their sales decline. And that's how the beginning of the end starts. You can bet the suits at EA are taking a long, hard look at Bioware right now trying to figure out what to do exactly.

Where is the one-off, let alone the pattern? Dragon Age 2 made a good profit according to EA and Bioware. It was a mediocre game, but it was also pretty low-budget and rushed. It was made to make a quick buck, which it did. Mass Effect 3 sold more than 2 or 1. TOR will make money eventually, it was never promised to be the new WOW and they said that themselves. Also the TOR studio is an all new one in Texas, and it shutting down would not have to effect Bioware proper.

This is all silly hyperbole, honestly.

Source on ME3 selling more than 2 and 1. It sold twice more for the first month of release, there's been no numbers ever since. Are you trying to say ME3 sold more in 1 month than 2 or 1? Also TOR making money ever is very debatable even if they go f2p.
 
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81. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 23, 2012, 09:52 nin
 
Steelcamp wrote on May 23, 2012, 09:40:
To comment on LOTRO...If they would open up the CREEP side like they have for the freep side...I would go back to it.

I would love to build up an Orc from level 1.


I've tried LOTRO 2-3 times now, and while it's certainty not bad, it doesn't seem to hold my interest...
 
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80. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 23, 2012, 09:40 Steelcamp
 
To comment on LOTRO...If they would open up the CREEP side like they have for the freep side...I would go back to it.

I would love to build up an Orc from level 1.
 
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79. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 23, 2012, 09:38 wtf_man
 
Well, let me clarify what I mean by "kill off Bioware's Name".

While I think most of the talent from the earlier years has moved on (hence why Bioware is dead to me)... the more they shit out failures, the more the brand has been tainted. If enough failure is produced, EA will most likely buy another famous RPG Studio...and pretty much rename Bioware to "FamousRPGStudio-West" or something.

Much like the presently known "Bioware Mythic" in charge of the slum lorded MMOs. (Formerly Mythic Entertainment, then EA-Mythic).

And although Mythic wasn't all that great of a Studio, and isn't that big of a loss... Yes... EA destroyed them after Warhammer failed. And if you recall... Mythic went through several rounds of layoffs over 2-3 years before they were insignificant enough to roll into Bioware. See the pattern?

How many more failures Bioware has left before they get the same treatment, I don't know... but I can't imagine they have wiggle room for too many more.

This comment was edited on May 23, 2012, 10:11.
 
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78. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 23, 2012, 09:25 StingingVelvet
 
Cutter wrote on May 23, 2012, 05:48:
People can ignore a one-off failure, but when it starts to develop into a pattern as it is with BiowarEA then people aren't so quick to jump on-board and part with their hard-earned cash. You also have to rememember that you're talking about ever expanding budgets whilst their sales decline. And that's how the beginning of the end starts. You can bet the suits at EA are taking a long, hard look at Bioware right now trying to figure out what to do exactly.

Where is the one-off, let alone the pattern? Dragon Age 2 made a good profit according to EA and Bioware. It was a mediocre game, but it was also pretty low-budget and rushed. It was made to make a quick buck, which it did. Mass Effect 3 sold more than 2 or 1. TOR will make money eventually, it was never promised to be the new WOW and they said that themselves. Also the TOR studio is an all new one in Texas, and it shutting down would not have to effect Bioware proper.

This is all silly hyperbole, honestly.
 
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77. Re: Star Wars: The Old Republic Cuts May 23, 2012, 08:48 sauron
 
Zadig wrote on May 23, 2012, 05:43:
After the failure of all the previous 'AAA' licensed WoWclones - Conan, Lotro, Warhammer, etc - it was obvious this was a really bad idea, but I'm glad that didn't stop Bioware from flushing a few hundred million dollars down the toilet to prove it.

Not sure I'd put LOTRO in with those others. Having played a few of them it's the only one that stands out as having a different dynamic and some appreciable depth. And they're still expanding it - Isengard was released recently and Rohan is up next. And the fact my handle on here is Sauron has nothing to do with it *wink*.

But overall, I do agree with you. By this point, everyone's played WoW to the point where they're sick of it. Rather than serve up yet more of the same, developers and their publishers should be looking for the next big thing.
 
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