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Aaryn Flynn gives valuable EA insight. ⠀ ⠀ Is Anthem the next victim of the "evil EA"?


Aaryn Flynn has been the BioWare general manager for the past 17 years. He left the company last year, passing the torch over to Casey Hudson. In a recent interview with Kotaku, he shed a ton of light on how EA conducts business behind the scenes.

One might ask "How does this have anything to do with Anthem?"
Oh, it does my fellow Freelancers. Keep reading.

Jason Schreier asks Aaryn Flynn:

Imagine you’re sitting in a room with someone, and you’re talking to the most hardcore gamer who’s, like, a big Redditor and YouTube fan, and he hates EA: He thinks EA is the worst company in America, and he says to you,

“EA is ruining everything! EA forced BioWare to ship Mass Effect: Andromeda before it was ready! EA’s turning BioWare into this Destiny-clone studio and putting loot boxes in Star Wars!!”

What would be your perspective?
To which Aary Flynn responds with:

I think the first thing to do is to remember that any company —EA, Activision, whoever it is— isn’t EA, they’re a group of people and they have names and faces, they go to work in the morning and go home at night, etc. They do those things.

So while it’s important to remember that, first of all, if you’re going to get critical, start by remember that there are people there who are the ones to be critical of, and the ones to be that way. Don’t diminish your perspective by just using short forms and company names; it’s like that.

So, somebody made some decisions, OR this is the consequence of some missed opportunities and some dropped balls and things like that, think of it that way. Don’t think of it as some nameless, faceless company/entity is doing these things.

And you know what? We completely agree with him. Let's try to put things into perspective here.

Electronic Arts is a humongous company, with hundreds if not thousands of employees and dozens of game dev studios under their umbrella. Even if you go to the very top, where the investors and founders are, those are still human beings at the end of the day. They are pushing for their personal goals and striving to achieve them; like we all do.

Those goals are then passed down to the rest of the company. To executives, to senior managers, down to the artists, UI/UX designers and programmers. EA as a whole has one clear goal: operate at a profit!

That's what any business is all about. Do some things, fix some things, make some things, sell them and gain profit. We're clearly oversimplifying it but you get the point here!

Jason asks:

So EA is not coming to you and saying you need to have loot boxes into everything you do?

Aaryn replies:

Not in my experience, no. They have an ambitious business plan, and they want to do certain things which help everything from grow market share to entering new markets and things like that, but those are very good goals; there’s nothing controversial about those goals.

They have a very solid business plan which everybody’s aware of and everybody works hard to deliver on. So there’s nothing controversial about that at all.

If we're going to be criticizing EA, we'll have to take into consideration all the people working there, their loved ones and their families, not just some faceless logo that represents everything evil in the gaming industry. They don't e-mail or phone people and tell them "PUT LOOTBOXES IN X GAME TODAY" or anything like that.

Would you work in a place like that? Who would apply for a position at EA if that was true? Be honest when you answer these questions!

Aaryn Flynn puts it into words better than us, later during the interview.

Don’t think that there are these edicts about anything like that. It’s never a case that it comes down, 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 do this?” It’s more that than it is anything else.

It’s unfortunate 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.

Now we're getting to really juicy bit! Freelancers, you are now entering the Anthem related stuff territory. Engaging  exosuit thrusters in 3,2,1. GO!

Jason asks:

So Anthem is coming early next year; you got to be involved with its development from the very beginning. Why did it take so friggin’ long?

Aaryn replies:

When your ambition is really high, and when you want to please fans, and at the same time you want to do something that is different than you’ve done before—these are tough problems, and you tackle lots of stuff.

Also, Anthem was behind other titles for a while, so it was incubating and doing that for a while. And then we want to make sure we get everything, that everybody gets it right and everything, so a lot of it’s that, too. That’s what it comes down to, right?

You just want to make sure you just get the ingredients right at first, and then you can go into full production.

This bit is very important! We knew that Anthem was previously (unknown to us at the time) shown as -potentially- an easter egg during their E3 2014 video presentation.
But we didn't know it began its development life 6 entire years ago, in 2012! We can only imagine how much work and love has gone into the Anthem project from everyone involved.

Which is why we strongly believe Anthem will be an awesome game to experience.

Just think about it. The teams behind Anthem have EA's full support to do whatever they want with the game. Any studio working at Electronic Arts has the freedom to work on their game however the see fit and EA has their back.

There's a catch though!

Greg Zeschuk (one of Bioware's founders) epic quote about EA:

The best analogy I use, in a positive way, is EA gives you enough rope to hang yourself. It was really interesting because we really made all the choices we wanted to make ourselves; these are all things we wanted to try ...

That was the biggest revelation, that rope that EA gives you; they don't second-guess you, they don't say you shouldn't do that.

We had complete creative control over a lot of it; some fans didn't like some of it and some of it was experimental, quite frankly."

Greg's statement is true and if you want proof look no further than Josef Fares' game that launched last week, A Way Out.

An EA game that you can't play solo, you must have a friend online (or next to you) to play with. Josef's team is small, an indie studio and Josef himself has proven to be a very controversial figure.

So why is it that Electronic Arts let him make A Way Out? Why did they let him give people a friend's pass, essentially selling half the copies they would have otherwise sold?

Exactly. EA isn't as evil as the "hate train" on the internet presents it to be.

Josef Fares said it himself:

EA has been very good to me. It's easy to hate on EA, blah blah blah, but remember, all publishers fk up sometimes. I'm getting 100% of the income for my game from them.

Surely, like Aaryn Flynn pointed out, execs and developers and general managers or technical engineers, do make mistakes. Mistakes like Battlefront II's lootboxes.

But we just had it explained to us, by someone who actually worked there for 17 years, that it's not exactly how we think it is. Devs make mistakes and EA "protects" them by receiving and absorbing all the negativity.

They allow -no-, they believe in their employees and give them chances to redeem themselves. Yet, sometimes that's not possible and studios close down.

Aaryn Flynn's comment on EA closing studios down:

There’s only a desire for them [EA] to be successful and to see everybody do that. And this industry moves so fast and changes so much that it’s so much more to do with that, in my opinion than anything about, “Hey, tough luck for you guys.

So what do we learn from all this? Basically that Electronic Arts isn't as evil as people want to believe and that working for them isn't slavery or bowing to a dictatorship's demands. They give every studio's developers anything they ask for. They let them do their thing.

The bottom line is that any game which was published by EA and made people mad, was most likely that game's developers/studio's fault. They failed to deliver and/or overreached and couldn't create the game with the features they wanted.

We think that won't be the case with Anthem. In fact, everything points towards the contrary.

The game has had a very long development cycle, they weren't afraid to push back the launch date by a couple months and they've got amazing talent on board. Also, the fact they completely removed the lootbox system from Battlefront II, speaks volumes.

We can't wait to see it live during EA Play/E3 2018 events!

Until then, fly safe Freelancers!


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