|This is a /v/ related article, which we tolerate because it's relevant and/or popular on /tg/... or we just can't be bothered to delete it.|
Expect huge amounts of derp and rage, punctuated by /tg/ extracting humor from it.
|Electronic Arts Inc.|
|The letters "EA", or a sealed Card Pack labelled "Surprise Mechanic (not Gambling, We Promise)"|
|Alignment||Stupid Evil and/or Neutral Evil|
|Portfolio||8.58 Billion (2018)|
|Domains||Greed, Stupidity, Bad Management|
|Worshippers||Gamers, That Guy|
|Favoured Weapon||Exploit worker, Union Breaker, Devour Smaller Studios, Weinsteinian culture, Treachery|
Electronic Arts, most commonly known as: EA, is an American video game company, based in Redwood City, California. One of the most, if not THE most, controversial VG companies today, due to a slew of unethical business practices. Also they're rated as one of the worst companies in America, so go figure. If ever it was appropriate to use an alignment system in real life, EA squarely goes into that special zone of Neutral Evil, and they were the worst until Activison Blizzard's sexual harassment workplace culture - which caused an employee to commit suicide - came to light (bad as EA is, they haven't induced actual deaths). Their company simply represents every negative aspect of capitalism with no care for longer term, sustainable gains.
However, their most infamous and unique practice that everyone absolutely hates is acquiring smaller studios with popular games like Bioware and Westwood, to assume direct control of their IPs. This is pretty common in business, if it wasn't for the fact that EA will do everything in its power to gain complete control over development of its games, in order to maximize short-term profit, by force if needed (by firing or shelving people who disagree). They will strongly encourage these studios to produce highly-monetized games in the popular flavor-of-the-month, at the expense of what fans liked about them; this is made worse by rushed, inflexible deadlines and stretching staff thin to patch up the previous games' blunders, resulting in a half-baked if not completely broken product at launch, which will end up losing all post-launch support before the game even has a chance to be properly fixed. Once the studio's series are drained of all life due to mismanagement, its dead husk is then abandoned as a grim tombstone of what was once heralded as fun, as the EA then scouts out new franchises to ensnare and devour, in its unending, ravenous need to feed its coffers. Woe betide any franchise absorbed by, or will be absorbed by EA.
Then, since EA holds the rights to these IPs now, its next-to-impossible for anyone else to pick-up their slack and try to revive them with new talent, unlike what some other people did recently with another classic game.
- 1 The Corpses of Past Studios
- 2 So, what's the direct relevance to /tg/?
The Corpses of Past Studios
In /tg/'s vidya gaem scene, EA has been responsible for the decline and death of some of our timeless classics and their creators, such as:
Possibly the most historically notable, as Bullfrog is the first example most people go to when discussing EA's shutdowns, although it's also relevant that Peter Molyneux was also involved.
/tg/ relevance: Dungeon Keeper 1&2 are usually held to be "recommended reading" for many different kinds of DMs (in particular, ones looking to do an Evil Party Campaign) and designers of certain kinds of board games, for subtly different reasons.
Likely the second example of EA's meddling in successful series that people will go to. For /tg/ purposes, they only made two series of note: Ultima, and Wing Commander.
The Ultima series was one of the original CRPG series to explore complicated morality, and could likely be said to be the grand-daddy of the morality systems that plague today's games. Later games also had incredible depth and variety of content for early sandbox RPGs. At least until EA bought the series out for games 8 & 9, widely regarded as some of the worst pieces of shit to ever hit store shelves, and proceeded to bomb the series' (already somewhat questionable) quality through the molten core of the earth. Bugs, glitches, impossible controls, and seeing as this was before the internet patches would have to be picked up in floppy disk form from the local games store, led to a remarkably unpleasant experience, and many fans either hated it, or just dropped the series entirely.
Wing Commander is only /tg/ relevant in that it provides a good example of a space shooter series. For our purposes, it suffices to say that when the genre died out, so did the series. (It's a bit more complicated than that, but it suffices for our purposes.)
There's an entire article devoted to it, but in a nutshell:
Dragon Age: Origins was hailed as a modern classic after having been teased for several years leading up to its release. Players could choose one of three classic races (Human, Elf and Dwarf) to play as and each had several possible game starts. The character is recruited into the semi-secretive warrior organization called the Grey Wardens and is tasked with both stopping a darkspawn monster invasion but also to deal with a civil war that is breaking out in the kingdom the game takes place in by forging alliances with various factions.
Dragon Age 2, however, is widely considered to be utter tripe thanks to EA giving a very small development window forcing the developers to make only a few character and NPC models and even fewer maps that had to be reused time and time again, as well as demanding Bioware do cross-promotion material with the game for other games, notably Mass Effect 2. The player character is a refugee who goes on to become one of (if not the) most influential person in the city of Kirkwall. This, however, limited the character choices to only being Human but your character was fully voiced at least.
Their third game, DA: Inquisition, was notably better if only because of how far the series had fallen with it's previous entry. It is a notable upgrade from 2 and finally gave players a chance to play the strange Qunari race and gave players the chance to, once again, design a character of their own making like in DA: Origins. The player character starts off as a prisoner after surviving a demon nuke explosion that tears a hole in the sky and due to a strange arcane mark they got there they are quickly named head of the newly reinstated Inquisition and must run around the world stopping darkspawn and dumbasses from killing everyone. Has either a decent ending or a completely stupid ending depending on how one views the series as a whole.
Made the first game, which was touted as video gaming's answer to Star Wars (in that it was a hyped up reskinning of an older star wars game). Then made the second installment, which many remember the best in the franchise.
The third game is where things went downhill, due to EA assuming direct control over Bioware's development in the game, taking away more creative control from them (in fact the writers of the last two games quit), and shifting it away from a narrative, to a more action-y standpoint, placing less attention to story and more on gunplay (and the gunplay is good, the best in the trilogy, but that can't save a game that earned respect mainly for its storytelling). This all culminated to a lackluster ending that never really satisfied fans, even with the remade ending due to pressure.
Also there was a spin-off called Andromeda, which had been given to a smaller and under-equipped studio while the main Bioware studio was busy churning out Anthem, which tanked so badly thanks to a myriad of issues, that it's single-handedly responsible for sinking the franchise altogether and destroying nearly all trust customers had in Bioware.
In which the gutted, burnt out husk of a company that made its name with character-focused RPGs and storytelling was instead pushed to make a dull-as-dishwater, generic looter-shooter. It's as bad as it sounds since the shooting was compromised by bad design, the looting was compromised by shitty monetization, the story was a bland afterthought and the entire experience was a massive waste of time, money, and worker blood, which catastrophically failed its corporate taskmasters.
Anthem was viewed as Bioware's last hope for a comeback, but sadly, it fell apart like so many other EA titles before it, working over what little trust was left after Mass Effect: Andromeda. But hey, the Javelins look cool at least.
To be fair, EA is not 100% to blame for Westwood's implosion. After scoring some knockout hits with the original Command & Conquer and its prequel, C&C: Red Alert, Westwood made the same mistake with its next project, C&C: Tiberian Sun, that was made with Duke Nukem forever: they put someone in charge (Erik Yeo) with way too many idea for things that he wanted to do, all of which had fuck-all to do with each other, and no idea what he wanted the finished game to be like. This led to Tiberian Sun going massively over-budget and behind schedule as manpower was wasted on all kinds of voxel bullshit and physics bullshit that ended up not even getting used. Late in the product's development cycle, this left Westwood begging for bus money from anyone who was willing to make a deal, so EA swooped in, bought Westwood, fired Yeo, and told whoever was left that they had four minutes to get their fucking shit together and get the game out the door. The good news is, this prevented Tiberian Sun from suffering the same fate as Duke Nukem Forever. It succeeded in keeping interest in the C&C franchise alive, and in generating enough profit to fund the next C&C game. The bad news is, Tiberian Sun was pushed out the door as a buggy, unbalanced, unfinished mess, allowing Starcraft to dominate the RTS scene for decades. The next game, Red Alert 2, copied a lot of code from Tiberian Sun, but fixed most of the bugs and made major interface improvements, allowing an actually pretty decent game to be released in a decent amount of time and make everyone a fuckton of money.
Still on a roll, the Tiberian Wars, made by EA was the zenith of the Tiberian timeline and not just had overwhelmingly positive reviews, but decent sales, fit for many computers and still with awesome mechanics and graphics. Now what would a decent, smart, business-savvy company do with an open-ending cliffhanger plot of the game? Make an even better game with next generation graphic card compatibility and culminate Kane's 20000 year crusade?
Fuck you no, EA failed to decide on what kind of game the fourth one would be even as they made it, resulting in an abortion of some mobile strategy game with pre-set units fit for soyboy hipster faggots' tablets. NOT EVEN BOTHERING with background pictures, they took half-baked movie clips with all actors...acting in a black white room like some soap opera rejects from 90's or some cheap porn movie. Game mechanics were literally a total ripoff of Warcraft 3 unit damage types and armors, built from mobile bases with preset headcount values reminiscent of 2000's Flash games. Needless to say, the game completely ended the Tiberium franchise.
Just recently in 2018, EA decided to parade its dead corpse like a Bretonnian Grail Reliquae by releasing a mobile spin off called "Command and Conquer: Rivals". As if killing the franchise wasn't enough, they had to taunt its fans like they acknowledge their own infamy. It's likely this is an IP protection act, if they don't do something with it a long enough time, the C&C IP goes to market and they lose it. So they didn't just kill C&C and lay it to rest, but instead exhumed it and are jealously guarding the corpse for what few pennies they can milk from it, before the body once again collapses due to their incompetence. Another hilarious note about the existence of Rivals is that EA legitimately argued that "Gamers don't know what they want", when asked about it; the Lion, the Witch, and the audacity of this bitch. We'd expand further of why this is bullshit, but their track-record speaks for itself about their knowledge in making a good RTS game, sufficient to say they dared promote this game as an e-sport with "competitive gaming", all while promoting P2W mechanics where you get stronger units the more money you shell out, yes, that's EA's logic for you. However, EA may have finally learned their lesson in June of 2020 with the release of "Command and Conquer: Remastered Collection" which is a remaster of Tiberian Dawn and Red Alert, along with their expansions, and it is Awesome!
Back in the day, Maxis released at least a couple of interestingly weird titles every few years (SimCity, SimEarth, and SimAnt for example, as well as some licensed titles such as SimTower and SimIsle). Although SimCity was generally regarded as their flagship product, the real moneymaker was The Sims, a dollhouse life simulator game that catered directly to facebook addicted housewives. At its peak The Sims could push expansion packs with nothing but new furniture and wallpaper colors for more than what your typical steam game can get away with calling full price.
The proceeds of this were poured into Spore, a big-budgeted game that was less successful then EA anticipated. Partly this was due to an overly paranoid DRM which resulted in the game becoming one of the most pirated games ever, but mostly it had to do with the game not being very good. While Will Wright had set out with the goal of "evolving" your species over multiple epochs, in practice this turned out to be just a collection of minigames strung together that resulted in a very jarring and unsatisfying gameplay experience that just got in the way of the game's best elements of 3D design.
After Spore, Maxis attempted to return to form with SimCity 2013. However, they learned nothing from the DRM experience with Spore and went so far as to require the game to always be online. In addition, each successive iteration of SimCity had gradually gotten more complex with more features, and 2013 cut many features out and shrunk the maps. Maxis would insist the always on functionality was required but hackers would eventually reverse engineer the game and prove otherwise, leading the studio to release an offline mode update.
If you're wondering what this has to do with teegee, SimCity is a model for many different board games and had a licensed collectible card game, and the early Maxis non-Sims Sim-games are good sources for anybody looking into game design from a Simulationist perspective. SimCity 2000 in particular was highly regarded for its underlying conway's-game-of-life logic which the later installments neglected.
EA Redwood Shoes / Visceral
Most notable for the Dead Space series and being killed by Star Wars Battlefront II (2017), what you should know them for (back when they were Redwood) is LotR: The Third Age (a game about being a party who were not the Fellowship while still having the same adventure), and Future Cops: LAPD (Which was awesome, but was never further developed as EA didn't let their studios make anything that wasn't a movie tie in, or a licensed property from 1998 - 2008)
So, what's the direct relevance to /tg/?
Not much directly, but if you're interested in the business end of tabletop gaming (i.e. why individual game lines or publishers succeed or fail), the EA graveyard is quite edifying to anybody interested in just about any badly run entertainment business (a set to which TSR, Games Workshop, FASA, and Wizards of the Coast arguably all belong or belonged), for two simple reasons: (1) You can learn more from a failure than a success, and nobody's failed their fans in more ways than EA, and (2) EA makes a good reference bar for "Asshole" "Evil" and/or "Stupid", depending on context.
To provide an example of the latter: Games Workshop has probably only cleared the "Stupid" bar compared to EA; they've been fairly good about not sitting on the IP itself (though various games within said IP may vary), and while their product is overpriced, GW's failings have been sufficiently consistent with releases to not quite qualify as "Evil" or "Assholish". Even at their worst, they've never sunk to the lows EA so readily sinks to just to milk out a little more money from the customer in the form of randomized lootboxes and digital transactions needed to play a game properly. More to the point,
GW actually learned from their mistakes and went a lot more forward-facing with community interaction and a much more consistent release schedule by 2017-18. Goddammit GW, can you not stop generating more skubstorms than the bloody Eye of Terror?