BioWare cofounder talks leaving Mass Effect for beer

Greg Zeschuk recalls leaving BioWare to make Web series about craft beer, saying he no longer had passion for making games.

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BioWare cofounder Greg Zeschuk has opened up on his departure from the Mass Effect and Dragon Age publisher in September. Speaking to Polygon, he said he simply no longer had the passion necessary to continue on, and so he decided to pursue another passion project: a Web series about craft beer.

"I just felt like my passion was waning," Zeschuk said. "And I am very much a creature of passion and so I kind of looked at myself and go, 'OK, if I was to do something else what would I do? What would I really feel engaged in? What would I really enjoy?'"

This turned out to be beer, or more specifically, a show called The Beer Diaries. The first episode will premiere this week at Alamo's Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. Tickets are available now.

Other BioWare cofounder Ray Muzyka is now involved with social impact endeavors, like charities for education, health care, and animal rights.

Why specifically Zeschuk lost his passion for gaming remains unclear. He left BioWare after Mass Effect 3's ending drew much criticism and debate and Star Wars: The Old Republic saw its subscriber base dwindle before going free-to-play. Could these have been the reasons to get out?

"It's challenging. It's sometimes rewarding and sometimes it's not. And you just get tired of it after a while. That is probably the easiest way for me to describe it. Sometimes you just need to change things."

"Everything's a factor," Zeschuk said. "There's nothing that's not a factor, but there's no single one thing. I think the best way I can describe is: Do the same thing for twenty years and it's very, very intense. It's very high pressure. It's very high stress. It's challenging. It's sometimes rewarding and sometimes it's not. And you just get tired of it after a while. That is probably the easiest way for me to describe it. Sometimes you just need to change things."

Zeschuk also spoke about the fan reaction to his and Muzyka's departure from BioWare. He said though gamers may be mad at them for leaving, staying on board without a desire to make games would be even worse.

"You know it's sad; I wish I could deliver on that, but I don't think I would be as good as I was in that space historically. Like I said, the fire wasn't there," he said.

Lastly, Zeschuk explained that the reason he and Muzyka spent so much time contemplating how best to leave BioWare was that they wanted to make sure they left the company on solid footing. Zeschuk and Muzyka are still good friends, he said, noting the two spoke just last week.

"We're very close," Zeschuk said. "We always joke with our wives that arguably we've spent more time with each other than our wives for that fifteen- to twenty-year period."

Discussion

204 comments
Dat-tsu
Dat-tsu

BioWare used to be a company where money was a means to make games. They got bought up by a company where games are a means to make money. Regardless of how talented or how well-intentioned the boys and girls working at BioWare are (and even after all that's happened I do still think there's lots of talent working there) it doesn't really matter. They can't make the kind of products they used to. Not because of a lack of talent and not because of some evil executive at EA twirling his mustache and laughing maniacally as he counts all his money, it's just the nature of the larger machine that they've become a small part of. 

noclue_27
noclue_27

Sounds like he's just burnt out (though I'm sure the "toxic" community jerks didn't help out much), but I betcha he'll be back in a decade.. Sorta like Chris Roberts :D

Icepick_Trotter
Icepick_Trotter

I don't feel sorry for him or anyone who leaves Bioware because of a "loss of passion".

Because when you sell out it's your own fault.

jark888
jark888

EA administrators may dictate the studio's creativity too much. The original Mass Effect is extraordinary and also costly to create such a game.

jay_rock_
jay_rock_

I still think they ran when things got of of control!

tgwolf
tgwolf

No, the fact that you are migrating to...well, the thing that you are, I think speaks more to the reasons on why you are quitting your job...For some it is an over-addictive and abusive mmo that incidentally still charges fees for play, for others it is golf...for these guys, beer.

ceromaster
ceromaster

To all the pple who blatantly blame EA. Have you ever considered the fact that Bioware screwed themselves over? At the end of the day Bioware are the ones who created Mass Effect 3 and it's ending, and they also created Dragon Age 2, both were pretty okay games in their own right but at least they owned up to them. 

Personally the EA hate is way too much. So what if they produce games with overpriced DLC or they churn out games in one year? I'm willing to bet that half of you who complain about EA still buy their products no matter what.

And it's impossible for ANYONE to ruin someone else's creativity. That's a weak-ass excuse that alot of developers hide behind when they know for a fact that they effed up. I personally don't find EA at fault with Bioware's setbacks....if anything I blame the fans. As far as I can tell the fans of Bioware bitch harder than any other videogame fanbase out here.

MatrixGamer78
MatrixGamer78

Soon a new brand "BioBeer" will be introduced in the market :D

pathosfire
pathosfire

Wish them well on their new journey!

I can understand, looking at a lot of the feedback game producers get from their customers at times, I can understand wanting a simpler life afterwards.  It definetly gives me pause when considering 'game design' as a career choice.

cjtopspin
cjtopspin

Who can blame him really?  I am sure it went from "creating games you love that others happen to enjoy" to "making games others enjoy regardless of how you feel about it for money and people with a financial interest in your company...kind-of-thing"...

Konviktion
Konviktion

"Screw Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and AAA games, let's make beer!"

AlexFili
AlexFili

Everyone needs a break now and then, especially from a highly stressful environment

MatrixGamer78
MatrixGamer78

ok Beer is the only thing which will releif his pain of bitter memories...

rey2
rey2

The booze will be good company for a while until the urge to make games comes back.  But hopefully not for EA or a similar reputation company.


Lamachina
Lamachina

and i no longer had any passion for biowares games

xeoneex66
xeoneex66

I cant' stand Evil Arseholes (EA).  I really count the days till this pathetic vulture of a company falls apart in ruin, although I wish the few good people left in EA, if there are even any left, the best.

TheWatcher000
TheWatcher000

Let This be A Lesson For Those Who Would Take Leave Of Their Senses And Work For EA.

 This Could Be You.

EA. Destroyer of Culture. Rapist Of Creativity. Murderer Of Art. Bane Of Mankind.

twentymooseman
twentymooseman

Wow, screw you guys making snide remarks about Mass Effect 3 and their retirement. They give us some of the most exciting, deep and accessible rpg's of the past 15 years and all ya'll can do is bitch cause you didn't like the ending? What's worse is that it's been 10 months since the game came out and ya'll are still holding a grudge. Get over it. Does anyone bitch about the ending of a movie and expect the director to round up the entire cast and crew to shoot a new ending because there's some imagined debt owed to you on account of your disappointment? No. 

Megavideogamer
Megavideogamer

Fair enough if the passion is gone. Do something else.

Renato1984
Renato1984

I believe the whole team went into this blues state of mind, since the lack of inspiration was blatantly evident throughout all of Dragon Age 2 and ME3 (not just the ending, but the whole derivative thing).

billlabowski
billlabowski

I'm happy he left. He realized that there is no pleasing gamers. And for EA and Bioware to go and make alternative endings is a kick in the face. I would never tell an artist to change his or her paintings or drawings the way I see fit. That must have hurt him, and with Star Wars but everyone knew that game was going to fail from the time they announced it. But for him to quit and do something he loves, away from gaming and gamers, I applaud him. 

Meta-Gnostic
Meta-Gnostic

So one guy left to talk about beer and the other left to do charity work. Sound like complete opposites at this point.

kungfuj0
kungfuj0

...And  Michael Jordan left basketball to play baseball once upon a time too.

Here's hoping that BOTH of the good Dr.'s have a story as MJ's, if they want it...

Also, I feel I most post the obligatory, "EA tends to have that affect on people" thought here as well.  These people (EA) are like the opposite of King Midas when it comes to game developers and their passion and creativity.  Where everything Midas touched turned to gold, everything EA touches tends to turn to ****.  Truly creative people people simply cannot function for long under a company like that.  It just doesn't work. 

You have to let creative people breathe.  You have to give them room.  You have to let them do what they do on their own time.  You can't just tell a songwriter to write a song.  If you do, they may well write one, but it will be flat and uninspired.  If, however, you give them the room that they need and let them do what they do, you might end up with a hit on your hands.  I can only hope that one of these days, the EA's and Activision's of the world figure that out.  EVERYONE will benefit from it if they do, especially THEM.

aryanbrar
aryanbrar

one does not simply work for EA and walk away from work sane.

darkscape
darkscape

After Dragon Age 2 and Mass Effect 3 i would also turn to beer for answers.


Sampawende
Sampawende

Personally I think that what really drove him since was not passion for video game but something else he just can't find anymore at Bioware.

Passion can't dy otherwise it's not passion, just a little crush on something.

JimmyJumpy
JimmyJumpy

I've known lots of people with a huge passion for beer... Most of them can be found at AA-meetings.

bobnice
bobnice

If I were a millionare, I would quit my job and stay home and drink beer all day.  So wouldn't half of us here I would think

Succumbus
Succumbus

I just might make the 30 minute drive down to Austin. Love me some beer.

twztid13
twztid13

@noclue_27 Darn those people with their own opinions. If only they'd shut up!

TheGreatPhoenix
TheGreatPhoenix

@ceromaster yes most people considerd it, and most came to the conclusion it is indeed EA's fault. the fact that you claim that creativity can't be ruined is ignorant at best. grow up

deathblow3
deathblow3

@twentymooseman actually after the first ME it really stopped being an rpg. it had a good story and a lot of people got invested because of the first one. but lets be honest it was no real rpg what makes rpg's, rpg's is the choices you make and the crazy amount of customizing. they had most of the elements but left out one of the best parts. the most done thing in a rpg is people hunting down the games epic weapons one of the best things in ME 1 was finding better parts to construct stronger and stronger weapons and make your guy a self sufficient badass. this was kind of lost on the last 2 same with there other games as well.

179107199999
179107199999

@twentymooseman The difference between a movie and a Bioware game is that you take command of the character you witness their battles you make the decisions and alter the story.ME3's true ending wasn't satisfactory to many players because I guess everything they did since the 1st game didn't matter.Fans were upset because the game didn't have that Bioware quality.But that quality diminished when they were brought by EA.Your sentiment as well as that of the fans should be directed at EA.I'm willing to bet the true reason those guys left was because they couldn't stomach EA telling them what to do.When you are a creative person you need freedom.When someone tells you how to handle you're project that starts to kill the creative process.Also I remember reading some DLC was already part of the game then taken out and turned in to Day 1 DLC. Those guys probably didn't expect the major backlash that happned.Its EA's fault no one elses excpet unfortunatley the ones who thought Joining EA would be a good idea

Scarab83
Scarab83

@billlabowski A video game is as much a product, as it is art. And a large enough percentage of the customer base was unhappy with the product that they felt obligated to add on to the ending.

Sampawende
Sampawende

@bobnice Don't be so sure about that. If you managed yourself to be a billionaire you would not be able stay idle at home, your brain just can't stop thinking about new good ideas and beyond the money you'll realize that what really made you succeed is your desire to create and to be the best at it.

twentymooseman
twentymooseman

@179107199999 I can see your point. I don't have a problem with people having a problem with the game, it's the fact that to this day, they're still whining about it. The idea that you have been personally wronged because the game was a disappointment. Also the fact that the fans basically threw a hissy fit until Bioware released alternate endings. We should just accept the fact that they made artistic choices that we disagree with. It's not like they came into your house and smashed up your tv and xbox and laughed maniacally as you looked to the sky and shouted "Why Bioware? Why?". It's like the Star Wars prequel thing. They're shitty movies for sure, but the way people talk about it like they've been personally wronged is ridiculous.