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EA's Conquest of Origin

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the sacking-the-villagers dept.

Businesses 51

amitlu writes "Allen Varney wrote about EA's conquest of Origin in the Escapist this week. He covers much of EA's departure from its original values, and even has some quotes from the Garriotts, including, '[CEO] Larry Probst was often not supportive of the things I was doing, but I respect Larry because he was always clear, rational and consistent in his lack of support'"

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51 comments

EA not as good as /. (3, Funny)

EvilSmile (547095) | more than 8 years ago | (#13783239)

I do not know (guess why?) what the article says but EA definitely did not work as effectively and as fast as /. did on that website...

Re:EA not as good as /. (1)

musikit (716987) | more than 8 years ago | (#13783414)

i look at it like this.... slashdot articles are continuely not checked. EA doesnt check games for any type of fun factor. they also both do dupes. where as slashdot has a dupe at least every day EA has a dupe of every game every year they just increase the year in the title.

Interesting tidbits from the article (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13783450)

Before all the EA bashing starts, this is a good article to read... Several very interesting pieces of information here:

Upon being willfully acquired by EA, Origin was able to expand greatly, but they did so under their own guidance, and did so poorly. They doubled their staff and projects, entirely with inexperienced people. Many of these new projects failed, and this wasted a lot of money. Not a great way to begin a business relationship. That's when EA started to get involved in Origin management... I would too, if I had acquired a company and they started to be abusive and careless with funding and resources.

Origin barely paid enough for people to live on. EA brought their salaries up to competetive levels. The downside, the author puts it, is that this made it less of a 'cultural, hobbyist' thing and more of a business. But is not a business what they were trying to run? Paying your people a pittance - poverty level, as the author claims Origin paid most it's employees (except for it's star employees, who were paid in excess) - is not something to be proud of. I know for a fact that EA today still pays fairly competetive wages. I also know for a fact that the 'sweatshop conditions' no longer exist, at least at the studio I'm familiar with (which was the one being mentioned in the original blog that started the whole scandal). But Origin was doing that, AND paying poorly, years ahead of that.

The author seems bitter that EA insisted that projects actually stay on schedule. Origins habit of letting projects run until they were done, without clear schedules, is probably what led to them running out of money... the fact that they paid their people poorly explains why they lasted so long to start with.

The MMORPG industry was practically spawned by Garriot, who got the approval for seed funding in the budget for Ultima Online straight from the CEO... nobody at the company really had any understanding of what the game was (and rightly so, this was a totally new genre), but when the 50,000 beta testers volunteers signed up, EA threw full muscle behind it.

Sounds like EA saved the company, and tried to turn it from a playground into a business. Yes, there were poor decisions made - on both sides. But Origin would have been dead years earlier. It looks like it was a culture clash... had Origin not screwed things up on their own earlier on and needed hand holding when they expanded faster than they were capable of, maybe they would have maintained more indepedence.

Re:Interesting tidbits from the article (5, Insightful)

Allen Varney (449382) | more than 8 years ago | (#13786222)

The author seems bitter that EA insisted that projects actually stay on schedule.

I wrote that Escapist article. The problem with EA's management of Origin wasn't that EA insisted EA adhere to a schedule, but that EA tried to schedule every game as if it were a sports game. My article ran long and so I had to cut quite a bit for space. One point I wanted to make, but had no room for, was that EA routinely rotates its studio managers on a one-year cycle, which accommodates its successful sports game schedule. For the kinds of games Origin made, though -- games that required several years to realize -- this proved disastrous. A new manager (with his own personal agenda) would arrive late in the year, cancel projects and order layoffs, start a new slate of projects, order new hiring, and then a year would go by and bam! the new manager would arrive and start the cycle all over again.

This is not "EA insisting Origin adhere to a schedule." This is a fundamental disjuncture between the corporate HQ's philosophy and the Origin approach.

Re:Interesting tidbits from the article (1)

ObligatoryUserName (126027) | more than 8 years ago | (#13787432)

I wrote that Escapist article... My article ran long and so I had to cut quite a bit for space.

I apologize if I'm asking a dumb question, but why was your article cut for space at the expense of clarity when, to the best of my knowledge, The Escapist is 100% digital distribution?

Was it because of the graphic heavy design of the site? I appreiciate their desire to have a website where the pages are as lovely as theirs are, but if that was the case - isn't it the very definition of form over function?

Re:Interesting tidbits from the article (4, Interesting)

Allen Varney (449382) | more than 8 years ago | (#13788282)

why was your article cut for space at the expense of clarity when, to the best of my knowledge, The Escapist is 100% digital distribution?

Sorry, I misspoke. I should have said "cut for length," not for space. The Escapist pays by the word, and so the more they published, the more they would have to pay me. They gave me a target length of 3,000 words, which is presumably what they budgeted for; in the event, the article was nearly 3,600 words.

Re:Interesting tidbits from the article (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | more than 8 years ago | (#13795415)

Uh, maybe you could tell the kind people at The Escapist that WE CAN USE SCROLL BARS. It looks awfully nice a purdy but ffs, I'm not reading this out of a mag. I GOT A FUCKING MOUSEWHEEL. LET ME USE IT.

Re:Interesting tidbits from the article (0, Offtopic)

BenjyD (316700) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789164)

Lovely? Looks like a terrible page here - all the text runs out of the boxes and overlaps the quotes. (Firefox 1.0.7/Windows XP/Font Size 18)

Re:Interesting tidbits from the article (1)

liloldme (593606) | more than 8 years ago | (#13796675)

I appreiciate their desire to have a website where the pages are as lovely as theirs are

I actually don't appreciate the web design of the Escapist at all -- I find it unbearable to read articles there. It is a perfect example on how a magazine layout is a total waste and a huge mistake for a web publication.

I wish they'd change that soon. They seem to have interesting articles. But at least one less reader because of their lack of understanding of web design.

Re:Interesting tidbits from the article (1)

CFTM (513264) | more than 8 years ago | (#13790263)

I would argue that the disjuncture is occuring with Origin and not with EA, afterall EA is the parent company and Origin was bought by that company. Business is not always honkey-dorey; a corporation does not care about individual workers because that is not where their responibility lies. It is with the share-holders, the people who invest dollars in to the company. Just how it works, not a perfect system but free-market economies are successful...just gotta take the good with the bad.

It's not EA's responibility to adapt to Origin, it's the other way around...my two cents at least.

Re:Interesting tidbits from the article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13790801)

Well since I lived through much of all that at origin, I can honestly say it was not all EA's fault that Origin tanked and eventually had to be shut down.

True they did try to run Origin like they run the studios that make Madden9,10,11,12
and this did not match the Origins culture at all, nor did it match the process
necessary to make MOG's.

But Origin screwed up in its own right too, UO2 was a freakn disaster, millions spent, 3 years and nothing, they could barely get a functional demo working. They couldnt even get the damn game to build half the time (including the time the execs from EA came out to review the progress).

UXO was the next final straw, at least they only spent a couple million, and about 1.5 years. But they got approval for the project because Origin promised to have a MMO game ready in a 14 month time frame.(they actually thought it was possible because they were using unreal *oh brother*)

so of course that time came and went, great progress was made, but in EA's eye Origin missed the date, again.

And with UO not doing so well at the time, it was over.

Origin just couldnt get its shit together long enough to make any credible games, they would flounder away on projects, making little progress, and EA would cancel them.

Maybe its because all the "good" people left for other companies, or because the left over management just couldnt do it, but Origin in the end was just as much to blame as EA.

Of course the UO team ragging and putting the UXO team down all the time and getting all pissed off because they were not chosen to work on UXO did nothing for our credibility with EA, made us look like a bunch of morons to them. So I push some of the blame on the left over rag tag people that were on UO at the time. all you did was get your project canned effectively as well, nice work idiots.

so sure EA definately had a hand in all this, Origin was always the bastered child, I cant tell you how many times and EA exec would say "damn, this uo game is still going, how come it isnt dead yet" and "we just dont understand how UO is still going".

oh well, its dead and buried now, maybe the remnants of it will make a comeback and smack EA in the face with a kick ass game, we will have to wait and see.

Re:Interesting tidbits from the article (1)

Konrad9 (784416) | more than 8 years ago | (#13790635)

"Before all the EA bashing starts, this is a good article to read... Several very interesting pieces of information here:" Untill EA gets a toll-free tech support phone number, I will have nothing positive to say about them. Maybe EA did something nice in the past, but I doubt it was for anything more than them trying to keep an investment afloat.

Two questions (1)

bigman2003 (671309) | more than 8 years ago | (#13791235)

What exactly is the tech support you need from EA? "How do I kill the final boss???"

And...

Do other game companies offer a toll-free support line? I have NEVER seen one. But then again, I never felt the need to call tech support for a game....

Re:Two questions (1)

Konrad9 (784416) | more than 8 years ago | (#13791646)

Something more along the lines of "Why does BF2 crash when I try to open it after reinstalling and trying every patch?" Or "Why is the only way to fix BF2 not seeing my keyboard or mouse reformatting my computer?" Or "Why does Sim City 3000 Unlimited crash after a minute of use, even though I've tried it on three different computers over a period of six months?"

wtf ads? (-1, Troll)

ludomancer (921940) | more than 8 years ago | (#13783573)

This article was great until it started loading ads inbetween pages. Fuck the escapist.

Re:wtf ads? (4, Insightful)

Iriel (810009) | more than 8 years ago | (#13783729)

I'm not going to defend every capitalist hog out there, but what else are you supposed to do to support the bandwidth? Almost every cool site out there that wasn't bought by some benevolent billionaire ended up sucking in some small part due to the reality that resources aren't free. I can think of dozens that have small nuisances from ads now as opposed to years ago, but guess what? The Escapists still has good articles. Fuck the ads, economics, or the big companies that charge too much for services (whether you believe that or not). But don't cast stones at the people just trying to make ends meet to provide some good content.

Re:wtf ads? (1)

AaronLawrence (600990) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789175)

I agree.
The only thing that really bothers me is sites that become popular (and hence need lots of ads to support themselves), but don't bother to offer any subscription option so that people who are really interested can pay to get rid of the ads. It's really not all that hard. I imagine it's similar to setting up an ad account (assuming you get someone else to handle the financial aspects).

Re:wtf ads? (1)

Iriel (810009) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789636)

Then again, I do get annoyed with all the 'members-only' sections of sites, or enhanced features at a price. When the internet went public, your price for finding something good was having to search for it through all the crap that was out there. Ads didn't seem like anything as long as you found what you were looking for (unless it was 64 scripted pop-ups). Now, the actually useful info is still equally hard to find, and once you get there, it'll cost you $5/month per site to get the good stuff. Or at least that's the impression it leaves with me.

My griping aside, you do prove a good point, and for all we know, maybe they're working on it.

Re:wtf ads? (1)

chrismcdirty (677039) | more than 8 years ago | (#13791132)

What bothers me is when sites become popular, require ads to support themselves, offer subscription services that claim you won't see any ads, but when you subscribe you still get ads at every link *cough*IGN*cough*

Re:wtf ads? (1)

AaronLawrence (600990) | more than 8 years ago | (#13802376)

That's a good point too. I paid for 3dgamers, but even after signing up there were still ads. I had to go into preferences to disable them. Hello? Web designer? Brain?

Mod abuse (1)

Headcase88 (828620) | more than 8 years ago | (#13784684)

Parent makes a post about the site that's linked by this article. Sounds on-topic to me.

Re:Mod abuse (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 8 years ago | (#13785324)

Sounds like you are not even qualified to moderate /.

The linked article as advertisements! BOOO! DOWN WITH CAPITALISM!!

Re:wtf ads? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13785344)

You can just click the "view text" link at the bottom of the page. That way you can avoid ads and background images, as well as re-sizing the text to whatever point you want for easy reading.

Re:wtf ads? (1)

Thrymm (662097) | more than 8 years ago | (#13792908)

What ads? I clicked the link for text to be able to print it out and read it at my desk!

Insight on how EA works (5, Interesting)

joystickgenie (913297) | more than 8 years ago | (#13783757)


I think this was a fairly well spoken article.

The problem with EA that this article reveals to me is that EA has mixed goals. EA wants to make the highest quality games and they want to make a substantial profit. So to make the high quality games they hire and purchase the top level talent in the industry. However after they have this talent they don't give them any creative freedom and put them on projects that they have no interest in because it makes business sense. One goal is standing in the way of the other.

This article is a good example of EA making a good business move to pick up a talented company that is about to crumble and them completely messing up on the integration of the company.

The example in the article was sending the people that worked hard on Wing Commander Online to work on UO2. Although technically on paper the wing commander online team should would well on UO2 the feel and inspirations completely change and the team looses all interest in making good games. The previously talented employees start to loose their passion for the industry and start feeling like they are working in a factory rather them an entertainment company. After that the talent is either lost though boredom and stagnation that leads to EA firing them or the talent just quits and moves to another company. Later when the former employees become successful again at a new company EA will look at grabbing their new company and starting the cycle over again.

If you don't know who EA got its image or how EA handle business I would say this entire issue of the extremist is worth reading.

Re:Insight on how EA works (4, Insightful)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 8 years ago | (#13784465)

The problem with EA that this article reveals to me is that EA has mixed goals. EA wants to make the highest quality games and they want to make a substantial profit. So to make the high quality games they hire and purchase the top level talent in the industry. However after they have this talent they don't give them any creative freedom and put them on projects that they have no interest in because it makes business sense. One goal is standing in the way of the other.

You'd think it would be intuitively obvious that the creation of games requires a 'playful' (for lack of a better word) environment rather than a business one (and vice versa). I guess this kind of explains the stereotype that the 'suits' ruin anything that's enjoyable. ;-)

Re:Insight on how EA works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13786380)

It is as impossible to steal "intellectual property" as it is to steal fire.

Hey, give me back my fire!

Re:Insight on how EA works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13790240)

But...

I've also perceived that there is a definite lack of emphasis in the more "playful" companies on making deadlines. Project management at these companies is abysmal. What's needed is a more central approach - enough discipline to make sure things get done, while ensuring that there's a free atmosphere, so as o engender creativity.

Still Around (0)

Taulin (569009) | more than 8 years ago | (#13783895)

Origin would have been still around if EA didn't buy them, only they wouldn't have had the backing to make UO as soon as they did, if at all. U9 would have been a lot better without people being pulled off of it for UO, and EA rushing it out the door.

Re:Still Around (5, Informative)

Allen Varney (449382) | more than 8 years ago | (#13786157)

Origin would have been still around if EA didn't buy them

This is incorrect, assuming you mean Origin would still be an independent publisher. As I interviewed ex-Originites for the Escapist article, the theme that emerged was that by 1992 Origin definitely had either to find a buyer or go out of business. The company's position as a publisher was unsustainable in the changing market.

It is certainly possible the right buyer (i.e., someone other than EA) might have kept Origin largely intact in body and spirit as a studio, even to this day. But as I describe in the article, EA's internal politics, and its attempt to produce all games the way it produces sports games, made it impossible for them to exploit Origin effectively.

Re:Still Around (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13802025)

What's interesting, is that around 1992 is when Origin (along with Looking Glass) released the Ultima Underworld games. I do believe #1 was in '92, and #2 was in '93.

"Sleep is for the weak" (5, Insightful)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 8 years ago | (#13784149)

The article mentions that Origin had already instituted it's own "sweatshop" working conditions prior to EA's acquasition, and their doctricne was "Sleep is for the weak."

This is a huge mistake and one that I have learned many times over. A programmer without sleep gradually looses so much productivity and is far more error prone as he goes longer and longer without sleep that it makes sense to make sure your programmers get their 40 winks.

I have spent three or four sleepless days working on a project, only to go home, get rested, come back, throw out everything I had done and go from scratch to finish within a couple of hours.

Lack of sleep can not only make you much less productive, but you can even become a net negative. Get your rest.

Re:"Sleep is for the weak" (2, Insightful)

Dehumanizer (31435) | more than 8 years ago | (#13785125)

However, it's a fact that almost every game before they were eaten by EA was great. Ultimas up to Serpent Isle, Wing Commander 1 and 2... those were classics.

After EA, came two more great Wing Commanders (3 and 4), two lousy Ultimas (8 and 9), UO... and nothing more. No more Origin.

Me, I'd blame EA, although Origin certainly wasn't perfect (they were badly managed, and paid poorly, as the article says).

Re:"Sleep is for the weak" (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13785478)

Poepel reqruire slepe, othrewsie thye'er moer prne toooo errrrrrorrrs/ nO oneder i cna;t tpe peroperly. Aall this tome, i thoiught it eas teh ketboarf. ;)

Re:"Sleep is for the weak" (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 8 years ago | (#13787118)

Forty winks? If you sleep only twenty minutes a day you'll quickly go psychotic. Nobody likes a psychotic programmer. ;)

Re:"Sleep is for the weak" (1)

PyroMosh (287149) | more than 8 years ago | (#13787449)

I dunno, plenty of people seem to loooove Linus. ( :

Re:"Sleep is for the weak" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789239)

Shit man that would have be so much funnier (and truer) had you said Stallman :)

Don't stop at just the one article! (3, Informative)

Turken (139591) | more than 8 years ago | (#13785131)

So I read the article linked above... and then kept on hitting the next page button. I just finished reading the whole magazine issue, and was impressed with ALL of the articles within. It really gives some good insight and commentary on EA and I highly recomment that people should read the other articles as well!

Expensive Floppies (3, Interesting)

lividdr (775594) | more than 8 years ago | (#13785325)

I like the bit about the exorbitant price of floppies nearly killing Origin. I remember blowing my allowance (and later a good chunk of my paycheck) regularly on floppies just to be able to back all those Origin and EA games. Nothing like spending $1.00+/floppy to prevent diskrot from claiming disk 7 (of 8) nine months after spending $50.00+ on the game :(

I can get 2 DVD-Rs or a DVD-RW (with change left over) now for less that a single 720K DSDD floppy back in the good ol' days.

Full Origin Photo (1, Informative)

Donut (128871) | more than 8 years ago | (#13785568)

Can be found here [escapistmagazine.com].

Re:Full Origin Photo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13786085)

Can i get a price check on the camel toe in Aisle 1?

Re:Full Origin Photo (1)

the_skywise (189793) | more than 8 years ago | (#13786263)

Yeah, but do you have a link for "Origin, we create worlds... at other companies" flyer?

(or perhaps scscscfy.mp3 ...)

Re:Full Origin Photo (1)

Taulin (569009) | more than 8 years ago | (#13787065)

This is also more than likely a good source for the faces you see in U6 and 7?

Where's my Crusader sequel! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13785724)

I always wished there was a third, last Crusader. One where that since everything is largely taken care of, the silencer just decides to go completely postal for no good reason whatsoever. I could see the commercials...

"First, there was No Remorse..."

[stuff exploding]

"Then, there was No Regret..."

[guy running around on fire]

"Now... there's just No Reason!"

[silencer shrugs his shoulders, shoots a guy, and frolics off]

Origin brings back lots of memories (3, Interesting)

SpecialAgentXXX (623692) | more than 8 years ago | (#13787548)

Wow, reading that I was thinking back to when I was in high school back in the very early '90's and my friend bought Ultima IV (or V?) for his 286. It was the coolest thing we ever played. Then came Wing Commander and we were blown away by it. Then came the 3D Ultima - Ultima Underground and it was awesome. I even spent a couple hundred bucks to upgrade my PC from 1 to 4MB of RAM just to play it. Yeah, Origin really created worlds. But since Ultima Online (which I never played) I haven't heard much or became excited about any more Origin games.

I wonder how much... (2, Interesting)

nanowired (881497) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789091)

I wonder how much the rights to all of origin's games are, since EA doesnt seem to be trying to profit off of them - Aside from UO, whose corpse they are using to ride down the mountain with.

Re:I wonder how much... (1)

mynameisnotnick (832452) | more than 8 years ago | (#13792383)

If history is any indicator, the rights to the Origin IPs (and codebase) are extremely over-valued by EA. When EA shut down Kesmai, fans tried to get the rights to Air Warrior - the price EA wanted was more than developing from the ground up would have been.

-gary

Trip Hawkins Responds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13827088)

Small addition to the news post, there's a letter from Trip Hawkins in the next issue. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/issue/15/1 [escapistmagazine.com] It starts on the right column and goes over the next page.
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