Interview: BioWare Founder Ray Muzyka
Check out our detailed chat with Mr BioWare to learn about the impressive story of how the unique developer came to be, and why he would never have sold the the "old" EA.
"Dr. Raymond A. Muzyka", his business card proudly states, followed by a series of letters: "BMSc MD CCFP MBA". I don't know what these letters mean, other than this is a man who has a ton of qualifications I do not have. "Chief Executive Officer" is fairly easy to understand on the BioWare-branded card, though. But what the card does not say is that he is also a co-founder of the beloved game developer, and also that he is now a Vice President of Electronic Arts, which bought BioWare last year.
The card also does not tell you the fairly remarkable story of how BioWare came to be. When we met with Ray just recently, we learned about this story, and also discussed some of the studio's past, present and upcoming releases, such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age. We also discussed integrating with EA and the modern EA in general. Here is our interview with him.
Kikizo: Isn't it pleasing to see EA's new focus these days - concentrating on quality rather than just churning stuff out?
Muzyka: Yes. I think you're going to see more focus on "how do we make the best stuff". That's the stuff I'm hearing consistently. Because really, that's where the real value is, and that's where the fans get the stuff that's fun that they're really satisfied with.
Kikizo: What does that new strategy mean to BioWare? How well does it fit?
Muzyka: I think really well. We've been really satisfied so far with how things have gone with the transition and integration with EA. I've been impressed with how smart people are, how ambitious they are and how humble they are at the same time, and how much I hear the word "quality". It has been a key success criteria going forward for all games for EA, not just BioWare games; for BioWare it's taken as a given that the games are going to be high quality because we're passionate about that. But I'm seeing it everywhere, all across the EA studios and labels. I think it's gone really well; the people there are very rational, and team-oriented as well. And I love having more partners, who I can talk to about games early in development and share what we're learning and get feedback on our own games at an early enough stage that we can actually make changes to make them better.
Kikizo: Could you tell us about how you got started with BioWare all those years ago and some of the history?
Muzyka: Well I guess about fifteen years ago my partner, co-founder Greg Zeschuk and I were co-GMs, and we basically started BioWare. We formed it to make great stories. We went to pre med together so we were friends, and we always talked about games, we loved video games. We were both medical doctors, and really it came because we were just passionate about video games. We thought, wouldn't it be cool to make them? And it just kinda came out of that, we became business partners, we never really thought about it very much, it just became something that we thought would be a good progression.
It really was as simple as that! We had lunch one day and we were talking about medical stuff, and it was like, why don't we just a video game company and start making video games together? And then by the end of that lunch were just like, yeah, OK! We incorporated the company, and we had a third partner at the time as well, but he left and went back to medical practice and there were just two of us, and we hired a whole bunch of great people around us, and that's the reason why we've been successful, is we had so many good employees and a focus on quality.
Kikizo: Well that is an amazing story and I love the way you make it sound so easy. I mean in the beginning presumably you had no actual games industry experience...
Muzyka: None, none. In fact, nobody in BioWare had any for the first two games we released - Shattered Steel and Baldur's Gate - we hired in total about 60 or 70 people on Baldur's Gate, and not a single one on the team had ever made a game before.
Kikizo: But I mean, how did you go about start-up capital or financing the start-up?
Muzyka: Being medial doctors was kind of handy there, because, what we did is we took all our savings and any money maxed out of our credit cards and pooled it altogether, and we continued to work as doctors on weekends and made enough money to continue to support the company and invest in it more, and then we just never really looked back. We started growing - ten employees, twenty employees and it started to take of and get revenues, and we were able to make it successful that way.