AJ Dembroski, a designer who worked on the past two iterations of the colossal Madden franchise, went on the Twitter warpath this week after leaving Electronic Arts. Among his contentions: the game’s extremely talented designers are chronically stifled by a pervasive focus on metrics/statistics/numbers, that the franchise is hopelessly compromised because EA is a publically-traded company, and that the company sees the Call of Duty franchise as their competition for Madden. He also memorably writes that working for EA made him miss driving a taxi.
Basically, Dembroski confirms every widely-held stereotype about Electronic Arts, and then does it again, and again, and again: “but seriously… don’t trust EA. Not because they’re bad. They do good by their people, really. But because they’re robotic…Paint by numbers. They see video games as a collection of features. They don’t understand the artistic aspect of it…And they NEVER fucking will. EVER! Nor will any corporate entity.”
He alludes to several features, including a scouting and a legacy mode, that were removed from the game prior to release, presumably at the hands of a slick corporate meddler.
Dembroski’s passion for creativity in AAA gaming is well-taken, and it’s heartening to know there people like him in the big gaming factories. The task of turning Madden into a cutting-edge franchise, though, is probably a futile one, and the comparison to Call of Duty is instructive. It’s noble but also naive to expect huge corporations to change major and majorly successful products for the better more than is necessary to ensure continued financial success.