Did BioWare change when the studio was bought by publishing giant Electronic Arts?
In recent months EA's CEO, John Riccitiello, has talked of adjusting Mass Effect 3 to "address a much larger market opportunity" than that presented by previous Mass Effects. With soundbites like that it's unsurprising that divisive additions like multiplayer and Kinect integration were perceived by some anxious fans to be EA's market-fuelled tinkering, perhaps with a similar end result to Dragon Age II in sight.
Meanwhile, Muzyka and Zeschuk stress that they still make the decisions, and aren't told what to do or forced into anything.
"One thing we commonly see is when fans don't like something we do, they put in the comments, 'Oh those EA guys, they're making BioWare do...' And I always chuckle because we are EA, we're BioWare - we're both, and we still have huge autonomy in terms of what we do," Zeschuk said last year, in an interview with Eurogamer.
So how much is BioWare's push towards accessibility and broader appeal really to do with EA?
"Obviously BioWare wants to share their games with as many people as possible - it was like that from the first day I started," says Karpyshyn.
"Saying they want to make their games more accessible to a wider audience doesn't mean they're turning their back on their core audience, though it seems that's the way some people want to spin it. Personally, I don't see it that way."
When Fedor joined BioWare the studio was working on Jade Empire and Dragon Age, and slightly later, Mass Effect. Dragon Age would prove to be more in line with BioWare's headline titles of yesteryear, but Jade Empire and Mass Effect presented considerable diversions from the dense fantasy RPG formula.
"BioWare's philosophy on game design has always been in a state of evolution. If you look back over the pre-EA catalogue of BioWare games it's already quite diverse," Fedor points out.
"BioWare's first game was actually a mech simulator [Shattered Steel], and its third game was a third-person shooter [MDK2]. Sonic Chronicles on DS also started pre-EA. And both Jade Empire and Mass Effect have some significant differences from their predecessors."
In 2005, shortly after Fedor joined the company, BioWare merged with Pandemic in a $300 million deal orchestrated by Elevation Partners, a private equity firm headed by the then former EA president John Riccitiello. The deal was a coup for Riccitiello; Microsoft had reportedly been sniffing out a buyout, and BioWare's agreement with Epic to license Unreal Engine 3 for the recently announced Mass Effect was big news.
The doctors worked closely with Riccitiello over the next few years. In 2006 Jillian Goldberg was brought in to BioWare/Pandemic as marketing VP from EA, and she knew how to apply what was successful about EA brands to BioWare's brands. When the doctors signed the deal with EA - back under the leadership of Riccitiello - they knew exactly what they were getting in to. And so did EA:
"It's important to remember that EA bought BioWare because it wanted a strong story-based game house," says Fedor. "They wanted to add that capability to their arsenal of strong sports and action titles. They certainly didn't want to spend nine figures on a screwdriver only to melt it down into a hammer."
It's also worth remembering where BioWare were when they started – young doctors saving up from their day jobs to raise enough capital for a game demo - and how much the company grew before the EA buyout. Change was inevitable.
"I think it's terribly hard for a studio to maintain its identity when forced to adapt to huge amounts of transition. Indeed, BioWare has had to adapt in many ways, not the least of which is due to its own growth," Fedor agrees.
"BioWare was at just around 150 employees when I first interviewed there in 2004. I think they were at 300 and 2 studios around the time of the EA buyout. These days, they're up around 800, spread across 6 studios. Growth like that would strain any studio culture, and the fragmentation across locations and franchises only compounds things."