The Let's Play Archive

Sentinel Worlds I: Future Magic

by CrookedB

Part 6: Bonus update: Can Electronic Arts make you cry?

Alright, a short (and totally non-serious) Sunday bonus update is in order. Instead of entering the submarine base right away and thanks to us having found an EA passcard, we can now access a bonus level by following the eastern corridor...

Can Electronic Arts make you cry?

Right now, no one knows. This is partly because many would consider the very idea frivolous. But it's also because whoever successfully answers this question must first have answered several others.

Why do we cry? Why do we laugh, or love, or smile? What are the touchstones of our emotions?

Until now, the people who asked such questions tended not to be the same people who ran software companies. Instead, they were writers, filmmakers, painters, musicians. They were, in the traditional sense, artists.

We're about to change that tradition. The name of our company is Electronic Arts. SOFTWARE WORTHY OF THE MINDS THAT USE IT. We are a new association of electronic artists united by a common goal -- to fulfill the enormous potential of the personal computer, transcending its present use as a facilitator of unimaginative tasks and a medium for blasting aliens. These are wondrous machines we have created, and in them can be seen a bit of their makers.

TOWARD A LANGUAGE OF DREAMS. We are finding that the computer can be more than just a processor of data. It is a communications medium: an interactive tool that can bring people's thoughts and feelings closer together, perhaps closer than ever before.

Something along the lines of a universal language of ideas and emotions. Something like a smile.

Join us. We see farther.


EA: NerfWars: This Ain't a Game


"I'm not so sure there are any software artists yet," says Bill Budge. "We've got to earn that title." Pictured here are a few people who have come as close to earning it as anyone we know.

The first publications of Electronic Arts are now available. We suspect you'll be hearing a lot about them. WATCH US.

We're providing a special environment for talented, independent software artists, in which big ideas are given room to grow.

We learn that the traditional distinctions -- the ones that are made between art and entertainment and education -- don't always apply.

We think our current work reflects this very special commitment. And though we are few in number today and apart from the mainstream of the mass software marketplace, we are confident that both time and vision are on our side.

Allen Varney, 'The Conquest of Origin' posted:

Ultima designer and Origin co-founder Richard "Lord British" Garriott even worked an EA reference into Ultima VII (1992). Two high-profile nonplayer characters, Elizabeth and Abraham, perform seemingly helpful tasks for the player - but E. and A. turn out to be murderers in league with the player's nemesis, the Guardian. The three items that power the Guardian's evil generators are a cube, a sphere and a tetrahedron - the former EA logo.

This reference in Ultima VII proved prophetic.


EA meant to win in the computer game business not only by making good games, but by preventing competitors from making good games too - by actively interfering with their ability to do business.


"This is just business. This is the way we're going to win."


Furthermore, EA was all about marketing. For Hawkins the question was never, "How good is this game?" It was always, "How can we sell this?"

Ultima VI posted:

Here lies Captain Hawkins. He died a hard death and he deserved it.


The next year, 1992, Origin entered dire financial straits and sold out to EA. Yet Origin never sold its soul; rather, EA spent the next 12 years gradually and painfully devouring it.


Richard Garriott: "Ultimately we chose EA because EA's vision for the future, their prediction of platform shifts, and their planning to meet that challenge was right on."


Warren Spector: "For the first couple of years, EA's acquisition of Origin changed the place for the better in nearly every way. EA brought some much needed structure to our product greenlight and development processes. And we certainly got bigger budgets! We were able to do more and cooler things than we'd been able to do before. In most ways, though, EA gave us a lot of rope - enough to hang ourselves, as it turned out!"


Steve Powers, artist and programmer: "When EA assumed control, much of the joy began to fade from the Origin company culture. It was a running joke through the company that we went from working for the Rebellion to working for the Empire."


Spector: "EA started taking a firmer hand with us, integrating us into the machine in subtle and not so subtle ways, and that's when things started to get a little less pleasant. Every company has its politics but, in my relatively limited experience, EA was an incredibly political place - lots of empire building, folks jockeying for bigger, better jobs, competing for resources, marketing dollars and so on."


After EA bought Origin, authority for the new division fell to the president of EA Worldwide Studios, Don Mattrick. Once EA started exerting a tighter grip on Origin, Mattrick pushed teams to stay on schedule (an insistence that badly damaged Ultima VIII, according to Garriott). Mattrick killed many projects because they had spun out of control, and cancelled other projects for reasons staffers still consider mysterious. Some staffers believe (though not for attribution) Mattrick undermined Origin because it competed for resources with Distinctive's new incarnation, EA Canada. This view arose particularly because of the way Mattrick managed Origin's late-'90s move into online games.


A New York Times article on EA (August 8, 2005), "Relying on Video Game Sequels," observes, "Electronic Arts plans to release 26 new games [in 2005], all but one of them a sequel, including the 16th version of NHL Hockey, the 11th of the racing game Need for Speed and the 13th of the PGA Tour golf game." In the article CEO Probst said sequels appeal to Wall Street investors because they have a steady following among consumers.


EA could have preserved Origin as a small design house gestating new ideas. Rather than alienating staffers and discarding the valuable Ultima and Wing Commander brands, EA could have kept Origin alive in body and spirit, just as it could have preserved the other studios it bought: Westwood and Bullfrog and Maxis and...

EA GAMES: Challenge everything

If it's in the game, it's in the game


"EA is leading the industry with a new generation of games on a new generation of platforms," said Paul Lee President of EA Studios. "We're pushing the technology to provide more innovation... We're also leading the resurgence of PC gaming."

P.S. The "interrogate or obliterate?" message is a reference to the back cover of the Sentinel Worlds box:

Sentinel Worlds back cover posted:

Something has gone awry in the Caldorre System. Cargoliners, shuttling supplies to the outlying frontier, are being mysteriously destroyed by raiders. Commissioned by the Federation, a squadron of Interceptors-including your crew of 5 cadets-is sent to end the senseless destruction. It's a mission fraught with intrigue, suspense and danger.

- Hand-pick your crew of 5. Your success depends on the characteristics you choose.
- Obliterate or interrogate? Should you atomize a raider or board his ship for a little tete-a-tete.
- Prepare to touch down on Norjaenn. From the bridge it all looks deceptively peaceful.
- Rove Ceyjavik in your ATV. Discover why the Bio-Research outpost seems suddenly deserted.
- Explore the tunnels of Caldorre. Your combat helmet sees where the human eye can't.