EA exec on how the pandemic changed development: ‘I don’t think we will ever go back’

Today, Electronic Arts announced a handful of new projects, including a remake of Dead Space and a story-driven racer complete with Hollywood talent. It’s part of what feels like a busy period for the publisher; last year, EA says it launched 13 new games and more than 400 updates for existing titles. That productivity is especially notable given that, like most companies around the world, EA’s studios were forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Laura Miele, EA’s chief studios officer, says the publisher is still learning how to best make games remotely. And while it’s not clear what the future of EA’s studios will look like, there will be change moving forward. “I don’t think we will ever go back to how we were before the pandemic,” Miele tells The Verge.

Miele oversees 25 different studios — including recent additions like Codemasters, Glu, and Playdemic — and initially, she says, the biggest hurdle for remote work was “pure production,” meaning the nuts and bolts of developing a game. That’s also the place where she believes the publisher has made the most progress. “In the beginning of the pandemic, we were experiencing a certain level of production hit that we’re actually making up progress on over the past year,” she says, noting that teams have developed internal tools, as well as techniques like always-on Zoom warrooms, to get around some of the logistics.

“We’ve learned the production mechanics and some technology solves. I think we’re still learning about the human factor and how people are impacted on an emotional and human level,” she adds. It’s an issue that came to light last year when Apex Legends developer Respawn responded to complaints of its pandemic work schedule, particularly when it came to maintaining a healthy work / life balance while dealing with the demanding nature of a live service game.

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