BioWare is a Canadian video game developer located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It was founded in February 1995 by newly graduated medical doctors Ray Muzyka, Greg Zeschuk, and Augustine Yip, and is currently owned by American company Electronic Arts. The company specializes in role-playing video games, and achieved recognition for launching highly praised and successful licensed franchises: Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. They proceeded to make several other successful games based on original intellectual property: Jade Empire, the Mass Effect series, and the Dragon Age series. In 2011, BioWare launched their first massively multiplayer online role-playing game, Star Wars: The Old Republic.
|Industry||Computer and video games
|Founder||Ray Muzyka (retired in 2012)
Greg Zeschuk (retired in 2012)
Augustine Yip (retired in 1997)
|Headquarters||Edmonton, Alberta, Canada|
|Matthew Bromberg, GGM
Aaryn Flynn, GM Canada
Jeff Hickman, GM Austin
|Products||Mass Effect series
Dragon Age series
Baldur's Gate series
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series
(See complete products listing)
Number of employees
|Parent||Electronic Arts (2007–present)|
|Divisions||See § Structure|
1990s: Shattered Steel and Dungeons and Dragons' Baldur's GateEdit
BioWare was established in February 1995 by Ray Muzyka, Greg Zeschuk, Trent Oster, Brent Oster, Marcel Zeschuk, and Augustine Yip. The three doctors (Muzyka, Zeschuk, Yip) had recently graduated together from medical school at the University of Alberta; they had done some programming for use in med school and played video games for recreation, eventually deciding to develop their own. Their success in the medical field provided them with the funding they needed to launch a video game company. To make their first game, they pooled their resources, which resulted in capital of $100,000.
Their first game, Shattered Steel, began its life as a proof-of-concept demo, similar to the MechWarrior games. This demo was submitted to ten publishers, seven of whom returned to the company with an offer. A publishing deal for Shattered Steel was eventually signed with Interplay Entertainment. Brent Oster and Trent Oster left BioWare at that time to form Pyrotek Studios, which continued developing Shattered Steel but broke up a year later, with Oster returning to BioWare to finish the game. BioWare's first game was released the following year. Shattered Steel's release was described by IGN as a "modest success" with "decent sales". Two noteworthy points were the deformable terrain (player weapon damage caused craters in the environment) and zone damage (well-placed gunfire could shoot mounted weapons off enemies). A sequel to Shattered Steel was planned for 1998 but never realized.
BioWare's founders and staff were keenly interested in both computerized and pen-and-paper variants of role-playing games. Their next development project, therefore, was determined to be a role-playing game. When Interplay financed "exploratory development", BioWare presented the publishers with a demo called Battleground: Infinity. Interplay suggested that the demonstrated gameplay engine would be well-suited to the Dungeons & Dragons license which it had acquired from SSI. Accordingly, Infinity was reworked in line with the Dungeons & Dragons ruleset.
This resulted in Baldur's Gate, which witnessed a development cycle of three years. During this time, the three doctors continued to practice medicine. However, in the final years of the project, the demands of development prompted Muzyka and Zeschuck to leave medicine and move into full-time development. Augustine Yip decided to continue with his medical practice. Baldur's Gate sold more than two million copies after its release, nearly matching the sales of Diablo. Following the success of Baldur's Gate, the Infinity Engine was used for the games Planescape: Torment and the Icewind Dale series. The success of Baldur's Gate was followed by an expansion pack for the game: Tales of the Sword Coast.
2000s: EA acquisition, Mass Effect and Dragon AgeEdit
At this point, BioWare decided to return to the action genre. The company's initial thought was to develop a sequel to Shattered Steel, but eventually a sequel to MDK from Shiny Entertainment was chosen for development. MDK 2 was released on PC, Dreamcast, and eventually PlayStation 2, offering BioWare their first taste of developing games for consoles. MDK 2 drew the same level of praise as its predecessor but, despite the success, BioWare returned to the Baldur's Gate series for their next project.
Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn was released in 2000, two years after the release of Baldur's Gate. Baldur's Gate II sold two million copies, matching the sales of the first game in the series. However, the success of both Baldur's Gate II and MDK 2 was not enough to stabilize Interplay financially. The company experienced multiple failures, which eventually led to bankruptcy. Following Interplay's bankruptcy, BioWare began to work with Infogrames, which was later renamed to Atari. Neverwinter Nights was originally to be published by Interplay, but the company lost the license of the game to Atari and part of their Dungeons & Dragons license to BioWare. After selling their D&D license to Atari, BioWare developed Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire. It had publishing relationships with Interplay Entertainment, Infogrames and, under its new name Atari, LucasArts, and Microsoft.
The next few years saw a number of changes in BioWare's corporate status. In November 2005, it was announced that BioWare and Pandemic Studios (itself founded by former Activision employees) would be joining forces, with private equity fund Elevation Partners investing in the partnership. On October 11, 2007, however, it was announced that this new partnership (organized as VG Holding Corp) had been bought by Electronic Arts. BioWare therefore became a unit of EA, but retained its own branding.
In 2007, BioWare released the science fiction role-playing game Mass Effect. The following year, BioWare released Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood on the Nintendo DS, its first title for a handheld game console. Later, EA announced that BioWare would be merged with Mythic Entertainment, another division of EA, so that they could have all of their role-playing game development in one business unit.
The growth of the MMORPG group as part of Electronic Arts in 2008 has resulted in three additional studios being added to the BioWare group outside BioWare's original home base in Edmonton. The first, located in Austin, Texas, and headed by industry veterans Gordon Walton and Richard Vogel, was created to work on the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG project. Both the studio and the project were announced on March 13, 2006. On March 2, 2009, BioWare announced it had opened a new studio in Montreal, Quebec, to assist with existing projects as necessary. In 2009 Mythic Entertainment, based in Fairfax, Virginia, became part of the RPG/MMO Group, later being renamed BioWare Mythic in early 2010.
On June 24, 2009, Electronic Arts announced a restructuring of their role-playing and massively multiplayer online games development into a new group that included both Mythic Entertainment and BioWare. Ray Muzyka, co-founder and general manager of BioWare, was appointed the Group general manager of this newly formed "BioWare Group". BioWare's other co-founder, Greg Zeschuk, became the Group Creative Officer for the new MMORPG studio group. Rob Denton stepped up as general manager of Mythic, reporting to Muzyka, and later became the Group Operations Officer of the new group. BioWare's studios remained unchanged and continued to report to Muzyka. Near the end of 2009, BioWare released the acclaimed fantasy role-playing game Dragon Age: Origins.
2010s: Muzyka and Zeschuk's departureEdit
In January 2010, BioWare released the sequel to Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, which would go on to receive critical acclaim and more than 60 awards. The company announced that it would be opening up a new customer service office in Galway, Ireland, in 2011.
BioWare completed three major games between 2011 and 2012. The massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) Star Wars: The Old Republic is based on BioWare's previous contribution to the Star Wars franchise, and was announced on October 21, 2008, although BioWare had first mentioned an unspecified new collaboration with LucasArts in October the previous year. The other games were Dragon Age II, the sequel to Dragon Age: Origins, and Mass Effect 3.
Following the release of Mass Effect 3 in March 2012, numerous players complained about its endings failing to fulfill the developer's earlier promises regarding the conclusion of the trilogy. In response to these criticisms, BioWare announced on April 5 that they would reschedule their post-release content production and release an "Extended Cut" DLC that would expand the original endings and address the most common points of critique. The Extended Cut was released as a free download on June 26, 2012. In the aftermath of the controversy, Forbes contributor Erik Kain wrote that it "may end up being a healthy one for the industry, opening a new chapter in gamer/developer/publisher relations", calling BioWare and EA's decision to act on the fans' complaints a "remarkable" choice that made gamers realize "that they are entitled, and that it isn't a bad thing, to quality games".
On September 18, 2012, the next day after the official announcement of the third Dragon Age title, both Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, two of the remaining co-founders of BioWare, simultaneously announced they would be retiring from the gaming industry. After almost a year without a formal head, EA appointed Matthew Bromberg the group general manager of the BioWare label on September 9, 2013. Former CEO and president of Major League Gaming, Bromberg worked as the general manager of BioWare Austin since 2012; after his promotion, Jeff Hickman took over as the general manager in Austin. Aaryn Flynn remains in charge of BioWare Canada (Edmonton and Montreal) and Jon Van Caneghem, the head of Victory Games and Waystone Studio (also parts of the BioWare label).
After acquiring and dismantling LucasArts, The Walt Disney Company announced in May 2013 that Electronic Arts will produce future Star Wars games, " in addition to the BioWare team, which is already developing for the Star Wars franchise." In November 2013, teaser images from the next installment of the Mass Effect series have been released. At E3 2014, BioWare Edmonton announced working on a new (unnamed) original intellectual property in addition to continuing their established series. Another new IP, titled Shadow Realms is an episodic 4 vs. 1 story-driven online action role-playing game, and was announced on Gamescom 2014. On February 9, 2015, Bioware Austin announced that the development on Shadow Realms would not continue.
Casey Hudson, the creator of the Mass Effect series, left BioWare in May 2014, while Drew Karpyshyn, writer of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, returned in 2015, Dragon Age's writer David Gaider left BioWare in January 2016. Chris Wynn and Chris Schlerf, both had had an important role in the development of Mass Effect: Andromeda, left in December 2015 and February 2016 respectively. Alexis Kennedy, co-founder of Failbetter Games and the creative director of Dragon Age: The Last Court, joined BioWare as its "first ever guest writer" in September 2016.
On September 13, 2016, EA announced the formation of EA Worldwide Studios, which would consist of the BioWare Studios, EA Mobile, and Maxis, and led by the DICE co-founder Patrick Soderlund. At the same time, Samantha Ryan, head of EA Mobile and Maxis, was appointed the new head of the BioWare Studios (Aaryn Flynn remained in charge of BioWare Canada). Released in March 2017, Andromeda was at the center of controversy of equal proportions, if not higher than that around the third chapter; starting with heavy criticisms that were addressed before the video game was released to the lukewarm response received by the specialized press and the fandom with sales lower than the previous Mass Effect chapters. Given the circumstances Electronic Arts has reportedly frozen the entire Mass Effect series, downgrading the BioWare Montréal branch from a leading development team to a support team.
After the retirement of the two remaining BioWare co-founders, Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, Matthew Bromberg is the current group general manager of the BioWare label. The BioWare group consists of following studios:
- BioWare Canada (general manager: Aaryn Flynn):
- BioWare Edmonton. The original BioWare studio, it is responsible for most of the games released under the BioWare label, including the ongoing Dragon Age series and the original Mass Effect trilogy.
- BioWare Montreal. Formed in March 2009 to assist the Edmonton studio as necessary. Lead the development of DLC for the Mass Effect series as well as Mass Effect: Andromeda.
- BioWare Austin (general manager: Jeff Hickman). Formed in March 2006 specifically to develop Star Wars: The Old Republic (with assistance from BioWare Edmonton). Bioware Austin later began working on a new IP called Shadow Realms, but production was shelved in February 2015 in order to focus on the continuing production of Dragon Age: Inquisition and Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Former members of the BioWare group include:
- BioWare San Francisco (formerly EA2D). Developed Mirror's Edge 2D as EA2D and Dragon Age: Legends as part of BioWare. Closed in February 2013.
- Mythic Entertainment (known as BioWare Mythic between June 2009 and November 2012). Dropped the label in November 2012.
- Victory Games. Formed in February 2011 as "BioWare Victory" to develop the next installment of the Command & Conquer series, it had since dropped the BioWare label but remained part of the BioWare group. The studio was shut down by EA in October 2013.
- Waystone Games. Developers of Dawngate, which was cancelled in November 2014.
The following games have been developed by BioWare Edmonton ("BioWare" before 2006), BioWare Montreal, and BioWare Austin.
- Canceled title
Between 1998 and 2011, BioWare developed a number of in-house video game engines to serve as technical basis for their games. Some of these engines were then licensed to other companies to develop their own games. Others came with modding toolkits, allowing the fan community to implement original adventures using the technology of BioWare's games.
BioWare created the Infinity Engine to use it as a core component for development of 2D role-playing video games based on Dungeons & Dragons, the Baldur's Gate series (1998–2001). The engine was also used by Black Isle Studios to create the critically acclaimed Planescape: Torment (1999) and the Icewind Dale series (2000–2002).
The Aurora Engine was the successor to the Infinity Engine, featuring full 3D environments, real-time lighting and shadows, and surround sound. BioWare used the Aurora Engine to produce their 2002 Neverwinter Nights, as well as two expansion packs. The game included the so-called "Aurora toolset", a collection of tools allowing users to create their own digital adventure modules to be played either in single-player or in online multiplayer. The toolset enjoyed great popularity among the modding community, with over a thousand fan-made modules produced in it within half a year after the release.
Obsidian Entertainment (successor to Black Isle Studios) used an updated version of BioWare's Aurora, titled "Electron Engine", to produce Neverwinter Nights 2 (2006) and its three expansion packs (2007–2009). Like the original, the Electron toolset was released with the game.
The Polish studio CD Projekt RED used the Aurora Engine to develop The Witcher, the 2007 video game adaptation of the Polish fantasy novel series, although the rendering module was rewritten from scratch.
BioWare used an updated version of the Aurora, titled the Odyssey Engine, to produce the critically acclaimed Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic in 2003 and their first original intellectual property role-playing game Jade Empire in 2005. The Odyssey Engine was the first BioWare engine to allow developing for video game consoles, with both Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire originally released for the Xbox before being ported to the PC platform.
Obsidian Entertainment used the Odyssey Engine to develop Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (2004), a sequel to the original Knights of the Old Republic. BioWare maintained limited oversight on Obsidian's development of The Sith Lords, as well as Neverwinter Nights 2.
The Eclipse Engine, also known as the Lycium Engine, succeeded the Odyssey Engine and, among other things, supported PhysX hardware acceleration. It was used to produce Dragon Age: Origins (2009) and its expansion pack (2010). Like Neverwinter Nights, Origins was released with a toolset to allow the players to run their own adventure modules on the Eclipse Engine.
A heavily upgraded version of the Eclipse Engine, internally known as the "Lycium Engine", was used to produce Dragon Age 2 (2011).
Unreal Engine 3Edit
In 2013, EA confirmed that all future games developed by BioWare will be made on EA DICE's Frostbite 3 engine. Both Dragon Age: Inquisition and Mass Effect Andromeda were announced to be based on the Frostbite 3 engine, as part of the general move towards a unified technology foundation across all of Electronic Arts' developer studios.
At the San Diego Comic-Con 2014, a live action trailer was shown for a new game that was in development by BioWare Austin called Shadow Realms. Its website was updated with trailers and fictionalized blogs. Shadow Realms was described at Gamescom 2014 as a story-driven, episodic urban fantasy MMORPG in a four-versus-one format, and was originally set for release in late 2015. The game's development was cancelled in February 2015.
Awards and recognitionEdit
In addition to numerous game awards, the company has been awarded with a number of business related awards:
- Profit 100 – Canada's Fastest Growing Companies 2005 (Rank 81)
- In October 2008, BioWare was named one of Alberta's Top Employers by Mediacorp Canada Inc., which was announced by the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal.
The full list of awards can be found on their web site.
- Spike TV's 2010 Video Game Awards: Studio of the Year (2010)
- Hall of Fame induction (2010)
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- "Exclusive Interview with Victory Games GM Jon Van Caneghem". CommandAndConquer.com. Electronic Arts. February 24, 2011. Archived from the original on March 12, 2013. Retrieved August 5, 2012.
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- Hinkle, David (February 8, 2011). "Dragon Age 2 preview: A shot of adrenaline". Joystiq. Retrieved February 24, 2011.
While it might appear to run on a new engine, Dragon Age 2 employs an evolved version of Origins' Eclipse engine (now called the Lycium engine internally).
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