|Type||Division of Electronic Arts|
|Industry||Computer and video games
|Founded||Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (1995)|
|Founder(s)||Ray Muzyka (retired in 2012)
Greg Zeschuk (retired in 2012)
Augustine Yip (retired in 1997)
|Headquarters||Edmonton, Alberta, Canada|
|Key people||Casey Hudson, Director
David Gaider, Writer
|Products||Video games (See complete products listing)|
BioWare is a Canadian video game developer founded in February 1995 by newly graduated medical doctors Ray Muzyka, Greg Zeschuk, and Augustine Yip. BioWare is currently owned by American company Electronic Arts. BioWare specializes in role-playing video games, and became famous 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 IP: Jade Empire, the Mass Effect series, and the Dragon Age series. In 2011, BioWare launched their first MMORPG, Star Wars: The Old Republic.
As of February 2013, the BioWare group consists of four studios: BioWare Edmonton, BioWare Austin, BioWare Montreal and BioWare Ireland. BioWare San Francisco (formerly EA2D) was closed in February 2013. Mythic Entertainment and Victory Games were a part of the BioWare label for a time until in November 2012 they dropped the label.
BioWare was established in February 1995 by Ray Muzyka, Greg Zeschuk, and Augustine Yip, who had graduated together from medical school at the University of Alberta. The three had done some programming for use in med school and they used video games for recreation, eventually deciding to develop video games. Their success in the medical field provided them with the funding they needed to launch their own 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 Muzyka, Zeschuk, and Yip with an offer. A publishing deal for Shattered Steel was eventually signed with Interplay Entertainment. Pyrotek Studios was contracted to help see the project to completion. 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 an RPG. 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.
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 were 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/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 RPG Mass Effect. The following year, BioWare released Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood on the Nintendo DS, its first title for a handheld game console. Near the end of 2009, BioWare released the fantasy RPG Dragon Age: Origins, and in January 2010, Mass Effect 2. Later, EA announced that BioWare would be merged with Mythic Entertainment, another division of EA, so that they could have all of their RPG development in one business unit.
BioWare completed three major games between 2011 and 2012. The 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.
The growth of the RPG/MMO 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.
Electronic Arts announced on June 24, 2009, that they are restructuring their RPG and MMO games development into a new group that includes both Mythic Entertainment and BioWare. This newly formed team (now called the BioWare Group) will be led by Ray Muzyka, co-founder and General Manager of BioWare. With this change, Muzyka becomes Group General Manager of the new RPG/MMO studio group. BioWare's other co-founder, Greg Zeschuk, will become Group Creative Officer for the new RPG/MMO studio group. Rob Denton will step up as General Manager of Mythic and report to Muzyka, later becoming Group Operations Officer of the new Group. BioWare's studios remain unchanged and continue to report to Muzyka.
The company was also a starting place for other Albertan game developers, such as being the former employer of the HermitWorks Entertainment staff. The group developed the well-received genre mixing game Space Trader, which was developed under an art grant from the Canadian government.
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 will be retiring from the gaming industry.
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's in-house game engines and notable releases, both first-party (white marks) and third-party (black marks):
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 eponymous 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 IP RPG Jade Empire in 2005. Odyssey Engine was the first BioWare engine to allow developing for video game consoles, with both KotOR and JE 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 KotOR. BioWare maintained limited oversight on Obsidian's development of The Sith Lords, as well as Neverwinter Nights 2.
The Eclipse 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 II (2011).
BioWare licensed Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3 to develop the original Mass Effect trilogy (2007–2012), and Simutronics' HeroEngine for Star Wars: The Old Republic (2011), the successor to the KotOR series.
Mass Effect sex claims
In January 2008, neoconservative blogger Kevin McCullough wrote an article claiming that BioWare's Mass Effect contained full-frontal nudity and graphic sodomy. Further allegations were made in a Fox News segment where Martha MacCallum and Cooper Lawrence furthered the claims while also admitting that they had never played Mass Effect. Both fans of the game and Electronic Arts vehemently refuted the allegations and McCullough and Lawrence apologized.
Mass Effect 3 ending
In March 2012, BioWare released Mass Effect 3, the final chapter of the Mass Effect series. Leading up to its release, the developer's web site announced that "the decisions you make completely shape your experience and outcome". However, many players[who?] claimed that the endings of the released game consisted of choices made at the time, regardless of decisions made in any of the games. This has caused a significant number of users to complain about what they perceived to be false advertising. In response to these criticisms, BioWare defended their vision of the ending and stood behind their writers and developers. On June 26, 2012, BioWare released a free DLC titled Extended Cut, which expanded the original endings to correct some of the concerns the players had felt since the release.
Awards and recognition
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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