It's been a wild, weird week for the folks at the Canadian studio at BioWare. Earlier this week, the company announced that Dragon Age III: Inquisition was in the works, utilizing DICE's famed Frostbite 2 technology to make it more graphically enriched than ever before. And this morning, the team also announced that additional downloadable content was in the works for Mass Effect 3, following the positive reception from previously released packs.
But then a real bombshell dropped. Yesterday afternoon, it was announced that two of the doctors who had first founded the company in 1995, Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, were announcing their retirement from the company. They each posted a blog explaining their reasoning, and stated that they would still keep in touch socially following their departure, but many questions arose in regards to why they were leaving. Were they tired of producing sequel after sequel, looking to develop something differently? Did they not see eye to eye with the company that owned them, Electronic Arts? Or did they simply feel that all their challenges have been accomplished with the 17 years that BioWare has been operating?
It could be any of these reasons, and while we're not certain what exactly convinced them to depart, we can certainly say that they've left behind one hell of a gaming legacy, and one that's bound to continue under new leadership.
Following their formation in the mid-90's, the company hit the ground running right away with the release of the PC game Shattered Steel, which began life as a proof-of-concept demo before Interplay agreed to publish it. But there's no question their future really began to take off when they made Baldur's Gate in 1998, a bonafide PC hit that would lead to the release of numerous sequels and expansions, including Baldur's Gate II and its supplementary releases, Shadows of Amn and Throne of Bhaal.
Somewhere in the middle of that, the company tried its hand at console development, taking Shiny Entertainment's MDK franchise and making a sweet (yet graphically over-the-top) MDK2, featuring the return of the assassin and his side characters (including a six-armed dog) in a crazy new world. The game was a big hit on Dreamcast, and was later ported to the PlayStation 2 for good measure.
Following that game, BioWare returned to PC with Neverwinter Nights, another popular role-playing adventure that attracted millions of fans. The game was a huge hit in 2002, and it too was followed by a number of expansions, including Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark.
But the real "earth shaker" for BioWare came in 2003. That's when they teamed with LucasArts to create Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, a captivating multiplayer role-playing adventure where you can choose the side of either good or evil, then control the fate of the galaxy however you please across hours' worth of missions. The game was a success on PC, but it's when the game found a release on Microsoft's Xbox console that gamers really began to take notice of the company.
Pleased with their work, Microsoft gave BioWare the opportunity to produce another top-notch Xbox exclusive, the themed adventure Jade Empire. Featuring some captivating visual effects and attacks, the game was a modest hit, but not nearly as popular as Star Wars due to the lack of a recognizable franchise. Still, it developed a fair enough fanbase, one that obviously demanded a sequel. Whether we'll get it or not, we'll just have to see…
When Microsoft moved development to the Xbox 360, it once again called upon BioWare to do its stuff, and it delivered with the original Mass Effect, a thrilling space adventure that many consider one of the best games of this generation. The game didn't just get the attention of millions of gamers, either – it also prompted Electronic Arts to buy the developer, and with it, the Mass Effect franchise.
But then BioWare took an interesting twist, teaming with Sega on a new role-playing adventure featuring Sonic the Hedgehog. Titled Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, the game was released for Nintendo DS in 2008, and attracted quite a few fans, despite the unique play style it was packing over the typical platformers.
In 2009, the company returned to its adventure roots with the thrilling Dragon Age: Origins, a game inspired by the Baldur's Gate lore, but featuring a number of decision making abilities, as well as great combat, skill sets and character customization. It was the birth of a brand new franchise, and one that did the company proud.
From there, BioWare got into sequel mode for a bit, releasing a spin-off for Origins called Awakening (co-developed by Edge of Reality) and releasing the well-received Mass Effect 2 for Xbox 360, followed by a release on the PlayStation 3 – a move a lot of fans were thrilled with.
But it was when Star Wars: The Old Republic was announced that fans of the original Knights game were captivated. BioWare worked on the game for a long time, and despite some criticisms, developed a huge following as a result, and soon turned the game into a free-to-play product, a move that has attracted a number of new gamers to the Star Wars universe. Sadly, a console release was never realized.
And now we're about at this point in history. Mass Effect 3 was released earlier this year, closing the saga on Commander Shepard, despite a bit of controversy surrounding the game's ending. (The company since released a free "Extended Cut" DLC to appease the fans.) And with the game coming to Wii U later this year, and the DLC and Dragon Age III project on the map, they're just as busy as ever.
But still, we can't help but think that something's going to be missing with Muzyka and Zeschuk out of the picture. They helped guide the company in strong directions that no one could ever dream of, and while they're sure to be around for quite some time, we're just not certain what the future will bring…
Regardless, we're eager to find out. And as for Ray and Greg, we wish them nothing but the best. Rest easy, friends…