The History of Bioware (INFOGRAPHIC)

EDIT: This infographic was a joint effort between two Game Front staffers. The copy was written by Ross Lincoln, known for his coverage of Mass Effect 3 and BioWare, while the graphic design was supplied by CJ Miozzi, known for making a fuss about Diablo 3 before release.

Over the past seventeen years, BioWare has brought us some of the best RPGs ever released and has established itself as a titan in the genre. More recently, though, it has also brought us a little… heartache. Nonetheless, we decided to honor the hundreds of hours of entertainment this company has bestowed upon us by assembling this infographic of its rich history.

Enjoy.

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23 Comments on The History of Bioware (INFOGRAPHIC)

Aedelric

On October 10, 2012 at 12:46 am

Yea, that about covers it.

2010 is spot on with the first signs of trouble, the last game they made that fans universally loved was Origins. Still, we do have Obsidian, CD Projekt and other companies that have not sold out yet.

Roy Batty

On October 10, 2012 at 5:34 am

Funny how history seems to repeat itself. I remember Origin Systems was destroyed by the EA godfather in a similar fashion. They wiped out the wing commander franchise and after Ultima online IX failed they shut the division down.

Daretoask

On October 10, 2012 at 6:36 am

@ CJ: Very nicely done, thanks for this! I did not know most of the stuff about BW that is pre-Mass Effect.

Axetwin

On October 10, 2012 at 8:51 am

Personally, to this day I refuse to give Bioware credit for Baulders Gate. To me that always was and always will be Black Isle’s baby. But thats just me.

One thing you forgot to mention CJ, is that a week or so after Muzyka and Zeschuck quit, EA releases a statement saying the reason they left was due to poor fan reaction to ME3 and The Old Republic.

Seriously though, this was a very well put together timeline.

Blarty

On October 10, 2012 at 9:07 am

What people often seem to forget when complaining about recycled dungeons in Dragon Age 2, is that ME1 repeats ship and hideout layouts ad infinitum, so that particular chestnut started way before DA2 was released.

Can I ask why no lifespan numbers for Mass Effect 2?

Something is clearly going wrong at Bioware, perhaps the long dev cycles that they’ve enjoyed previously (DA:O, ME1) just can’t be justified anymore in the current economic climate, and they can’t adjust properly (whether that’s EA’s influence is up to you), but good work on the opiniographic.

Jim Davidson

On October 10, 2012 at 9:37 am

Great infographic, but most gamers will still likely see it either as ‘Bioware is still awesome’, ‘Bioware was good until the ending of Mass Effect 3 (or maybe Dragon Age II)’, or ‘Bioware was good until they sold out to EA’. Nice to see the complexities for once.

SevenCell

On October 10, 2012 at 10:22 am

They were great, but I honestly think Bungie and CD Projekt are the last solidly good studios we have. We should all pretend ME3 didn’t happen.

sep

On October 10, 2012 at 12:49 pm

How I wish it was Bioware of old and they made Origins style Dragon Age 3. I guess Ill never see that day come. A lost dream, every RPG fans wish…………….

You for ruining everything for us EA. YOU

Axetwin

On October 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm

@SevenCell – Dont count Obsidian out. I think if they can get out from under Bethesda’s shadow, they have the potential to rise up and fill the void left by Bioware.

Kevin

On October 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm

@Axetwin:

Heh, I forgot about EA’s spin.

I still think Muzyka’s apology after ME3 was, as is known in wrestling terms, a “shoot.” He deviated from the script and I’m sure he was definetly not authorized to say what he did by the higher ups. That’s when I started thinking that he was going to be leaving Bioware shortly.

I personally had no trouble with Mass Effect 2. I didn’t play ME for the gameplay which was pretty clunky, but the great story and narrative that was told. That continued with Mass Effect 2. I think that’s when Bioware hit their peak.

Like others, it was Dragon Age II that first made me go “what the hell is going on?” I thought it was just decent on the first playthrough, but as I prepared to play it again, I just started seeing a thousand plotholes or just really bad storylines (the whole thing with Hawke’s mother I felt was the largest flop)

R.J.

On October 10, 2012 at 5:27 pm

I didn’t know the circumstances that led to EA acquiring Bioware. It seems sort of sketchy to me. A former executive at EA gains control of a highly respected developer and within the span of a couple years sells it to his former employer and gains an even bigger position with the employer. Sure, it could just be called shrewd business, but after seeing how Bioware has struggled in the years afterward, it’s hard not to see it as some sort of backroom deal.

And it’s hard to ignore the timing of certain departures. The lead writer for ME bails right before ME3 came out. One that isn’t in the timeline was that the project lead (or something like that) for DAO left very early into the development for DA2 saying something along the lines of it clearly not being the company he used to work for. Also, I would have hoped that EA’s stock slipping might have made them change how they handled their devs by perhaps loosening their grip and seeing if a new approach could dig them out of the stock slump. But it seems like EA’s reaction was to tighten its grip even more.

As Axetwin pointed out, and as some of the media has covered: EA apparently wants us to feel bad that the Docs left due to complaints. Honestly, I don’t feel bad about it. First off, it’s EA saying that, not the Docs, so I wonder how true it is. Second, perhaps things wouldn’t have gone so off the rails starting with DA2 if the founders kept a better grip on what was going on instead of letting the overlords dictate everything. Third, perhaps getting into business with a big publisher should have been avoided in the first place. Sure, EA could throw gobs of cash at them, but at the time Bioware’s name was gold. Deals that didn’t sign everything over to one publisher and left creative control with Bioware might have been possible. Sure, games are expensive, but it’s hard to believe that publishers wouldn’t have been willing to go with per game/per series deals with a company like Bioware. It’s easy to keep working when everybody tells you you’re doing a great job, but the real test is pushing forward in the face of staunch criticism. You basically have two options: Reassess and try to do better, or give up. If the Docs really did leave because they couldn’t stand the criticism of the company they made, I can’t say I feel too bad about that. In fact, that may have been the only option available to them at this point. Perhaps they realized that it was so far out of their hands that there was simply nothing else to do about it.

Derek

On October 10, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Everything i’ve read suggests dragon age 3 will be changing the combat system and RPG elements back to how they were in origins. Where is this info that “strongly suggests” otherwise?

Axetwin

On October 10, 2012 at 10:45 pm

@ Derek – Im sure they’ll find some sort of balance between the combat system of the first game and the second, just so long as its compatible with the planned multiplayer. Thats right guys, dont forget that DA3 IS going to be shipped with some form of MP that will most likely be integral to the plot.

danny

On October 10, 2012 at 11:47 pm

This should be expanded and made into a book.

danny

On October 10, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Does anyone know how much money Origins made. I loved that game and bought every version. Dragon Age 2….. *HACK .. SPIT*. That was not even Dragon Age to me.

Anathemize

On October 11, 2012 at 12:16 am

@SevenCell

Really? Just those two studio’s?

How about Valve, Naughty Dog, Rockstar, RockSteady just thinking off the top of my head.

Really the only game companies that fall from being a top studio are ones that sell out to EA or Activision. All they care about is the stock price going up a point or 2 to make investors happy.

Blarty

On October 11, 2012 at 6:48 am

@SevenCell & Anathemize

Lets take all those studios/publishers one by one

Bungie – Firstly I would wait til their next game ,as up til now they’ve enjoyed the relative safety of their releases being under a first party Microsoft Studio

Naughty Dog, a first part studio for Sony, a company which has closed 3 of it’s first party dev studios within the space of six months

Valve – a developer/publisher which gets more profits from it’s distribution business, than it’s own games, by selling other the games from other devs publishers including EA, Ubisoft and Activision, three much-maligned publishers.

CD Projekt Red – a development team funded by CD Projekt – the major Polish distributor of video games, and the exclusive distributor of, among others, Activision Blizzard – they also fund their games through gamers purchasing other companies games and taking profit from the distribution via cdp.pl or GOG.

The only one that I think merits proper consideration in terms of the business setup with EA & Activision is Rockstar.

The facts are that games cost ridiculous amounts of money to make nowadays, and gamers continually want faster, better, longer, prettier games, but the base line price of games doesn’t rise to meet those costs anymore, hell they’re not even rising in line with the base rate of inflation – take a look at the increasing price of collectors and limited editions while the RRP of the standard game is always fixed by some false price ceiling, if a loaf of bread can increase in price, why exactly are games somehow immune? And whilst some people think it’s all about profits there is one single thing that will always come before profits – returning the initial investment, and whilst you might decry the annual EA Sports games, its those games, in the absence of golden distributor deals that Valve and CD Projekt can take advantage of, that are there to fund the games that take two tor three years to release.

The problem is, is that either studios have the relative safety net of a first party deal OR they have to get profits in from somewhere/somebody else, irrespective of whether you pay for the DLC in Portal or Witcher 2 or not… it all costs money to make, so the question isn’t whether you dislike the direction of Bioware under EAs stewardship, or not, as that, after all, has been done to death, especially here.

It’s also not a question of how evil EA is and smugly, bitterly leaving it at that, surely it should be more a question of how exactly you see EA correcting its mistakes or taking an alternative action to sustain itself as a business that you find more agreeable.

Also let me make it clear I don’t agree with what some of these companies are doing, and online passes are officially the work of the devil, but there’s little to no point shouting out that ‘EA is Evil’ if you don’t look at the surrounding factors and sit back letting the general malaise continue.

James

On October 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm

@Blarty

Actually game prices have kept up with Inflation.

Games are around $30 in 1995, Inflation adjusted that is only $45-ish today. Game these days are $49.99-$59.99 (and that is not including DLCs), with collectors Edition going towards $70-$100+.

As for game production cost more, that is an hole the developers dug for themselves.

FyLT

On October 12, 2012 at 1:18 am

I predicted the end of Bioware loooong time ago…
The EA Effect…

My biggest and huge complaint is that they ruined the Mass Effect trilogy. A trilogy that could have leave an incredible mark on the story of this industry… Mass Effect franchise to me begin and end just with the first unbelieveable chapter.

Hopes Casey Hudson will join a different publisher (Microsoft?) as soon as possible because he has proven in the past to be a talented guy.

The true last hope for modern RPG fans is CD Projekt RED !!!

Jug

On October 12, 2012 at 7:09 pm

I told them so.

Kevin

On October 14, 2012 at 5:46 pm

@FyLT

Prepare to be even more disappointed. EAware is one record stating this won’t be just a trilogy.

Wesker1984

On October 16, 2012 at 2:06 am

@FyLT
The Mass effect trilogy is still a great series and Mass Effect 2 and 3 are good games. The problems for Mass Effec 3 is they forced in it a useless multiplayer mode just for the sake to have online play in it. If Mass Effect 3 would have dropped the online mode and used the entire team for the solo campagn we will surely have the Mass Effect 3 we wanted and deserved.

Dan

On October 16, 2012 at 2:54 am

I stopped really playing many Bioware games after beating Baldur’s Gate II because that game is about the ONLY game I think is markedly better than the Ultima series and Ultima should’ve collaborated with Bioware (forgetting whether it would’ve ever happened or not in reality) and used the Baldurs Gate engine to make a sequel to Ultima : Ascencion, resoring the party system that made Ultima glorious from parts 3-7 (especially 7) and losing that silly made-for-console Tomb Raider graphics system used in Ultima 9 (that game did grow on me eventually but I finished it just relieved to have finished it moreso than happy I did).

I blame EA, who I think even bought out Origin Systems (makers of the Ultima series), then Bioware have the hits and improvments UNTIL EA stepped in and left fans disappointed and saying the subsequent games were lacking elements of their predecessors.

I think the above timeline is more indicative of why it is EA should leave other companies alone – they are (in my opinion) the McDonalds restaurant of the gaming genre – fast food without substance.

As unlikely as it is, and though I gave up gaming after Baldurs Gate/playing Diablo II to death, I’ll continue praying for a Baldurs Gate 3 OR an Ultima 4 or 5 remake using the Baldurs Gate engine (and not one of those fan-made remakes, I mean a professionally done one sold in shops).