February 8, 2013

BioWare Gives Up Games For Beer And Charity

EA video game developer BioWare has suffered a devastating blow. Its own co-founders are both retiring and moving on to pursue new career choices. Is this the end for BioWare?

Doctors Muzyka, Zeschuk, and Augustine Yip, founded BioWare in 1995. Yip left the company in 1997 to begin practicing medicine again. Their first game was called “Shattered Steel”, published by Interplay Entertainment. However, it wasn’t until “Baldur’s Gate” in 1998 that BioWare became a household name. Set in the “Forgotten Realms” universe of the “Dungeons & Dragons” roleplaying game, “Baldur’s Gate” revolutionized the RPG genre. Since then, BioWare has released several hit games, such as “Neverwinter Nights,” “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic,” and the recently completed “Mass Effect” series.

In September 2012, BioWare released an update on its website that announced the retirement of the founders of the development studio, Doctors Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk. You can read Muzyka’s and Zeschuk’s announcement blogs here and here, respectively.

In Dr. Muzyka’s going away letter, he addressed several points of interest about his retirement. His main reason for leaving is that he has “largely personally achieved what [he] wanted in videogames; [he] now desires to take on a brand new entrepreneurial challenge.” He says that he is satisfied with BioWare’s multiple successful product launches. He names a few, such as Mass Effect, Knights of the Old Republic, and Sonic Chronicles (basically all of BioWare’s newest titles) that he really enjoyed working on.

He goes on to say that he is now going into the field of entrepreneurship known as ‘social/impact investing.’ In a few short words, this basically means he will now be investing in business ventures that intend to make a social impact. He also will now be devoting more time and money to charities such as health care, education, animal rights, human rights and civil liberty worldwide.

The rest of the blog talks about Muzyka’s experience in BioWare. He says he is still passionate about video games and has fond memories of working with BioWare and EA. He believes that BioWare shall continue to make A+ titles without him and Dr. Zeschuk, and that the gaming industry still has loads of potential to be unlocked. He also thanks all of BioWare’s past publishers, tech partners and Dr. Zeschuk himself. He closes by mentioning how humbling it is to have played a role in the successful evolution of video gaming.

I think Muzyka’s letter was very heartfelt and honest. It was almost poetic, in a strange sense. You could really tell he put thought into every sentence. He really wanted people to know how much he appreciated this chance. It’s also very relieving to know that he’s giving up gaming for a more noble and philanthropic purpose.

Dr. Zeschuk starts his letter by talking about how creating BioWare and leading such a successful business venture was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and that he will cherish the experience for the rest of his life. He uses this to soften his very blunt statement that he simply “no longer has the passion that [he] once did for the company, for the games, and for the challenge of creation.” He continues about his experience at BioWare and that though he may not be passionate about games, he is still just as passionate for the people he’s worked with for years on this journey. He goes on to make an interesting point on how luck is something developers don’t like to attribute their success to, but he admits that BioWare has had just as much luck as any other, and that the feeling was overwhelming when they happened to strike gold.

The next few paragraphs are of thanks to the people he’s worked with. He thanks first and foremost the BioWare team and Dr. Muzyka. He mentions the fans who make the games the successes that they are, and the many publishers and companies that allowed BioWare to use their licenses. He says that for BioWare “our entire career has been a dream come true.”

Zeschuk ends by talking about what he’ll be doing now that he’s done with games. He says that he’ll be spending significantly more time with family and friends, as well as pursuing some “passion-driven projects related to craft beer.” He introduces his project “The Beer Diaries,” a show where he interviews brewers and showcases their beer and the process of its creation. He says that if things go well, he plans to keep working in beer-related media. If not, he may be back making games again.

Zeschuk’s letter, in my opinion, was much less eloquent thank Muzyka’s and is somewhat disappointing in comparison to his counterpart. He seemed very blunt, and it didn’t help that he was giving up games for beer. I know it’s not my place to judge someone’s passion, but if I had a choice between interviewing brewers and making games, I would throw the brewers out the window in an instant. He does make up for it by hinting at a possible return to video games.

The gaming world will definitely miss these two influential figures in the development industry. Together with BioWare, the doctors have created several great titles and lasting memories for many gamers. As for what is to come of BioWare, they are still up and running, and working on new titles already. We’ll just have to wait and see what lies ahead for BioWare.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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