BioWare's James Ohlen, who spent 22 years at the studio, has announced that he has left the company. The veteran worked on such games of huge acclaim as the Dungeons & Dragons-based Baldur's Gate RPGs and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and was most recently working on BioWare's new project Anthem.
During that time, BioWare flew in the face of certain gaming trends, where the likes of online multiplayer modes seemed to become the norm even in games where they did not fit. Although these did eventually seep into the company's more action-heavy titles such as the Mass Effect games, in general the company kept doing what it did best: making story-focused single player games. In fact, aside from MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic, Anthem is essentially the studio's first major venture into an online-centric game.
The final touches on the project, however, will have to be completed without the experience of Ohlen. The developer took to Twitter to confirm that he is leaving BioWare, stating that he is taking a break from the video game industry altogether to work on other projects. The first of these projects appears to be Odyssey of the Dragonlords, a D&D Fifth Edition sourcebook that Ohlen is working on alongside fellow BioWare alum Jesse Sky and a mystery writer.
After 22 years I have retired from BioWare. I've loved my time with Anthem, Star Wars, Dragon Age and Dungeons and Dragons. But I need to take a break from the industry and work on something a little smaller and more personal.— James Ohlen (@JamesOhlen) July 12, 2018
Who this mystery writer is remains to be seen, but an educated suggestion would be another former BioWare creator. Ohlen has suggested that he has worked with this writer before, and that the writer is based in Austin, so it may well be that this third mystery contributor is Drew Karpyshyn. Karpyshyn was one of the real writing forces behind BioWare's success, so it would certainly make sense for these three to work together again outside of the studio.
However, the fact that there are so many accomplished former BioWare employees out there just goes to show how much change there has been at BioWare in recent years. Alongside Olhen, Sky, and Karpyshyn, there have been other high-profile departures, such as Anthem lead animator Steve Gilmour. Often, these talented developers have left the company to work on smaller, more personal projects, and some may be left asking whether there is something to the way in which EA treats its developers that is causing this.
EA's management of certain studios, such as Westwood Studios and Visceral, has had plenty of criticism over the years, but in general BioWare has been seen as one that has survived the EA acquisition curse. However, given that Anthem is such a departure from BioWare's norms, and that Mass Effect: Andromeda's development under EA's watch by a BioWare sister studio was so chaotic, it's easy to see why some who had been with the company for so long might start losing their passion for projects and want to look elsewhere. Either way, the loss of such high-profile names such as Ohlen could have major ramifications for the likes of Dragon Age 4.
Source: James Ohlen