Baldur's Gate Designer Leaves Bioware To Form D&D Publishing Company
  • Baldur's Gate Designer Leaves Bioware To Form D&D Publishing Company


    James Ohlen was one of the architects of the 1990s' Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II video games, along with other classic CRPGs. He has been working for BioWare for over 22 years, but now he's leaving to publish D&D adventures with his new company, Arcanum Worlds and their first hardcover sourcebook, the Ancient Greek themed Odyssey of the Dragonlords.



    He's not alone, either. He's joined by Jesse Sky (Star Wars: The Old Republic). Their website announced their first project, "... a hardcover sourcebook for the fifth edition of the world's greatest roleplaying game. This epic adventure is set in a fantasy world inspired by Ancient Greek mythology."

    Ohlen announced this new venture in a series of tweets.

    "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.. The most fun I've ever had at BioWare was as the lead designer on Baldur's Gate 1+2 and NWN. I've been a D&D fanatic since I was 10 years old and I want to be a part of it again. Please visit http://www.arcanumworlds.com to see what I'm talking about.

    The first book I'm working on is called Odyssey of the Dragonlords. I'm working on it with another former Creative Director from BioWare - Jesse Sky. Plus a mystery writer that I've worked with before."


    Game Informer says that BioWare's founders, Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, originally heard of Ohlen when he was running a comic book store and running two legendary D&D campaigns so popular that they had waiting lists.

    Ohlen's credits include Neverwinter Nights, Dragon Age: Origins, Baldur's Gate I & II, Knights of the Old Republic, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Jesse Sky worked on Star Wars: The Old Republic, along with threeexpansions.

    And who's this mystery writer? They say "We're excited to be working with one of our good friends, a very talented author who lives here in Austin, TX. Stay tuned - we will be announcing his name at a later date!"
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    Comments 57 Comments
    1. VengerSatanis -
      Wait, he's leaving the video game industry... for the RPG industry? That seems like a backwards move, but I'm hopefull this signals a surge in awareness and popularity for paper & pencil tabletop gaming. And not just D&D, but niche RPGs from smaller companies.

      VS
    1. Charles Rampant's Avatar
      Charles Rampant -
      Quote Originally Posted by VengerSatanis View Post
      Wait, he's leaving the video game industry... for the RPG industry? That seems like a backwards move, but I'm hopefull this signals a surge in awareness and popularity for paper & pencil tabletop gaming. And not just D&D, but niche RPGs from smaller companies.

      VS
      It reads a bit like he just wants to relax and enjoy some writing for a while, spend some time not dealing with corporate politics or the hellish work/life balance at a major games developer.

      I'm always up for Ancient Greek theme, will have to try and keep an eye out for this.
    1. Dausuul's Avatar
      Dausuul -
      Man... hate to see talent like that leave Bioware. There aren't a lot of game studios that can write a story worth beans, or care to even try. Bioware is one of the best.

      But hey, at least he's coming to D&D! Will definitely be checking this out.
    1. UngeheuerLich's Avatar
      UngeheuerLich -
      Ok... let us look at it from a different angle:

      D&D got one of the major players in making RPGs popular again. I can´t tell how many players i got for DnD 3rd edition that started with baldur´s gate.

      That is a big win for the RPG industry and especially for DnD.
    1. Ralif Redhammer's Avatar
      Ralif Redhammer -
      I can remember way back when a bunch of gaming luminaries left for the videogame field, saying that it was the future of gaming. It feels strange but exciting to see it work in reverse.

      There was something Satine Phoenix said recently, along the lines of “We’re used to using videogames for escapism, but we don’t want to be alone anymore.” D&D gives us that escapism, while still connecting us to other people.
    1. Jer's Avatar
      Jer -
      Quote Originally Posted by Charles Rampant View Post
      It reads a bit like he just wants to relax and enjoy some writing for a while, spend some time not dealing with corporate politics or the hellish work/life balance at a major games developer.
      Right - he's retiring after 22 years. This is a "I've made a lot of money and don't need to work as hard anymore - what are the things I've been putting off that I can enjoy now in my early retirement days" sort of job that you get from folks at successful tech companies.

      Quote Originally Posted by Charles Rampant View Post
      I'm always up for Ancient Greek theme, will have to try and keep an eye out for this.
      Me too. Even if I can't get my players to come along with me for the ride, I always enjoy the Greek myth theme.
    1. epithet's Avatar
      epithet -
      one of our good friends, a very talented author who lives here in Austin, TX
      Sounds like Drew Karpyshyn. I wonder why he's being shy about it.
    1. Istbor -
      Quote Originally Posted by VengerSatanis View Post
      Wait, he's leaving the video game industry... for the RPG industry? That seems like a backwards move, but I'm hopefull this signals a surge in awareness and popularity for paper & pencil tabletop gaming. And not just D&D, but niche RPGs from smaller companies.

      VS
      The video game industry, unless you are management or higher, is a younger person's game, generally. Long hours which only get longer during sprints or crunch time. Doesn't always leave a lot of time to relax or hang out with friends and family.

      Depends on the company of course, some are more churn and burn than others.

      So to me, it sounds like a move to something he will enjoy, where he can call more shots, do what he wants to do, and have a better balance with his life outside of work. Probably a good call honestly.
    1. Alan Hejl's Avatar
      Alan Hejl -
      The mystery writer is Drew Karpyshyn
      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drew_Karpyshyn
    1. BookBarbarian's Avatar
      BookBarbarian -
      That is a fine list of some of my very favorite PC games. I'm sad he won't be involved with the next Dragon Age game, but will definitely keep an eye on this.
    1. Tony Vargas -
      Quote Originally Posted by VengerSatanis View Post
      Wait, he's leaving the video game industry... for the RPG industry?
      He must have decided he hates money.
    1. icedrake -
      Quote Originally Posted by VengerSatanis View Post
      Wait, he's leaving the video game industry... for the RPG industry? That seems like a backwards move, but I'm hopefull this signals a surge in awareness and popularity for paper & pencil tabletop gaming. And not just D&D, but niche RPGs from smaller companies.

      VS
      If he's been there since BG1, he's likely a double digit employee, which means he had stock options or equity that got turned into cash when EA bought Bioware. He's likely retiring and a group of friends are working on joint RPG projects they've been working on again / off again for years and getting it ready for publication.
    1. LuisCarlos17f's Avatar
      LuisCarlos17f -
      The future of entertainment industry is the IP or franchises. In the right hands a forgotten tittle can become a blockbuster in the cinemas or a saga of videogames. A videogame study can break and close, but if a title is a success and popular among the fans, then it may come back by other company.
    1. dinsdale's Avatar
      dinsdale -
      BTW, for anyone who goes to their website and tries to sign up for notifications (and the players' guide when available), the email confirmation link you receive may be broken and needs to have a period inserted between "manage" and "com". I've notified the site.
    1. Tsuga C's Avatar
      Tsuga C -
      BioWare hasn't been BioWare since they merged with EA--EAWare, is more like it. *grumbles resentfully*

      I didn't have a gaming computer when the BG/BG2/Planescape computer-based videogames were all the rage. I did pick one up in time to enjoy the Neverwinter Nights series and I found them (and many of the home brew modules) very entertaining. I wish Mr. Ohlen and his associates every success.
    1. BookBarbarian's Avatar
      BookBarbarian -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tsuga C View Post
      BioWare hasn't been BioWare since they merged with EA--EAWare, is more like it. *grumbles resentfully*

      I didn't have a gaming computer when the BG/BG2/Planescape computer-based videogames were all the rage. I did pick one up in time to enjoy the Neverwinter Nights series and I found them (and many of the home brew modules) very entertaining. I wish Mr. Ohlen and his associates every success.
      Lately I've been scared that EA would shutter Bioware. After Andromeda I think it's been pretty tense over there. If Anthem doesn't do well...
    1. Tsuga C's Avatar
      Tsuga C -
      EA has a proven track record of gobbling up other video game creators and running them into the ground. I'm genuinely surprised that EAWare--oops, BioWare--has lasted as long as they have as an in-house design studio. Time will tell, but I believe they'll be gone within five years.
    1. cbwjm's Avatar
      cbwjm -
      Cool, this first setting sounds interesting, I'm looking forward to seeing what it is like.
    1. Mouseferatu's Avatar
      Mouseferatu -
      Dang. If I'd known this was happening--here in Austin, no less--I'd have tried to weasel my way aboard in some capacity.
    1. Gladius Legis -
      He may see the writing on the wall regarding Bioware, which as mentioned above REALLY hasn't been the same since EA bought them. If Anthem winds up crashing and burning (and what I've seen of it does NOT look promising), it's pretty much the end for them.
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