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BioWare Corporation

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BioWare is a Canadian electronic entertainment company founded in February 1995 by Ray Muzyka, Greg Zeschuk, and Augustine Yip. It is based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. BioWare specializes in creating computer and console video games and has become famous for highly praised and successful computer role-playing games such as Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights, both of which won multiple awards. They have also made several successful console role-playing games: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, and Dragon Age: Origins. The former three games were later adapted for the PC, while Dragon Age was developed and released for consoles and PC simultaneously.

Muzyka and Zeschuk are currently the studio heads of BioWare, with Muzyka the General Manager and Chief Executive Officer and Zeschuk the Vice-President, Development Operations of BioWare; Yip left in early 1997 to return to medicine.

Company history

BioWare was established in February 1995 by Ray Muzyka, Greg Zeschuk, and Augustine Yip, who had graduated together from medical school at the University of Alberta. Its first game was released the following year. During its ten years as an independent company, BioWare developed Shattered Steel, the Baldur's Gate series, MDK 2,Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Jade Empire. It had publishing relationships with Interplay (through Black Isle Studios), Infogrames/Atari, LucasArts, and Microsoft Corporation.

The next few years saw a number of changes in BioWare's corporate status. In November 2005, it was announced that BioWare and Pandemic Studios (itself founded by former Activision employees) would be joining forces, with private equity fund Elevation Partners investing in the partnership. On October 11, 2007, however, it was announced that this new partnership (organised as VG Holding Corp) had been bought by Electronic Arts. BioWare therefore became a unit of EA, but retained its own branding.

In 2007, BioWare released the science fiction RPG Mass Effect. The following year, BioWare released Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood on the Nintendo DS, its first title for a handheld game console. Near the end of 2009, BioWare released the fantasy RPG Dragon Age: Origins, and in January 2010 Mass Effect 2.

BioWare is currently working on at least four further projects. The MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic will be based on BioWare's previous contribution to the Star Wars franchise, and was announced on 21 October 2008, although BioWare had first mentioned an unspecified new collaboration with LucasArts in October the previous year. The other projects are Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening, Mass Effect 3 and an additional project about which no details have yet been revealed.

The growth of the company has resulted in two new studios being opened outside BioWare's home in Edmonton. The first, located in Austin and headed by industry veterans Gordon Walton and Richard Vogel, was created to work on the MMORPG project. Both the studio and the project were announced on March 13, 2006. On March 2, 2009, BioWare announced it had opened a new studio in Montreal, Quebec to assist with existing projects as necessary.

Electronic Arts announced on June 24, 2009, that they are restructuring their RPG and MMO games development into a new group that includes both Mythic and BioWare. This newly formed team will be led by Ray Muzyka, co-founder and General Manager of BioWare. With this change, Ray becomes Group General Manager of the new RPG/MMO studio group. BioWare’s other co-founder, Greg Zeschuk will become Group Creative Officer for the new RPG/MMO studio group. Rob Denton will step up as General Manager of Mythic and report to Ray. BioWare’s studios remain unchanged and continue to report to Ray.

Games

Title Release year Notes
Shattered Steel 1996
Baldur's Gate 1998
Baldur's Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast 1999 Expansion pack to Baldur's Gate
MDK 2 2000
Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn 2000
Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal 2001 Expansion pack to Baldur's Gate II
Neverwinter Nights 2002
Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide 2003 Expansion pack to Neverwinter Nights
Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark 2003 Expansion pack to Neverwinter Nights
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2003
Jade Empire 2005
Mass Effect 2007
Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood 2008
Mass Effect Galaxy 2009
Dragon Age: Origins 2009
Mass Effect 2 2010 January 26, 2010
Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening 2010 March 16, 2010 - expansion pack to Dragon Age: Origins
Star Wars: The Old Republic 2011
Dragon Age II 2011
Mass Effect 3 2012 March 6, 2012

Engines

BioWare created the Infinity Engine, which was used as a core component for development of 2D computer role-playing games based on Dungeons & Dragons, such as Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale. For their game Neverwinter Nights, launched in 2002, BioWare developed the Aurora Engine, the basis for a number of successful computer and console 3D RPGs thereafter.

Neverwinter Nights shipped with a number of tools allowing users to create their own role-playing adventures for single and multiplayer online. The tools, using the Aurora Engine, have been adapted to many forms of gameplay and storytelling, with thousands of amateur and professional modules available on various web sites; some released for sale as premium content. Neverwinter Nights was a pioneering example of user-created game content commercially supported and distributed over the internet.

The Odyssey Engine was developed for the PC and Xbox game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which was based on the Aurora Engine. BioWare has recently developed the Eclipse Engine (a next generation RPG engine) for the game Dragon Age: Origins.

After years of working with licensed content, particularly from the D&D world, BioWare began efforts to develop their own original, independent universes and franchises. Jade Empire was a step in this direction, as are their current projects: the multi-platform RPG Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect for Xbox 360 and PC, which utilizes the third version of the Unreal Engine.

BioWare maintained a limited oversight on Obsidian Entertainment's development of Neverwinter Nights 2 and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords.

Aurora Engine

The Aurora Engine was the 3D successor to BioWare's earlier, 2D game engine, called the Infinity Engine. The engine allows for real-time lighting and shadows, as well as surround sound.[14] The first game released using the Aurora Engine was Neverwinter Nights, and included an accompanying "Aurora toolset" for users to create their own content. The sequel, Neverwinter Nights 2, developed by Obsidian Entertainment, features an updated version of BioWare's engine named the Electron engine. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (from Obsidian Entertainment) use an updated version of the Aurora Engine called the Odyssey Engine. Aurora was also used by CD Projekt Red in their game The Witcher, although the rendering engine was written from scratch.

Third party games using BioWare engines

Infinity Engine=

Odyssey Engine

Aurora Engine

Awards

In addition to numerous game awards, the company has been awarded with a number of business-related awards:

  • Profit 100 – Canada's Fastest Growing Companies 2005 (Rank 81)
  • In October 2008, Bioware was named one of Alberta's Top Employers by Mediacorp Canada Inc., which was announced by the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal.

The full list of awards can be found on their website.

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