Former BioWare producer Mark Darrah, a veteran of the esteemed RPG studio perhaps best known for his work on the Dragon Age series, has commented on the so-called “BioWare Magic.” In a new video on his YouTube channel, Darrah spoke about this development practice, which he said is “bullsh**.”
Darrah said on a given project at BioWare, workers make their way through development without making significant visible progress at a regular pace. If development continued this way, it might take 30 years to release a game, Darrah said. So what can happen is that at some point, a team hits a “pivot point” and elements of a particular game begin to “click together” and the game really begins to take shape in earnest. That stage of development is referred to as “BioWare Magic,” visualized by Darrah in his video as the blade of an ice hockey stick that shoots up quickly at the end.
“Things come together really late and things get better really late; that’s terrible, right?” he said of the term BioWare Magic. Compounding the issue is that there is a good amount of uncertainty over when this BioWare Magic stage of development might kick in, Darrah said.
“You don’t know when it’s going to happen. Is it going to happen right away and you’re going to start getting things done really fast? Or is it going to be way out in the future and you’re going to be slogging through this slow development process forever? You don’t know. And that’s the reality,” he said.
“At the end of the day, what is BioWare Magic? BioWare Magic is sh** process,” Darrah said. “It’s putting a name on something that’s saying, ‘Don’t worry, don’t freak out, because we know that at a future date, it’s all going to get faster and it’s all going to work out.’ But the reality is, that ‘working out,’ that’s where crunch comes from and that’s where delayed games come from. BioWare Magic is bull sh**. At least BioWare Magic that is used in that way.”
Darrah acknowledged he is singling out BioWare due to his history with the company, but he remarked that this is how it works at a lot of studios, including The Witcher and Cyberpunk studio CD Projekt Red. Darrah, who left BioWare in 2020 , said the idea of BioWare Magic was mostly stamped out at BioWare by the time he left, though it was used by at least one person on the development of Anthem.
This type of situation can be remedied, Darrah said. If studios can find ways to get “completion urgency” into a development schedule sooner in the process, teams might be able to avoid crunch at the end of a project. The full video is well worth a watch to learn more about the realities of game development from someone with a good amount of experience in the field.
BioWare has a number of high-profile projects currently in the works, including new Mass Effect and Dragon Age games. Recently, BioWare’s new general manager discussed how the company is trying to rebuild its reputation and has promised the company will only release the “highest quality” games in the future .
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