James Ohlen, lead designer of Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Neverwinter Nights, and Dragon Age: Origins, has announced his shocking departure from BioWare after 22 years with the company.
“After 22 years I have retired from BioWare,” said Ohlen via a post on Twitter. “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.”
It turns out that Ohlen’s next project is a Dungeons and Dragons sourcebook called Odyssey of the Dragonlords. According to Ohlen, this kind of project harkens back to his fondest memories at BioWare and the games he loved working on the most.
“The most fun I’ve ever had at BioWare was as the lead designer on Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 and Neverwinter Nights,” said Ohlen. “I’ve been a D&D fanatic since I was 10 years old and I want to be a part of it again.”
As Eurogamer points out, Ohlen had previously stated that he was thrilled to be working on Anthem as the project involved him and BioWare veterans Casey Hudson, Preston Watamaniuk, Derek Watts, and Drew Karpyshyn working together again. Since then, Karpyshyn, Mike Laidlaw, and now Ohlen himself have left the company. Some will undoubtedly interpret these departures as a sign that Anthem – a game that is very different from what BioWare has worked on in the past – is perhaps less of a passion project and more of a corporate directive.
However, the biggest takeaway from Ohlen’s statements is that he, like many BioWare fans, miss the days when the company took the D&D ruleset and crafted some of the most amazing RPG experiences that any of us will ever play. Here’s hoping that Ohlen finds a way to reignite his passion once more and that he shares that work with the world.