My Life,  The Lazy Designer

BioWare-Brent Year 10 (Fall 2008 – Summer 2009)

This is the last of ten posts, one for each year that I worked for BioWare.

Talk to me
Spent the early fall participating in several interviews for Dragon Age. Not as much as when I was on Neverwinter Nights though this time around more of these Dragon Age interviews were in person or on the phone (the Neverwinter ones were often e-mail interviews). Doing interviews was certainly not my favorite thing but I believe that they generally went well even given that a couple times the interviewer attempted to ambush me. No hard feelings, that’s their job :)

The most disturbing event that happened during these interviews was when the PR department needed a new photo of me to use for press releases. That involved my being corralled into a bathroom and having one of the PR guys fix my hair for me. Just like my mom used to. It was a bit ick.

We were nearing the end of active work on design content for Dragon Age… there was still a lot more bug fixing/polishing/ and fill-content generation ahead but the core plot/writing and level design was finished. My work was rapidly shifting into that of reviewing what the team had put together.

Discussion on Dragon Age 2 began around this time and looking ahead I knew that I wasn’t going to be satisfied with what Dragon Age 2 would be. Party control/tactical combat are huge factors in my enjoyment of a role-playing game as is adopting the role of the hero (i.e., customizing my character). I was fairly certain Dragon Age would transition towards more of a Mass Effect experience, which while enjoyable is not the type of role-playing game I play. Could I be the lead designer on such a title? Certainly… though if I were going to work on a game adopting a set-in-stone protagonist I’d rather work on something lighter, like a shooter.

Through a series of circumstances it was decided that with my not wanting to participate on Dragon Age 2 it was time to transition in a new lead to finish the Dragon Age console versions and ramp up for Dragon Age 2. I moved out of an active lead role though I stayed on for several months performing quality assurance and helping with the transition. I completed the game several times during this period and racked up the second or third highest bug totals… so, still busy but doing something quite different.

After this was over and the content locked down I took a sabbatical.

I wrote a lot during my several weeks of sabbatical time. One of the stories I wrote — “Digital Rights” — went on to win the Writers of the Future contest (though I wouldn’t learn that until late in 2009). While I enjoyed devoting my time to writing and spending more time with my kids I still had the ‘game design’ itch. When I returned to work I was hoping that there would be a new project lined up for me.

There wasn’t, not really. I did some high level design for a potential new project but a few months later I realized that, given cutbacks and other things that it really seemed unlikely that the project I had been ‘assigned’ to was ever going to materialize. I can’t/won’t go into any other details other than to point to an old entry I made about this and reiterate: “I’m not the same person I was when I started, and BioWare isn’t the same company. ”

The End

So I quit, giving a couple months notice to finish up my obligations on the new/hypothetical project and then in early September 2009 I left BioWare. I had a great last lunch with many of the designers I had helped train over the years. I definitely miss all the interaction at the office; there’s nothing like a couple hundred uber creative folk running around to stir the imagination but I am very much enjoying my stress reduced life.

Okay I promise this is my second to last BioWare post… I’ll toss one more up on the anniversary of my departure and then I’m done (though the Lazy Design articles will continue until I’ve fleshed out about three quarters of that book, at which point I’ll start seeking a publisher).

Previous: BioWare-Brent Year 9
Where the story began: BioWare-Brent Year 1

“BioWare-Brent Year 10” copyright 2010 by Brent Knowles

Read some of Brent’s stories, including his award-winning science fiction tale ‘Digital Rights’

Former lead designer at BioWare (Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights). Creator of Raiders of the Serpent Sea.


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