Brent Knowles was a game designer at BioWare for ten years (Baldur’s Gate 2, Neverwinter Nights, Dragon Age: Origins), during most of which he was a Lead Designer/Creative Director.
Brent was also a project manager / director at Beamdog for a few years, working on the Enhanced Edition for Planescape: Torment and Axis & Allies Online. Brent then became the Senior Technical Lead for the Centre for Innovative Media at NAIT for a few years before moving back into contract game design with a large developer (to be announced later). He also formed Runic Tales Inc., a small tabletop gaming company. His first book under that venture (in partnership with Arcanum Worlds) will be Raiders of the Serpent Sea.
Brent has also had over twenty short stories and articles published, in various magazines and anthologies, including The Journal of Unlikely Entomology, Perihelion Science Fiction, Abyss and Apex, Neo-Opsis, and On Spec. In 2009 Brent placed first in the third quarter of the Writer’s of the Future Contest with his story ‘Digital Rights’.
Now a contract game designer on exciting new projects, Brent also continues to develop tabletop rpg content. He is especially excited about Raiders of the Serpent Sea, a Viking-inspired 5e campaign, intended for release in 2023.
If you want to read a bit more about Brent’s time at BioWare, start here.
You can read reprints of Brent’s stories at Amazon, Smashwords, and AnthologyBuilder.
You can contact Brent via Twitter, Empire Avenue, or through his contact page.
Free Story Reprints
“The Prophet” Amazon or Smashwords (Kobo, Sony, iTunes, Nook)
“The Monastery” Smashwords (Kobo, Sony, iTunes, Nook)
If you’d like to see Brent’s acceptance speech at the Writers of the Future ceremony, it is here.
Please, please, come back to game designing!!!!!
Oh, maybe one day. Thanks :)
Thank you for NeverWinter Knights. I completed that game 4 times. And DAO I.
Glad you enjoyed them Michael! Happy Gaming!
If you ever do pick up game design again, I hope you can reverse the trend of over-simplifying RPG games.
Sadly I’m not that ambitious :)
That seems to be a common attitude in the industry these days.
I do hope you find much success with your writing, however :D
Baldur’s Gate remains the greatest single player RPG experience I’ve ever had, easily rivaling best-selling novels in term of escapism and wonder.
If you had a hand in that then you sir, are my hero. Though after playing a bit of SW:ToR I can see why you left…
Thanks. I worked on Baldur’s Gate 2, so I can’t take any credit for the first (and really, not much for the second since I was just a junior guy… though a couple of my plots did make it into the game).
I’m curious about your SW:ToR comment. I don’t play MMORPGs so I have not seen the final game but I was enjoying the in-progress version of it I tested a bit while I was still with BioWare.
Curious about what specifically you don’t like about SW:Tor?
It’s incredibly bland. I talked about how the Baldur’s Gate series gave me a sense of escapism and wonder which to this day they still have the power to invoke. Dragon Age also did this, albeit to a lesser extent in my personal opinion, but the point is, I still felt like a hero on a grand adventure.
SW: ToR feels… empty. Meaningless. The voice-acting was hailed as a momentous break through in the genre but I really didn’t feel that the actual writing was up to par. Every time was a variation on “kill these droids.” And at the end of my personal quest line? The game had nothing left to give, the multiplayer aspects just weren’t up to the standard of other games in the industry.
Again, this is all my opinion and others will vehemently disagree with me. But gone are the golden days of Bioware in my eyes. They need to recapture the magic of taking their consumers on an adventure to another world. This involves high quality writing, musical score, environment art and memorable characters. Baldur’s Gate had all of these, SW:ToR had none.
Out of curiousity, which of your plots made it into the final BG2 cut?
Thanks for your insights. Hard for me to comment since I have not played the final game but the points you raise are generally why I avoid MMORPGs — very hard to feel like *the hero* when there are a few million other heroes running around.
As for the BG2 plots most of my involvement was rather limited but a story I had written and submitted as part of my application was added onto the ‘serial killer’ plot (the skin dancers). As well I did some writing for the Planar Sphere.
In general most of my work was simply assembling the rather complex plots the writers came up with (I’m looking at your Mr. Gaider and your Drow City) and making them actually feasible. I also got to flesh out the dungeon under the Copper Coronet and a few other empty locations with various encounters.
I’m sure there’s more but its been years since I’ve really went back to it.
Thanks again and take care.
Thank you for responding. Wish you all the best in future projects.
Hi there, Brent, i’m a big fan of BG2: SoA, and the human skinner quest surely is one of my favorite (save for the boss fight at Trade’s Meet). I got a question, you are a writer, what do you think of NWN2 and its sequel: Mask of the betrayer?
Hi… I never actually played much of NWN2, other then to just check it out so I cannot comment on the story, sorry.
Part of the problem of working on particular types of games was that I was demotivated to play games that were too similar to them. That is why I never finished Planescape either… I was too worn out from working on Baldur’s Gate 2 to appreciate it.
Thank you for DAO. Definitely one of the best games I’ve ever played. I especially loved that feel of being in the epicentre of huge motions in the enormous world.
What is your opinion about DAO: Awakening?
Hi. Thanks for stopping by. I’m pleased you enjoyed DAO.
I have never actually played Awakening. I don’t own DAO so I never checked out any of the other content for it.
I’m a massive Dragon Age: Origins fan and wanted to commend you for your work on it. It’s really a shame that you left Bioware, but maybe it was for the best. I hope that you return to game designing some day.
Good luck with your writing!
Egg with legs
Got to say i love Dragon age origins, reminds me of BG in many ways, i just feel like i can create my own guy and make my own reasons for his/her choices. I have to say thank you so much for it and best of luck to you!
Hi Brent! Now I see why I do not enjoy nor DA2 nor ME3 as DA:O and BG….
Thank you for all u’ve done at BW! DA:O was the las game I was satisfied by 100%!
Thanks for the kind words!
Greetings from Germany,
I just stopped by to thank you so much for making Dragon Age Origins one of the most remarkable experiences in my gaming career during the past 25 years. I still think that you are a huge loss for gamers & the gaming industry itself, but I wish you & your family all the best for the future & I hope to see you involved in a RPG one day again.
Hi Patrick, thanks for the kind words!
Thanks for being you Brent. I still believe if you had been a part of Mass Effect 3 the ending wouldn’t have left me in tears and depression. Thanks for making Dragon Age Origins the best game I have ever played.
Thanks Deana, pleased you enjoyed Origins so much!
For the longest time I thought I was in love with Bioware, starting with Baldur’s Gate. I was thirteen then, and utterly amazed with the world created by the game designers. Before that, I only read fantasy novels, but it feels completely different to have a character who’s not you walk around the fantastic world of magic and sorcery and you actually walking in it.
I bought NWN when it was released, was amazed that it was now 3D, 1st person. HoTU came, and I remember saving up for it and feeling ecstatic when I got it. I was mesmerised with Cania, the Keeper of Names, Nathyrra and Valen, the drow society and the rebels, the demons and the regular people living in the 9 Hells. I think I’ve replayed that game with every class available now. I romanced Nathyrra and Valen both. I wept for Aribeth’s story.
DAO came out, heralded as the successor to BG. It didn’t lie. It had a deeper meaning to me, even now, especially with the nuclear plant malfunction in Japan, which was my home as a child. I fell in love with Alistair, cried when Morrigan left me, thought that Leliana was a gift from the Heavens and knew that I found someone in Zevran.
So thank you, thank you for making my childhood. Thank you for letting me know that even the biggest tasks can be solved by working at it. Thank you for giving an awkward teenage girl someone to have a crush on (and thank you from my boyfriend, Nathyrra was his first crush!). Thank you for taking me to a world I cannot get to by aeroplane or train or on foot.
I wasn’t in love with Bioware. I was in love with you at Bioware.
Thank you for the very kind words. I really appreciate knowing how the games I’ve worked on have influenced players. Makes the whole experience all the more satisfying.
That said, I really need to emphasize that I was just one of many who worked on those titles! None of those games would have played out the way they did without the creative energy of all those other talented developers and in truth many of these characters and storylines were crafted entirely by others. If I had any influence on them, it was minor.
I wish I could take credit for all those fantastic experiences, but really, I can’t. Thank you though for taking the time to write this… it made my day!
Brent, It looks like you have a bright future ahead of you! Best of luck with all your success!
Thank you very much, Sean.
You’re a genius. I look forward to more of your stuff in the future.
Really appreciate the kind words! Thank you.