The Escapist has an editorial up called "Where Have All My Heroes Gone?", discussing the high-status of those creative starting developers that inevitably turn mainstream.
And then came BioWare.
In the mid-'90s, the RPG genre was dead. Developers weren't interested, and gamers didn't care. But despite that hostile climate, BioWare produced and released their ground-breaking Baldur's Gate, an isometric fantasy RPG based on the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons & Dragons. To call it a phenomenon would be an understatement; single-handedly, the studio brought fantasy roleplaying games back to prominence and demonstrated that a very real D&D experience could be had through a single-player computer game. Its sequel, Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn, both expanded upon and refined the concepts of the original, resulting in what is possibly the ultimate Dungeons & Dragons videogame ever created and taking Baldur's Gate from an immensely enjoyable game to a uniquely epic franchise.
Neverwinter Nights, in contrast, was a fairly flat, pedestrian experience (although it did make for the finest Collector's Edition videogame ever released), somewhat counterbalanced by the enthusiasm with which BioWare and the community supported the game. But there was an undeniable change of focus away from the single-player experience as the company strove to create a more "realistic" D&D environment with a toolset that could be used to create multiplayer games online. More recently, BioWare's move into MMOG and console-focused development has tarnished their crown in my eyes. Like id, nothing can undo the greatness they've accomplished, but we've left each other behind. I need a new hero.
It goes without saying that the mystique and wonder of the early days are irretrievably lost to me. Everything has changed. Both the industry and I have grown older and more cynical, and like an old married couple, we don't seem to have as much interest in impressing each other as we used to. But maybe, at this point, actually knocking my socks off with unmitigated genius has become less important than an honest attempt at doing so. Heroism comes from the effort, not the result.