Ten Ton Hammer has published a two-page, article-style interview they conducted with BioWare doctors Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk about their roots in the medical field and their eventual transition to video game development.
It's hard to imagine that such an incredible crop of story-driven PC games had its roots in, of all things, a software simulation of the digestive tract. Before forming BioWare, Drs. Muzyka and Zeschuk, friends from med school, made medical education software together in the early nineties. "One was a gastroenterology patient simulator, one was an acid-base physiology simulator," Muzyka mused, "They actually did sell, one to a phamaceutical company and one to the University of Alberta." Their true calling, however, was simply too strong. "We realized pretty rapidly that we were passionate about video games." Where do you suppose role-playing games would be today if these two guys had stuck with medicine? Where would we be if the Infinity Engine had never existed?
The doctors, then three in number, formed BioWare (Muzyka explained the name came from their desire to bring life to PC games) in February 1995, releasing the mech game Shattered Steel the following year before hitting their stride with the Baldur's Gate series and the Neverwinter Nights series in the late nineties and early aughts. Muzyka actually practiced medicine for a year after the company incorporated in 1995, and while Zeschuk and Muzyka still maintain their licenses to practice, neither has plans to return to the medical field now. In the early days, that was much less the case. "People tended to think it was a phase," Zeschuk quipped, noting that friends and relations thought he would go back to being a "respectable" doctor. "Growing up around here [Edmonton, Alberta], you'd never conceive that this might be a career possibility."
The leap from medical software to games might be unlikely enough, but BioWare's further leap from producing some of the best known, best loved story-driven RPGs in this decade is equally unbelievable. So when did BioWare decide to make great story the hallmark of their games? As Muzyka explained, "We love RPGs. For both of us, it's our personal favorite genre since we were growing up. I remember I was like 9 or 10 years old and playing a cassette-tape game - Scott Adams' Pirate's Cove - on an Apple IIe with 4k RAM and I had to try three times to load it. From that point I was hooked; I loved that experience - a lot of the story then was implied."