With BioWare quickly approaching its fifteenth anniversary and Mass Effect 2 due out on store shelves next week, IGN capitalized on the opportunity by putting together an extensive five-page history of the company. As there's a lot of ground to cover, I'll toss a liberal amount of quoting below:
Videogame development can be among the most daunting fields to break into, but there are many paths to take. BioWare's founders met at the University of Alberta, where they were studying medicine. Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuck first worked together programming educational software for the Faculty of Medicine. The duo was soon joined by Augustine Yip, who collaborated with them on a medical simulation program. Their work may have been satisfying in the sense that it helped to make people healthy, but there was a creative itch left unscratched. Thanks for all the memories, BioWare. Just don't let EA mess with another 15 years of role-playing goodness.
Muzyka, Zeschuck and Yip relaxed by playing computer games and after a few years they realized that this was where their passion was. The medical field was satisfying and lucrative, but it was time for the group to move on. And it was precisely their success in medicine that afforded them the resources needed to start their next venture a videogame company. They pooled together $100,000 and set out to make their first game.
Interplay financed some exploratory development, and BioWare returned with a demo called Battleground: Infinity. Their choice of partner proved to be quite fortunate indeed. Upon seeing the demo, the publisher suggested it might be a good fit for the Dungeons & Dragons license, which it had just snatched away from SSI. Infinity was recast in the world of Forgotten Realms.
The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons license would prove to be a bigger boon to the title than branding alone would suggest. To BioWare, this was not just a mythology and a logo on the box, but a game they had a great deal of passion for, and whose rule book was not to be tampered with. Virtually every RPG owes a debt to D&D, and Baldur's Gate was in some ways an effort to take the genre back to its roots, but in a very modern package.
The Star Wars license exposed BioWare to an entirely new audience that would never have been interested in a Dungeons & Dragons game. Knights of the Old Republic became the company's best reviewed game, still standing as the third highest rated game on the Xbox, according to Gamestats. The Xbox version moved over a million units in North America.. Once again, BioWare couldn't be bothered to handle a sequel themselves, and passed the light saber to Obsidian.
Although Knights of the Old Republic was a LucasArts title, BioWare's support of the Xbox platform earned it points with Microsoft. Lacking in support from the east, MS knew that it would need to turn to Western developers to bolster the Xbox library. BioWare was quickly emerging as North America's premiere RPG developer, and so MS enlisted the company to develop an original property exclusively for Xbox the first BioWare game not based on a license since Shattered Steel.
In October, 2007 Electronic Arts shocked many when it announced its buyout of BioWare and Pandemic Studios, cementing BioWare's future as a multi-platform developer. BioWare's new RPG became a multi-platform affair and underwent some major revisions that resulted in the game we now know as Dragon Age: Origins.
The PC version retained much of its camera and interface and survives as the closest thing to BioWare's original vision. Multi-player, however, was axed from all versions, and the combat simplified a bit on the console side for a more action-oriented feel in line with other contemporary RPGs. Much of the extended development may have been spent on these kinds of ample revisions, but the extra time paid dividends for the game's detail and size.