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How BioWare changed the entire RPG genre

We understand the legacy of the legendary company for its twenty-fifth anniversary
On February 1, BioWare celebrates its 25th anniversary. And let the Studio now clearly lost its former positions, its legacy is felt by every gamer. Still, it was BioWare that actually reinvented the genre of role-playing games. Now we will understand how this happened.
Over its long history, computer role-playing games have changed many times. Having become popular in the 80 – ies of the XX century, the RPG genre has long remained a very niche entertainment — for those people who are not too lazy to master the most complex rules and simultaneously dig into the descriptions of D&D systems of different versions. However, then BioWare appeared, and the world was transformed.

Of course, it is not quite correct to say that the clumsy machina of the genre was transformed solely under the influence of a talented team from Canada, but it was BioWare that became the trendsetter of role-playing games of the new format. Gamers swept hundreds of thousands of copies off the shelves of Baldur’s Gate, and the market was forced to follow the new icon. Although this game was also based on the “Dungeons and dragons” system, it offered a completely new experience.

How BioWare changed the entire RPG genre
What exactly was the uniqueness of “Baldur’s Gate”? In amazing graphics? No, it was there to match the time. A simple combat system that even children can master? Again past. Maybe it’s all about quests and a good script? Yes, but only partially. The key to understanding the popularity of this game lies in the amazing combination of its innovation, complexity, and fun.

Despite the external classics, the internal content of the game went against all the canons of the genre. Computer RPG or cRPG, as a direction, assumed the impersonality of what was happening — the gamer, as a party member in “nastolku”, had to write his own story. Formally, BioWare complied with this principle, but in fact the game had dozens of little things that related Baldur’s Gate with first-class projects from the land of the rising sun. Baldur’s Gate was a simpler RPG of the Golden period and, among other things, placed an emphasis on the character of the characters from the party, each of whom represented a well-written and motivated personality. As a result, there was a tectonic shift — gamers really liked to experience a personal adventure in almost literary form.

Baldur’s Gate has become the record for sales in the history of RPG. This determined the further development vector of the entire genre.

Time for change
The continuation and addon of Baldur’s Gate did not differ much from its predecessor, so we will switch our attention to another project. In the early 2000s, BioWare created one of the most “computer” games in the company’s entire history. We are certainly talking about Neverwinter Nights.

It became such not because of the platform on which it came out: it’s all about the style of the work itself, as well as purely computer chips — the map editor and the module system. In fact, the entire “Neverwinter” is a platform for conceptual and user solutions. The developers correctly judged that such a scheme will fire. Which is what happened. As a result, Neverwinter Nights became the most “popular” role-playing game. And the last one in which BioWare entered the field of personal computers.

Later, the approach of providing users with a full Toolkit for creating their own content was assigned to Bethesda, and the canadian Studio switched to consoles. And finally made the RPG genre available to the masses, not just geeks.

Birth of a legend
In the early noughties, Lucasfilm promoted a new Star wars trilogy. Video games were created based on it. Some of them directly retold the events of the films, others-approached the issue more inventively. But there were no RPGs in the long list of action games, arcades, and shooters. It just so happened that by 2003, BioWare came up with a baggage of interesting projects, most of which under other conditions could well appear on consoles, but did not appear. Obtained a license for Star Wars canadian developers killed two birds with one stone. Knights of the Old Republic was one of the Studio’s most important games and marked an era of change. Role-playing games have become closer to the people.

For BioWare, this project was the debut on the console market in the RPG genre. Of course, the authors could not leave the usual mechanics for themselves, and went to a number of tricks that will later become the basis for the Studio’s games. The first and most important thing is perspective. No more flirting with isometry — just honest 3D. Today it may seem funny: say, what is 2D in the days of cards from NVIDIA? However, similar projects are still being released to this day. The combat system-the heart of any high-quality RPG-has remained familiar. The gamer could press the tactical pause button at any time and give commands to both his hero and his party members. Simple as all genius!

Fortunately, KotOR could boast of more than that. The example of this game perfectly shows how BioWare was able to overcome the divide that divides the worlds of Western and Eastern RPGs. A bunch of well-written dialogues and characters, great direction and an exciting story with one of the most powerful twists in the history of video games will not let you lie. It was Knights of the Old Republic that became the game that largely determined the future of the genre as a whole. On the other side of the Elder Scrolls and Gothic, of course.

How BioWare changed the entire RPG genre
The first failure
After seeing the success of KotOR, the BioWare management soon realized where the real money is spinning. Therefore, it is not surprising that the next step of the company was made in the console side. Released in 2005, Jade Empire least resembled what is considered to be a “real role-playing game”. Bet on action, amazing for cRPG visual style and motifs of Ancient Chinese mythology as the driving force of the local world.

Surprisingly different. Despite the highest quality of the product, Jade Empire has not been able to find its” own ” gamer. Even transferring the project to a PC didn’t help. To date, the” Chinese ” Chapter in the history of BioWare has become one of the few games of Canadians that has not received a direct sequel. However, this does not prevent it from remaining an important milestone in the development of the Studio’s corporate identity.

How BioWare changed the entire RPG genre
Critical mass
It’s no secret that Microsoft significantly accelerated the release of new-generation consoles, releasing its Xbox 360 at the end of 2005. The console, which initially did not believe, it seems, even its creators, managed to capture the living rooms of customers in a short period of time, and its features for a long time became the gold standard for all developers.

For BioWare, the new toy of the Americans was the perfect opportunity to shoot another super hit. In the middle of the noughties, Kotor authors had accumulated a lot of experience in creating role-playing blockbusters, so it was a small matter to announce something that would really attract the attention of the owners of the console.

Mass Effect became a named game. If you look at the file of the game press of those years, you will be surprised to find that the first Chapter of the adventures of captain Shepard predicted glory long before the disk went to the store shelves. It even got to the point that the yet-to-be-released project was compared in absentia to “Star wars” -they say that another mass-cultural explosion is waiting for us very soon.

And so it happened. Immediately after the game got to release, the Internet and media exploded. High ratings flew one after another, and fans of virtual entertainment in all ways praised the return of BioWare to the market of large RPGs. As part of this material, we simply can not afford to retell the interesting story of the original Mass Effect, and therefore focus on things that, at first glance, may not seem quite obvious to those who have not seen BioWare products before Mass Effect.

How BioWare changed the entire RPG genre
At the level of the concept, Shepard’s adventures were just a development of ideas that were once laid down in KotOR. There is a main storyline, there are side quests, all this is accompanied by a truly live, beautifully written dialogues and charismatic characters. From KotOR, the novelty was distinguished by a completely new level of production. Usually the conversation of two, albeit well-written characters in an RPG resembled the dialogue of two logs. In Mass Effect, the characters could boast of surprisingly “live” facial expressions. Whether a joke: it is hardly possible to remember at least one plot point in the game that would not be furnished like a high-budget superhit.

However, there was a downside to the whole story. Skeptics noticed that Mass Effect was surprisingly short, and its combat system resembled anything but the classic party role-playing game, where each hit symbolized the roll of a six-sided cube. Unfortunately, we had to pay for the progress with some system breaks.

Enter the dragon
To develop Dragon Age: Origins, the canadian Studio came fully armed. However, some strange landmarks were chosen. After the pompous Mass Effect, the developers decided to create an almost classic PC project in a universe suspiciously reminiscent of the classic D&D. a Harsh world of dark fantasy, several characters to choose from with their own backstory and almost complete absence of a coherent storyline. Dragon Age outlined only the General outline-the need to defeat the archdemon. Everything else remained in the hands of the player.

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