Former Dragon Age Executive Producer Criticizes ‘BioWare Magic’

Former Dragon Age producer Mark Darrah releases a scathing YouTube video explaining the term “BioWare Magic” and why people should stop using it.

BioWare is well known for its vast, deep, and heavily character-driven RPGs. While the studio’s developed many fantastic games over the years, there’s no denying it has issues. Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem both launched in a badly unfinished states, and Dragon Age 4 development had had its own troubles. Even BioWare’s more successful games weren’t immune to production woes.

One of BioWare’s longer-running issues is the studio’s belief in the so-called “BioWare Magic,” the belief that its games will come together at the last minute. Former Dragon Age producer Mark Darrah recently came out against the practice in a YouTube video. He called on people to stop using the term and derided BioWare Magic by calling it a “sh*t process.”

GAMERANT VIDEO OF THE DAY

On Tuesday, Darrah explained BioWare magic in a video published on his Old Game Dev Advice YouTube channel. He demonstrated the concept with a hockey-stick-shaped graph showing how game developers will often spend a significant amount of time making negligible progress. Eventually, however, the development reaches a pivot point where the studio is suddenly getting a lot done in a short time. While this process and its problems are hardly unique to BioWare, it’s what the term BioWare magic came to describe internally.

One problem with relying on BioWare magic is developers have no idea when they’ll hit that critical pivot point. It could happen right away, or near the end of development. The latter is especially bad since it makes it incredibly difficult for developers to understand how well the process is going. This is primarily because it pushes back the first working build to much later in development, making it hard to iterate on the game’s systems. It also leads to crunch time and delayed games, as developers struggle to force things together at the last minute.

Again, this isn’t a problem specific to BioWare so much as to the AAA industry in general. Darrah specifically mentioned CD Projekt as one of many other studios reliant on a similarly dysfunctional development process. However, Darrah finds the term BioWare Magic particularly infuriating because it applies a cute name to a terrible process.

As Darrah puts it, “BioWare Magic is sh*t process. It’s putting a name on something that’s saying, ‘Don’t worry, don’t freak out, because we know that at a future date it’s all going to work out.’” His message was boosted by other former BioWare developers, with ex-Dragon Age writer David Gaider condemning BioWare Magic in a recent Twitter thread.

Darrah acknowledges that no game development is ever going to be perfect, with the team making consistent progress every step of the way. However, he feels that developers should try to keep a constant momentum and sense of urgency throughout the entire process. He ends the video hoping that other developers hear him and learn from BioWare’s and other studios’ mistakes. Hopefully, his former employers are listening if they genuinely intend to rebuild BioWare’s reputation.


Source: Gamerant

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