Saturday, April 13, 2024

Ex Dragon Age developer Mark Darrah says ‘BioWare magic’ leads to crunch

BioWare is known for a variety of things. It’s a studio that quickly became a comfort for queer gamers due to its inclusion of LGBTQ+ romances and characters in video game series like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, regardless of whether you thought they did a good job or not. More generally, it’s a studio known for story-driven games with characters and narratives that appeal to the player with an overall quality that’s been put down to ‘Bioware magic.’

As Kotaku describes it, the term refers to the way BioWare developers would describe their games – usually in a state of disarray – would find cohesion in the final development hours. However, to get to that level of quality in the final development stages, developers at BioWare would usually go through some serious crunch.

Mark Darrah, a former executive producer at BioWare, took to YouTube to explain why the term is actually poor practice. You can watch the video for yourself, below.

Darrah asks the question on what BioWare magic is and then shows viewers a picture of a hockey stick. This development process is, to put it simply, a period where development on the game is slow but steady, but going at a rate where the “game is shipping in like 30 years”. Then development will reach a stage where suddenly everything is happening very fast, bringing the game together to its final state. BioWare magic, everyone.

While the term has been used almost as a way to hand wave problems like crunch aside, Darrah insists that ‘BioWare magic’ is actually just “sh*t process.”

“It’s putting a name on saying ‘don’t worry, don’t freak out, because we know that at a future date it’s all gonna get faster. It’s all gonna work out.’ But the reality is that the ‘working out’ is where the crunch comes from. It’s where delayed games come from.” Darrah says in his video.

Darrah also acknowledged that he understood if people felt he was ‘picking on’ BioWare, and that he was but only because of his own personal experience with the studio. That said, he mentioned that this terrible process was not only standard for BioWare, but a lot of other studios too – including CD Projekt Red, the creators behind Cyberpunk 2077 and The Witcher 3.

“The reality is that this is how it is at a lot of studios. This is what CD Projekt [Red] looks like, this is what a ton of games look like because they are having difficulty generating completion urgency earlier in the project,” Darrah explains. “The team is working, maybe not at full capacity, but they are working, but things aren’t finishing – things are accumulating.”

Aimee Hart

[She/They] Aimee Hart is Editor-in-Chief of Gayming Magazine. She specializes in queer fandom, video games and tabletop, having started her career writing for numerous websites like The Verge, Polygon, Input Magazine and more. Her goal now is to boost LGBTQ+ voices in the video games industry.