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James Ohlen on SWTOR Regrets, EA's Influence on Anthem & Much More

Posted by Suzie Ford on Jul 24, 2018  | Comments

James Ohlen on SWTOR Regrets, EA's Influence on Anthem & Much More -

Game Informer has a new "post-mortem" interview with former BioWare developer James Ohlen. You may remember that Ohlen left the studio last month after 22 years to take on other challenges. In the interview, Ohlen touches on a number of hot topics when it comes to any discussion of BioWare: Star Wars: The Old Republic, the influence of EA on game development at BW, and what, if anything, the recent departures of longtime employees means.

According to GI, many post-E3 concerns have been raised about Anthem not being a "classic BioWare game" as it is missing key features from others (i.e. branching dialog, romances, etc.). Ohlen was asked whether or not this was a conscious decision on BW's part, simply an evolution or if there has been pressure from EA to do things differently.

The fact that BioWare is doing something different with Anthem doesn't mean that BioWare isn't going to do games that skew more towards the traditional style that BioWare is known for. It's just a chance to do something a little different. It was driven by BioWare itself, the team. I know there's a lot of the conspiracy theories that EA is the one behind it, but that's never been the case. BioWare's always had a lot of control over the kind of games it makes. 

Ohlen further clarified that EA "is looking for BioWare to be a long-term part of the company" and that it "respects what BioWare brings to it". Most interestingly, Ohlen said, "BioWare is a lot different than all the other aspects of its business, so, even if Anthem doesn't do as well - and I think it's going to be great - but if it doesn't do gangbusters, I don't think that's the end of BioWare."

When speaking of Star Wars: The Old Republic, Ohlen admitted to pride in the game and in the management of a huge number of developers as the game was being created. However, he expresses regret that he didn't push "a little bit more toward making it kind of Knights of the Republic online rather than "Star Wars World of Warcraft"".

A lot of the feedback that we got when Star Wars: The Old Republic got when it came out was, "Hey, we wanted Knights of the Old Republic Online," something that was more similar to that than a game that was more traditional in the World of Warcraft sense. I can see where that was coming from, but I am still proud of where Star Wars: The Old Republic got to. 

On the developer churn at BioWare in recent years, Ohlen said:

A lot of people who have been leaving were there for 10, 15, or more years, and sometimes you just need a change. Other times, people want to get more, get back to getting their hands dirty with creative, and it's really difficult to do that when you're on a big team of 1,000 people and you're supposed to be delivering hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. There's a lot of responsibility there that kind of gets in the way of your ability to really get into the creative process.

The interview also touches on things Ohlen is most proud of, the "new leadership" at BioWare, his thoughts on Shadow Realms, what he's doing next and more.

Check it out at Game Informer.

Suzie Ford / Suzie is the Associate Editor and News Manager at Follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom
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