Remember the term “BioWare magic”? Kotaku describes it at such a long length Report About Anthem’s failure as a belief within the studio that no matter how tough things seem during game development, everything will eventually come together to make the great BioWare games we used to know and love. In the latest episode of his Old Game Dev Advice series on YouTube, though, longtime BioWare loyalist Mark Darrah takes a very different view of the process.
Darrah explained that game development is like a hockey stick: a long arm where nothing seems to happen, then it goes up sharply and everything happens. That bend in the graph is where the magic happens.
“One last jog, that’s what people in the studio are talking about when they say ‘BioWare magic,'” Darrah explains in the video. “Things started really late and things got better late.”
But it’s actually been a “terrible” process, he continued, because it’s impossible to say how dramatic the rise will be, or even when. A better and smarter approach is to raise the long arm – radically speeding up the entire development process – which will enable better iterations so people can “see what the hell you’re doing” without ending up In trouble.
“BioWare’s magic is a bad process,” Darrah said. “It’s got a name for something, ‘Don’t worry, don’t freak out, because we know that in the days ahead, everything’s going to get faster and everything’s going to be okay. But the reality is, ‘Exercise, ‘That’s where the crunch comes from, that’s where the delayed game comes from. Because you can’t predict with a hockey stick. You don’t know where the pivot point is, you don’t know what the angle is. There’s no predictability there at all, so you can only Make up for it with delays and critical timing. BioWare’s magic is nonsense.”
He clarified that some fans use the term to describe the BioWare games themselves, or the characters, worlds and stories they contain. “But in the studio, during development, when people say ‘BioWare magic,’ they mean the damn thing,” he added, poking at the diagrams.
Darrah worked at BioWare for over 20 years before leaving in 2020 and has credit Run from the original Baldur’s Gate to Anthem, so it’s fair to say he knows a thing or two about what’s going on behind the scenes. But he conceded that the phenomenon isn’t unique to BioWare: it’s pervasive across the industry because it’s inherent in the way the culture of big studios works. He wants to see that change, but he also has more reasonable short-term goals.
“Don’t say BioWare magic to refer to this, because it’s not BioWare magic,” he concluded. “It’s a bad process. So stop it. Make this process better and you don’t have to say this again.”