Understanding Video Games

Over the last several months, BioWare has been working with the University of Alberta to help create a massive open online course. Covering topics ranging from mechanics and story to sex and culture, Understanding Video Games explores the impact of games on society.

The 11-lesson course is available online and is free to anyone (there is an associated fee if you want to write exams and receive credit from your institution). The course features interviews and discussions with several BioWare developers, including Senior Creative Director Preston Watamaniuk, Editor Karin Weekes, and Artist Matt Rhodes.

Each lesson is broken up into a series of short interactive video modules, accompanied by readings and quiz components. No background is required; the course teaches the terminology and theoretical framework necessary for discussing and interpreting games.
Understanding Video Games launches September 3, 2014.

We’re proud to have been a part of this course, and to continue working with UAlberta to foster learning and understanding around video games.

Casey Hudson’s Departure from BioWare/EA

CaseyFrom Aaryn Flynn, BioWare Studio General Manager

After nearly 16 years of game development at BioWare, Executive Producer Casey Hudson has made the decision to move on from BioWare and enter a new stage of his career. We thank Casey for his hard work and dedication as we look back on his time with BioWare.

Starting as a Technical Artist on Neverwinter Nights and MDK2, Casey moved into the Project Director role with 2003’s Game of the Year Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. He then led the team in the development of the Mass Effect trilogy, an award-winning series that I and many others consider to be one of the most important science-fiction universes of our generation. Casey’s focus on production quality, digital acting technology, and emotionally engaging narrative has made a substantial impact on BioWare and the video game industry as a whole.

Casey shared his thoughts with his colleagues in a letter earlier today:

After what already feels like a lifetime of extraordinary experiences, I have decided to hit the reset button and move on from BioWare. I’ll take a much needed break, get perspective on what I really want to do with the next phase of my life, and eventually, take on a new set of challenges.

Though there’s never an easy time to make a change like this, I believe this is the best time for it. The foundation of our new IP in Edmonton is complete, and the team is ready to move forward into pre-production on a title that I think will redefine interactive entertainment. Development for the next Mass Effect game is well underway, with stunning assets and playable builds that prove the team is ready to deliver the best Mass Effect experience to date. And the Dragon Age: Inquisition team is putting the final touches on a truly ambitious title with some of the most beautiful visuals I’ve seen in a game.

But while I feel that the time has come, this is without a doubt the most difficult decision of my career. BioWare is as magical a place today as it was when I started. The projects we are working on are some of the most exciting and prestigious in the world. The talent in our teams is second to none. And the people here are some of my closest friends. I’ve spent more time with many of you than my own family, and I have enjoyed every day of it.”

Casey also had a message of appreciation for BioWare fans:

“Long before I worked in games, I was fascinated by their ability to transport me to places where amazing and memorable experiences awaited. When I made my very first asset that I knew would actually make it into a game (the laser bolt in MDK2!) I couldn’t believe how fortunate I was to contribute in some small way to the process of creating interactive entertainment.

Now, having led the development of four major titles, I’m profoundly appreciative of the role I’ve been able to play in creating these games. The very idea that so many of you have enjoyed spending time in the worlds we’ve created is the defining achievement of my career, and it’s your support over the years that made it all possible.

Thank you.

I know that I leave our projects in great hands, and I join you in looking forward to playing them.”

As we say a fond farewell, I know I speak on behalf of the entire studio when I say that we will be forever grateful for Casey’s hard work, passion, and everything he has taught us over the years – a methodical dedication to quality, a spirit of teamwork and camaraderie, and putting fans above everything else. But most of all, Casey has challenged every one of us in the studio to be better tomorrow than we were today. It is in that spirit that as we finish Dragon Age: Inquisition, we will continue working on the next Mass Effect game and our new IP project, confident in our goals and progress.

Thank you Casey. This is not an ending, but a new beginning.

What’s in a Name?

We analyzed player data from Mass Effect 3 to determine the most popular names for Commander Shepard. The most common choices by far were the defaults, John and Jane, but for those players who ventured off the beaten path, these are the top five names for each gender.shepardnames

Our Lonely Wall Needs Your Help

In a quiet corner of a small studio in the city of Montreal, there lived a sad wall of little importance. Neither load-bearing nor fanciful in material or design, the wall simply stood where it was put, as walls are wont to do. And though standing still is an admirable trait to have in a wall—indeed the one thing that’s expected of it—this wall dreamed of more.

It was tired of the blank, expressionless faces on the game developers walking past. It was tired of sectioning space into rooms and hallways. It was even tired of being red. And as days turned into weeks that turned into months, the wall grew more morose.

Then a funny thing happened. It seemed the sadder the wall got, the more people noticed it. They would pause in the hallway and say things like, “My word, is that ever a sad looking wall.” Others would agree, “Dreadfully sad.” Soon it was hard for anyone to even think of the dreary patch of drywall without weeping with abject sorrow.

“This damned wall is ruining our day,” they said. “Something must be done!”

Of course, you can’t just paint a wall and expect it to be happy – and hiding it behind drapes would be rather silly. After much debate, it was decided that the best way to cheer up the weepy, old wall would be to cover it with joyful things: art and letters and photographs from Mass Effect fans who want to share their love for the franchise with the studio.

And so, in a rather roundabout way, we’re asking you, the Mass Effect community, to send us things to cover our wall. Send us pictures and postcards and paintings. Send us weavings and writings and watercolors. We’ve got a wall to fill, and we want what you make.

The saddest wall you've ever seen.

The saddest wall you’ve ever seen.

To partake, send your Mass Effect creations along with a signed release to:

BioWare Montréal
3, place Ville Marie
Suite 200
Montréal, Québec, Canada
H3B 2E3

You can also submit print quality work to fanart@bioware.com

*All fan art must be your own original work, and cannot contain any images from third parties. For photographs, please include a signed release form for all parties involved.

Valentine’s Day: I Was Lost Without You

Imagine that you’re sprinting across Firebase White during a Mass Effect 3 multiplayer session. Wave after wave of Reapers fall at the hands of your friends and an unknown N7 Slayer. Now imagine that several months later, you’re walking down the aisle, about to marry the person behind that N7 Slayer. For Jameela Cameron, that’s exactly what happened.

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Jameela still clearly recalls the night of April 13, 2012. She received an invitation to play Mass Effect 3 with her friends Sean and Estevan, but wasn’t really in the mood. After some consideration, she decided to join them.

A couple of games later, another player joined their session: Tyler, a mutual friend of Sean and Estevan. “I was really quiet at first,” Jameela remembers. “I figured he’s probably a friend of theirs, but I didn’t want to talk.”

Tyler, on the other hand, had no problem breaking the ice. After engaging in a deep discussion about Mass Effect lore with the group, Tyler joked about their having nothing better to do on a Friday night and mused, “Man, we are, like, undateable.”

Little did he know that it was his sense of humor that first attracted Jameela. “I liked the fact that he could make fun of himself,” she says. “He was obviously smart, and he was very witty.”

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Picking up on the brewing chemistry between his two friends, Estevan seized the opportunity to play matchmaker in between waves of Geth Primes and Rocket Troopers. He encouraged Jameela to connect with Tyler through Facebook and sent them each text messages of praise about the other.

The two bonded quickly, and it wasn’t long before Jameela made the first move. She started signaling her interest by always being the first to revive him after he fell in battle, a luxury she did not extend to her other teammates. Eventually, she came right out and told him he was “gorgeous.”

“I don’t know what came over me that night,” she laughed. “That is not how I normally work.”

The two played until the sun came up the next morning, leading to a discussion about their options. A month later, Tyler and Jameela met in person and knew they wanted to be together. Unfortunately, a Harbinger-sized roadblock stood in their path: over 2,000 miles of distance.

As luck would have it, plans were already in motion for Tyler to move back to Michigan, a six-and-a-half hour drive from Jameela’s hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the meantime, overcoming time-zone differences and conflicting schedules put a lot of pressure on the young couple. They combatted those challenges with Skype video chats, playing co-op games, and texting.

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Tyler proposed to Jameela on June 22, 2012, and they set a wedding date of October 26—news that their friend Sean took to PAX Prime later that summer. While visiting the BioWare Base, Sean met lead editor Karin Weekes and shared the couple’s story.

“Sean is the nicest person, and I was so touched that he took the time to come and talk with me and tell me Tyler and Jameela’s engagement story,” Karin said. “It was the coolest feeling to have been a tiny part of the stage for the early part of their relationship (plus, I’m a complete sucker for weddings). When Sean told me their favorite characters were Garrus and Tali, I thought, ‘OK, we must have a screenshot of the Tali/Garrus hookup scene somewhere…’ Back at the studio, I tracked one down and got it printed out—the team loved the story, and everyone was really pleased to sign and send the poster to Tyler and Jameela (through Sean, the best best man ever!) for their big day!”

The gift arrived at their hotel just in time for the wedding and now hangs above the TV in their living room.

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Twenty of their closest friends and family attended the wedding that fall. Jameela walked down the aisle to Sam Hulick’s “I Was Lost Without You” (she also had the song title engraved on Tyler’s wedding ring as a surprise). For the reading of vows, they selected the accompaniment of “I’m Proud of You,” also written by Sam for the Mass Effect 3 soundtrack.

In preparation for PAX Prime in 2013, the couple got Mass Effect tattoos, paying homage to how the series had affected their lives. For Tyler, Garrus was an obvious choice. “In the Mass Effect games, I always took Garrus with me in my party,” he said. “He was a symbol of true loyalty and friendship.”

Jameela identified with Tali’s loyalty to her father and her people, even in times of disagreement. She also appreciated the quarian’s “nerdy” side, as she refers to it. “She’s cool. She can handle her own,” Jameela said of Tali. “She’s extremely smart and honorable, and that always stuck with me.”

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Nearly two years have passed since they first met, but Tyler and Jameela still make time to play Mass Effect 3 multiplayer together. In fact, they plan to celebrate the anniversary of their introduction by getting the original group back together, a tradition they hope to continue every year in addition to their wedding anniversary.

“We’ll probably celebrate both of those dates forever,” says Tyler. “Two anniversaries.”