Wizards of the Coast’s new game studio is making a new sci-fi RPG with BioWare vets

Image: Archetype Entertainment/Wizards of the Coast

Wizards of the Coast, the company behind Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, is building a new game studio. Called Archetype Entertainment, the game developer will be led by former BioWare veterans James Ohlen and Chad Robertson.

Ohlen, head of studio, has served as creative director and lead designer on BioWare games such as Baldur’s Gate, Dragon Age, Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

Robertson was also previously at BioWare Austin, where he served as head of technology and studio director. Robertson was head of live services for BioWare’s Anthem before leaving the studio in November. He’ll serve as vice president and studio general manager at Archetype.

Archetype’s debut project is described as a multi-platform role-playing game “set in an all-new science fiction universe that will send players on a story-driven epic where choices they make will have real consequences on how their story unfolds.” The property will be set outside of the D&D and Magic franchises.

Wizards originally announced it was hiring Ohlen to lead a new studio in April 2019.


Well color me intrigued. Ohlen has a hell of a track record (aside from Anthem).

We can hardly blame him for Anthem.. read that exposé on the development of the game should help you realize it wasn’t fully his fault!

No one person deserved the entire blame or credit for anything as large as a video game. Anthem is still a part of his resume though, and pretty much the only blemish on it, which is extremely impressive.

I keep hearing all these promises about choices mattering and consequences and frankly unless other areas of the game is sacrificed it always feels hollow. I will hold my final opinion until its released though.

Right?!? It feels like every game says your choices matter, even most of the Call of Duty titles.

ive adaapted to this by getting ridiculously invested in character relationships since they mostly do follow through with the "choices matter" thing on that front

i guess this would just be a budget nightmare to actually figure out. if you think about all the possible endings of, like, mass effect 1, and how any sequel could hope to accomodate that it gets mind-boggling fast. im honestly not sure how it could be done even today

I agree, I think that is the best approach and what I wish would be the bigger focus when developers make the claim. Going back to Mass Effect 3 the part I remember the most and thought worked the best was the callback with Conrad Verner and all those little things from the game and just put them all together. It was a great callback and if you did those things you would probably recognize them and wouldn’t have massive design implications in the game itself.

ME3 really nailed it except for the ending in terms of choices mattering I thought. I liked the callback to if you did all those annoying gather quests in ME1. I still tear up when watching Mordin and Legion in ME3.

Anyone making that promise after Disco Elysium better think it through.

Realistically, videogames are necessarily limited by the fact every scenario has to be laid out in advance, and that increasing the number of forks becomes exponentially expensive.

I think the right expectation when you hear "your choices matter" is that you will be able to pick dialogue options and there’ll be like three endings.

The problem is going by the past that isn’t what players expect when they hear developers talk of choices mattering. Of course everything when it comes to game development is expensive especially when you add up what costs are incurred when it comes to story and characters.

As much as player expectations can be unrealistic, I think developer words are important as well to try and give players a realistic impression of what actually will be implemented. It should be well known by now that "choices matter" is something that causes large expectations by a lot of players and watching how they describe such a task should also be important by the developers.

That’s why it’s important to remember that when devs speak about their games they are trying to sell you something. Just like buying a car, tv, or washing machine, take every promise with a grain of salt (and a cup of skepticism).

If it was just the developers talking about their games it would easier to pick it apart. The problem is when you get the online amplifiers to those words. Since there doesn’t seem to be accountability anymore outside of the amount of views an article gets.

I am old and jaded now and frankly my opinion is based purely on the experiences people I know have with a game and my own experiences. I have moved to a PC for my gaming needs because I want to be able to return a game if I am not going to like it and I don’t trust anything I read about games online anymore.

Yeah, that’s the problem.

Realistically, for a branching narrative to work, your choices can "matter" in a demonstrative, world-affecting way… maybe once or twice per game. The rest of the time, they either have to matter internally (see: the Disco Elysium model) or to character relationships.

Which then, naturally, requires the game’s writers to be good enough to make you care about those things.

Agreed, although I do think that a good choice system isn’t necessarily a system that shakes up things explicitly, but rather a system that let you interpret very similar outcomes differently based on your own roleplay and actions.

That can work, but also runs the risk of feeling extremely hollow (one of the issues with The Outer Worlds) when multiple choices lead back to an identical result.

This is one of the many reasons why choice-based RPGs are so subjective, and evoke such a spectrum of opinions!

If I, as a player, am deeply invested in my character’s arc and relationships, then a choice with only a subtle difference between two outcomes can still be meaningful if it affects those relationships. If I am not terribly invested already, discovering that there’s not a lot of difference between outcomes feels "hollow," as you said, and breaks immersion completely.

Case in point: I loved all the Mass Effect games (yes, even 3! even Andromeda!) but hated most Telltale titles. And a lot of that is that I bonded immediately with Garrus and Wrex and Tali, but didn’t experience any of that with Bigby Wolf or any of his assorted fairytale crew.

Fully agree. In the end I want a great story, not some half assed dialogue tree where you play an idiot, a goody two shoes or a maniac where compromises have to be done accordingly.

I played Outer Worlds, the rest of the game sucked and the choices were fun but either ridiculously out of character or just weird if you didn’t act normal. I always end up playing the good guy anyway, the bad guy just ends in shootouts mostly, or non access to shit without more violence.

Do want to try Disco though, seems kinda different in that way.

I like how on Mass Effect the paragon/rouge choice ended up being mostly how much of a jerk your Shepard was by the time ME3 came around.

Nearly every game nowadays claims this.

why ‘Archetype’? sounds like they intend to make boring cookie cutter games.

It’s a pretty common term in game design, at least for pen and paper. D&D has archetypes (both in the theoretical sense and as a specific mechanic), same for Magic.

Funny how they didn’t include Anthem in the list of games.

"Robertson was head of live services for BioWare’s Anthem before leaving the studio in November."

I think he meant for Ohlen.

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