Some people believe that a studio makes a game what is it. Others believe that it’s the IP that the studio carries that makes the video game unique. I think that IP and the studio name carry weight. I certainly would not play SWTOR as much as I do if it carried an IP like Valérian and Laureline. But one of the primary reasons that I believe that SWTOR performed as well as it did (or didn’t, depending on your opinion) was the quality of the people behind it. For me, some of the most integral people to making a good game are the writers. And many of the SWTOR writers have moved on from BioWare and have effectively started their own studio: Fogbank.
If you recognize names like Daniel Erickson, Alexander Freed, Drew Karpyshyn, and Hall Hood, then you will definitely want to see what they are up to at Fogbank Entertainment. If you don’t know who they are, then give me a moment to explain why they are superstars of the gaming and MMO industry.
As we mentioned in our previous article, Fogbank Entertainment was a spin-off of Kabam that was recently picked up by FoxNext, a video game, virtual reality, and themepark division for 20th Century Fox. Fogbank itself is working on, according to VentureBeat, “an episodic narrative game, which will draw from story, character, and location elements based on acclaimed Fox intellectual property as well as original content.” I love speculating, so I’ll talk about what I think they are doing in a bit. The most important part is who be creating this content. And with that in mind, we will start with the studio head: Daniel Erickson.
Who’s on the team?
If you are an old-school SWTOR fan or someone who used to read a lot of Darth Hater, you will absolutely know Daniel Erickson. And you will absolutely know him as the lead writer for absolutely the whole game that broke records when it came to absolutely everything narrative in an MMORPG. He absolutely had an answer for absolutely every question, and he began the majority of those answers with “absolutely.”
That aside, you’re likely to know one of the other big hits that Erickson has worked on at BioWare: Dragon Age Origins. He also had a hand in another recent LucasFilm game, Star Wars Uprising, created by Kabam where he was the Project Director.
Erickson is already plenty respectable, but the people he’s brought into the studio likely have even more accolades than him. Two of the most prominent are Drew Karpyshyn and Alexander Freed. Both of these games writers are also best-selling Star Wars novelists. Karpyshyn’s Bane series (Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, Darth Bane: Rule of Two, and Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil) ignited the Star Wars fan base and the New York Times bestsellers list, and Freed’s novelization of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story also hit the New York Times bestsellers list.
In the world of gaming, Karpyshyn worked for BioWare on a multitude of narratively amazing games. He worked on some great games like Neverwinter Nights, but the game-changer in his career had to be Knights of the Old Republic, where he wrote much of the dialogue. His work on KOTOR led to what I think is his best work: Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2.
I’m very excited about Karpyshyn and Erickson being a part of the Fogbank team, but I’m most excited about the person being named the lead writer: Alexander Freed. His work has been the most inspiring to me. I first noticed him when he wrote the pre-launch webcomics for SWTOR: Blood of the Empire. I loved his ability to expertly weave plot with character development. He continued that trend with the Imperial Agent story in SWTOR MMORPG, which is generally held up by fans as the best story in the whole game.
There are also rumors that Smuggler and Jedi Knight SWTOR story writer Hall Hood has also joined the Fogbank studio, but that has not been confirmed at this time. But if he has joined, then that is yet another reason to pay attention to what this studio is doing.
What are they doing?
I can only speculate because the studio has literally said nothing specific. However, let’s take a moment to piece together some possibilities based on who they work for and who is involved.
Being a part of the 20th Century Fox brand, the intellectual properties are vast, but I think I can narrow down a few based on the people writing it. First, I believe that we will have to look at science fiction the possibility, which will leave out IPs like Family Guy and the Simpsons, thank goodness. But given the writers involved, I would lean toward soft science fiction, so that means that it will likely not be Planet of the Apes or Alien and likely not the X-Files, either. With Marvel wanting its properties back from Fox, I doubt we will see the X-Men or Fantastic Four.
For a new game, Fox will want to look at an IP that will hopefully gain traction in the near future. With James Cameron making a new push into his franchises on the film side of entertainment, Avatar sits as the most likely candidate. Cameron is looking to expand the world of Pandora and a series of narrative-focused video games would serve as a great platform for exploring this unexplored universe that is a mix of fantasy and science fiction, perfectly fitting in the wheelhouse of all of the aforementioned writers.
Of course, I want to know your thoughts. Where do you think this studio is headed? Are you excited about these writers coming together again to make a new story? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.