Former SWTOR creative lead James Ohlen departs BioWare, former Hearthstone boss Ben Brode announces new company

Some industry news this morning: James Ohlen announced that he’s retiring from BioWare after more than two decades at the company. MMORPG fans will recall he was at one time the creative director and lead designer for Star Wars The Old Republic, but of course he played a lead role in many other acclaimed BioWare franchises and was also attached to Anthem. He’s told fans he’s taking a break from the industry to work on RPG sourcebooks. SWTOR players are expressing their gratitude for his contributions over on Reddit.

Let’s shift gears from BioWare to Blizzard for the second bit of industry news. Hearthstone players and Blizzard fans were heartbroken this past spring when Hearthstone game director Ben Brode announced he was leaving Blizzard to start a new company that would “probably make games.” Last night, Brode tweeted that company’s name – Second Dinner – and confirmed that it is indeed a game studio. Yes, second breakfast jokes abounded.

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Paragon Lost

I really grew to dislike that guy during the early days of SWTOR. Got to the point that every time I watched one the videos he was in that I’d find myself grinding my teeth. Between him and the Doctors the tone deafness coming from Bioware during that first year of SWTOR grew quite painful.

I felt that I couldn’t trust or believe anything that he or the Doctors put out. I know he’s a very creative person but that whole time period really did sour me on anything he did or said. that said, I wish him well on his retirement and hope he enjoys himself.

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rafael12104

There goes the Last Of The Mohicans. And I’m sad to hear it.

From early development and through launch Ohlen was on the front lines evangelizing the game. And it wasn’t an easy job. But he kept his head above the din and craziness. He was attacked professionally and personally for all sorts of stupidities and he never lost control.

I consider him one of SWTORs founders and I stuck with the game for 5 years in large part because of his efforts and the efforts of devs like him to make the game the best it could possibly be.

Happy trails, and thanks James! The SWTOR experience was a great one!

Larry Everett
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Larry Everett

There are two things I remember from interviewing James Ohlen: He is incredibly intelligent about RPG mechanics, and his extremely supportive of those who work for him.

Early in the life of SWTOR, there were some fundamental changes to the combat formula. I asked him what had changed, and without hesitation, he gave me the basics of the old formula and showed me the new formula. Then he went on in great detail about why the new formula would work out better in the long run.

In another interview — this one with Charles Boyd — James happened to wander in the room accidently. I might have been asking some tough questions to Charles or maybe he just does this kind of thing: He began praising Charles and laying out how awesome and talented Charles was — pretty much laying out Charles’ whole resume at BioWare — without me even asking a question to him.

Wherever James goes, good work will follow. Keep an eye on him.

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Alex Willis

That’s a very kind tribute!

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Sally Bowls

TY. Regardless that SWTOR never quite what we hoped, it was always much better than the detractors claimed, From afar, IMO it seemed like there were a lot of quality people involved and working hard.

Thanks for your insights!

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Alex Willis

He’s told fans he’s taking a break from the industry to work on RPG sourcebooks.

This is literally a dream of mine. Were I independently wealthy, this is 100% what I would be doing. (What, you thought I would try to save the world? Nah. That Goblin Queen needs a backstory and dungeon scenario!)