James Ohlen has been with BioWare for an awfully long time: 22 years, in fact. He was the lead designer on the original Baldur's Gate and has racked up design and writing credits since then on games including Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Dragon Age: Origins, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Mass Effect: Andromeda. Most recently, he'd been working on the upcoming Anthem. So it really marked the end of an era when he announced today on Twitter that he has left the company.
After 22 years I have retired from BioWare. I've loved my time with Anthem, Star Wars, Dragon Age and Dungeons and Dragons. But I need to take a break from the industry and work on something a little smaller and more personal.July 12, 2018
In a nice twist, Ohlen didn't put up any piffle about taking a break and figuring out what he wants to do next. "The most fun I've ever had at BioWare was as the lead designer on Baldur's Gate 1+2 and NWN. I've been a D&D fanatic since I was 10 years old and I want to be a part of it again," he tweeted. "Please visit arcanumworlds.com to see what I'm talking about."
The website describes Arcanum Worlds as "a publishing venture formed by a small group of passionate veterans from the video games industry. We build epic adventures for the world's greatest roleplaying game." Which game that might be is probably a topic for debate, but in case the "Dungeons and Beyond" header isn't enough of a hint, Ohlen confirmed in a separate tweet that he's working on a hardcover sourcebook for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, using Wizards of the Coast's Open Game License.
Ohlen is being joined in the new venture by Jesse Sky, a former lead designer and creative director at BioWare/EA who previously worked on Star Wars: The Old Republic and Mass Effect: Andromeda. Several other contributors are also listed, and the site also teases a "Mystery Writer" who will be taking part: "One of our good friends, a very talented author who lives here in Austin, TX." I don't want to spoil the surprise but my money is on Drew Karpyshyn, another long-time (and former) BioWare alumnus who has several novels to his credit—and who, according to his website, lives in Austin.