Former Dragon Age boss Mark Darrah returns to work on Dreadwolf

Mark Darrah
(Image credit: Christian Petersen (Getty Images))

A VentureBeat report says former Dragon Age executive producer Mark Darrah, who left BioWare along with general manager Casey Hudson in December 2020, has come back to work as a consultant on the upcoming Dragon Age: Dreadwolf. EA also told the site that as production on the next Dragon Age moves forward, the bulk of the Mass Effect development team will join in to help get it finished.

"Our studio is focused on creating the best Dragon Age: Dreadwolf while the core Mass Effect team continues their pre-production work," BioWare general manager Gary McKay told the site. "We continue to iterate and polish Dreadwolf, focusing on the things that matter most to our fans. As we further connect this new experience with the series’ legacy Mark Darrah will join the team as a consultant, bringing with him years of experience working on Dragon Age. We’re proud to have this team, with strong leadership at the helm, working together to realize the vision we have for the game."

Darrah has a long history at BioWare, with credits going all the way back to Baldur's Gate, BioWare's second game—Shattered Steel came first, in 1996—and the one that put the studio on the map. He also worked on Neverwinter Nights and Jade Empire before becoming executive producer on Dragon Age: Origins, and project director for the entire Dragon Age series. He held that role until his sudden departure in 2020, when he announced his "very difficult decision" to retire.

Darrah expressed gratitude for his time at BioWare in his retirement announcement, specifically to founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, but it seemed clear that his departure wasn't an entirely happy one. A year after he left, Darrah posted a YouTube video in which he criticized the studio's famed ability to produce great games under challenging conditions, saying very bluntly that "BioWare Magic is bullshit."

"BioWare magic is shit process," Darrah said at the time. "It's putting a name on something that's saying, 'Don't worry, don't freak out, because we know that at a future date it's all going to get faster and it's all going to work out.' But the reality is that 'working out,' that's where crunch comes from, and that's where delayed games come from. Because you can't predict with a hockey stick. You don't know where the pivot point is, you don't know what the angle is. There's no predictability there at all, so you're making it up by delays and crunch time. BioWare magic is bullshit."

That's pretty harsh, but it does shine a little bit of a different light on Darrah's decision to leave BioWare—and, possibly, his decision to return as a consultant rather than in a conventional design or management role. His focus, according to the report, will be to ensure Dreadwolf is properly connected "to the legacy of the franchise."

EA also clarified that the Mass Effect team is helping with Dragon Age because the next Mass Effect remains in pre-production, with just a small core team led by Mike Gamble working on it.

"BioWare has a long history of making amazing single-player games with powerful stories that fans can immerse themselves within," Electronic Arts senior vice president Samantha Ryan said. "They’ve been taking their time on the next Dragon Age, trying new things, bringing in the right people, and making sure they’re refining their game. That’s normal for a complex game of this genre. This phase of production takes time, and the studio wants to make sure it gets it right for its fans."

Dragon Age: Dreadwolf does not yet have a release date, or much of anything else at this point, and frankly it's a little tiring: We said that BioWare's most recent developer blog, released in February, was "more a lesson in game design than a meaningful update." Hopefully Darrah's return means we'll start seeing updates of substance in the relatively near future. 

This isn't the first time BioWare has made a point of getting the band back together for an upcoming game: In December 2020, Mike Gamble talked up a number of original-trilogy Mass Effect developers who came back to BioWare to work on the studio's first post-Andromeda project. 

Darrah confirmed in an email sent to PC Gamer that he is "working with BioWare as an external consultant on Dreadwolf," saying that he is "definitely interested in helping Dragon Age: Dreadwolf succeed." 

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.