Long ago in a company far far away, we were building a game called Hero’s Journey. It was an ambitious game with many wonderful features. We had our own special way of building games based on a unique process that we had developed while building pioneering online games like GemStone and DragonRealms. Our goal was to build a modern graphical MMO RPG that allowed our team of designers to continually add new content into the game – new areas, new spells, whatever they could think of.
We took an early version of our game to the legendary 2005 E3 show. We rented a small room in the back of a small hall, very far away from the giant multimedia extravaganza exhibits of EA, Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and the rest of the empires. We set up meetings with people we knew, members of the press, friends in the industry, and publishers. We hoped to build enough interest to get a publisher to provide enough funding to expand the team and finish the game.
A few people got very excited, but not the way we planned.
“I need this.”
We showed the game to our friend Gordon Walton. We had known Gordon for many years, back in the days when he worked for Kesmai, our late great competitor. Gordon had since been with Sony for its Star Wars Galaxies game among other places. He knows games, especially online games.
Not only did we show him the game, but because Gordon knew us so well we showed him the development tools we had built around our special process – building the game online, in realtime, with tools for the entire team all in one package.
“I need this,” said Gordon. “I am about to start a special project and these tools will let us build and prototype fast and get something running in a hurry.” Gordon is not an excitable guy by nature but this had his adrenaline flowing. “This is just what I need! I want to license your engine.”
We had thought about offering our engine and tools to developers but we had expected that we would have to actually ship a game first, like Epic did with Unreal Tournament before they licensed the original Unreal Engine.
“It’s not productized yet,” we told Gordon. “There are whole sections of code that is only roughed in and not optimized for performance or security. And there are very few comments and very little documentation.”
He didn’t care. “We are going to have tons of engineers. We can finish it ourselves. We’re going to want to modify your source code for our special project anyway.”
BioWare Licenses HeroEngine For…
A few months after the show we heard from Gordon again. He was now the co-head of a new online game studio in Austin as part of BioWare. This was very impressive. Not only was Gordon a solid guy but BioWare was (and still is!) at the very top tier of game developers, the kind of company that made games that were always great. Soon the deal was done – soon meaning after months of painful negotiations and many weeks of meetings with teams of engineers who examined every line of our source code and interrogated our engineers. We were concerned over their making major changes to our engine, but we loved the size of the check that came with the deal.
A year or so later, it became clear to us that BioWare was building a Star Wars MMO. We had to keep the secret for another couple of years but it was incredibly exciting. If you watch some of the videos of BioWare developing SW:TOR, you can see HeroEngine and its unique tools and process being used by the massive team on this incredible project.
Our role began and ended long ago, in a company far far away, but we’re still excited over the part we have played in helping BioWare (now part of EA, of course) bring its vision to life.
by Neil Harris, President and COO of HeroEngine