Wizards of the Coast hires James Ohlen to open Austin studio

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Wizards of the Coast hires James Ohlen to open Austin studio

Post by Big Mac » Thu Apr 25, 2019 7:30 pm

Just 24 hours after his Heroes of Baldur's Gate adventure went up on DMs Guild, Wizards of the Coast have announced that they are hiring the author to run the new studio they are opening in Austin, Texas! :shock:

Here is their press release: Wizards of the Coast hires gaming industry veteran James Ohlen to lead new studio:
Wizards of the Coast press release wrote:Wizards of the Coast hires gaming industry veteran James Ohlen to lead new studio

April 24, 2019

Baldur’s Gate and Dragon Age lead designer to helm team in Austin

RENTON, WA – April 24, 2019 – Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc., today announced James Ohlen will open a new studio based in Austin, Texas. Ohlen, a 23-year games industry veteran whose credits include Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate 2 and Neverwinter Nights, all based on the Dungeons & Dragons universe, will lead the studio’s creative development of new IP.

“I didn’t think that I would be coming back to the game industry so soon but working with Wizards is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said James Ohlen. “Our mutual love of RPGs, world-building, and interactive storytelling is a perfect match.”

“We’re extremely excited to have someone like James join the team at such a critical time in Wizards’ evolution” said Chris Cocks, President of Wizards of the Coast. “James brings experience in creative direction and studio leadership that will prove important as we look to develop compelling new experiences that engage gamers all over the world.”

Wizards of the Coast’s newest subsidiary will focus on the creation of original IP outside of the Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons’ brand.

About Wizards of the Coast

Wizards of the Coast brings people together through their shared love of games. Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, and other Wizards games are enjoyed by friends around the world, both at gaming tables and on digital platforms. We bring together world-class creators in game design, worldbuilding, fantasy art, and interactive events to create unforgettable moments.

Wizards of the Coast is a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAS). For more information, visit www.wizards.com.
In an unrelated press release, from April 16th (with no hint of either Heroes of Baldur's Gate or the new job running the Austin branch of Wizards of the Coast, James Ohlen explained why he quit working for BioWare to start up his own tabletop RPG business, called Arcanum Worlds:
James Ohlen at the Arcanum Worlds website wrote:It was a year ago and I was miserable, despite being the head of the design department for BioWare – one of the world’s premier RPG developers. Twenty years ago, it was different. I loved my job so much that I worked 100 hours a week – not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I worked with a small team of writers and artists to create design documents that would morph into a game within just a couple of years.

In a period of five years, I was the lead designer on Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2, Neverwinter Nights and Knights of the Old Republic. But those days are long gone. Video games now take five years, cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and require teams of thousands to build. My job went from doing hands-on design for the story, the levels, and the mechanics to overseeing a massive department of designers and writers. It wasn’t as fun as it used to be. I didn’t feel fulfilled because I didn’t feel that my passions and talents were being utilized. Despite my position and the influence that came with it, I was depressed.

Which got me to thinking – how do I get back to doing what I love? What if I could return to what I did decades ago, but apply it to the pen and paper games that inspired Baldur’s Gate? It would be a way to give back to the community that inspired my career. Most of all, it would be fulfilling work.

From the age of 11 to 22, I put in an average of 50 hours a week into my role-playing game obsession. Doing the math, I think that means I put 30,000 hours into the hobby. It wasn’t wasted time as the game helped me through some of the hardest times of my life, introduced me to lifelong friends and was the gateway to my career as a game designer.

I thought I’d retired from game-mastering a few years after launching my first video game. When your hobby becomes your career, you want to spend your spare time doing something else. However, the 5th edition of the world’s greatest RPG pulled me back in. Not only was it the best edition of the game yet, but it was an excuse to hang out with my friends every weekend. Playing the game made me want to contribute to the pen and paper version in some manner.
He was actually talking about Odyssey of the Dragonlords which is in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign, in that blog entry. So it's a surprise that just a few days later, a Baldur's Gate adventure appeared on DMs Guild and he got a job running a WotC office!
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Re: Wizards of the Coast hires James Ohlen to open Austin studio

Post by shesheyan » Thu Apr 25, 2019 8:03 pm

«Wizards of the Coast’s newest subsidiary will focus on the creation of original IP outside of the Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons’ brand.»

Finally! Very curious to see what these products will be. I'm hoping for modern and/or sci-fi RPGs rules.

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Re: Wizards of the Coast hires James Ohlen to open Austin studio

Post by Tim Baker » Thu Apr 25, 2019 10:54 pm

I wonder what types of roles will be available at the new office. Have reqs shown up on the WotC jobs site?

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Re: Wizards of the Coast hires James Ohlen to open Austin studio

Post by Big Mac » Fri Apr 26, 2019 12:43 am

shesheyan wrote:
Thu Apr 25, 2019 8:03 pm
«Wizards of the Coast’s newest subsidiary will focus on the creation of original IP outside of the Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons’ brand.»

Finally! Very curious to see what these products will be. I'm hoping for modern and/or sci-fi RPGs rules.
The word "original" implies that they wouldn't be asking him to bring back anything like Gamma World or d20 Modern. And they have given away Altenity now.

I wonder if they want the "studio" to create RPG products, at all. He did leave BioWare recently. Maybe they want him to create computer programs for them.
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Re: Wizards of the Coast hires James Ohlen to open Austin studio

Post by Big Mac » Fri Apr 26, 2019 1:01 am

Tim Baker wrote:
Thu Apr 25, 2019 10:54 pm
I wonder what types of roles will be available at the new office. Have reqs shown up on the WotC jobs site?
They have jobs up on the WotC jobs site, but I can't see anything about Austin, Texas on the page. :?
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Re: Wizards of the Coast hires James Ohlen to open Austin studio

Post by Tim Baker » Fri Apr 26, 2019 8:51 am

Big Mac wrote:
Fri Apr 26, 2019 1:01 am
They have jobs up on the WotC jobs site, but I can't see anything about Austin, Texas on the page. :?
Good find. Something for people to keep an eye on, if they're in the area and interested (or would consider relocating).

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Re: Wizards of the Coast hires James Ohlen to open Austin studio

Post by shesheyan » Fri Apr 26, 2019 11:16 am

Big Mac wrote:
Fri Apr 26, 2019 12:43 am
shesheyan wrote:
Thu Apr 25, 2019 8:03 pm
«Wizards of the Coast’s newest subsidiary will focus on the creation of original IP outside of the Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons’ brand.»

Finally! Very curious to see what these products will be. I'm hoping for modern and/or sci-fi RPGs rules.
The word "original" implies that they wouldn't be asking him to bring back anything like Gamma World or d20 Modern. And they have given away Altenity now.

I wonder if they want the "studio" to create RPG products, at all. He did leave BioWare recently. Maybe they want him to create computer programs for them.
I'm well aware what the word original implies... And its doesn't preclude the creation of a rpg rule set taking place in the modern era. That is why I didn't capitalize the m in modern. And why I didn't mention any old IPs in my post. ;)
Last edited by shesheyan on Fri Apr 26, 2019 12:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Wizards of the Coast hires James Ohlen to open Austin studio

Post by Havard » Fri Apr 26, 2019 12:36 pm

Interesting news Big Mac. Thanks for sharing!

James Ohlen is obviously a talented designer. It will be interesting to see what comes out of this development.

Hopefully WotC branching out like this will not draw resources away from D&D and other potential RPG projects.

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Re: Wizards of the Coast hires James Ohlen to open Austin studio

Post by shesheyan » Fri Apr 26, 2019 4:21 pm

I'm hoping for a return to the TSR model were new RPGs didn't use the D&D rules (d20 + six abilities) but instead had new rules appropriate for the universe they were created for.

I know that is contrary to the generic universal tendency of the industry but I feel too much is lost in translation when a single system is used for all the genres, even when unique setting rules are bolted on for more flavor.

It's better imho to use specific set of rules that support and enrich the setting.

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Re: Wizards of the Coast hires James Ohlen to open Austin studio

Post by Big Mac » Fri Apr 26, 2019 8:19 pm

shesheyan wrote:
Fri Apr 26, 2019 11:16 am
Big Mac wrote:
Fri Apr 26, 2019 12:43 am
shesheyan wrote:
Thu Apr 25, 2019 8:03 pm
«Wizards of the Coast’s newest subsidiary will focus on the creation of original IP outside of the Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons’ brand.»

Finally! Very curious to see what these products will be. I'm hoping for modern and/or sci-fi RPGs rules.
The word "original" implies that they wouldn't be asking him to bring back anything like Gamma World or d20 Modern. And they have given away Altenity now.

I wonder if they want the "studio" to create RPG products, at all. He did leave BioWare recently. Maybe they want him to create computer programs for them.
I'm well aware what the word original implies... And its doesn't preclude the creation of a rpg rule set taking place in the modern era. That is why I didn't capitalize the m in modern. And why I didn't mention any old IPs in my post. ;)
I never said you didn't know what the word "original" meant. I was just speculating on how much James Ohlen's hands are going to be tied. :)

It is interesting that they specifically don't seem to want him to revive any of their older IPs.

It probably means he is less likely to be able to publish anything I can use (unless he is allowed to sell things on DMs Guild on the side) but if he can sell stuff that meets your needs, that's great.
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Re: Wizards of the Coast hires James Ohlen to open Austin studio

Post by Big Mac » Fri Apr 26, 2019 8:58 pm

Havard wrote:
Fri Apr 26, 2019 12:36 pm
Interesting news Big Mac. Thanks for sharing!

James Ohlen is obviously a talented designer. It will be interesting to see what comes out of this development.

Hopefully WotC branching out like this will not draw resources away from D&D and other potential RPG projects.
Well Austin, Texas is in a different part of the USA, so unless they are going to pay designers working in Renton, Washington to relocate, I don't see it drawing development resources away.

I think it might require some slots in the publicity schedule, though.

WotC mostly do separate promotion of Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons, so I don't think it will have a big impact on things like the D&D Twitch channel (aside from them maybe using stuff like Baldur's Gate as an excuse to get James Ohlen onto Dragon Talk, before getting him to talk a lot about non-D&D stuff that Austin, Texas is publishing. So I think a lot of fans won't see much of an impact in the D&D stuff.

I think it is the big events, where Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons are both hyped alongside each other. They are going to need to make space or time for the stuff from the Wizards of the Coast office in Texas*. The same goes for the wholesale industry and retail industry. Unless Austin, Texas is going to be selling something radially different...like computer games...it's going to be competing for shelf space, both against WotC products and products from other companies.

* = If they open a studio in Texas, shouldn't it be called "Wizards of the South" instead of "Wizards of the Coast"? :P
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