Before Orcs & Humans
, before dancing naked on mailboxes, before even being called "Blizzard
," this studio was known as Silicon & Synapse. It was founded in 1991 by a trio of recent college graduates who went straight to work... doing game ports and remakes. S&S's first project was RPM Racing
for the SNES, a remake of a 1985 Commodore 64 title. Other early titles included The Lost Vikings
and Rock 'n Roll Racing
It wasn't until 1994 that the studio went through a major transition, becoming Blizzard Entertainment and releasing the very first of its Warcraft
games. Fun fact: The studio almost called itself Chaos Studios until it realized that there was a naming conflict with another firm.
Just as Voltron was assembled from several components, so too did Mythic Entertainment
come to life by the joined efforts of several groups. Initially it was the combination of two studios -- Adventures Unlimited Software Inc. and Interesting Systems, Inc. -- both of which had folks who'd worked on MUDs in the 1980s. Mark Jacobs' Aradath
and ISI's Darkness Falls
would both provide the inspiration for Dark Age of Camelot
later on. These companies heavily utilized early online content providers such as GEnie
to hawk their wares.
When Mythic formed in 1995, it went on to work on a wide variety of mostly-forgotten projects from the '90s, such as ID4 Online
(did you know that even existed? I didn't.) and Splatterball
. It wasn't until 2001's DAoC
that the company hit it big and became a household name to gamers.BioWare's
start in the industry is a much simpler tale, although it's interesting in that it began as the hobby of several successful medical doctors. Every doctor has a hobby, I suppose, and Ray Muzyka
, Greg Zeschuk
, and Augustine Yip's hobby was gaming. The trio created BioWare (translated from Greek, "from the chemist, stuff") in 1995 out of their own pocket and went to work on their first game: Ewoks of the New Republic
Nah, just foolin'. BioWare's debut title was 1996's Shattered Steel
, a MechWarrior
clone that did well enough for the studio to survive and then begin working on the doctors' true passion, RPGs. When BioWare came out with Baldur's Gate
two years later, the studio had found its niche and never looked back.
Why do we never hear about Yip? It's because this third doctor decided to leave the company in 1997 to return to medicine.
In 1989, two amateur programmers created a company called MicroGenesis and began work on a little RPG known as WarWizard
. The developers were Brad McQuaid
and Steve Clover
, and their project was interesting enough to catch the eye of a Sony executive named John Smedley
. Smedley previously created a game (QIX
) for the Apple IIe, then ran his own game studio called Knight Technologies.
Smedley was tasked by Sony to investigate the potential of online gaming. He and his growing team were dropped into the newly created Verant Interactive
(later Sony Online Entertainment
) to deal with the development of a 3-D MMO called... well, you know what it's called.Funcom
first got my attention with its stellar 1999 adventure game The Longest Journey
. It turns out that the studio had been hard at work through most of the '90s, however, mostly working on small-bit console titles.
Funcom formed in 1993 and went to work on various console games, including Samurai Showdown
(Mega-CD), Disney's Pocahontas
(Genesis), Winter Gold
(SNES), and Speed Freaks
(PlayStation). Hitting it big with TLJ
allowed it to venture into MMO development, shifting the studio over to a new focus that dominated ever since.
We'll stop there and perhaps do a sequel to this column another day! In the meantime, did any of you play any of the earlier titles mentioned above?When not clawing his eyes out at the atrocious state of general chat channels, Justin "Syp" Olivetti pulls out his history textbook for a lecture or two on the good ol' days of MMOs in The Game Archaeologist. You can contact him via email at email@example.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.