From a three-man basement operation to occupying three stories of a downtown Edmonton tower, video game maker BioWare celebrated moving into its new headquarters with an open house for media and local officials Monday night.
BioWare general manager Casey Hudson, who has been with the company on and off for 20 years, said the 320 employees felt at home within a few days.
“It makes a huge difference for us to actually be working in a space that’s designed for video game development,” Hudson said about the studio inside EPCOR Tower on 101 Street and 105 Avenue.
“With the way technology works these days, we need spaces that are designed to do things like motion capture and multi-player sessions. Things that you actually have to build a custom space for.
“We have three floors, 75,000 square feet of amazing, state-of-the-art space that really brings out the best in what we do.”
In addition to traditional office space, the new studio has audio recording booths, common areas, game stations, an arcade, a quiet room and, as mentioned, a motion capture studio. Staircases connect the different levels of workspace.
The company was started by three local doctors — Greg Zeschuk, Ray Muzyka, and Augustine Yip — in a basement 25 years ago, with the help of some local game programmers and artists.
The company released its first game in 1996 and went on to release six more games over its first decade, including Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. It’s also behind the successful Mass Effect and Dragon Age franchises.
BioWare was was purchased by the video game giant Electronic Arts in 2007, but maintained its Edmonton roots and identity.
For 15 years, the company occupied space in a south Edmonton office building off Calgary Trail and 45 Avenue, but as the company grew so too did its need for a new space. Two years ago BioWare announced it was moving to a new, custom-built space.
Employees began the move to downtown at the beginning of August and have been operating in the new space for approximately a month, the company said.
Hudson said being surrounded by all the new development in the city’s core is exciting.
“It’s great to be here with all of the best amenities around us and also lots of technology partners, so we feel like there’s a really strong tech community growing in downtown Edmonton and we’re excited to be part of it.”
BioWare’s reputation for role-playing games helped the company forge partnerships with giants like Microsoft and the Lucasfilms Star Wars franchise.
In turn, that has helped attract top programmers to Edmonton, including people from Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, South America and elsewhere.
Hudson said the new location will be that much more attractive to new recruits.
“We compete globally to bring in talent so when we look around a space like this, we can genuinely say we can bring in people from Los Angeles and San Francisco, places from all around the world because not only do we have a state-of-the-art space but you look around – we’re in the heart of everything happening downtown,” he said.
The EPCOR Tower has a cafe, restaurant, and convenience store in the lobby, as well as an on-site fitness centre and outdoor balconies on each floor. There is also underground bike park with racks, lockers, showers, towel service and water station, and a daycare.
“The quality of life, the affordability — you can buy an amazing home within walking distance from here — so it absolutely makes us competitive with any place in the world.”
— With files from Shaye Ganam, Global News