Sources: BioWare’s Shadow Realms In Flux, Possibly Rebooted

Sources: BioWare’s Shadow Realms In Flux, Possibly Rebooted

Shadow Realms, last year’s surprise announcement from BioWare Austin, is going through big changes and may have been totally rebooted, sources tell Kotaku.

That Austin branch of BioWare, best known for developing the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic, originally unveiled Shadow Realms as an online 4 vs 1 action-role-playing game that would be released episodically beginning in 2015. Although the studio didn’t officially say anything about pricing, many believed that the game would be free-to-play.

But things have changed. Two industry sources say they heard Shadow Realms was cancelled, but a third, reliable source familiar with goings-on at BioWare Austin says the game was overhauled in late October and will now have a full campaign. Though some details may be in flux, early plans for Shadow Realms now peg it as a 2017 release for PS4, Xbox One and PC, according to that source.

A photo of an internal EA database provided by a separate source confirmed that the online servers for Shadow Realms, which is code-named Avalon, were disconnected this week. A second photo reveals that EA added a new code-name, Trafaglar, on the same day that Avalon was removed. (This code-name could refer to just about anything, of course.)

Though Shadow Realms was shown to the public at various gaming events last year, we haven’t heard much about it in recent months. In August, BioWare Austin announced that they’d be sending out alpha invitations in the following month. Then, in late October, the studio announced that they were delaying the game’s closed alpha. They have not said much publicly about the game since then, although community manager Eric Musco wrote on Reddit in December that Shadow Realms is “absolutely not cancelled” and that they would have more to share soon.

So what happened? According to one source, BioWare decided to reboot the game, coinciding with their decision to embrace the integration of EA’s digital store and online service, Origin. Developers at EA take budget hits if they don’t use internal technology and services, according to multiple people who have worked for the company. When the developers behind some of EA’s recent online games, like Dawngate and Command & Conquer, didn’t integrate Origin, those games’ budgets were limited, which may have been a factor in their ultimate cancellations.

At first, BioWare Austin planned Shadow Realms without Origin integration, but they shifted gears after seeing Dawngate flop, according to the source who says the game has been rebooted. Now that the studio is integrating EA’s online service, they have got more money and can therefore do more with the game, that source said.

A different person connected to EA confirmed to me that the developers behind previous unsuccessful multiplayer games like Dawngate and Command & Conquer would indeed have received extra money from the publisher if they had been integrated with Origin. The stumbling of both of those games was a factor in BioWare’s decision to reboot Shadow Realms, a source said.

If that reboot is happening, it may appear to be a strange shift for those of us who have followed the gaming industry in recent years — usually, video games are rebooted to free-to-play, not the other way around. But for BioWare fans — and anyone sceptical of the F2P trend that has dominated video games over the past half-decade — the possible change is welcome.

EA did not respond to requests for comment.


  • So to summarize EA rewards developers who use their god awful Origin service and doesn’t throw a lifeline to developers who have the interest of the consumer at heart (ie by sparing them the horror of dealing with Origin).

    tl;dr EA likes profit more than consumers.

    • EA is a business, with profit it can’t exist due to shareholders.

      Also, Origin works fine –

      I question Journalists who say, “A person at X” said this or that, because a) we don’t exactly know where in the company falls in the hierarchy (could be the janitor for all we know) and b) it could simply be a rumour being reported as fact.

      To me it doesn’t sound like they take a budget hit (as a penalty) for not using Origin’s service, more that they don’t get allocated a budget for Origin integration. It’s probably something as simply as “Here is your budget for you game and this is the budget for using Origin” – If a developer decides to go it alone and not use the service, that was their choice and they should budget accordingly.

      I get it that the gaming community really, really, really hates EA but sometimes I think this hate gets in the way of logic and journalists simply look to distort facts for clicks.

      • You know if every publicly traded gaming company was like EA I’d concede that point to you; however I can think of a few examples off the top of my head where gaming and commercialization have worked out well – Blizz/Activision for one. Ubisoft for another.

        That said I think you’re the first person I’ve engaged in conversation with who’s said “Origin works fine”. My experience with it was purchasing DA2 + dlc, not having the DLC show up in the game and spending 2 days on forums and raising support tickets and never receiving a response. If this happened to me on Bnet or Steam I’d have a fix within 24 hours. But hey I guess if you take out customer service and ignore the fact that Origin only has about 20-30 games on it, you’re right it does work fine as an online games platform. Ubisoft’s version of origin works fine as well in those parameters.

        Regarding sources – that argument could be made in any form of news however at the end of the day Kotaku has given me little reason to not trust their articles or their sources. May be you believe that a source in a company shouldn’t be anonymous and risk their livelihood and jobs by stating internal company practices publicly so that you can trust them? People who disclose confidential company practices take a risk as it is; however you want to tell them that it isn’t good enough and they should be willing to come public and do right by the consumers who choose not to trust them? However with that mentality sources would never disclose information and consumers would be none the wiser; personally I would rather take the risk of trusting an anonymous source being reported by a website I’ve grown to trust than ignore it. For no other reason than to encourage other sources to come forward in the future.

        Once again if this was being reported by a site like gamespot or IGN who have their fair share of inflammatory articles I would wipe it aside as gossip and not care. However until a source is proven to be false, or a journalist shown to have little integrity we need to trust the source of information lest we risk devaluing the entire journalistic process.

        Your point that EA allocates a certain amount of budget for developers who are willing to integrate with Origin directly contradicts a statement in the article referenced to a source in Bioware. Your statement assumes that EA will be cover the cost of Origin integration and perhaps a little more for the trouble the developers go through in adding this service to their game. The BioWare source’s statement sounds like they received funds to integrate with Origin and then had so much more left over that it justified rebooting the game. If you can reference a source that counteracts the source in the article then by all means continue to state the this journalist in question wrote this article just for clicks; in fact I’ll agree with you and state this is a hollow article.

        However given EA’s track record I can easily envision them providing monetary incentives well beyond just the cost of integrating Origin to their games; ergo I choose to give credit to this source. Just like you choose to believe in EA and ignore said source.

        • Origin does work fine as a digital delivery platform and my experience with it and their support has been positive. I might just have a differing opinion on what ‘works’ then yourself. I concede that you may not have had a positive experience with Origin, just like I’ve had negative experience with Steam.

          I don’t have an issue with sites like Kotaku creating sources, its just the way they’ve listed it for these types of articles that just gets me. Kotaku has every right to protect the identity of the source they are quoting, but the problem is they aren’t quoting a source in the article – there is no direct quote from the person of interest. It’s simply stated “A source” and “A person connected” – and this is the problem with video game journalism. Anyone ‘connected’ could be a source and come out to a video game website and suggest something may or may not be happening; but there appears to be no evidence that sites attempt to validate those claims.

          Sites seem to report first on the ‘one guy/gal’ who says something, post that onto the internet then reach out to the publisher or developer for comment. They should be getting more than one source to comment on the problem. This article states a person connected to EA, but what does that mean exactly, are they another developer or what. It’s information that is actually vital, can be released without harming the source and helps build up a stronger article.

          Right now though, in my opinion, the story itself is extremely week and is written in such a way to capitalise on the gaming communities ingrained hatred for EA as a publisher. As you said yourself, “Given EA’s track record” that anything against EA is inherently true.

          I’m not ignoring the source or disbelieving the notion that those developers who use Origin get additional funds towards their budgets, I question whether or not the information provided by the source is all of it, and whether or not its 100% true.

          I’m happy to be wrong about things, and I want to believe the authors article but the information giving to me is just too weak to believe in my opinion.

    • @pupp3tmast3r
      I havent had an issue with Origin in years. Yes they could make DLC a little easier to install and the interface can be clunky at times but the service it self is not bad at all any more.
      On the other hand i have nothing but issues with Steams current interface other than my actual library which is still as it was 10 years ago. Seriously how much shit can you show on a store front before it just becomes a horrible mess.
      I think you will find there is a lot of disparity between who likes what in the gaming market when it comes to digital distribution, for instance i cant stand Uplay, its abhorrent to my senses. Yet i have friends who have no issues with it at all (small percentage in comparison to those who do i will admit).
      In this case i dont agree that EA likes profits more than consumers, they go hand in hand. If you dont have one you dont have the other. I think what you meant was EA likes profits more than its game developers, which is most likely the case as its a business entity liable to its shareholders.

      The Origin service is not bad in my opinion and i think you ballzed your own tl:dr

  • How is EA set up?

    I thought it owned all those studios?
    Instead of farting around with budget incentives, couldn’t they just mandate Origin use?

  • Good news. Hopefully they get rid of all F2P and Online Multiplayer shite. Single player campaigns is where its at. I wasn’t initially interested in this, as pitched, but now there is a glimmer.

  • This was the most underwhelming game reveal of 2014 – so many cool trailers beforehand unveiled to be a top-down PC snorefest

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