Feargus Urquhart and Chris Avellone – leaders of the legendary video games studio at Kraków’s Digital Dragons in May

Feargus Urquhart and Chris Avellone – leaders of the legendary video games studio at Kraków’s Digital Dragons in May

This is going to be a great holiday of electronic entertainment.

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Arriving in the city of Wawel Dragon, side by side with John Romero, who gave as Doom and Quake, are role-playing game developers of prime magnitude: Feargus Urquhart and Chris Avellone.

The Witcher is the largest export product of the Polish games sector. It represents the RPG (role-playing games) genre, in which players become fictitious figures, experience their adventures, and develop their skills according to set rules. The Witcher is Gerald of Rivia, a hero called to life in books by Andrzej Sapkowski, while the heroes of other RPG hits, such as Skyrim and Dragon Age, are characters developed by the players themselves. The computer-based variety of RPGs is currently experiencing a great period, as attested by the market results. In just over four years, Skyrim sold more than 22 million copies. The Witcher 3 sold 6 million copies in only the first six weeks of sales.

Yet it remains unknown whether this genre would have been so successful if not the a turning moment that took place several years ago. To discuss it more broadly, one needs to move back in time to the mid-1990s, when role-playing games, being an heir to the role-plays played in the real world and following the conventions of theatre improvisation found themselves in a slump after a few successful years in the market. It seemed that they were sentenced to oblivion. And this might really have been the case if not for Interplay, and American games publisher, who decided to open Black Isle Studios, a new division, and setting up a team who breathed a new life into the seriously fossilised genre.

Standing at the helm of the group was Feargus Urquhart, who named it after Scotland: the country his ancestors hailed from. Interplay created and released a number of games on Black Isle label that made their permanent place in the history of the role-playing genre.

The series that began the entire revival deserves special attention. A product of BioWare, a Canadian company operating under the patronage of Black Isle Studios publishing, it made an impact on the renaissance of the RPG games that cannot be overestimated. It can be simply said that a whole generation of players grew up on the saga telling the story of the Bhaalspawn. This is true also about Poland, where the localisations of the game have been the product of nobody else but CD Projekt, at the time, not yet offering own works on CD Projekt RED label, but being a recognised distributor. The Polish edition of Baldur’s Gate (Polish: Wrota Baldura), with Jan Kobuszewski, Wiktor Zborowski, Gabriela Kownacka, and many other stars of Polish stage and silver screen is recognised one of the greatest achievements in the history of games publishing in the Polish market.

Baldur’s Gate is the most famous title of the role-playing games revival, yet the renaissance brought also other productions. Even before Baldur’s Gate premiered, the first game developed by Black Isle Studios entered the market. It was Fallout 2, one of the best parts of a series that continues to present a vision of a post-nuclear world to this day. A great role in the success of the title was played by Chris Avellone, the second best-known name in Black Isle Studios. Avellone became famous mostly thanks to another great game from this company, Planescape: Torment. As in the case of Baldur’s Gate, what made the product highly popular in Poland was a highly successful and rich Polish edition with Adrianna Biedrzyńska, Emilian Kamiński, and Władysław Kowalski in the leading roles.

Despite the great artistic success and returning RPG to the ranks of major game genres, the Black Isle Studios fell victim to the crisis in its mother company. Riven with financial problems, in 2003 Interplay was forced to an unprecedented decision: laying of the developers who in five years created a number of games of highest assay. Black Isle was gone. Urquhart started his own studio, Obsidian Entertainment, and persuaded Avellone to enlist under his banners. The duo worked together for another 12 years, continuing the tradition of role-playing revival for over a decade.

In 2015, they ceased producing games together, yet there will be soon an opportunity in Kraków to see them together, as they both announced their arrival at this year’s round of the Digital Dragons – the largest games conference in our part of Europe. After an extremely successful year in the video games sector in Poland, marked by the great success of The Witcher 3 from CD Project RED and produced by Techland Dying Light, the organisers expect an even greater interest in the meeting than in 2014, when more than 1100 representatives of the games, media, business, and VC fund representatives arrived in Kraków. “”The Digital Dragons is not only a bevy of magnificent guests and an opportunity to meet the legends of the gaming world. It is also a place for exchanging experience, presenting achievements, and doping business. This is why events of this type enjoy such a broad interest among the sector. The Kraków Technology Park (KTP) became aware of these expectations five years ago already, and the games world has honoured the Digital Dragons with its trust. Thanks to this, the event enjoys today the status of one of the most important in Central and Eastern Europe”, the President of the KTP, Wojciech Przybylski emphasised.

This year’s edition of the Digital Dragons will be held on 16th and 17th May in Kraków. Besides Avellone and Urquhart, it will also be graced by John Romero, the developer of absolutely cult productions: Doom and Quake. Tickets to the conference are already available from www.digitaldragons.pl.