The Gaming Founders Podcast Episode: From Game Designer to Player Advocate: Trent Oster of Beamdog and BioWare
Welcome to The Gaming Founders Podcast, where we interview founders that have shaped the gaming industry. You’ll hear origin stories, tactics that helped founders and companies survive and thrive, and key lessons for anyone building the next generation of gaming companies. Your hosts are Eden Chen, CEO of Pragma Platform and Kevin Zhang, Partner at Upfront Ventures.
Today’s guest is Trent Oster, CEO of Beamdog. Trent started in the game industry in the early 90s and is one of the six original founders of BioWare. You may recognize some of BioWare’s best-loved franchises - Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Baldur’s Gate, and Neverwinter Nights. Trent left BioWare in 2009 to co-found digital distribution portal/studio Beamdog with Cameron Tofer.
In this episode, you’ll hear about the origins of iconic D&D classics Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Night, challenges balancing team dynamics including family, the development of Beamdog’s tentpole property MythForce, and the rollercoaster days before game launch (and maybe why it’s not the best idea to personally guarantee a $1M loan).
Trent’s path leading to computer science and games in the 90s
BioWare and the early game design days
Beamdog and the White Ave neighborhood
Founder drama and their relationships today
Advice on founders sharing responsibility
Finding the best use of your time- does it have an impact, and when?
Becoming a game-player advocate
Balancing crunch and team building as the industry has shifted
RPG’s - the interesting intersection of story and game playing
Favorite early games
Inspiration for starting Beamdog
The rollercoaster - financial stress, bootstrapping, and triumph
Mythforce - visual standout vs. longstanding devotion
The Electronic Arts acquisition
Advice for founders - can you sustain your commitment 24/7?
The Gaming Founders Podcast is brought to you by Eden Chen, CEO of Pragma Platform, and Kevin Zhang, Partner at Upfront Ventures.
Pragma Platform is a venture-backed backend game engine founded by the engineering leaders who built the platforms for some of the largest live service games including League of Legends, Fortnite, Destiny 2, and Plants vs. Zombies 2. Pragma Platform powers services like accounts, matchmaking and player data for the world’s most ambitious live service games. Eden Chen is a serial entrepreneur and cofounder of Pragma Platform, Fisherman Labs and Lightmark Capital, and started his career in investment banking at Citigroup and Lehman Brothers.
Founded in 1996 in Los Angeles with investing professionals based in LA and SF, Upfront Ventures has backed startup teams across all technology sectors, with about half in Southern California, and the rest across the US and Europe. Kevin Zhang is an avid gamer and former neurobiology researcher who leads gaming and healthcare investments at Upfront Ventures, including Pragma Platform.