Black Isle Studios (previously known as Dragonplay) was a division of the computer and video game developer and publisher Interplay Entertainment, created specifically for the development of computer role-playing games. It was based in Orange County, California, USA.
The division was formed in 1996, adopting the name "Black Isle Studios" two years later. The idea for the division's name came from the Black Isle in Scotland - founder Feargus Urquhart's native country. Black Isle Studios is most famous for working on the Fallout and Baldur's Gate series of computer role-playing games, though it only published the Baldur's Gate series.
In 1998, several key members responsible for the division's first title, Fallout, left Interplay to form Troika Games after they "were unable to come to an agreement with Interplay as to how [their] next team should be structured".
In December 2002, Feargus Urquhart suggested that the division was profitable throughout its initial life, saying to Kotaku "We did fine... Our product made lots of money, and internally, the BioWare stuff made even more money. It was great, Black Isle. We were doing well." On December 8, 2003, in the midst of serious financial difficulties, Interplay laid off the entire Black Isle Studios staff.
Following these layoffs, some former Black Isle Studios employees took the opportunity to form Obsidian Entertainment, a video game development company. Former Black Isle staff joining Obsidian include Feargus Urquhart, Chris Avellone, Joshua Sawyer, and Tim Cain.
Black Isle Reborn
In August 2012, Herve Caen announced that Black Isle Studios was, once again, fully operational. Out of the original Fallout team, only Mark O'Green and Chris Taylor were a part of it. The studio was shut down once again in early 2014.
- Fallout (1997)
- Fallout 2 (1998)
- Planescape: Torment (1999)
- Icewind Dale (2000)
- Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter (2001)
- Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter - Trials of the Luremaster (2001)
- Icewind Dale II (2002)
- Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader (2003)
- Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II (2004)
Among the products whose development Black Isle assisted are:
- Baldur's Gate (1998)
- Baldur's Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast (1999)
- Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn (2000)
- Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal (2001)
In addition to games developed in-house, Black Isle Studios has aided in the development of several computer role-playing games published by Interplay; the most notable being the Baldur's Gate series for Windows and Mac OS, and Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance for PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube. Because Black Isle Studios published the Baldur's Gate series, many people mistakenly believe that they also developed the series. This is false; the Baldur's Gate series was developed by BioWare, a company that is in turn sometimes erroneously credited with developing the Icewind Dale series.
Project code names
The studio used to code-name its projects after U.S. presidents and vice-presidents. The system was reportedly created by J.E. Sawyer, who joined the company in 1999.
A list of some BIS projects with their code names:
- Project King - Stonekeep II, canceled in 2001
- Project Adams - Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter
- Project Washington - Black Isle's Torn; announced and canceled in 2001
- Project Madison - Icewind Dale: Trials of the Luremaster
- Project Monroe - Icewind Dale II
- Project Quincy - Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader; this was a ruse by Feargus Urquhart as Quincy was the middle name of a president, not the last name, and Lionheart was not developed by Black Isle Studios. Lionheart was also codenamed Fallout Fantasy.
- Project Jackson - Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II 2003
- Project Jefferson - Unofficially known as Baldur's Gate 3: The Black Hound; project name mentioned as early as 2001; canceled 2003
- Project Van Buren - Van Buren, canceled 2003 as PC staff was laid off
- Project V13 (Original) - Fallout Online; canceled after the loss of Fallout MMO license.
- Project V13 (name reused) - Untitled Strategy RPG
Behind the scenes
- A flag on the lobby balcony of the Museum of Technology references a destroyed ship named Ebon Atoll, (Ebon is short for Ebony, which can be used to describe black and an atoll is another word for isles) which is likely a reference to Black Isle.
- With the addition of the Fallout 3 add-on Point Lookout, there are numerous references to an Isla Negra land development company. Translated from Spanish, the name is Black Isle.
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