BioWare co-founder Dr. Greg Zeschuk has returned to the video games industry after he previously retired in order to pursue a career in beer journalism.
Only he's not at BioWare. Or working on an RPG. No, instead he's the chairman of a mobile games studio called Biba that seeks to integrate mobile technology with physical play.
The Vancouver-based studio has recently partnered with PlayPower, a company that makes playground equipment.
Here's how that works in Biba's words:
"Playgrounds are transformed into the wreckage of robot spacecrafts that have crashed on Earth, and players interact with their very own companion robot, which encourages the player to explore the playground through its whimsical eyes. The games marry a colourful interface intended to foster the imaginations of kids ages three-to-nine with a unique 'embodied play' game philosophy that encourages kids to actualise their gameplay with their bodies. Fun and age-appropriate physical challenges are reinforced through points, high scores and badges that can be shared online and with friends."
As such, the focus is on "refereed play" where the parents hold the mobile devices while their children complete the tasks assigned to them. The Biba apps will also inform parents what equipment various playgrounds have, giving it an additional Yelp-like function.
"Biba's mobile games designed for outdoor play are just a breath of fresh air," said Zeschuk. "PlayPower and Biba are creating a new category, an inventive way to blend our new media habits with the health benefits and joy of active outdoor play. I am inspired by the category as a game designer and father."
"Active outdoor play is essential to the development of healthy children," added chief marketing officer at PlayPower Lynne Vandeveer. "Getting enough active outdoor play for their kids is a problem with which most modern parents are familiar. The solution PlayPower has developed with Biba blends the technology-driven world that kids expect with the joyful outdoor fun that parents remember from their own childhood.
"Parents' concern for their children is justified by research that shows kids are spending too much time sitting still in front of a screen and not enough time outdoors. We intend to change that by engaging modern kids on their own terms."
So it's not exactly Mass Effect 4, but it is gaming-related. Back in September 2012 Zeschuk said, "I'm not going to be working in games for a while, and there's a strong possibility that I won't be back." This may not be what we were expecting, but it's good to see him back nonetheless.
Biba will launch its playground-based apps later this year.