Star Wars: The Old Republic has lost one of its key designers, Gamasutra reports today. The site has learned that seven-year BioWare Austin staffer Rich Vogel has left the company. His departure from the firm follows news that the game had lost 400,000 subscribers and that BioWare was considering a change to a free-to-play business model.
Vogel cofounded BioWare Austin in 2005 and helped beef up the studio's headcount from eight to over 350. At the company, he managed producers, artists, designers, and various other studio operations. It is unclear where Vogel is headed or if he will be replaced.
Prior to launching Star Wars: The Old Republic in December, Vogel worked at 3DO and Sony Online Entertainment, where he brought three other MMORPGs to market, including Meridian 59, Ultima Online, and Star Wars Galaxies.
Additionally, reports suggest a new round of layoffs at BioWare Austin was enacted today. It is not clear if this wave of pink slips is related to the restructuring plan BioWare announced in May that saw an unspecified number of staffers out of their jobs.
[UPDATE]: Electronic Arts has provided the following comment to GameSpot:
As announced in May and detailed at E3, the BioWare Austin team is refining Star Wars: The Old Republic to continue to grow the game and the service.
As with the launch of any MMO, the size and skillset of the teams needed to maintain the game is different than the ones that built it. Starting in May, there have been staff reductions in the BioWare Austin studio and Rich Vogel left BioWare in June. Some people have been platooned to other projects at BioWare Austin and EA SPORTS/Austin. Others have been released--qualifying personnel receive severance and outplacement assistance.
BioWare Austin is currently staffed to ensure the continued delivery of new, high quality game content for The Old Republic, and at a more frequent cadence. In the weeks ahead, we will announce plans for growing SWTOR with new content, new players and new ways to play.