In the weeks leading up to a game’s release, we expect a flurry of news and information. Gameplay features are revealed, secret characters are disclosed and plot points begin to unravel before our eyes. It’s becoming all too frequent, though, that right before big titles hit that news is peppered with less welcome disclosures. Whether it’s something as simple as day-one patches or as tragic as studios closing, we’ve almost got to start expecting bombshells.

It doesn’t make it any easier, though, when one like this hits and catches you off guard.

With Mass Effect 3′s release on March 6, we’ve just gotten shocking news that BioWare’s word-weaving wizard and fiction father, Drew Karpyshyn, has retired not only from the award-winning RPG house, but also from the video game industry as a whole. Karpyshyn’s lovingly crafted narratives brought us the rich experiences we enjoyed in the Baldur’s Gate series, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, the stunning and unique Jade Empire and, of course, Mass Effect.

Mid-way through the production of Mass Effect 2, Karpyshyn handed over total responsibility for the storycraft to co-lead Mac Walters (who is also the lead writer on Mass Effect 3), to begin work on Star Wars: The Old Republic. In a statement on his personal website, Karpyshyn discussed the reasons for his departure, his future plans and his love of BioWare.

During my time at BioWare I worked on a number of beloved and award winning titles. I’m proud of everything we accomplished, and I know going forward that BioWare will continue to live up to its well deserved reputation for making the best story driven games in the industry. The story and dialog in any BioWare game is the result of an entire team of writers working together, and I often felt I received an excessive amount of the credit for the games we created. The Dragon Age games and the continued success of the Mass Effect series after my departure make it pretty clear that BioWare can get along just fine without me, and I’m looking forward to experiencing the games as a fan rather than from the other side of the fence.

This isn’t the last you’ve heard of Drew Karpyshyn, whose parting from BioWare was “completely amicable, and 100% my decision.” He is continuing to work with the studio that propelled him into the public eye, writing the next Star Wars: The Old Republic novel. The author will also be continuing work on his own book, Children of Fire, which is set in a completely new fantasy world. Given his knack for creating vibrant worlds with rich backstory, you can sign me up for a pre-order.

Let us know which of Drew’s games is your favorite and why. There are so many great ones to choose from.