"Because of Dragon Age 2, Dragon Age: Inquisition is having to be a lot more ambitious," says executive producer Mark Darrah in our huge Dragon Age: Inquisition interview. Dragon Age 2's narrower scale and 10-year narrative arc proved controversial. Darrah says Bioware are keen "to address those concerns" with "tactical combat and a higher level of deliberate difficulty" as well as a more focused central narrative that's "much more in the vein of Dragon Age: Origins style storytelling."
Dragon Age 2
Dragon Age: Inquisition interview - on fan feedback, romance, returning characters and the open world
The Dragon Age series has evolved in a tumultuous fashion since Origins. The switch from the world-threatening crisis of the first game to the personal stories of Dragon Age 2 proved too great a shift for some fans. Inquisition will again take the series to a grander stage. An open world with dynamic keep battles will bolster the central story, which sees inquisition—led by you—recruiting aid aid to postpone an imminent apocalypse.
How else will Inquisition differ from its predecessors? What have Bioware learned from fans of the series? How will they correct the awkward savegame bugs that could bring characters back to life, and how have they chosen your companions for the new adventure? Chris spoke to executive producer, Mark Darrah, to find out.
Save files are a fickle thing. Sometimes they’re exactly where you need them to be, but more often than not, they’re lost. Gone. Listlessly floating in the ether of your hard drive while caught between various planes of existence. BioWare has realized saves are lost more often than remote controls, and has created the Dragon Age Keep to make your past Dragon Age saves irrelevant.
Greg Zeschuk, the co-founder of BioWare who left the games industry earlier this year along with long-time partner in crime, Ray Muzyka, has some interesting things to say about working with EA. In a recent interview with GamesIndustry International, the RPG magnate-turned-Internet beer celebrity downplayed the idea that EA was pulling the strings after the buyout—even going so far as to say that he and Muzyka had "a lot of influence at high levels within EA."
Dragon Age Senior Writer David Gaider gave a talk at GDC yesterday titled "Sex in Video Games." It wasn't about "boobies and penises," as Gaider jokingly put it, but about how sex and gender are portrayed in games, and why the industry should take responsibility for the messages it sends. His conclusion is that the industry, at the very least, needs to stop actively repelling women and minorities, and is responsible for setting a tone which condones sexism.
Everyone expects the Dragon Age 3: Inquisition, mostly because it's already been announced and therefore doubting it would be very silly. We know it'll be based on the Frostbite 2 engine, and thus has no excuse not to offer a rather bigger, more attractive world than Dragon Age 2's deserted city of chains. Everything else though, from story to design, is still under wraps. That's not going to stop us making a few wishes though, so here are some of the things we want to see...
David Gaider, Senior Writer at BioWare and a major creative force behind the Dragon Age franchise, recently posted a frank essay on romance sub-plots in RPGs on his blog. The manifesto, spotted by Eurogamer, explores the issues romanceable party members present, and explains why he doesn't advocate too much openness when it comes to who can get with whom.
In interviews I've found that some designers are a little reluctant to talk about the nitty gritty of their day to day work, perhaps because from their perspective talking about meetings and workflow doesn't seem interesting. The actual block-by-block process of putting a big game together often goes undiscussed, and the hard work that goes into making games passes unseen.
All of which makes David Gaider's account of writing on a big project at Bioware especially interesting. He details the entire process in a series of articles on his blog, communicating the ups and downs of life in the "Writer's Pit," as they call it. It's illuminating, full of advice and offers neat insights into the sort of arguments and exchanges that ring through the corridors of Bioware Edmonton as the production cycle picks up.
Being a writer for a studio that invests heavily in story must be something of a Sword of +2 Edges. Sure, there's the knowledge that their work has an important role in a player's experience. The downside is that, if those players are unhappy with an element of that story, the writer becomes a far more visible figure for criticism. That's a situation that Bioware are familiar with.
When asked about the tone of the Bioware Social Network, Dragon Age lead writer David Gaider gave an interesting and detailed rundown on the effect that angry feedback has, admitting that he largely avoids the studio's community forum.
There are many great things about the Dragon Age games, but simplicity of purchasing options has never been one of them. In the run up to both games' release, it appeared as if you could receive a different in-game pre-order bonus depending on where you bought it from, the time of purchase, or whether you chose an even or odd day of the month to place your order. I think there was even a special helmet made just for people who had drunk exactly 13,964 cups of coffee in their lifetime.
Bioware are finally collecting Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II's many disparate items together, and will give all of them to you, for free, if you go to this promo page and log-in with your EA Origin account details.
This painting by artist Andrew Ryan (not that one) re-imagines the cast of Mass Effect as a band of warriors, mages, knights and archers from Dragon Age. The Normandy is a high dragon ridden by Joker, Garrus is an awesome crossbow-wielding knight, Jack's a blood mage elf, EDI is a golem. It works quite brilliantly.
Kotaku received word from the artist that the work was finally complete. Each character was designed separately before being combined in the final diorama. According to his Deviant Art page, Ryan is a recent graduate of the Manhattan School of Visual Arts and is "always looking for new and exciting art opportunities, primarily related to concept art/books illustration/ or card game art." Read on for more close ups of the individual characters. Which one is your favourite?
Bioware have been talking about Dragon Age 3: Inquisition at the Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo over the weekend, as spotted by Kotaku and live tweeted by Dragon Age 3 producer Cameron Lee. The panellists revealed that we will definitely play as a human in Inquisition. "Backgrounds will be in DA3 even though you will be human," Lee tweets, "it's not playable but it does significant impact on the story."
Creative director Mike Laidlaw also suggested that we'll get our own castle, shown in the concept art above. Two other pieces of concept art were put up, showing an open plain and some overgrown ruins. Cinematic designer Jon Perry said that "one level in Dragon Age 3 is as big as all of the levels in Dragon Age 2." Check out the concept art below for an idea of how those environments are shaping up.
Dragon Age 3 has been officially announced in an open letter on the Dragon Age website, spotted by Eurogamer. It's been quite obvious that Dragon Age 3 has been in the works for the past year or so, because Bioware themselves have been talking about it for ages. According to executive producer Mark Darrah Dragon Age 3 has been in development for two years "with the bulk of our efforts ramping up about 18 months ago."
This week Chris, Rich and Tom Senior gather to discuss Dota 2, Dragon Age 2, Spec Ops: The Line, The Walking Dead games, Killing Floor, Endless Space and more, including the Steam charts and your questions from Twitter.
Bioware used a PAX East panel a few days ago to talk about their plans for the next Dragon Age, which still isn't technically announced, even though Bioware have been dropping hints about it on and off since May last year. During the panel, hosted on Gamespot, Dragon Age lead designer, Mike Laidlaw managed to navigate this strange realm of marketing doublethink to talk about the team's plans for the sequel without ever actually saying the words "Dragon Age 3."
The talk centred around three bits of fan feedback, all of which Bioware are planning to address. The main requests from players were as follows: "Stop reusing levels. Decisions that matter. Equipment for followers."
"Boy, those three came up," said Laidlaw. "Those three came up quite a bit."
Bioware points are going super cheap on one particular screen in the Bioware store. If you access the "add points" page through the Mass Effect 2 DLC section of the site, there's an option to buy up 1200 points for £4.33. Buy three lots of this and you'll have enough points to buy every single DLC episode, weapon pack and alternative skin pack available for Mass Effect 2. You'll be able to use these points to buy DLC for the Dragon Age games, too.
Those "industry insiders," what don't they know? One of them has slipped a few details to Kotaku about a possible multiplayer component for Dragon Age, saying that it's being built in Battlefield 3's Frostbite 2 engine and already looks stunning. It's not known whether it's planned as part of Dragon Age 3, or whether it'll be a separate standalone release, but apparently it'll let us play as a dragon.
Dragon Age 2: Mark of the Assassin, is out, and it brings with it this acrobatic launch trailer. Mark of the Assassin is the second piece of DLC for Dragon Age 2, and stars actress Felicia Day as Tallis, an elven assassin, who is seen here leaping, stabbing and... kissing Hawke? It certainly appears so, although the trailer cuts away before we see any smooching.
There's also some more shots of those wyvern riding conquistadors Tom S was so impressed by. You can get Mark of the Assassin from the Bioware website for 800 Bioware points, or £6.19 in sensible money.
Machinima have the trailer for the upcoming Dragon Age web TV series, Dragon Age: Redemption. Star of The Guild, Felicia Day plays the same elf rogue that she voices in the upcoming Dragon Age 2: Mark of the Assassin DLC. It's one of those teasers that varies violently between intriguing and naff. The huge, dark city of Kirkwall looks great, the spurts of CG blood, not so great. Co-ordinated cartwheeling, also not so great. Evil Qunari wizard costume, very not great. Perhaps the six part web series can surprise us when it kicks off on October 11.
The Mark of the Assassin DLC looks a lot more interesting, as it features huge scaly monsters, and involves pulling off a high fantasy heist to acquire a mysterious crystal from a fortress of Orlesian Chevaliers. That's also out next Tuesday. See the latest Mark of the Assassin screenshots for a glimpse of one of those massive monsters. It'll be interesting to see if the web series storyline will interweave with the events of Mark of the Assassin.
Whatever you liked or disliked about Dragon Age 2, it's painfully obvious that there weren't enough Conquistadors riding Wyverns. That is a problem that the next slice of DLC, Mark of the Assassin, hopes to correct. See the monster below, along with two other screenshots showing Hawke dramatically throwing a knife into a man's chest from easy stabbing distance, and a dim fortress exterior.
In Mark of the Assassin, you team up with a feisty elf played by Felicia Day, and must hunt down a mysterious gem housed within that dim fortress, which happens to be protected by Orlesian Chevliers, some of which seem to be riding monsters. See the Dragon Age 2: Mark of the Assassin trailer for an overview. It's due out next Tuesday October 11.