BioWare’s Gaider On Dragon Age II’s Flaws, Dragon Age III

By Nathan Grayson on March 29th, 2013 at 2:30 pm.

I actually don’t think Dragon Age II was all that terrible. Or rather, I fully understand that elements of it were very, very bad (it had more caves than Ron Gilbert’s The Cave, for instance; and not on purpose), but others were incredibly fascinating. Party members lived their own lives, themes like racism and security-vs-freedom got the spotlight, and your choices really, really didn’t matter all that much. Was it a game whose budgetary and time constraints hung about its neck like a noose, leaving only gasping wisps of potential? Absolutely. But those limits also shaped it, so it was interesting to see a less powerful BioWare craft a narrative about, well, powerlessness. After discussing the baffling impracticality of sexism, Dragon Age lead writer David Gaider and I talked about the ups and downs of Dragon Age II and how they’ve ultimately guided Dragon Age III to a very different place.

RPS: You’ve been writing at BioWare for a very long time.

Gaider: 14 years. I think that’s a long time.

RPS: BioWare has its thing that it does with most of its games. Big, epic adventures. A number of different archetypes show up in different games. For instance, HK-47 and Shale were quite similar. After doing that for so long, are you worried about your writing becoming stale?

The worst thing is to ignore feedback and work entirely in a vacuum.

Gaider: Ah. Occasionally you’ll start writing something and you’ll realize that you’re feeling déjà vu. “I’ve written this before.” That’s happened sometimes, especially if you’re hanging around in the same genre like I’ve been. Different genres rest on certain themes that are going to come up again and again. But if you recognize that’s happening you can do something about it, if it’s something that’s worth having something done about it. I know that in our forums, every now and again someone will come and say, “You have these archetypes that come up again and again.”

Well, there’s nothing wrong with archetypes. As long as those characters are doing something different, the fact that you can find some similarities between them is unimportant. As long as there is a difference. As a writer, I can recognize that. The bad thing would be to unwittingly repeat yourself and have someone point it out to you afterwards and you say, “Oh. I wasn’t aware of that.” You should be aware of it.

RPS: You mentioned the forums. BioWare is a company that seems very tuned in to what people are saying about their games – even if you don’t always manage to please everyone.

Gaider: Yeah, it factors not as much as some people would think, but more than some others would think. If you aren’t getting feedback from somewhere like a game forum, then where are you getting it from? The worst thing is to just ignore it utterly and work entirely in a vacuum. Even with the input from the fans, the feedback from the fans, at some level you have to make what you think is right. With something like the forums, their opinions are all over the place. Often when a fan will speak on a forum they speak as if everybody on the forums agrees about their concern and they all think exactly the same thing. I’ve never found that to be true.

Ultimately, if you’re doing something that you think is right, at least you know one person thinks it’s right. The worst thing to do would be to act entirely based on what you think the fans want, even if you don’t agree with it personally. Chances are you’re not going to please anyone that way. We do try to keep abreast. We have to mentally compartmentalize and put that aside. “We’ve heard what they said…” It’s like they’re a voice at the table. They say, “This is what we want.” We say, “Okay, we’ll take that under consideration. We’ll talk about it.”

RPS: It’s an interesting time to be doing that, especially with Dragon Age III. You’ve directly solicited feedback. You’ve said, “What are you looking for out of the next Dragon Age game?” That’s happening at a time where Kickstarter is emerging as this big thing. It’s create much more directly collaborative development, because people are putting their money into it. Developers are saying, “You have a stake in this now. What do you want? We’ll actually do what you say.”

Gaider: The Kickstarter market is definitely more niche-oriented. The niche isn’t a bad thing. It’s a segment of the audience that is intensely interested in this particular thing. They don’t have to worry about going broad and having mass appeal. They don’t need it. They’re doing smaller teams, smaller budgets. That’s something that they can do that’s very strong. That’s a strength that they can really work from.

RPS: What I was wondering, though, is because there’s a trend in that direction, are you worried that fans might get especially outraged when, inevitably, you don’t include all their requests in Dragon Age III?

Gaider: It could happen. Our fans, like I mentioned before, don’t agree on any one thing. You have some fans that are intensely interested in having one thing happen and a big group that are invested in having another thing happen. There’s no way we could possibly make everybody happy.

If somebody, in the long term, is finding that we’re not making games that make them happy, then it’s a good thing that there are things like Kickstarter out there that are servicing different elements of the fanbase. Not that we would want to drive people away by any means, but that’s why we’re soliciting some feedback and why we’re probably going to be doing more of that as we go forward. I guess you could say that the fanbase is a little polarized on some issues. It’s not that we’re trying to say, “We’ll please everybody,” but we’ll listen to their concerns and try to make the best game we can and see if we can’t bring some elements of those disparate parts of the fanbase a little closer together. That’d be a nice thing to try. Although, like I said, you can only go so far.

RPS: It’s an interesting spot to find yourself in, definitely.

Gaider: Interesting in the Confucian sense, yes [laughs].

RPS: A lot of people, when they look at what you’re doing now, still expect it to be in the exact same place as what BioWare was doing back in the late ‘90s. Whereas what you’re making now is clearly for an audience that’s much bigger. A lot more people are playing these sorts of games.

Gaider: We have much bigger budgets, so we have to have a bigger audience.

RPS: Straddling that line between wider audiences and RPG diehards, where does your focus end up? As a writer, what gets top priority?

Gaider: The main concern over the story is that we have to balance the interests of long-time fans in the story. We’re talking about people who have played Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II coming into Dragon Age III, but we also have to keep in mind people who are coming to Dragon Age III fresh, who have no previous experience. That’s the biggest thing we have to concern ourselves with.

When the team looks at the concerns of various groups, they’re keeping in mind the biggest concerns and trying to address them as much as possible. We can’t possibly address everything. Even the things we do address, eventually we’re going to have to say, “What is our primary goal here? Is it to, say, solicit the long-time fan who maybe wasn’t happy with Dragon Age II? Or are there things we can do with that feature that could mollify them and make them feel like they aren’t being excluded from continuing? So they don’t feel like we’ve abandoned them.” There are things we can do. Once we start showing Dragon Age III, people will be able to see what we’ve been playing with – some new ideas we’re bringing to the table, some old ideas we’re bringing back. They can judge for themselves.

RPS: You’ve done a lot of BioWare-type adventures and stuff like that. Has there ever been a point where you’ve said, “Okay, I want to do something that’s not a hero’s journey, that’s not that sort of progression and build-up”? On some level, was Dragon Age II – with its narrower focus and less earthshaking choices – that game?

Gaider: It was something to try. We did mix up the formula on purpose. That was one of the parameters that I was given by Mike Laidlaw. He wanted to do something a bit different with the framing narrative and the time jump. The problem we ended up with is that some of our ideas we had were just bigger than the time we had and the content we needed to support those ideas.

Would we do that again? Possibly. I think we’d want to be more careful the next time we tried to go that far outside the box. “What do we actually have time to support?” Even so, I think we did a pretty good job. We had a lot of positive response to varying up the whole… The typical hero’s journey where you start off with humble beginnings, become a hero, save the day, save the world. I think it was good to do something different. We had a story that was about failure as much as it was about epic success.

RPS: I was going to say, for Hawke things just kind of sucked all the time.

Gaider: [laughs] Yeah, it certainly was different. I think DAII was ultimately a little more linear than DAO just by virtue of its construction, but I don’t think that the nature of the storytelling we tried inherently limited that. That was more related to how much time we had on the project. The less time you have, the fewer alternate paths you can put in. But I think if we were to try that again, we could approach it from a more holistic standpoint, looking at what each variant, each story element we haven’t tried before. How much is that actually going to require from us? Is that a check we’re willing to cash? I think that would be interesting. I would hate for us to look at what we did in DAII and think, “Some parts of that worked really well. Some parts of that didn’t. Everything that didn’t, we’re not going to do anymore.” I think that would be the wrong path to take.

RPS: I think I enjoyed it more than a lot of people. I found the story fascinating, even though choices felt very limited. It was almost a narrative about powerlessness. The fact that you were a guy or girl tossed into these terrible circumstances and you just had to react and deal with it. It wasn’t so much about Shepard-style heroics. It was kind of an un-epic.

Gaider: It wasn’t shaping the course of the world.

RPS: Yeah, you were just sort of surviving. Is that what you were intending with that story?

Gaider: Yeah. The themes that were going on in Dragon Age II weren’t about heroism, necessarily. That wasn’t a theme. It was about freedom versus security, which I thought was a good, timely issue. How much freedom do you let people have versus how much security is necessary for people? Like the mages versus templars. That had more application than just that, that struggle between the need to have a secure society versus the struggle for individual freedom.

We had family as a big issue we wanted to focus on. That came up a lot in the game. Maybe we had too many themes going on? I guess it’s arguable. Every time we finish a story, there’s always things we look back on. “Would we have done that differently knowing what we know now?” It was the same after DAO, as successful as DAO was. There were some things that ended up happening in that game that just… We went in a direction of habit as much as we did out of a conscious decision to write the story in that way. So I think that thinking about the methods and elements more should help us in the long run.

RPS: That was another thing that took a lot of people by surprise about Dragon Age II. A lot of the themes were pretty relevant. I think that’s more the purview of sci-fi in a lot of cases: “Let’s take these themes that are present today and abstract them into the future.”

The themes that were going on in Dragon Age II weren’t about heroism.

Gaider: I actually don’t like that. People put fantasy as a genre into a much smaller box than something like science fiction. I don’t think that necessarily needs to be the case. I think there just hasn’t been a lot of fantasy that’s been done that way. The sort of fantasy you get tends to follow the same sort of “epic ancient evil threatens the world” thing almost out of habit. I don’t think that fantasy needs to be inherently limiting in the types of themes it addresses. I’d like to see us vary it up.

The mistake a lot of people make, and we see this a lot, is that they always assume that the last thing we did will be the next thing we do. Which is never the case. We always look at something we did the last time and want to try something new. The chance that, from one game to the next, we would do exactly the same type of story… It just doesn’t happen.

RPS: Even so, are you going to elaborate on any of Dragon Age II’s themes in Dragon Age III?

Gaider: We have some balls that are up in the air. We can’t just let those go. Those are things we need to deal with that we left up in the air after the end of DAII. We can’t just move on to something completely new. We can’t just jump across the continent and suddenly we’re dealing with something else entirely. There are things we have to address. But we probably will move on to new overall themes. We will try different narrative elements.

RPS: Thank you for your time.

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189 Comments »

  1. RandomEsa says:

    Free piece of advise.

    Don’t rush it out like you obviously did with DA 2. If you’re going to do more realistic themes with DA 3 I suggest you find the person who wrote anything related to the Arishok, give him a raise and let him do his/hers thing. Not only was Arishok and act 2 the best part of the game it was almost only good thing about the game. Also not every mage needs to be a abomination or every templar a prick.

    Dragon age 2 was not only one of the most disappointing games I’ve ever played it was also one of the worst considering where it came from.

    • Ateius says:

      “Also not every mage needs to be a abomination or every templar a prick.”

      Yeah, ‘Security vs. Freedom’ isn’t a very well-explored topic when your two representative sides are ‘Demon-possessed horrormonsters’ and ‘literally Nazis’.

      Honestly, I found the mage/templar dynamic much better portrayed in DA:O and the Circle, where you have some actual uncorrupted mages trying to safely preserve their ability and some actual well-meaning templars trying to ensure the preservation of humanity, in addition to the hardliners. I actually had to think about my choice in that storyline.

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        Dolphan says:

        Anders? Bethany? Cullen? Thrask?

        • RandomEsa says:

          (spoilers)

          Anders was a horrible character and badly written. Not only was he an abomination but he also proved Meredith completely right about the mages by blowing up the chantry ( cough 9/11 cough). Also if you don’t help him by taking him to the chantry to plant the bomb he will still blow it up.

          Bethany was pretty much only mage who was reasonable a long with hawke and stayed that way through the game.

          Both Cullen and Thrask were great but Thrask really had a shitty ending for him.

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            strangeloup says:

            At least in DA2, compared to Awakening, Anders’ voice actor — I think it was a different guy — was far less irritating, though that could also be a component of the writing. Seriously, in Awakening I wanted to punch him every time he spoke, even more than Alistair for christ’s sake.

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            Lambchops says:

            (continued spoilers)

            I kind of liked what they tried to do with Anders doing his own thing regardless of your input. His character arc made sense and his brand of extremism foreshadowed well enough, perhaps a little clumsily, you could see it coming a mile off and it’s that fact combined with the inability to at least try and put a stop to it that lessened the effectiveness of that part of the ending. The real shitty part of the ending was Orsino (or whatever the head mage was called again) having a complete character change purely so their could be a rubbish boss fight. It made no sense in the slightest and was a crap bit of writing and gameplay.

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            soulblur says:

            @ lambchops: so true! That stuff with Orsino was awful. I didn’t mind that Anders (and to a lesser degree Merrick) were getting up to their own stuff. What I did mind was that Hawke seemed totally incapable of stopping anything. Well, there are many, many things I mind, but that was one of them. The recycled landscapes. The bait and switch of who would lead the city (just my imagination, or was their massive foreshadowing that you would take over the city). I much prefered the first game, especially Awakening – one of my favourite games ever (certainly top 3 favourite expansion).

          • GeneralTso92 says:

            Son of a bitch. Wish i would’ve known you can’t stop Anders before i got half-way through a second play-through.

      • Rinu says:

        I hope DA3 will return to Circle Tower again.

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    • jintianyuren says:

      I’d say there are far worse games that I’ve played, as well as far better. If you value characters to the point that you’ll forgive weak gameplay, then DA2 is worth a look. If not, then you can probably pass on it.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSXyztq_0uM

  2. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    I actually liked DA2 more than DAO because a) I liked the characters far more, b) Hawke as another character rather than a bland player avatar (like Shepherd in ME) worked far, far better than I would ever have guessed, and c) despite point b, my Hawke was more like me than any other character I’ve ever encountered in a game, which is…I dunno what to say about that, actually, but I enjoyed it.

    What the interview–perhaps charitably–ignores is the mechanical changes to the game from Origins. At the rare occasions when the game actually had a pre-set encounter (and I can think of only one) it was just as good as the original. However, the repeated maps and the waves of enemies really hurt the game, and only the characters made me enjoy the game. Like I said, I liked the experience more than DAO, but I cannot and will not claim it is the better gameplay experience.

    Also, I wanted to chime in yesterday but didn’t get the opportunity, so here: I thought Isabella was a satire of sexualized female NPCs. Maybe I didn’t get to know her well enough (she left my party at the end of Act II), but I thought her general behavior was repulsive and unlikeable. She was a slutty, thieving drunk who apparently battled constantly with STDs! What was there to like about her? Having said that, I’m a gay man, so maybe there’s some element to her that I didn’t pick up on that would have made her seem like fan service.

    • Delixe says:

      Isabella is a strange character because you are right she is all the things you think she is. However Hawke has to really push the boat out to become friends with her and if you do that you find there is a surprising amount of depth to her. Most players will never see that side of Isabella which is a shame but it also shows the effort they put into her character. If Isabella is a satire of anything it’s the trope of characters joining the players party for no real good reason other than it’s the right thing to do. Isabella will turn on you because it’s in her interest to do so unless you give her a good reason to trust you. A similar thing happens with Zevran in Dragon Age: Origins.

      • Rinu says:

        I agree with Skeletions about Hawke. While I couldn’t care less what happened to my Warden after DA:O, I grew fond of Hawke. She had a personality I found likeable.

        Isabela is the companion I remember the most from DA universe. In the beginning, she felt really sleazy. Yes, she enjoys herself a lot however the beauty is to discover what else she can offer. It’s not the usual play on a woman who is flirty until she finds the protagonist and realizes that her only latent life goal is to find one true love. So despite her scantily clad appearance, she is multi-layered. It just isn’t thrown into your face. One of best things DA-verse can offer, in my opinion.

        • Merlkir says:

          Isabella (very clearly) wasn’t black. Get your eyesight checked.

    • Skull says:

      Wow, it is surprising how much I agree with you Skeletons. I also got more enjoyment out of the second (although both are fantastic games and I can’t really fault the original or ignore the accusations at DA2) mainly because of the characters. Some of the best Bioware had written and I even found myself warming to the stupid looking emo guy who whines about everything, I was very surprised. Also didn’t find the repeating dungeons too bad as it only took 5 mins to transverse through whilst the original game had hours long of content set in the same cave (fuck that dwarf city and mages tower).

      But yeah, that pirate woman was a disaster of a character. I couldn’t tell if she had been put in as a joke for people to laugh at “the black character”. When I realised we were meant to take her seriously, I got seriously put off. I found it far better when I got to rid her of my party and in a most satisfactory way.

    • Fluka says:

      She was a slutty, thieving drunk who apparently battled constantly with STDs! What was there to NOT like about her? One’s mileage may vary and all that, but I liked the fact that she had a distinct personality and a life separate from my Ladyhawke, her drinking buddy. As others said yesterday, I think the key to her character is her conversations with Avaline regarding femininity, duty, confidence, etc. I actually like her a lot more than Morrigan in DA:O, for instance, a character who feels a lot more like bland, sexualized fanservice to me.

      Agreed otherwise on DA2. Origins is by far the more polished game in terms of environments and gameplay. But DA2 felt a lot more interesting to me. The characters, the use of a non-Hero’s Journey plot, the voiced main character who is more than a horrible staring automaton. I’ve only played either game once, but if I replay one before Dragon Age 3, it’ll be DA2. It may be a “failure,” but it’s a failure with a ton of personality.

    • HamsterExAstris says:

      As a writer, an interview with David Gaider isn’t the best place to bring up game mechanics like that. It’s not his department.

      • Phantoon says:

        I wanted answers on the terrible, hamfisted at best, writing.

        “Your village has burned down, everyone you knew besides your immediately family is dead, and your sibling is about to turn unless you kill them”

        “I WANT A SANDWICH LOL1!!”

        What the fuck. Shame on Nathan for not taking him to task for this incredibly bad writing WHEN DRAGON AGE 1 DID THE INTRO SO WELL.

        In fact, he didn’t take him to task for ANYTHING! Not the poorly handled ME3 ending, not the progression (or regression) of relationships in their games since Jade Empire, nothing.

    • rebochan says:

      I don’t get why people claim Hawke is this amazing, well-written character. Hawke has got to be one of the most boring leads I’ve ever had the displeasure of playing in a video game. It’s like they just threw out the only really interesting feature of Dragon Age: Origins (creating a custom character and having that actually affect the game!) in favor of ripping off Mass Effect, but they didn’t actually get why Shepard works and Hawke doesn’t.

      Hawke has no discernable personality. S/he has a backstory. Great. So what? There’s no definable direction to what kind of person s/he is aside from “Idiot, Cheeky Asshole, and Violent Asshole.” Shepard was a character that managed to straddle the line between lead character and player cipher effectively. With Hawke, I felt like I was playing the worst of both worlds – s/he’s too underwritten by the storyline to affect me as a character, and too defined by the story to let me just roleplay him/her.

      Just because it’s LIKE Shepard doesn’t make it as GOOD as Shepard. A lot of DA:II felt like they decided to mainstream the series to mimic Mass Effect, but with absolutely no grasp of what made that franchise work. When they kept comparing their games to Call of Duty, I knew it was gonna suck, but I gave BioWare a chance to prove me wrong. After DA:II, I am not making this mistake again and seeing the same mistakes and failures of game design being paraded as “strengths” by the dev team ensures I will simply be lamenting that BioWare opened a franchise on a great game, then flushed it down the toilet.

      …oh, and I’m really tired of them creating these lush interesting worlds full of multiple races and cultures and histories, then slapping me into the body of a boring human with a cliche’d backstory. That was the whole reason Dragon Age Origin appealed to me. I don’t see why they couldn’t have put actual effort into building out that system of custom characters, because I suspect then they’d have had a GOOD sequel instead of a sequel that massively undersold expectations. But…that’s the EA grinder I suppose.

      • 11temporal says:

        Hawke was a bland and annoying, complete opposite of the awesome character I managed to create in DA1. Plus his family was insufferable.

      • InternetBatman says:

        Absolutely this.

    • ocelot113 says:

      The voice acting of the main character ruined it all for me. I hated that when I responded like a good guy I came across like a catholic priest, and when I said something stern I said it as a complete barbaric prick. If you did not stick with all “good” or all “bad” it made your character seem like he had multiple personality disorder.

      They needed a better system for voice dialog. At least having a confident and subservient version of each so that you could at least keep with the same tone. Made no V/O a much better experience in DA:O for me.

      Plus most of the characters in DA2 were, less than impressive. Personally, I know I’m at odds with most people but, Fenris and Anders at least had interesting stories, Merrill though sometimes annoying was charming, and Varric had a, less boyish but, similar humor to Alistair from DA:O.

      Isabella and Aveline could have drown for all I cared.

      Sebastian mgh.. and you never really had time to get to know Carver or Bethany.. plus… well… they ruined that relationship WAY too fast and way too impersonal.. same with the mother. They just were like.. welp.. that’s it.. no time to see the main character react. There was no satisfaction in those parts of the plot. Ticked me right off. Actually stopped playing the game, for about 3 months, after the mother.

      Not allowing the character to react to situations in games like this is a dick move.

      That was a perfect moment to make a defining choice. The Anakin Skywalker vs Luke Skywalker kind. But… nothing.

    • Moraven says:

      To be fair, we are talking to a writer, not a game designer.

    • 11temporal says:

      I am straight and I found Isabella really, really irritating. That said Hawke was also shit, and having to play a character I didn’t like was a major downer. Seriously the only toon I found likable in DA2 was the dwarf and even he wasn’t memorable enough for me to recall his name now.

      In comparison I cared about DA1 characters much more, and especially about my blood mage avatar which turned to be particularly awesome.

  3. SupahSpankeh says:

    Signed up specifically for this.

    You didn’t seem to challenge him much on the notable flaws of DAII, which I personally consider to be:

    1) Copy-pasted environments, booooring.
    2) Pointless button mashing, I have a PC to play PC games, the Godragon of Warage hybrid was cheap and annoying
    3) Tactical depth of a puddle

    So, uh… yeah. Not the level of gonzo, balls to the wall reporting I’ve come to expect from RPS since I started lurking here.

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      Lambchops says:

      I did think this for a bit, but he is a writer so isn’t personally responsible for Dragon Age II’s most egregious flaws (well apart from the ending). Would have been interesting to hear what he thought about the flaws in the gameplay but I imagine he wouldn’t be particularly willing to slag off his colleagues.

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        Him being a writer is no excuse, because it’s always him who Bioware trots out to do interviews. If they did more interviews with the people responsible for the piss poor game design, they could cop the flak. But since Gaider is by far the strongest public voice of the company on these games, he’s just gonna have to take it.

    • Staf says:

      A lot of the criticism of DA2 comes from the re-usage of maps and lackluster story. I hope they just don’t think that was the problem with DA2. Because those issues don’t even make my top five of complaints of DA2.

      I’ve always played Bioware games for the roleplaying they allow me to do. Bioware is (or was) the only developer i trust(ed) enough to assume the role of DM. And with the dialogue system they had in DA2 roleplaying was just not possible for me. There may very well be people out there who finds it easier to roleplay with the dialogue system in DA2, and i am thrilled for them since Bioware are sticking with it, but for me it is just not possible.

      I need to know exactly what is coming out of the mouth of the character i am trying to roleplay prior to it being said. Because if i am going to choose a response based on paraphrasing of what the protagonist is going to say i can’t make an informed decision. Sure, i could decide what the protagonist is going to say from the icons:

      I agree with what the NPC is saying and i like him/her ——-> Diplomatic response
      I agree with what the NPC is saying but he/she deserves a mocking ——–> Sarcastic response
      I disagree with what the NPC is saying so i am going to be a jerk to him/her ——> Aggressive response

      But i don’t consider that roleplaying, i consider that rolepicking. Since Bioware seem to have grown to big to appeal to the niche-market that supported you when you still were a small developer i guess i have to take my money to kickstarter.

      P.S. Sorry was supposed to make this a new comment. Not a response to your comment.

      • cerpinandcygnus says:

        I think you basically said it with:
        “Since Bioware seem to have grown to big to appeal to the niche-market that supported you when you still were a small developer i guess i have to take my money to kickstarter.”

        In the article he pointed out that a bigger budget meant that they had to appeal to a larger audience to make the ROI and I think that a lot of the problems people had with the change from DAO to DA2 came from that (and the rush to throw it out there). The transition from a smaller budget niche game to a bigger budget mass market sequel is an incredibly hard road to travel without sacrificing the core fan base that developed from the initial game.

      • Fluka says:

        Dialogue-wise, wasn’t this a problem with Origins, too, however? You’d know precisely what you were going to say, word-wise, but with no indication regarding the tone. I’d say something which I figured was cut and dry diplomatic, only to have the NPC react by saying “Stop yelling at me, you jerk!” WIth the Friendship/Rivalry system, it was nice to be able to disagree with companions without them storming off in a huff.

        From other interviews, it sounds like they’ve redone the dialogue system once again, however, so who knows what we’re getting this time…

        • Staf says:

          I never had that problem with Origins. But i’ve heard this argument before and i always wondered why people assume that you, as a player, was the on misinterpreting the tone you used and not the NPC? If i pick a choice i consider a humorous line and the NPC does not respond at it as it as being humorous i just assume the NPC does not have a sense of humor. And this is something that happens in real-life conversations as well, for me anyhow.

          • Fluka says:

            I feel like the solution is to do something like Deus Ex: Human Revolution did. Give the tone and the paraphrase (like DA2), but show the full line of dialogue (like DA:O) in subtitle form if you hover the mouse over the choice.

        • limimi says:

          Actually, one of the things I liked the most about both DAO and DA2 was that when I wanted to say something my character’s tone generally matched what I wanted to convey – it was super refreshing to play a RPG where if you said ‘That is a fantastic idea and you are a brilliant person’ your character would be uttering it sarcastically instead of proclaiming it seriously.

          I was afraid to try that kind of thing at first though, because of years of rpgs trapped in universes where nobody has ever heard of sarcasm or irony.

      • tyren says:

        The dialogue wheel was much better done in the Mass Effect series, which I found strange considering ME1 came first. The “choice summaries” generally gave you a better idea of what you were going to say. There would still be an occasional “well THAT’S not what I meant to say” moment, but for me they were less frequent than in DA2.

        • Vorphalack says:

          The wheel also worked better in the ME series because a lot of the dialogue choices in DA2 were either ridiculous or redundant. ME more or less gave you choices between ethical, neutral and hardline, all in context with the particular story, whereas DA2 was more often than not a choice between superhero, pantomime villain and jackass.

    • str4 says:

      I can see why those topics weren’t broached, seeing as he is a writer for the game and not a designer or developer. Though, to agree with you, I loved the characters and story of DA2. The elements you mentioned were the exact things that made it a disappointment. The technical aspects, spawning enemies out of thin air, constantly re-used dungeons and things of that nature made it flawed. The story was the redeeming element that actually made the game worth playing, in my opinion.

    • Katar says:

      You missed out the camera being screwed up, though maybe that would fall under “Tactical depth of a puddle”. Couldn’t zoom out as far (which it turned out didn’t matter that much as if you moved your party members too far apart they would ignore any orders and run towards the character you were controlling), and trying to fight in a doorway was a total nightmare.

      Though thankfully we could look at the pretty new ceilings.

      • thrawn says:

        Right, I’d link this to the general lack of tactical depth. This and the waves of enemies spawning in impossible locations ruining any actual chance for the player to plan anything. I mean, some aspects were clearly designed differently (like the over-the-top button mashing aspects) and I can forgive that even though I don’t like it, but something as simple as pulling back a camera another 50% or so… that can’t be all that hard to implement.

        That being said, I didn’t really find the story or writing bad at all. Maybe not up to the standards of some other Bioware games, but better than most other games in general (wince the industry seems to have only recently figured out that good writing is something gamers actually like). I will say, however, that the camera and tactical depth could be argued to tie into the larger theme of “powerlessness,” but I don’t think that excuses it. Powerlessness-themed story, ok I can get that, even if I don’t prefer that in my games (heck, I have plenty of studies in powerlessness in my own life, I usually play games for cathartic release or empowerment fantasy :P). Powerlessness-themed controls: that’s just annoying and contrived… it doesn’t actually hold any narrative sway. I kind of doubt that that was ever the intent, though.

  4. Adeste Fideles says:

    Almost everything in this interview makes DA2 sound really good…then I remember that I played it. :(

    DA3 is firmly in my “wait for reviews” list along with anything else Bioware release.

    • Bhazor says:

      The way he’s talking you’d think Dragon Age was well written. It really really isn’t.

      • Phantoon says:

        The interview reminds me of how I felt when I played Dragon Age 2: Disappointed, a bit insulted, and disgusted.

    • Kdansky says:

      I still stand firmly by: Dragon Age 2 is better than Mass Effect 3.

      In both, your choices for small events have meaning. In both, your choices for big events matter nothing at all. Yet ME3′s theme is “you are the most important person ever and what you say is always solid gold” and DA2′s theme is “you are a minor character in a bigger story, even though you think you are more”. See which one manages to play to its strengths and which one just fails miserably?

      And while people bash DA2′s combat (the respawning enemies were atrocious), at least it wasn’t whack-a-mole, but had some depth to it sometimes.

      Things DA2 really fucked up: Repetitive environments. I can hardly believe that this bothers everyone so much when they play the same dungeon in WoW fifty bajillion times without complaining.

  5. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    The ideas may have been good, but it’s safe to say that a lot of the execution was flawed in DA2.

  6. Eddy9000 says:

    Okay, I’ve avoided DA2 because the repeated environments and wave attacks just sounded so awful, but is it worth playing? I loved DA1 and wouldn’t mind trotting through 2 as I’m so obviously going to play 3 (I know the stories aren’t consecutive). After actually quite enjoying Deus Ex 2 after putting it off for ages because of the fan reaction I’m wondering is DA2 a bad game, or just a dissapointing sequel?

    • RandomEsa says:

      It is both bad and disappointing. There are few good things going, but most of them just get shunned off later in the game or get a cop-out ending. It also had many of the same problems that FF13 had.

      It’s hard to talk about the good/bad parts without spoiling anything so if you find the game for few bucks I guess it’s worth it (or just pirate it).

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      It’s worth noting that the actual gameplay is basically unchanged. The addition of waves of enemies is uninteresting, tedious, and shifts the focus of mages (away from debuffs and more toward buffs) as well as making mages far more vulnerable than they were before, but the actual way in which the battles function is essentially unchanged.

      The repeated maps are frankly insulting, however. It’s not merely the repeated use of limited tilesets, its literal copy-pasting of levels! I can’t stress just how literal everyone is being when they say the game has about 10 levels total (excluding DLC).

      Past that, opinions are pretty divided about the writing. Bioware genuinely tried to do something different with how they told the story, but I don’t think anyone believes that they completely succeeded. Past that, I think the characters are extremely well-written and likeable, and they made it so I enjoyed the game more than Origins, despite the mechanical failings. A big part of people’s complaints is that Hawke is not really a bland PC avatar, but a character in his/her own right, though you can choose Heroic, Flippant, or Asshole varieties (and the game does a good job of giving him/her appropriate idle banter as well as calling him/her out on his/her attitude). If you don’t particularly like Hawke, then it’s kind of hard to ignore.

      I’d say there are far worse games that I’ve played, as well as far better. If you value characters to the point that you’ll forgive weak gameplay, then DA2 is worth a look. If not, then you can probably pass on it.

      • Brun says:

        shifts the focus of mages (away from debuffs and more toward buffs) as well as making mages far more vulnerable than they were before

        Yeah, WTF BioWare? Why did you get rid of Arcane Warrior? That was a great subclass for mages.

        • TormDK says:

          Arcane Warrior was shit, the only thing it had going for it was that you could build a regular brick wall.

          Lets play a mage where everything mage-like we won’t do in favour of keeping up buffs and wearing armour.

          Doesn’t work out as well as the description might suggest. BioWare was 110% right in tossing out the Arcane Warrior sub-class.

          • Brun says:

            I thought it worked great. I tend to have a thing for battle-magey classes, and Arcane Warrior was a perfectly viable alternative to hauling a traditional warrior around with you all the time.

            Lets play a mage where everything mage-like we won’t do in favour of keeping up buffs and wearing armour.

            “Mage” in the Dragon Age universe (and in many other fantasy universes) just means someone who uses magic. It’s a very general term – it carries no connotation of how that person uses magic or fights.

            To me it works because it’s different, but still fills roles in the party – your mage can now be an excellent tank or a decent melee DPS when dual wielding. Think about it – if magic were a thing, don’t you think people would find more diverse ways to apply it tactically than “stand in the back wearing a dress and shooting fire out of a staff”? Arcane Warrior was a good thing because it diversified the monotonous, cliched view of the mage as a cloth-wearing weakling. That’s hardly unique to Dragon Age, I know, but it spiced up the otherwise run-of-the-mill class system in DAO.

      • malkav11 says:

        There are some pretty major changes to the mechanics and significant downgrades to enemy variety and complexity that mean that while the battles are still similar in the sense that they are real-time-with-pause party based affairs with the same three core classes, they don’t actually play very similarly and they have far less depth and tactical challenge. Compounded by the reuse of maps and the wave-based encounters.

    • derbefrier says:

      I have never played it but everyone I know (outside the internet of course) enjoyed it. The game isnt without its obvious flaws but if you can put those aside and enjoy the game for what it is instead of what you expected it to be it seems its not to bad as long as you approach it with an open mind. I guess what i am trying to say is the game isn’t as universally hated as the comment section might have you think.

    • RogerMellie says:

      I would say ‘no’ but enough people seem to like it so wait until it’s $5 again would be the advice. As with other people, I got fed up of waves, viewing angles, copy and pasted environments and every response being one of 1) tree hugger, 2) sarcastic or 3) misanthrope. Yes, I exaggerate slightly.

    • Yosharian says:

      Don’t bother unless you’re really desperate for an RPG to fill your time. It’s really quite forgettable.

    • Jimbo says:

      I actually played through it twice, more out of curiousity than enjoyment. It’s a game of ‘almost, but not quite’ in every sense.

      Some of the characters are interesting but they aren’t used in interesting ways. The basic combat mechanics are good but most of the combat encounters are terrible and repetitive. The tension between mages and templars builds nicely, but is ultimately brought to a conclusion by a plot device so ridiculous that it makes the end of ME3 look good. The environments… well the environments aren’t even almost good.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I moderate enjoyed DX: IW and Thief 3. I enjoyed Neverwinter Nights 2 and Kotor 2. I don’t think sequels are automatically bad.

      But Dragon Age II is not a good game. It is a movie with filler, and the movie is tired trope. If you liked Shepard as a character, you might like Hawke. I thought he was an idiot action hero. The combat is just boring. They ripped out all the specialization of Dragon Age, an replaced it with half of the same moves plus a bunch of passive bonuses. Fights are too long, even on easy.

      The characters aren’t very reactive, and most of them are threadbare stereotypes. Do you like Mary Sues written by Whedon fans (and I like Whedon, but his fans are terrible)? Then you’ll like the shy studious elf. Do you like promiscuous exotic women? Then Isabella’s the girl for you. Do you like complete and utter shifts in characterization across works? Then Anders is perfect. Etc. Aveline and Varrick are the rare exceptions to the utterly dreary cast.

      I really think that Bioware has just run out of ideas to reuse, and like a photocopy of a photocopy, the quality is just deteriorating.

    • Grygus says:

      It’s not the worst game ever. Disappointing is a good description; I think it writes checks it can’t cover. In fact, at least for me, the central problem with DA2 is that it wasn’t all bad. The combat becomes tedious quickly, and by the end of the game became a dreaded chore. The dialogue system is flawed, interfering with having fun with roleplaying. There are clear signs that the game was rushed, especially in the re-use of environments, which is magnified by the intentional re-use of locations after the passage of time. All that is true and detrimental. But if everything were bad, those things wouldn’t matter because I’d have stopped playing, uninstalled, and forgotten it after a few hours. The real problem is that I liked a lot; the characters were fun for me, and I found the story compelling. The core idea of seeing this city develop over time was interesting. I liked that Hawke’s heroism was so localized. So I put up with all of the bad things to advance the story, only to have the story completely fall apart at the end, too. It left a very bad lasting impression, so it’s easy to forget sometimes that there were things that kept me going.

      Since you’re interested in the franchise and it’s possible to grab DA2 on sale, I’d recommend giving it a shot. Just be aware that this is a deeply flawed game. It is not analogous to Invisible War, which is actually a good game that people hated because it wasn’t what they were expecting. DA2 wasn’t what we were expecting, but that’s because we were expecting a very good game.

      • Phantoon says:

        Story fell apart completely at the end? Didn’t that happen in another Bioware game? Gee, it’s so obscure, if only I could MASS EFFECT 3 WHAT THE HELL.

  7. Hoaxfish says:

    I think it’s a bit odd to put out DA2, for the simple aspect that as a sequel it was a relatively huge leap in a different direction from DA:O.

    I’m sure you could listen to your audience all you want, but if they’re totally unaware of how drastic a change you’re going to perform then they can simply never talk about those changes.

    Is DA3 going to follow the design of DA:0, or DA2? What becomes the base on which you apply your changes.

    • RogerMellie says:

      These are my thoughts exactly. The reason DAO lovers get so hot under the collar is that it was such a step away from the original. The DAO v DA2 bunfights are so boring because nobody is wrong – it’s just that different people value different things. DAO offered tactical combat that has become extremely rare in the big games these days, hence the rejoicing over the original.

      • belgand says:

        When the original was first being talked up at E3 I recall it being discussed as a return to form. A way of going back to the games that made them what they are today: a fantasy RPG with tactical combat that was going to be PC exclusive. Then they started slipping and announced that it would probably come out on consoles at some point. That turned into day-and-date. Eventually it seemed like console was the only thing anyone was talking about.

        This also makes the statements in the interview more concerning. Dismissing Kickstarter as niche when they’ve shown that gamers are hungry for classic RPGs. Talking about the need to have a broad appeal and cater to idiots who come into the third game in a trilogy. I understand the financial concerns, but really? Should books be concerned that someone didn’t read the first two as well? If you go down that road then you don’t have any real chance to tell a deep or engaging story and your constant attempts to get people up to speed just tend to annoy the rest of us who played in the proper order.

        It feels increasingly like BioWare has ended up like Blizzard. They moved into a new area and got a ton of money (action-RPGs for consoles/MMORPG) and have since decided lost their way. The people that made them great are no longer working there, but we continue to act like they’re the same company they once were. It’s a shame, but it seems like it’s time to move on.

        • Grim_22 says:

          I completely agree with this. Gaider makes some sound arguments, but that’s just not how you handle a franchise or your fans. It’s not that they owe us anything, and I applaud them for doing what they think is right. The problem is that their definition of ‘right’ is from a financial perspective instead of a creative one, which is why they’re considerably worse today than before.

          Of course they have to earn money, but the way they’re doing it now is short-term and in turn, short -sighted. Sooner or later they’ll have to realise that unless they’re at least able to satisfy their core fanbase, they won’t last that long based on reputation alone.

          It just seems like someone at the top is trying to turn a quick buck instead of keeping the company as a lucrative business.

    • thegooseking says:

      That’s definitely true. I pointed out something similar when I was talking about why “early access” was a good idea; so people could give concrete feedback rather than responding to some vague, nebulous, PR-infected announcements at best, or wild speculation at worst.

      However, as someone else astutely pointed out (I think on the same post), early access wouldn’t work for story-driven stuff like Dragon Age. So what’s the alternative? If you do something completely different, a lot of the feedback you get will be irrelevant. If you do something that’s basically the same as the last one with some minor changes, well, you end up in EA Sports / Call of Duty land. Is there some ideal middle-ground?

      • InternetBatman says:

        It sounds like they need an editor plain and simple. The problem they’re facing is the expense of revision.

  8. Rinu says:

    Thanks for the article.

    Storywise, I prefer DA2 exactly because it was a tale about society, world and power in general sense. DA:O was 100th tale about an invinsible hero being chosen to slay a generic, soulless Big Bad. Yes, the game was massive compared to DA2 but it was cliché and predictable. And DA2 characters, stuff just happened to them and they disappeared to solve them on their own without waiting for the protagonist to save them.
    I think DA3 might end up nicely with a size of DA:O’s world, improved DA2′s characters development and absent “the demon is so evil, it’s beyond your imagination” plotlines.

    Often when a fan will speak on a forum they speak as if everybody on the forums agrees about their concern and they all think exactly the same thing.
    Geez, every time I read such posts, I grind my teeth. “I think I speak for every fan when I say the animation of mist sucked.” “We, fans, demand a bigger sword.”

    • Ernesto25 says:

      That’s fair enough i didn’t play DA due to word of mouth really but i enjoyed the DA origins. i agree the storyline of slay the big bad was bland but for me it was a means to an end to discover the cultural and religious conflicts with the world kept my interest. Some of the levels went on forever e.g the dwarven tunnels but it was a world that felt alive. in some ways (without wanting to start something) DA:O was like ME3 and ending how i hoped ME3 would end.

      • Rinu says:

        I had more issues than the main storyline with DA:O (tunnels are among them) that kept me away from finishing it for long time. The thing which actually pushed me forward was that I didn’t want to waste my money for nothing, heh. I started enjoying Origins around 50th hour on my third attempt and indeed, last hours were epic and something ME3 desperately needs.

    • Scelous says:

      Thank you, yes.

      I find it very discouraging that everyone rags on DA2′s storyline and upholds DA:O as a shining example of an RPG. My cousin stopped playing DA:O because he thought it was a blantant rip-off of LOTR, and I can’t blame him. My god, DA:O was derivative. Main character is a chosen one, enemy monsters invade, fate of world in balance, hero manages to save everyone. Yaaaay.

      Whereas DA2 was closer to Suikoden II in that it dealt with local political machinations, amongst other things. It took place over a respectable amount of time, rather than having this “save the world” deadline that pretty much all RPGs have. Meanwhile, the characters lived their own lives instead of standing around and waiting like henchmen.

      Did DA2 have problems? Hell yes. I can’t replay it given the gameplay flaws. But dammit, the storyline was great, and I want to see more of that and less of the “chosen one saves the day…. again.”

      • Premium User Badge

        strangeloup says:

        It didn’t bother me so much that DA:O was blatantly a rip-off of LotR, but more that it was a bad rip-off, trying to make the same basic idea “darker and edgier” by making everything brown and covering everyone in arterial spray after even the tiniest scrap. (And making pretty much everyone an arsehole, but YMMV on that one.) At the time, the quality of the setting and writing made me wonder if it was made by a kind of “B-team” while the real talent worked on Mass Effect — and I think most would agree that ME is a superior series, the furore over ME3′s ending nonwithstanding. I still played DA:O an awful lot, but that was more because big-budget RPGs are enough of a rarity that you take what you can get.

        I enjoyed DA2 much more because, despite the obvious unfinishedness of it, I cared about Kirkwall, and I was interested in the characters; with a smaller focus everything seemed more rich. Having a (to some extent) predefined character was a change I felt worked well, and the framing device of the story overall was well-executed. At the same time, the generalities of the setting carried over from DA:O detracted somewhat from what could have quite happily been an unrelated game.

        Certainly curious to see what the third instalment brings, but whether I’ll actually play it or not is a different question.

        • cjlr says:

          Except it’s not anything like Lord of the Rings – except in the most superficial way, good and evil and elves and dwarves and shit sense. It bothers me when people use that as a touchstone for ‘generic’, even though what they really mean is LotR without the interesting bits. That was a story about true heroism happening alone and out of sight, and victory was never a mere matter of fighting; for that matter magic was extremely rare, almost entirely limited to a matter of influence and willpower. I could go on (but I’ll spare you).

          I think a fair judgement was that DA:O was much better executed (though the ideas weren’t exactly fresh), and that DA2 was more clever in theory but had massive flaws in implementation.

          • rebochan says:

            Indeed, I’m tired of hearing people parade DA:II’s story as some clever game of politics and people when it was as shallow as a puddle and nonsensical by the end. Right around the time you realize you’re literally fighting the same two bosses for no reason, you know the game stopped caring.

            I couldn’t ever care about the city of Kirkwall because nothing interesting ever happened in Kirkwall. Time would jump years ahead and the city looked exactly the same. The elven alienage that holds “thousands of people” has five houses in it, and one of them is apparently being taken up by Meryl by herself. What?

            At no point in the game did it ever feel like a bustling, thriving city full of intrique and life and chaos. Quests were largely lazy and repetitive. I’ve played plenty of games set in a small area with a political theme, so I know the failure is not the type of story, but the shoddy execution.

            Also, sorry, Anders was so clearly retconned into a different, stupider character than his last appearence in the similarly lazy and rushed Awakening. There was no logical progression to take him from the kind of character he was there into the moody emo terrorist he turned into for DA:II. They just told me he was sad now and hoped I’d buy it.

            …DA:O had a lot of issues, but I’ll take a polished if cliche’d game over a game that is failing on every basic level but might have had a good idea buried somewhere in it.

          • Premium User Badge

            strangeloup says:

            You’re right, yeah. I’ve been bad at making my points today. DA:O did certainly feel like it was trying to grasp some of the style and epic-ness (for want of a better word) of the LotR movies, more specifically, and I think it’s that which I was trying to get at. (That being said, “LotR without the interesting bits” is a rather good turn of phrase I’m going to save for later.)

            I certainly don’t think that DA2 is an amazing game, by any means, nor do I think that DA:O was a “modern-day Baldur’s Gate” as some claimed. They do generate interesting discussion, but I’ve never been able to properly articulate why DA:O bugged me so much, nor really why bits of DA2 still stick in my mind.

            It does raise the broader question — and I’m not saying that either DA game precisely fits into either category — of whether something well-polished but unoriginal or new ideas presented more roughly is preferable. It’s something that came to mind with the recent GOG release of Pathologic, which is on a technical level pretty broken and awful, but the story, atmosphere and sheer strangeness make it worth persevering if you can deal with the many flaws.

          • Scelous says:

            @rebochan

            DA:II was really a clever game full of politics and people.

            “I’ve played plenty of games set in a small area with a political theme, so I know the failure is not the type of story, but the shoddy execution.”

            I’d like to know, as a hardcore gamer, what these games are. Because as a gamer, I think those types of games are sorely lacking; I’ve been gaming since my Commodore 64, and I basically don’t ever remember any of those “small area with a political theme” games. I’d like to try them, if they exist.

            As an aside, I will agree that Origins: Awakening was a rushed, lazy job. Also, I loved Anders in Awakening, and I thought it was a travesty the way they changed him in DA2.

        • malkav11 says:

          I agree that DAII’s characters and narrower focus had potential. With the exception of their butchery of Anders (my favorite character in Awakening, easily my least favorite character in DAII), I was pleased by how interesting, personable, and nuanced the characters felt, and the main plot was a little wobbly but felt reasonably compelling. These things kept me playing through the first two acts in a way the gameplay (which IMHO was atrocious) did not. I was willing during that time to concede that while DAII was a major misstep from a gameplay standpoint, it was less of one than ME2 had been for that franchise and the game certainly wasn’t as bad as its many detractors suggested. (Especially strange was how swathes of people held up ME2 as an amazing leap forward for the Mass Effect series but leaped on DAII for many of the same missteps.)

          …and then I hit Act 3, and all of the characters began acting like they’d taken severe head trauma and the plot entirely derailed into a massive trainwreck of unmotivated stupidity and lazy writing. I’ve never been able to forgive it since.

  9. dE says:

    I’ve had a couple of minor complaints, that were all multiplied by one huge problem with the game. That one problem being, it was too damn noticeable they ran out of money or/and time.

    Thinks like, how it felt like there was exactly one cave map for the entirety of the game. Sure, occasionally some other entrance would have been opened up and another one closed down – but it was bloody obvious they made a not so delicious copy pasta out of their levels. Funny thing is, if they had been honest about it and said “This is the cave you’ve been in before, things changed, deal with it”, It’d been fine for me.
    But them passing the modifactions off as entirely new caves in some far away place got old real fast. It was just insulting to feel that the Devs thought I as a player wouldn’t notice. The multiple wave encounters are in the same boat. Once again, I wouldn’t have minded multiple waves – but they were the exact same wave as the first time around. Again and again and again. It wasn’t even copy pasta anymore. And last but not least, the game felt like nothing but padding of this kind. If it has to be a botched rush-job, I’d like the unpatched act 3 of a Witcher 2 over the endless repetition of the very same area with different mobs please.

    • Rinu says:

      Yeah, caves were clearly copy-pasted but frankly I had same issue with DA:O’s Deep Roads. It was just a big corridorish cave. An usage of caves in fantasy games feels like a lazy attempt to save time and money instead of writing populated town with dark corners or something. They miss a variety.

      • Archonsod says:

        It’s one of the reasons I actually preferred DA:II. I didn’t mind the maps being the same area with different areas blocked off or accessible, primarily because they condensed everything down to areas where stuff actually happened, cutting out a lot of the endless shuffling down nondescript corridors looking for the next random group of enemies that was prominent in DA:O.

        Apart from the Deep Roads. They’re tedious pish in both games (although even there, DA:II at least kept them to something of a minimum).

    • Kadayi says:

      Less to do with money and more to do with asset management. Unlike DA:O, DAII was designed with the 360 as the principal audience (because strangely enough DA:O sold far more units on the 360 than on PC). Some suit at EA decided that game needed to fit on one 360 DVD (because otherwise they’d have to end up paying MS 30% extra on the 360 licensing charge) and so the devs had to come up with a way to squeeze the entire game into a measly 6.45 GB of space (DA:O on PC was about 16 GB in comparison). When you’re as dialogue heavy as a Bioware game, you’re looking at a significant chunk of your asset space being eaten up by sound files alone…so other stuff has to give. Sucks…but that’s more the truth of things. The whole ‘rushed’ meme, sprang out of an interview from the composer who felt he ‘rushed’ the music and that Chinese whispered around into this whole ‘lazy dev’ thing. If they’d had a green light to make a game over two discs, things would probably of been a lot different.

      • cjlr says:

        Just so. It’s still pathetic, but it’s important to remember why it turned out like it did. In order to assign blame appropriately, natch.

      • D3xter says:

        I’m pretty sure that people are saying it was rushed, because it looked and played like a rushed POS in almost every respect, I’m sure you happen to have some sort of source for your assumptions?

      • dE says:

        I didn’t say Lazy Dev. And I sure as hell don’t know about any meme about this, unless you’re talking about the somewhat outdated concept of mimemes. I usually don’t frequent places that deal in meme (and the FACE meme here is a tad annoying as well) And while your theory may have something to do with it, it doesn’t explain the – you know – actually rushed parts of the game.

        Let me grab a hammer here, cause I’m bored and don’t really think the Devs need defending on this issue. A common habit of Bioware Engines, from Infinity to Aurora to Odyssey, is to use small maps with transitions. That’s why Witcher 1 had to load everytime you left or entered a building. That’s why Neverwinter Nights had to load everytime. That’s why Dragon Age 1 had to load everytime and yes – that’s why Dragon Age 2 had to load everytime. Point of reference: Those mentioned games. Also in many cases: Their accesible Toolsets.

        These maps are prebaked geometry with added dynamic props, dynamic lights and littered with triggers, NPCs and spawns. The maps are structured in a rectangular fashion. You’re free to not fill the map in a rectangular way but it is organized that way, using coordinates based on the top left corner of it. It’s that way in all previous versions of the engine and you can use the Debug Mode in Dragon 2 to see it is at least very similiar. These coordinates are used to place and anchor all the dynamic things in the area.

        So, what you are implying by saying it’s DVD size constraints, is the following:
        Instead of copy/pasting an area (thus doubling the space they need) they did the following things:

        Rework their engine from scratch to support a dynamically assigned coordinate system that can flip direction on a whim. Rework all Transitions to pass along a script that changes the name of the to be loaded area, before it is loaded. Create a master script that dynamically: Activates and deactivates switches, triggers, encounters on the fly and spawns in dynamic props according to the direction the master script was nudged in. Oh and not mess it up completely, because remember: The coordinate system would need to switch too, because they sometimes had different map orientations. That would all need to go into the mapfile. And unlike a copy pasta, it would need to be ALL loaded everytime – meaning the map would need to allocate a lot of memory for inactive triggers, encounters, switches – in the off chance they’re activated by another script.

        Or, they could just copy/paste the area and just redo the dynamic stuff in the new area, while keeping the basic layout. While also keeping a smaller memory profile. And that’s not even talking about the encore une fois wave encounters.

        TL;DR:
        It’s not size constraints that forced their hand, they rushed it. There, less bored.

  10. Soldancer says:

    I still haven’t played DAII yet, though I’ve had a copy for a while now. It’s interesting, since I very deliberately bought Origins at launch (and shelled out the cash for the collector’s edition), but I remember being more unsure about DAII, mostly due to the demo.

    However, it seems to me to be one of those odd games that people remember much less fondly and with more vitriol than that with which the game was oringally received.

    I’m trying to think of other games like that. Maybe Doom 3? Resident Evil 5? I’m sure there must be some others – games that garnered an average-to-above-average response that sort of festered in people’s minds over time due to other factors such as not meeting certain expectations.

    I think I’ll finally chuck that copy of DAII into my disc drive and see for myself, I suppose.

    • Kadayi says:

      It gets an unfair rap. There are a couple of issues (repeat environments & slightly wtf? moment during the ending), but overall it is perfectly playable, and there are some good characters.

      • malkav11 says:

        And an entire final act of such surpassing awfulness that it makes ME3′s ending look like a timeless and enduring classic.

      • BruceFnLee says:

        It doesn’t get an unfair wrap. It is a significant and inexcusable downgrade from DAO in almost every single way. The narrative structure was neat but *completely inappropriate and out of place.* DAII defines consolization.

        DAII was trash and the single biggest disappointment in my personal gaming history. I couldn’t even finish it. It was not a good game, a worthy sequel or even a quality product from bioware. You may have “liked it” but it still sucked. Really, it was just a poorly designed game by any measure other than storytelling.

        It wasn’t that “the game went in a different direction than DA2 so people don’t like it.” It’s that the game went in a *bad* direction. Maybe DAII wouldn’t have been so terrible if it was a different, new IP, but it wasn’t. It was a sequel to Dragon Age Origins and therefore is one of the worst games in the history of vidya.

        • malkav11 says:

          Dragon Age II would still be a bad game by another name. It would merely be less disappointing.

  11. Dowr says:

    I’m still going to assume DA3 will be rubbish until proven otherwise.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    Anyone who says that fantasy can’t balance an epic tale of heroism and saving the world while simultaneously examining interesting themes which are relevant to society as a whole (whether questions about the human condition or making parallels to a real life institutions and culture) should be locked in a room with the Discworld books and given an opportunity to think about just how completely and utterly wrong they are.

    These folk should have more ambition.

    • thegooseking says:

      Hm. I can only think of a few Discworld books that involve some variation of “saving the world”. And they’re not the better ones.

      • Premium User Badge

        Lambchops says:

        Meant to say “epic tale of heroism or saving the world” there. In that usually if you boil down the plot there’s some sort of “good guys defeat evil guys” strand running through it that would be alright on it’s own but in reality is just window dressing for whatever that particular book happens to be about,

  13. mehteh says:

    Bioware these days caters too much to casuals and non-fans of the genre and/or franchise. DA2 was so over simplified that it was worse than a typical console RPG and their biggest piece of DLC that they said was meant to be an “apology” had a price tag. Gee, thanks for making me pay for apologies. If i want RPGs, these days, ill buy them from PC devs that care about their audience, depth, etc. CDprojectRED, SpiderWeb Software, etc.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Matt_W says:

    “The sort of fantasy you get tends to follow the same sort of “epic ancient evil threatens the world” thing almost out of habit. I don’t think that fantasy needs to be inherently limiting in the types of themes it addresses.”

    Arghhh!!! No one can say this who does not actually read fantasy: Terry Pratchett, China Mieville, G. Willow Wilson, Mervyn Peake, Neil Gaiman, Michael Swanwick, NK Jemisin, Steven Erickson, Daniel Abraham, David Anthony Durham, Michael Moorcock, etc etc etc etc etc. I am continuously dismayed by how little some writers of fantasy seem to know about their OWN GENRE.

  15. johnxfire says:

    “BioWare is a company that seems very tuned in to what people are saying about their games..”

    If “very tuned” means closing their ears on criticism and a very fanatical moderation team on their forums that wipes dissent and constructive criticism, then yes. Very tuned.

    • xsikal says:

      Yes. If the bioware forums are their primary ‘connection to the fans’, it explains a lot. I’m expecting the next game to be nothing but (poorly written) romances.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Erithtotl says:

    I think this interview will frustrate people as much as interest them. For most (including myself) the gameplay of DA 2 was so poor that it didn’t really matter if the story was good or not. And this guy’s the writer so he didn’t have any control over the bad, shallow gameplay.

  17. MattMk1 says:

    Can someone point out the part of the interview where he’s asked about the flaws of DA2? I’m having a hard time finding it.

    I also keep wishing someone would challenge their often-repeated claim that the reason they’re getting farther and farther away from the style of games they used to make is absolute budgetary necessity.

    If CDProjekt can make great RPGs and companies like Obsidian and Troika can (or could) make very good but flawed RPGs for a fraction of the money Bioware spends on their titles, that excuse wears thin pretty damn quickly.

    • Archonsod says:

      So if CDProjekt ever did make a good RPG, Bioware would be in trouble? :P

      • Brun says:

        Kinda this, and The Witcher isn’t exactly selling on the scale of Dragon Age or Mass Effect. BioWare probably looks at CDPR and considers them a minor player at best by virtue of their comparably low sales numbers.

        • MattMk1 says:

          Uh… Thanks for helping to make my point, I guess? If Bioware could count on selling so many more units, that’d be even less reason to believe them when they say they just can’t afford to make real RPGs anymore.

          You’re wrong, though, if you think the Witcher sales numbers are insignificant compared to Bioware sales of their *fantasy* RPGs. Both Witcher games have sold around 2 million units each despite the fact the first was PC only and the second only had an XBox port years after release – compared to around 4 million units for DAO and something like 1.5 million for DA2.

          Whether Bioware are worried about this or not is debatable – the RPG market is pretty far from saturated, these days – but they’d have to be blind or stupid not to take notice of it.

          (This is pretty tangential, but I remember mentioning The Witcher a couple of times when talking to the Bioware guys at the DAO booth at the 2009 GenCon – basically, mentioning it as an example of a game I liked because some of it reminded me of older RPGs – and the looks I got were like I just farted, or started talking about someone’s mother…)

          • Brun says:

            (This is pretty tangential, but I remember mentioning The Witcher a couple of times when talking to the Bioware guys at the DAO booth at the 2009 GenCon – basically, mentioning it as an example of a game I liked because some of it reminded me of older RPGs – and the looks I got were like I just farted, or started talking about someone’s mother…)

            I can see why they might think that about the original Witcher – that game quickly devolved into endless detective work and wrestling with the terrible map and UI to find your way from one place to another. However, TW2 really struck me as similar to a BioWare RPG but without the party.

          • Archonsod says:

            I think the Drakensang games are the closest in recent years to the earlier Bioware stuff. I figure it must have seen some success based on the sequels and expansions, though possibly mainly in Germany. Generally speaking I tend to find The Witcher games are a little too close to ARPG’s. About the only commonality is the inclusion of cringe-inducing writing, although Bioware tend to restrict it to the godawful romance sub-plots.

  18. Yosharian says:

    “Gaider: The main concern over the story is that we have to balance the interests of long-time fans in the story. We’re talking about people who have played Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II coming into Dragon Age III, but we also have to keep in mind people who are coming to Dragon Age III fresh, who have no previous experience. That’s the biggest thing we have to concern ourselves with.”

    This is entirely the problem. The biggest concern is ‘untapped markets’ is basically what he’s saying. No it isn’t. The biggest concern is keeping your fans happy – staying true to the roots of the series and making a good RPG game that appeals to RPG fans.

    Look at the Dead Space series, that has sold fairly abysmally in the third outing because it’s turned into Call of Duty In Space. That’s just another example.

    Stop trying to get wider audiences and stay true to your roots.

    • TormDK says:

      Makes it hard if the game needs to sell millions of copies to break even, and thus be worth the investment in the first place.

      • Jimbo says:

        They aren’t chasing break-even though, they’re chasing even more profit than the substantial profit they were already making (which they obviously were, or EA wouldn’t have paid $$$ for them). Their games fairly consistently sell in the 2-4 million range and have done for a while. They could always rely on those sales because they made games their fans wanted and their fans were loyal in return.

        I understand they *want* to sell more copies (who wouldn’t?), and have desperately been trying to turn their franchises into 5M+ sellers at any cost. But they don’t *need* to do that. The ~3 million they were happily going along selling to their loyal fanbase was more than sustainable, even on today’s budgets. Budgets are high; they aren’t that high.

        They aren’t really succeeding anyway, despite the sacrifices to quality. There was no massive upswing in sales as a result of their ‘Button / Awesome’ philosophy for DA2, or in trying to turn Mass Effect into Gears of War. They’re very good at their specific thing, but they just don’t have the talent to mix with the big boys outside of their comfort zone. Maybe they’d have more luck if they stopped trying to introduce these sweeping changes mid-trilogy. If they want to chase the larger sales available in other genres, they should consider doing that from Game 1 of a new franchise.

        • Phantoon says:

          Why in the seven hells would anyone be loyal to EA?

          • Jimbo says:

            I was referring to the Bioware brand there, not EA as a whole. And in the past tense.

      • RandomEsa says:

        If the break even point for a game like dead space 3 was a 5 million copies with a 2 year development cycle then one could assume that it’s not the development which requires the most amount of money. Heck if CD Projekt RED can make a game like witcher 2 while building their own engine with a 8 million dollar budget ( games in late 1990′s and early 2000′s had bigger budgets) then ea really needs to look in the mirror.

  19. Trolovski says:

    DA2 was one of the worst games I ever played, and I do not say that lightly. The first chapter was mediocre, but the second and the third were unbearable.

  20. Arglebargle says:

    Dragon Age 2 was bitten by the drive to have every game be the direct sequel, (doubtless percieved wisdom from the marketing department), instead of an exploration of a different aspect of the game universe. Of course, not rushing it out half baked would have helped. If it had been released as Dragon Age:Kirkwall, the action-adventure exploration of a side note in DA history, the complaints would have been far less vociferous. Foiling fans expectations with a poorly done game sequel is a bad thing.

    For me, DA2 was the tipping point where I quit buying Bioware games on release, rather waiting for them to hit $5 or 10 much later. DA2 isn’t worth it, to me, even if it was free. It is actually not worth the bandwidth and the time to play. I personally sold three friends on DAO. DA2, well, if they bought it, it was against my recommendations.

    There’s always going to be a certain amount of disingenuity in interviews like this, as the people who were responsible for the travesties may still be working with you, and may have control over your continued employment. The real stuff only comes out in private conversations with DNQs attached.

  21. StranaMente says:

    Quote: “The worst thing is to ignore feedback and work entirely in a vacuum.”
    I really dislike David Gaider and this is just silly having seen what he’d done for Dragon Age 2: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/9.274827-David-Gaider-says-Bioware-decides-what-dead-means-in-Dragon-Age-2?page=1 that resulted in this http://social.bioware.com/%20http:/social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/304/index/6589945/10.
    If Dragon Age 2 is proof of his capacity as a writer, he really isn’t a good one.

    • StranaMente says:

      And for a complete and exhaustive critic of Dragon Age 2, I’d like to point you to this series of videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CA1KPsFV1tQ made by Smudboy.

    • xsikal says:

      There’s no question in my mind that the writing from Bioware has reached a low point. The world building, the character interaction, the actual game plots… all have been rather tiresome, fan-fictionesque, and cliche throughout the DA franchise.

    • InternetBatman says:

      He said that while completely dismissing the idea that fans had valid concerns in the same interview. Fans need to be pacified, which is not the same as addressing their concerns.

      “What is our primary goal here? Is it to, say, solicit the long-time fan who maybe wasn’t happy with Dragon Age II? Or are there things we can do with that feature that could mollify them and make them feel like they aren’t being excluded from continuing? So they don’t feel like we’ve abandoned them.”

  22. Jimbo says:

    I don’t think anybody expects them to please everybody, but you do expect them to at least develop games in good faith because that is where they came from.

    With their last few games you get the sense that whenever a choice has come up between how they want to make the game and how they think they should make the game from a business perspective, they have always gone with the latter. Their games are starting to feel like they’re being developed by businessmen rather than by artists, and that does take a little bit of sheen off of the experience.

    For example, it used to be ok the create content that most people wouldn’t see, but now it’s dismissed as merely a waste of resources. I’m not sure it’s as simple as that. It’s said that music is the space between the notes, and similarly, great RPGs are just as much about the choices you don’t make and the path you don’t follow. Smoke and mirrors will only go so far to hide a lack of meaningful choice from the player.

    The thing is, I don’t think this ‘business first’ approach is actually paying off for them. People are losing faith in the brand and they still haven’t really broken out of that ~3 million bracket which is roughly where they were anyway. Dragon Age and Mass Effect games should easily and consistently be selling upwards of 5M copies, but they have managed to hamstring both of those franchises with unnecessary mistakes. ME1 not being multi-plat from the start seriously held that franchise back and fumbling DA2 so badly has probably done permanent damage to that franchise too. I’m not suggesting these haven’t been successful franchises for them of course, but they belong in the Skyrim / Assassin’s Creed tier, and they’d be there if not for poor decisions on their behalf.

    “We have some balls that are up in the air. We can’t just let those go. Those are things we need to deal with that we left up in the air after the end of DAII. We can’t just move on to something completely new. We can’t just jump across the continent and suddenly we’re dealing with something else entirely.”

    This attitude is what holds them back. They absolutely can move on to something completely new. DA2 flopping effectively gave them a blank cheque to do exactly that. One of the main reasons the Skyrims / Assassin’s Creeds / Fallouts manage to be so much more successful is because people know they can jump in and out of the franchise at any point they want to. You don’t have to have played the game before and the game before that. I love what they tried to do with the Mass Effect trilogy (it was incredibly ambitious, even if it didn’t quite come off in the end), but there is no reason Dragon Age needs to be the same thing. I’d love to pick up Dragon Age: Subtitle and know that I’m getting a self-contained >30 hour adventure with a start, middle and end. They could be far bolder with how they handle choice if they knew they weren’t going to have to live with the consequences for the next game and the game after that. I think they’d end up both making better games and enjoying greater commercial success.

    • Grygus says:

      You do realize that what you’re asking for is precisely what they did with Dragon Age II? It’s only a sequel in the sense that it canonically takes place after the events in the first game; the story is barely connected and the events from Origin are only rarely referenced and are of no importance. You don’t need to have played the first game at all, and in fact I would argue that the game is probably better if you haven’t.

      • Jimbo says:

        Yes, because it wasn’t really until Dragon Age 2 that they decided to move the franchise closer to what they were doing with Mass Effect. The only difference is that ME was designed from the ground up with cross-game choice/consequence in mind, whereas DA2 tried to shoehorn it in, which is why it was so half-assed.

        Dragon Age 2′s biggest problem was that it was bad. Dragon Age 3′s biggest problem is likely to be Dragon Age 2, which is why they should forget about the balls that are still up in the air and run away as fast as possible. If DA3 makes it to launch with gamers feeling like they need to have played DA2, then it’s pretty much dead out of the gate.

        If DA2 had been incredibly successful then you could at least make a case for directly continuing that story. But it wasn’t. And the only way to resuscitate this franchise now is by cutting it loose.

        • Phantoon says:

          Actually, Mass Effect 1 wasn’t made with a sequel in mind. It simply lead into it well because the choices had some consequence behind them.

          As far as a story goes, the first game by itself was a good story, wrapped up. Then, EA.

          • malkav11 says:

            I can recall a Mass Effect trilogy being talked up around the time it came out, it’s just that successful preplanned trilogies aren’t really a thing that happens in videogames, and it’s pretty clear that neither ME2 nor ME3 represent any sort of preplanned narrative, but rather the usual sort of sequel “um, well, this is how that ended so where do we go from here?” w/ careful attention paid to import a lot of minor narrative bits from previous games.

          • Jimbo says:

            I don’t know where you got that idea, but you’re mistaken.

  23. xsikal says:

    I don’t pay full price for Bioware games anymore. I just don’t. I would say I wait to buy them until the reviews come in, but reviews in the industry are so laughable at this point that it’s instead best to wait another 5-6 months past release before gauging reaction to a game; it’s a certainty that most of the gaming sites will give a game high marks if it comes from Bioware or Bethesda at this point.

    The last Bioware game I really enjoyed was BG2. I’m baffled by RPS’ defense of DA2.

  24. tkioz says:

    I will say I did enjoy DAII a great deal in spite of it’s gaping flaws. The most glaring were the reused maps, they were dreadful, it wasn’t even that they were reused, it was simply that they were terrible maps.

    I really enjoyed the narrative of the game, I especially enjoyed the fact it focused on a smaller scale, in a time when every fantasy or sci-fi story needs to be about some huge world ending event. Though like others have said it could have used a bit more depth in areas.

    I loved the characters, they were brilliantly written and wonderfully acted.

    But compared to DA:O it was a sub-par game, and I only played through once, compared to the many many hours I spent replaying DA:O.

    I’m tentatively looking forward to DAIII.

  25. InternetBatman says:

    I really think that the problems Bioware is facing stem from an unnatural separation between writing and the gameplay. Writing is content, gameplay is filler. I would like to see that addressed sometime.

    • Phantoon says:

      It was. In that Hepler remarked that she wished they could just remove the game part of the game.

  26. Buemba says:

    Every time I see people talk about the story and characters of DA2 it makes me want to play it, but I thought the combat in the demo was painfully boring and the ME3 dialog wheel is a poor substitute for a proper dialog tree.

    • Premium User Badge

      RedViv says:

      The dialogue wheel in DA2 provides a bit more function than the ME3 one. Though that means it steers the dialogue really as deep as it can get with the typical flavours of Bioware’s texts.

      Oh, and the demo of DA2 joins the ones of Brütal Legend and Dragon’s Dogma in the club of horrible misrepresentation.

      • InternetBatman says:

        I thought the demo was a fair representation, even if it made the character too powerful.

  27. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    Good to see that the lack of time and polish, which makes up 90% of why DA2 was mostly worse, is recognised.
    No need to dig deeper with that interview partner. Game writers are not screenwriters.

  28. derella says:

    DA2 was… inconsistent. It had it’s highs(mainly the companions, the framed narrative), and it’s lows(waves, map re-use, the final act of the story).

    • thegooseking says:

      Oh, I really liked Varric’s unreliable narrator, too. But what he’s saying here is that it didn’t quite work, and I have heard other people say that, too.

      I don’t know. I found the idea that you’re participating in a story that may or may not be ‘accurate’ really kind of interesting, though I would say that it didn’t add much to the game.

      • bleeters says:

        It was an interesting concept, but I can’t say I didn’t feel it was largely squandered. As it was, it mostly seemed like a pre-emptive excuse to retcon things later on down the line or throw in crazy boss fights, then blame it on Varric’s inaccurate storytelling and tendancy to massively exaggerate.

      • Archonsod says:

        I thought it actually worked quite well, it simply wasn’t used enough to make it worthwhile. IIRC there’s only really two points it’s brought to the fore. I guess it fits in with what Gaider is saying; it’s a nice concept which could have worked well if they’d interwoven it a bit more, as it is it feels like it was something they did at the start, completely forgot about and then stuck another bit in the middle when someone remembered it was supposed to be in there.

  29. Laurentius says:

    Well i decided to skip DAII after demo, which in fact proved that game is much like DA:O in way i totally despised. I mean there was some nice bits in story and Bioware have a knack for creating characters but this game was so combat heavy that it was really off-puting. Of course there are two words that sum up that although i’ve finished DA:O i knew i would never play it again – Deep Roads, what a chore. DAII just judging from the demo even ramped up combat frquency higher. C’mon these are role-playing games but don’t force us to be muss-murderers. Less combat please ! Even Shephard is clone of COD “soldier” that has only one goal, to kill everyone that pull gun against him/her. No taking prisoners, no asking for surrender, fight stops only when every enemy is dead. Geez even enemies in Fallout 2 actually run away from fights but inmodern games ? They fight till thay drop dead.

    • thegooseking says:

      No, not really.

      I had the same worry after playing the demo, but it turned out the whole game isn’t like that.

  30. bar10dr says:

    Oh man another click A to win dragon age II clone, I can’t wait..

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      Constantly strafe left to win?

      I knew I was doing something wrong tactically!

  31. D3xter says:

    That’s entirely different tones he is spitting out now: http://www.abload.de/img/jkanlsvwhawt.png

    Anyway, I’ll consider Dragon Age III to be just as shit as Part II was until proven otherwise.
    The difference is that this time around I have alternatives aplenty… Wasteland 2, Dead State, Project: Eternity, Numenera: Torment, Shadowrun Returns, Divinity: Original Sin, Age of Decadence, Might & Magic X, Warhorse Studio RPG, Chaos Chronicles, Legend of Grimrock 2, Witcher 3, Cyberpunk 2077 etc. there are more than enough.

  32. cervor says:

    It’s true that I think DA:O ended up as an uninteresting mire of mediocrity that was treading on the spot narrative- and character-wise, and that DA2 despite its ludicrous aesthetic contradictions and setbacks is a better narrative and a more playable experience. It’s a tough mix, really, and naturally inviting for a lot of seemingly incompatible criticisms and suggestions. But ultimately Bioware have to get right about this mix of ludicrous shallowness (seemingly intended as some kind of harmless, inviting, humane package of fun), motivation and the demands of indepth-gameplay… Sorry, I can’t jumble it any harder right now.

  33. Megakoresh says:

    I complete agree on all points of the author and I, for one, never blamed BW for the way DA2 turned out to be since it wasn’t them who restricted themselves to insanely small time frame and budget.

    There were many good things in DA2:
    Different, more unique narrative setup, more complicated characters, less insufferable, although still terrible, combat, good DLCs and a fair bit of gray instead of classic black and white. In terms of it’s storyline it was rather similar to Witcher 2, and who on earth would say that being similar to Witcher 2 in anything story-wise is a bad thing?

    They should, in my opinion, further go into the direction of more life-like, personal narrative they had in DA2. They only need to execute it properly this time.

  34. cmac2000 says:

    I’m not touching anymore Bioware games until they’ve been thoroughly destroyed by critics and I know whether or not to get them. For Example if I knew the story for DA2 was going to be about 1/4 of Origins (mind you Origins had worth while side quests), and that your allies couldn’t be given whatever armor you wanted to give them, and that your armor would be twice as limited, and that your choices made no difference what-so-mother-friggin-ever, and that the relationship you could have to your allies would only extend to when they feel like it should instead of being able to start things myself, and that the combat would basically take you out of the equation or at least it felt that way to me, and that the game spends as much time in cinematics as gameplay. I would’ve condemned the game to Hell and walked away from the store empty handed so I’d have some money to I don’t know say take someone to lunch, or buy something to shoot at. Either would have been thoroughly more full-filling.

    • cpmartins says:

      The last “great” game I’ve played stemming from bioware was Mass Effect 1 Sad really. Everything since has been dumbed down drivel. Sadder stil, I´ve bought it all . That is until DA 2 came along. Thanks, but no thanks. Not surprising at all really. After a year or two from the EA acquisition, Bioware was dead. Now it’s all EAware. another great softhouse killed and buried by EA. Bioware is dead; Long live bioware. Thank whatever gods there are for Obsidian and InExile.

  35. RProxyOnly says:

    David Gaider can spout all the rubbish he want.. Yeah, so what if he ‘recognises’ DA2′s shittiness.. they’re not going to do anything about it except spout words.. God they’ve even said they want DA3 to be Skyrim.

    Bioware have no identity of their own any longer.. they have become irrelevant.

    • rebochan says:

      The true irony about Skyrim is that aside from some streamlining of the skill system, it’s largely the same experience as both Oblivion and Morrowind. They didn’t chase some mythical “bigger audience” no matter what the PC snobs scoff about. They made a goddamned Elder Scrolls game for whoever showed up.

      Consequently, Skyrim sold more than both DA:O and DA:II combined.

      • cpmartins says:

        Hell, Skyrim is VERY MUCH like Arena, Daggerfall and Morrowind (minus the retarded buggy randomly created dungeons in daggerfall). In fact, the only thing I disliked about Skyrim was the less detailed enchanting system. And I’m a hardcore TES player. Skyrim delivered in spades on what it promised: An open world action game, with a progression system. Skyrim is no RPG.

      • Phantoon says:

        Same experience? Magic was neutered. I can’t fly, there’s next to no buffs, I have to level before I can use any version of certain spells, everything is simplified, lots of spells were plain removed so they could be shouts.

        I like Oblivion more than Skyrim for this reason.

  36. E_FD says:

    I have to say, for an article with “Dragon Age II’s Flaws” right in the headline, these are some awfully softball questions. The interviewer prefaces everything by talking about how much he enjoyed the DA2 plot, and Gaider’s response is basically to agree with him and say that it’s too bad some fans didn’t understand all the complex, relevant themes he was going for.

    • malkav11 says:

      Yeah. I mean, a lot of DAII’s gameplay issues clearly aren’t Gaider’s fault and he wouldn’t be the person to nail to the wall about them (although “look at what worked and what didn’t and don’t do the stuff that didn’t work” is EXACTLY what they should be doing, wtf), but there are also major writing issues – the travesty that is DAII’s version of Anders, the ridiculously shallow version of the mage/templar conflict (which he’s so proud of above) explored with far more care and nuance in DAO, and the stone-cold stupidity of basically all of Act III, for starters. None of which are touched on in the interview. I mean, I guess to really discuss the writing problems would require a lot of spoilers, but still.

    • Premium User Badge

      cpt_freakout says:

      Agreed. If you sit and think about it for a bit, it’s very easy to see that the themes surpass the writer(s) by far. Yes, they are complex and relevant, but the mere fact of addressing them in some manner does not make your narrative either of those. Maybe it was the time constraints of the development, but it doesn’t take much effort to see that the narrative in general is shallow at best, and deals with said themes in a very clumsy, very uninteresting way. They need more than common sense evaluations – they need research of various kinds (historical, philosophical, etc) in order to avoid superficiality, and it’s something that these writers unfortunately don’t have the time or interest to undertake.

      Gaider and his team can make some pretty good characters, though, I’ll give them that. Just as long as they’re not forced upon the general narrative, as with Anders, who got infected with its “deepness” immediately…

    • Jdopus says:

      Agreed 100% and I was about to post the exact same thing. A lot of us were extremely annoyed by how blatantly unfinished and rushed dragon age 2 was, not to mention some of the absolutely idiotic elements of the story telling and character development.

      Instead of getting anything critical though, it feels like I’ve just read a fanservice interview on IGN. I expected better from Rock Paper Shotgun. You may have liked Dragon Age 2, but a lot of us didn’t, as a journalist I expected you to actually raise these issues in a serious manner, not tiptoe carefully around the issue and pad every slight criticism with heaps of praise.

  37. chargen says:

    “We can’t just move on to something completely new.” You did last time. What the hell is stopping you from trying to salvage this world and franchise and taking an entirely different approach, perhaps making an RPG or something. Not Dave has the power to decide any direction the gameplay or story is taking.

    But Jesus who cares. We’ve got over a dozen amazing RPGs coming out in the next year or two. Let me pat ol’ Dave on the shoulder for being stuck making boring action games and writing dialogues for cardboard ciphers. Let the Bioware/Bethesda hegemony be dead and buried forever.

  38. Ender7 says:

    What is up with the softball question RPS? That was a pretty weak interview.

    I have no plans to get DA3 since its EA and ea will always screw it up. I like watching them go “oh, this time it will be different, I swear, we listened to the fans and know exactly what you want” and then some of the fans go “oh, (insert EA branded company here) changed, they LISTEN to us now” Then the game comes out and its just shit and all of us who knew it would be shit just goes “told you so”

    The fact that this asshole is the same guy who wrote most of the horrible writing for DA2, and he basically told people who did not like DA2 that they were small minded idiots who do not understand the fantastic majesty that is DA2…well, he is full of himself and it only took a couple of years to even admit maybe da2 was not perfect. Since EA put him as LEAD in writing DA3 after the shit that was DA2 shows how much they are listening to the fans and changing things.

    Bioware is dead, its time to move on to other companies that know how to make great RPG’s. If you want good RPG’s that are not shit, it looks like most of them are now turning to kickstarter. Thank god for kickstarter and no more need to be peasants asking for leftover scraps at the foot of the table of big game publishers any more.

  39. A fistful of used oncers says:

    Okay, this one finally suckered me into signing up. I really liked what the DA2 story was trying to achieve. Yes, the game had a stupendous number of mechanistic, game-breaking flaws, but the story was interesting. I really enjoyed the way that Hawke isn’t in control of events. Everyone else is going to do what they’re going to do, and she (in my case) can’t do much to stop them. The player isn’t really at the centre of the story. That was fun.

    That being said, I think that Act 2 pulled it off far better than Act 3. In Act 2, the inevitability of the eventual violence didn’t feel forced. The frustration and mutual incomprehensibility of the Viscount and the Arishok comes through in the dialogue. Throughout the whole thing I kept searching for some way to leverage the respect that the Arishok grudgingly gives Hawke into a diplomatic solution. But it’s all too little too late: Hawke only finally grasps the casus belli from the qunari side after events have already swept out of control. The Arishok’s motivations do make sense, in a frustratingly alien way, but Hawke can’t use that hard-won understanding to her advantage.

    In contrast, Act 3 felt ham-fisted. The motivations of the mages and the templars are both obvious at the outset, so there’s not a lot of interesting discoveries there. It felt like almost every mage/templar confrontation ended in disaster, in exactly the same way. The mages seemed to turn into abominations every time combat occurred, which was most of the time. It’s hard to reconcile this with the fact that none of the mages in your party do this, or the fact that a large number of the Circle mages in DA:O didn’t turn into abominations even in the face of circumstances that were a lot more dire than those in Kirkwall. At the end, you almost feel resigned to the fact that of course Orsini is going to turn into an abomination, no matter how much it seems inconsistent with his character.

    And the rest of Act 3 didn’t feel much better. I didn’t mind the Anders-the-terrorist subplot, but it felt like the whole thing was telegraphed a long way off. I suppose I’m okay with having Meredith’s behaviour explained in terms of the big-red-evil-artefact, but if the story was so intent on removing her agency as well as everyone else’s, it would have been nice to know more about the artefact itself. This could have been achieved without too much difficulty, I think: the Deep Roads expedition and the eventual follow up with Varric’s brother gave ample opportunity to sneak this information into the story. As it stands, the artefact comes across as a bit of a forced plot device, rather than an integrated part of the world.

    Basically, I felt that the story had some good ideas, but they were often executed badly. I’d hate to see Bioware completely give up on trying to tell stories like this. I just want the story to hang together better.

  40. namad says:

    Flat out, Dragon Age II was a bad game. EA is probably to blame. Bioware has two choices, apologize for DA2 with DA3, or scrap the DA ip and just start a new ip which can have a new fanbase that doesn’t resent them so much and isn’t owed that apology. So apologize or give up. This interview doesn’t really make it clear either way, but with some other articles I read bioware has indicated that they’re giving da3 a lot more development time than da2 had.

  41. namad says:

    In summation:

    Dear Nathan Grayson,

    Dragon Age Two was a Bad Videogame and you should feel bad.

    • notes says:

      In summation:

      Dear Nathan Grayson,

      Dragon Age 2 was a video game with flaws. Lots of them. None of which were discussed here, save in the tenderest manner possible. Not every interview needs to be hard hitting, but this didn’t even swing once.

      This absence would not be such a large problem if the headline didn’t promise an interview on the flaws of Dragon Age 2.

      • rebochan says:

        Doubly annoying as I’m pretty sure David Gaider could provide reasonable, non-offended answers. At least compared to Laidlaw, who is inexplicably still the lead designer on DA:III after completely tanking the last game.

      • Phantoon says:

        More eloquent than I’d have put it. In fact

        Dear Nathan,

        THIS WAS AS SHIT AS DRAGON AGE 2!

        Love,
        You’ll never be a replacement for Kieron.

        (Disclaimer: This is a bit sarcastic. But you don’t have to take it that way if you thought DA2 was fine. Also, if you thought DA2 was fine, you must’ve hated the original.)

        • Demiath says:

          Personally I thought DA2 was a rather nice game, warts and all. And I didn’t hate DA1, despite the dreadful Ulysses-like verboseness of its rudimentary orcs and dragons plotline. Only thing that scares me about the interview is the echo chamber in this comments section.

          • Phantoon says:

            Did we read the same interview? Because I read one where Nathan was so soft on the guy he should be getting a check from Bioware for making him look good.

  42. MattM says:

    Are they ever going to get around to releasing a Ultimate Edition of DA II? I liked the first enough to still be willing to give DA II a try, but they need to get the entire game+dlc down to $10. They also need to make the ultimate edition completely offline. None of this linking DLC to online checks BS. EA is clearly not interested in maintaining servers and don’t seem to care enough to even tell customer support when the servers are down for weeks on end.

    • dirtwizard says:

      The devs have mentioned a couple times on Twitter that that’s something they’d like to put together, but they have to prove to the money people and game sellers that it’d sell. That it hasn’t come out seems to indicate they don’t think it’d be worth the investment.

      • MattM says:

        I would just buy the game off amazon, but I would like the DLCs and they they seem very overpriced. They weren’t a great value when released and they don’t seem to go down in price or go on sale like the base game.

        • malkav11 says:

          No Bioware DLC since the original Dragon Age has been discounted or bundled at all, and even Dragon Age’s Ultimate Edition just gives you a code to take over to Bioware Social Network and manually download each individual DLC, which is utterly ridiculous.

    • Phantoon says:

      It’s not even worth pirating.

      It’s bad. It’s not the worst game, surely.

      But it’s bad.

  43. dirtwizard says:

    I’m disappointed in how much the general gaming public dislikes Isabella. I feel like so much of her character went over people’s heads, or that most of the people who dislike her are so wrapped up/invested in the virgin/whore dichotomy that they can’t catch when they’re being punkd. smdh, for real.

    • rebochan says:

      I think it’s because the story is just so shallow that her more interesting parts are lost in all the fanservice that was simpler to write.

      Well, that and what she pulls in the story arc itself.

    • Phantoon says:

      Yeah. She was okay. She may have come back with the macguffin, but, why.

      This is all irrelevant. Solaire is a better bromance than anything Bioware has ever written.

  44. Shandrakor says:

    Here’s the thing: While I loved the writing in DA:O, I never got a chance to experience much writing in DAII. So for me, was irrelevant. DA:O was my GOTY, and I enjoyed it more than any game I’d played in the past few years. I had a great big smile on my face as I installed and booted up DAII… only to be met with…that. This was NOT the game I was promised. DAII was a completely different game. I walked in expecting fun tactical choices, meaningful story choices, and an adventure on a grand scale. I discovered a camera-shaking button-mashing abomination. A game trying to be the First Person Shooter of The Month.

    The game I got was not the game I expected. There’s a reason I paid full price on release day, and have for every Bioware release since Baldur’s Gate. I enjoyed their games; I knew what I was getting, and I expected a similar experience to DA:O. You know, the game referenced by putting the number ‘Two’ in Dragon Age Two. One might expect that they’d bear a passing resemblance to each other.

    They didn’t. And while I didn’t sue for fraud, I also won’t be buying any more Bioware games until and unless they’ve been thoroughly reviewed, not just by RPS but also by my friends. The folks who are ‘console gamers’ seemed to enjoy DAII. The computer gamers did not.

    The truly sad thing about this? Blizzard and Bioware were the last 2 companies whose products I’d purchase sight unseen. Both had a history of making games I enjoyed, with immense replay value. Unfortunately, that is no longer true for either firm. DAII and SW:TOR did for Bioware what over a decade of releases couldn’t: make me put my wallet back in my pocket. DAII was not in the same genre as DA:O; with this release Bioware DAMAGED THEIR BRAND. So instead of shelling out 60 bucks on release day plus DLC sales, if they get my money it’ll be in an all-in-one Steam package for 20 or 30. Way to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.

    • eden prime says:

      “The folks who are ‘console gamers’ seemed to enjoy DAII. The computer gamers did not.”

      Not trying to be overly tangential, but I promise you that this is not the case. It’s an overly black and white summation that makes me wonder where you’ve done your reading on the subject. As a console gamer, I can wholeheartedly, and with cheerful vigor, state that I did not enjoy DA II. For many of the same reasons that you did not.

      I know that they made DA II largely with console gamers in mind, so we become guilty by association, but not all of us enjoyed the outcome of said intent.

    • Phantoon says:

      “If they get my money”

      WHY IS THIS A POSSIBILITY.

  45. revokatt says:

    It was very generous to give him such a long, wet strokejob as this article turned out to be.

    Also interesting that he talks of “long-time fans” as being the ones who played DAO, a game released in late 2009 – less than 3.5 years old. People who played BG or NWN must be positively ancient by their count.

    • Phantoon says:

      I’m sure the EA-Approved Killsquads have removed anyone who remembered Jade Empire from existence so no one can point out that there was already homosexual romances in games FROM THE SAME COMPANY.

  46. Runs With Foxes says:

    Well, there’s nothing wrong with archetypes. As long as those characters are doing something different, the fact that you can find some similarities between them is unimportant. As long as there is a difference. As a writer, I can recognize that. The bad thing would be to unwittingly repeat yourself and have someone point it out to you afterwards and you say, “Oh. I wasn’t aware of that.” You should be aware of it.

    Uh yeah. I wonder if Dave is aware of this chart: http://politetimesplitter.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/bioware-cliche-chart.png

  47. Crosmando says:

    I couldn’t really give a shit about BioWare and their new games, as the sycophantic interview indicates Kickstarter and the like have essentially taken away any last reasons traditional RPG fans had to buy their games, and it’s also taken away the last reason for BioWare to even attempt to keep traditional RPG fans interested.

    • Phantoon says:

      A friend remarked on exactly that, saying that the old fans would be relegated to Kickstarter, and new ones would never have played anything before ME1.

  48. Renato84 says:

    “Our fans, like I mentioned before, don’t agree on any one thing.”

    Fans? What fans?

  49. Renato84 says:

    “The mistake a lot of people make, … is that they always assume that the last thing we did will be the next thing we do. Which is never the case.”

    What? Aren’t you EA? If it made money, the public is clearly asking more of the same, isn’t it?

    BioWare is D-E-A-D. Don’t try to fool us into thinking that you write for a beloved studio that doesn’t exist anymore.

    NO ONE CARES about what the EA studio responsible for ME3, DA2 and SW:TOR is doing.

  50. Renato84 says:

    It’s very funny how they weren’t given the proper time to make a proper game, even though, apparently, there was a lot of time to do plenty of foolish DLC stuff.

    Years ago, BioWare was a studio with balls, just like Bethesda, Obsidian, Rockstar, CDProjekt, Irrational.

    Now that name belongs to an EA drone. BioWare is DEAD.

    • Iamerror says:

      The DLC for the game upon release was what, a side-character that was less developed than other party members and either just cut from the game or added in later [and not given enough detail] and a bunch of items with a few unique icons…it’s not as though there’s any content there that would have dramatically altered the games development [I'm not sure if the HD textures were available upon release].

      Given the short development cycle and branching narrative the game is extremely polished, so it’s clear they weren’t given an adequate time period for asset creation.

      As for your other, angry posts [they're just entertainment products...] you can’t really argue Bioware games aren’t extremely popular among the majority of gamers, with the minority ‘hardcore’ audience rabidly verbally attacking anything and everything they do, deservedly or not.

      • Brun says:

        The HD textures were not available on release but came about a month afterward (after most people had finished the game).

        HD textures don’t usually eat much extra development time – usually the low-res textures are just compressions of original hi-res versions. The hi-res texture packs for games like this are usually just releases of those originals.

      • Renato84 says:

        Just look at what BioWare used to provide gamers for 40-60 dollars with Baldur’s Gate, NWN, KOTOR, Jade Empire, Mass Effect 1 and DA: Origins, and what they offered with DA2 for 60 dollars. It’s ridiculous.

        You sure did get my point with “they’re just entertainment products”. That studio have EMBRACED MEDIOCRITY. They used to invent things like Baldur’s Gate, KOTOR and Mass Effect. Now they just make entertainment products.

        And I, for better or worse, remain a passionate gamer and videogame advocate (despite being a 28 years old doctor specializing in cardiology, for which I’m very passionate as well).

        • Brun says:

          Who cares if they’re “DEAD”? If EAWare is unable to bring competitive products to the market they will – and deserve to – fail as a business. Leaner competitors that are unburdened by EA’s inanity will step in to fill the gap, as there is clearly a demand for BioWare-esque titles.

          My point is, you don’t need to go on an outraged preaching rant here on RPS. We KNOW the BioWare of old is long gone – you are not the first person EVER IN THE WORLD to be blessed with the perceptive abilities necessary to see this fact. Fortunately, by continuing to produce subpar material BioWare is hastening its own merciful demise, so you needn’t worry.

          • Renato84 says:

            Reasonable rantings that persist for a long time all over the internet do make points in this industry.

            ME3 was a poorly written bag of flashy polished shooter crap. It meant nothing to me, completely forgettable from beginning to end, the opposite of ME1 and ME2. The fact that people generally accepted ME3 (or 95% of it) as a valid entry to the Mass Effect series shows that there still is an “evil to be fought” in this matter.