BioWare On Race, Romance, And (R)Time In Dragon Age

By Nathan Grayson on September 12th, 2013 at 11:00 am.

Has it really been an entire age since Dragon Age: Inquisition lead designer Mike Laidlaw and I last spoke? Of course not. The first part of our interview went up yesterday. We discussed combat, choice, and exploration, and today we’re delving even deeper into the rabbit hole dragon den of certain doom. Read on to find out how race/sex, crossovers with previous DA games, romance, and more will function in BioWare’s hopeful return to form.

RPS: You can choose your race and your sex again in this one. I assume that’ll have a pretty major impact on what you see and don’t see this time around? You previously noted that the year-long delay allowed you to make some pretty big changes on this front.

I want it to rear up and say, ‘So you chose elf! Let’s deal with that.’ That, to me, is a very intriguing element of the game.

Laidlaw: To some degree. Our big goal is that there’s some sort of significant impact to making that choice. I don’t think I want to spend the entire game being called a knife-ear because I chose an elf, over and over again. At that point it just becomes background noise. But at least at one or two points in the game, I want it to rear up and say, “So you chose elf! Cool! Let’s deal with that.” That, to me, is a very intriguing element of the game and it always has been.

RPS: Yeah. It’s something that genres like fantasy or sci-fi are pretty well-equipped to discuss, because you can take a fairly sticky subject and abstract it and see the effects of it. There was a lot of stuff dealing with race in DA 2. Is that still a big theme, a big thread in the game?

Laidlaw: It always has been. Again, to some degree, you being an Inquisitor overrides some of the race stuff. But yeah, the elves are still considered lower-class citizens. The dwarves are still this kind of alien culture. And if you’re on the surface, by nature you’re an outcast from the real dwarven culture, as far as they’re concerned. They have this weird internal racism.

And then on top of that, Qunari bring in a really interesting new wrinkle, in that they’re kind of the barbarian invader race. They’re a highly advanced barbarian invader race from across the sea that everyone’s terrified of, because at one poine they tried to conquer the whole darn place. They fought to a standstill and they never really were pushed back at all. So suddenly one of them is Inquisitor. It poses some interesting challenges.

RPS: Another thing that’s recurring is the fact that mages are seen as this potentially devastating force because they could just go off and ruin everything at the drop of a hat. But you guys have had that theme percolating arounnd for a while. It was fairly prevalent in Origins and it made a return in DA 2. Are you worried about repeating yourself? When does a theme like that run out of steam?

Laidlaw: There’s points where the Chantry is in the spotlight, but it doesn’t mean it goes away when it’s not in the spotlight. I think DA 2 was absolutely the big one for the mage. In a world where demons are pouring out of the sky, regardless of mages, it becomes a little less pressing. But it’s still something that I think is… It’s a permanent part of the franchise. Mages are never safe. They can always be tempted to do something wrong, and they are essentially constantly hearing whispers tempting them to do that. That’s something that keeps them fascinating. It doesn’t have to stay on the front burner forever, but I’d never take it away, because I think that it’s an intriguing part of the experience.

RPS: Given that Varric and Cassandra are party members, I’m assuming Inquisition isn’t terribly far removed from Dragon Age 2′s timeline. For you guys, is there ever an interest in going beyond that point in the Dragon Age world and saying, “Okay, we’ve seen this place. We’ve seen what it’s like at this particular time. Let’s go into the future. Let’s go into the past”?

Laidlaw: I would almost say it’s a classic fantasy temptation. From there, there’s an enormously slippery slope which leads to cogs and large goggles. That’s cool. That’s a neat thing to do and it’s one way to take a franchise. But in our case, any time I’m asked that, I tend to say to myself, “What’s Minrathous like? What’s the capital of the Tevinter Empire like?” I’m kind of curious to find out.

I don’t think I need to go to a different time to see something different. I’ve never been to Antiva. I don’t know what Rivain is like. I’ve never been to the homeland of the Qunari. There’s so much still left out there. There are so many other cool issues we can explore. I don’t necessarily see the future or the past to be places that we need to go digging just yet. There’s so much more stuff that I’d like to explore.

RPS: It also allows you to have little bits where various games in the series interweave. Characters like Varric showing up, or Anders in DA 2.

Laidlaw: Absolutely.

RPS: How much are you doing that in Inquisition? Is it mainly just going to be some Varric and Cassandra, or is there going to be a lot more weaved into what’s going on?

Laidlaw: I don’t want to get too much into story stuff. That treads pretty firmly into story territory. But I do want a blend. I think we have to build a game where, if you’re totally new, coming in isn’t mystifying. If it was the Varric Show, it would be like, “Go play DA 2, it’s mandatory.” But instead, I think that if you’re a returning player, you’re playing the game, to some degree cameos, to some degree references, to some degree actual heavy story presence. Those things are all very cool.

But the big thing for me is to make sure that we’re crafting a really interesting story and an interesting cast of characters. In our case, looking at who’s coming from DA 2, Cassandra and Varric have a very cool dynamic. They do not get along. They do not really agree. But what kind of thing could draw them together? What kind of situations would they both set aside grievances to deal with? That, to me, is absolutely fascinating. So as a result, we have both of them coming back.

RPS: I feel like, at least from what I’ve seen in the past, the interesting challenge of trying to tell an all new story like that is that sometimes you end up with a little overlap with the roles characters serve. For instance, I love both Alistair and Anders, but on an archetypal level, they’re sort of similar. They’re the wisecracking, charming guys that are with you pretty much from the get-go. How do you tackle that when you’re creating those characters? How do you differentiate them? How do you avoid repeating yourself?

Laidlaw: Ultimately what you want is a cast of characters who inherently are their own people. That’s all character writing is. You think of a person first, and then you worry about their gender and their race and all that stuff later. Think about a person. And so when we build up a cast for something like, say, DA 2, the big burning question is the mages and the templars. Everybody either has an opinion or doesn’t.

And “doesn’t” is an opinion in and of itself. That’s Isabela. She really doesn’t care. That’s a big part of her character, that she is frustrated by the fact that everybody seems to be getting increasingly caught up in this. Aveline is worried about it in the sense that “This is causing unrest in the city that I’m trying to keep safe.” She doesn’t really have… She has views, because of her husband, but that’s not really her problem. Her problem is the unrest that results. And so you want to say, “What is this game about? What are the things that are happening?”

And in this case it’s about a world in calamity. It’s about something going on behind the scenes and uncovering it, which is why it’s an Inquisition, not some kind of big military action. In a lot of ways, it’s the scalpel, not the knife. And so what you want to do is say, “What characters have a vested interest in the events that are occurring?” You have a character like Vivienne who was the first enchanter of Orlais. Then the Circles fell apart. That’s a bummer, because she was basically as powerful as a mage could be, and then it all came crashing down. Varric and Cassandra are both absolutely desperate to uncover what’s actually happening. That was made very clear at the end of DA 2.

So you build up those characters that have their own motivations and their own goals. And to some degree their personality will come out of it. But you put them together and you say, “Okay, do we have a really good mix of interesting characters? Do we think their interactions will intrigue and that players will [get behind them]?” Our goal is that, as a player, you should love them or hate them, but you should never be like, “Yeah, whatever.”

When I think to my personal favorite, Planescape Torment, it’s an amazing game, and part of the thing that made it so amazing was that the characters who surrounded the Nameless One were such extremes. So what’s up with Ignus? He’s on fire and in pain ALL THE TIME. Most of his dialogue is “AAAAGH!” and you’re like, “Wow, okay…” There’s a wise-cracking guy who’s a skull and threatens to bite you. The succubus tries to focus on her poetry.

And of course it’s a setting that allows for that kind of rampant extremism, which is why I loved it. And in the same way… We obviously aren’t going to have a Modron running around in DA. It’s not going to fit the current state of the world. But we can still look at our characters and say, “Are they intriguing enough? Do they offer that kind of perspective?”

RPS: Oooo, Planescape Torment, you say? Was anything else in Inquisition directly inspired by it?

Laidlaw: From Torment specifically? Huh. Well, I think the big thing Torment brought to the table was offering a lot of different solutions and really cool solutions to the problems you faced. Not everything was fighting. Often just being persuasive or certain stats and stuff would come across like, “Whoa! I have a wisdom of 25, so let’s just shortcut the entire ending.” I really like that kind of stuff.

It also did the job of, “Did you pursue this path in the game?” There’s some stuff there too. That’s something we’re trying to explore more deeply. There’s making a choice, and that’s fine. But there’s also, what’s the aggregate of your choices? What’s the long term? And occasionally saying, “Look. There’s this really cool scenario in here. Not every player is going to see it.” But as developers, we’re trying to get more efficient in our work, because it lets us do a little more sandbox with what you play. Which is to say, “Not everyone is going to see this, and that’s cool.” That’s not a problem. That’s not a waste of money. That’s awesome.

As we build up our community efforts, it’s like, social media and e-mail and FAQs and everything, there are no secrets in gaming. If that’s the case, I think part of the joy is from having a friend who says, “Oh, you beat the game? Did you see this?” And you’re like, “No, I didn’t!” That’s as thrilling as seeing it. And that’s something that we’re getting increasingly comfortable with. I don’t want it to be a weaker experience because you didn’t do X or Y. It should be complete. But understanding that sometimes, even if you never replay it, you’re probably going to hear about it, and you’re going to feel so much more satisfied about the fact that you made a choice and something else happened from your friend who made a different one.

I think Planescape paved a really good path on that front.

RPS: You mentioned that you enjoyed having certain stats affect different choices you made and your ability to pursue certain dialogue options. Is that something that you’re going to pursue in Inquisition?

Laidlaw: We’re going to look at some more non-combat solutions, but at this point… My general rule for Inquisition is that if I don’t have it locked down, I don’t really want to talk about it. I’d rather underpromise and overdeliver. It’s a direction we’re heading in, but I don’t want to go into details on it.

[PR motions that we're running out of time]

RPS: You’ve mentioned that romances are going to break outside the box of traditional “BioWare romances.” They’ve been described as more “event-based.” What does that mean? Do you reach this point in the game/romance and this thing happens, next point, this thing happens?

Laidlaw: No, no, I wouldn’t say so. It’s just attempting to get away from the idea of, “Oh, +10, and here’s a gift, +5.” Getting away from that kind of raw, mechanical, insert happiness event kind of stuff. So event-based is more just a general approach.

RPS: So when you talk to them, things happen. You advance standing with people through interactions, conversations, and whatnot?

Laidlaw: Yeah.

RPS: Sounds sensible! Thank you for your time.

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140 Comments »

  1. Dariune says:

    Oh good. Another RPS – EAWare hype interview. I appreciate that this is the second part of the same interview but it really does feel like “Second verse, same as the first” in terms of it just being EAWare creating hype and made for breaking promises for what will likely be another lackluster title. (Same as for DA2, ME2, ME3, ToR)

    Would love to be proved wrong though.

    • tehsorrow says:

      It’s easy to presume they are lying but everything I’m hearing makes this game sound very not-shit.

      • greg_ritter says:

        > makes this game sound very not-shit.
        Well, two previous games were honestly just about decent. Nothing to praise, though. I wouldn’t hold my hopes high.

        • tehsorrow says:

          No love for Dragon Age Origins? I loved the hell out of that game, it’s part of why DA2 was such a sick burn

          • Anders Wrist says:

            For something claiming to be the spiritual successor to the Baldur’s Gate series, it was a pretty big disappointment. It was a rather mediocre game when considered on its own, the whole “darkspawn” story itself probably the biggest cliché in fantasy.

          • kament says:

            It was “old school”. It was advertised as old school. And apparently some people loved only that old school part and nothing more about Origins.

          • Dariune says:

            It actually suffered from the same marketing bullshit as all the subsequent games. It was heralded as the spiritual successor to BG with a lot of depth, original story and multiple classes.

            Instead we got a generic story (Which to be fair was done pretty well), with only 3 standard classes (Which could be then further upgraded but it was hardly an indepth character upgrade system), only four party members and very few spells, skills etc.

            Lastly, the game was short with the standard quest structure “Starter quest, three middle quests, final quest”

            I liked DA:Origins. But I didn’t think it was great. An above average game in my opinion.

          • xsikal says:

            No. No love at all. It was a throwback game that somehow missed almost everything that made BG/BG2 fun, set in a boring world, facing boring enemies, telling a painfully grimdark-but-only-sort-of! story, and utilizing a boring and underdeveloped rule system.

      • Talon2000uk says:

        The problem I have is that both their last two games sounds “Very much not shit” while in production. Unfortunately for different reasons they were “Very much shit” on release. DA2 was rushed,consolised and a little boring in my opinion and while I loved 98% of ME3 the ABC ending kind of ruined the game for me.

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          FhnuZoag says:

          ‘Loved 98%’ is not consistent with ‘very much shit’.

          What you need to do is learn to have realistic expectations. Don’t expect perfection. Expect a decent game with a few inevitable flaws, that you will buy subject to positive review, possibly after waiting for a sale. Simple, straightforward, and will save you a ton of pointless heartache.

          Bioware have thus far never disappointed me. They are just entertaining big budget RPGs. That’s it.

          • Grape Flavor says:

            ^this. I mean, it’s okay to feel disappointed. But to expect any developer to always deliver a knockout punch isn’t very sensible.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      Second verse same as the first, a little bit louder and a little bit worse. Ohhhhh, the cow kicked Nelly in the belly in the barn…

      Meh it’s fine. The game’s like a year from completion, they can’t really do anything at this stage but present vague concepts.

    • JoeGuy says:

      ME2 was good.

    • Wurstwaffel says:

      What the fuck is the matter with you people? Every single comments section on this site is like 70% pessimism and derision.

      • gunny1993 says:

        It’s the opposite of a hype train, the more pessimistic you get about a project the better it seems when it’s actually released.,

      • Talon2000uk says:

        No, its only the comments on games from major publishers. Most of us are very disillusioned with the way AAA games are being developed and marketed by the big corporations, particularly EA. The way they treat their PC customer base and the total lack of respect for the PC as a platform has made a large group of us very sceptical when receiving Pre release news from these guys.

        If you want to see upbeat comments and a generally much more positive reaction to these pre release puff pieces, take a look at the comments section for all the indie games that are covered on RPS.

        I don’t speak to everyone here of cause, but there are a significant section of comentors who are sick to the back teeth of the major publishing houses.

        Fool me once, shame on me, fool me 10 times then I must be a dam idiot. :D

        • Mad Hamish says:

          No it’s not. I’ve seen plenty of comments sections here on articles about games made by one or two people be flooded with moaning and negativity. Most of it without a point to back it up. It’s become a real negative whinge fest on RPS for months now. If it’s not a Reddit invasion attacking one of the writers it’s someone complaining about pixels. I’m actually starting to miss those horrid, driven in to the ground pun threads and awful “something”FACE memes.

          • Josh W says:

            I think part of it is that there’s just a really large amount of posts now, you can’t have as many nice gatherings in the comments threads because everyone is spread out. That appeals more to anti-social or soap-boxing commenters.

            Either that or it’s just a phase, hopefully the latter.

        • Grape Flavor says:

          Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if all those people who have a blanket ideological opposition to AAA games stuck to the indie game articles, instead of always shitting up the comment section for those who are willing to give these games a chance?

          I know it’s very hard for some people that games which they personally don’t like exist, even though no one is forcing them to buy or play such games. But maybe they should try to get over it?

          Also, “lack of respect for the PC as a platform” is usually just code for “doesn’t center their entire business around putting the PC first and foremost”.

          But why should they? The PC is the smallest, least profitable platform, both in terms of the overall user base, and in the percentage of said base who actually pays for their games. Publishers don’t treat the PC as the center of the gaming universe, because isn’t.

          I love the PC. I would love it if the world revolved around all my niche tastes and interests. But at some point you have to accept that that isn’t the way things work.

      • Slazer says:

        This comment section has more relevance for me than any review page, for the reasons mentioned above.

        Rockstar and Bioware teached not to trust anybody, and their latest games usually get butchered here just as they deserve it

        • Grape Flavor says:

          I’d trust a reviewer who has actually played the game a million times more than RPS commenters, who often make up their minds about a game the second it is announced, based on little to no information, and then stubbornly stick to their guns in the face of any and all evidence.

          Just look at the Splinter Cell Blacklist review a few pages back, people who have probably neither bought nor played the game are getting all upset that RPS gave a positive review to a game they were determined to despise from the get-go. Or Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Remember all the braying about how that one was going to be $60 of pure digital Hitler in the months leading up to release? Yeah.

          And sadly enough, when RPS dares to defy the comment section’s biases in an article, then they turn on the writers and the site itself with accusations and personal attacks. How many times I’ve seen commenters angrily denounce RPS as a bunch of crooks and sell-outs, and threaten to never come back, just because they said something positive or optimistic about a game that was on their personal Hate List.

          I wish there was some sort of RPS-convention where there could be some sort of terrible miraculous accident that would get rid of these people and remove them from the human gene pool. This site really has attracted some of the worst dregs of internetdom the last few years and I’m beyond sick of it.

      • tuluse says:

        We’re clearly not being critical enough then: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturgeon%27s_Law

        • Grape Flavor says:

          I think if anything, Sturgeon’s law applies to the RPS comments, which have been 90% puke and bile for quite some time now.

          I know that may sound kind of hypocritical coming from me, but my sour grapes are usually just in reaction to other people’s. I get along just fine everywhere else.

      • Grape Flavor says:

        Yup. This is, these days, the most bitter, closed-minded, anger-filled online community I have ever been a part of.

        It wasn’t always like this though, if it was, I would have ran in the opposite direction and never came back again. It’s happened over time. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to walk away. Why should I have to sell my place and move to a different neighborhood just because a bunch of malcontents moved in next-door? That’s letting them win.

        • Betamax says:

          Well said Grape Flavor, you win one whole internets! Now back to peering out of my boarded up (browser) window at the lurching, scowling, pessimists lurking in the shadows. If I am real quiet they won’t hear me daring to look forward to a AAA game. :p

      • Jdopus says:

        If you want to know why people are negative you could y’know… read the negative comments?

        There are very few negative comments on RPS that don’t also include an explanation of why the poster is being negative. Complaining about people voicing their honest opinions is ridiculous.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      I dunno about that. I’m not sure I believe that you’d actually like to be proved wrong.

  2. Talon2000uk says:

    Ahhh Bioware, how did I love thee, let me count the ways. Nah lets not bother. This all sounds great but I just don’t trust you guys any more. I’ll wait for the reviews and see where we stand but I have a huge aversion to giving money to an EA company now, how they run their business and how they treat the gaming public is bad for the games industry in general and I find it hard to reward that with my cash.

    Added to that that Bioware is not the company it used to be, there last two games have been rushed and rather unpolished. And while I loved 98% of Mass Effect 3 the endings kind of ruined the whole franchise for me. Just a personal thing, I know some loved the endings.

    Now Dragon age is a different game of cause, but I’m not keen on where they have taken the series. I loved the first one, I personally consider it the last truly great Bioware game, DA2 felt rushed and rather unepic after DA1 and I really didnt like the consolisation, is that a word? of the game play.

    Also, I miss my warden, I wanted to continue his story, I wanted to find out what happened to my friend Morigan and Our child. That relationship was one of the best pieces of writing Bioware ever did, I took the friends with benefits path and it really rang true with me.

    I’m not convinced yet about this game, too much PR speak, too many broken promises in the past and too much EAness in the company for me to be a pre-order person.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Yeah, they’ve blown their wasd with me. Not going to rush out and get any game of theirs on day one. Will most likely wait til it hits 10 or 15 on sale. I still haven’t gotten ME3, and you’d have to pay me to play DA2: It’s not worth playing for free imo.

      No more full price ride, guys. This is why it is important not to cut corners, and to think through your game design real seriously.

      Too bad. I really like the spin they put on the obligatory elves and dwarves in the DA universe. Mordin Solus is arguably the best game character ever. Last hurrahs…..

    • xsikal says:

      Rather than waiting for the reviews, I’d recommend (a) waiting for the game to hit the bargain bin, and (b) waiting for actual player feedback. It’s a given that Bioware games will get great reviews from all the major sites when a game is first released. It’s only when the public outcry hits critical mass that said gaming media will start revising history and talking about all the things they REALLY didn’t like in that last game, which is why they are SO glad Bioware is fixing it with their upcoming Game of Awesome Awesomeness.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      I find it interesting how everyone always blames BioWare shortcomings on EA, when the doctors themselves have said (post departure) that EA gave them lots of creative freedom and any mistakes were BioWare’s own.

      I see how people would be drawn to the narrative of “EA ruined BioWare”, but it’s not certain that was the case.

      • Arglebargle says:

        An example of a design studio that got better under EA’s management would help that argument, but I doubt there is one.

        Also, I imagine that the ‘Get a sequal out in a year’ mandate that lead to DA2 was an EA beancounter move, no matter what poor choices were made by Laidlaw and the design team in the game’s implementation.

  3. DrMcCoy says:

    Wait, didn’t we get that stupid PS:T part (the one where they completely miss the point) already a few weeks ago? What is this, sloppy seconds articles to build up the hype some more?

    • Dariune says:

      In a word, yes. RPS must need more hits.

    • S Jay says:

      Ah, I knew I had seen this before. Now this makes sense.

    • xsikal says:

      Yep. Apparently, the comments section did not explode sufficiently the first time.

      • Grape Flavor says:

        The day RPS starts organizing their content around what morons in the comments say is the day I stop coming here.

        That would be the REAL sellout. Not “omg RPS gave somewhat positive coverage to a game I’m determined to hate, what a bunch of shills!!!!1!!”

    • Fiyenyaa says:

      Or: they cut out an interesting (if you really want; sensational) bit of the interview and now they are running the whole thing.
      Don’t really see the issue here; interviews aren’t magically transcribed and ready to go as soon as they’re done y’know.

  4. S Jay says:

    It is really remarkable that I don’t remember any single character in DAII (Varric? Cassandra? What was DAII about?) and I remember absolutely everything from Origins.

    I guess that is a good indication of what everybody knows.

    • Premium User Badge

      cpt_freakout says:

      Not really. Even though they had tons more writing poured into them, most of the characters in DA2 were just not very interesting. For me, the best one was Isabella, who was surprisingly good. At first she seemed like the stereotypical individualist show-off, but it turns out she is, like the interview mentions, the character that has some sense of context in contrast with everyone else, who is carrying on like robots. In my opinion most of the DAO characters suffered of the same thing, but that’s just me, even though I really like the games’ setting. I think I might get Inquisition just for the sake of seeing where the story goes, in the same way I sometimes watch TV shows that I know aren’t very good, but that have an interesting enough character or setting.

    • iridescence says:

      Well it’s a natural reflex for the brain to block out very traumatic experiences. DA2 qualifies.

      Although this article does sound good. Even about the romances, Bioware seems to understand exactly what they’ve done wrong in the past. Of course that’ll make it harder to take if they release a game filled with the same old shit but maybe they are really going to listen to their real fans and make a good game. Their last few games where they courted the “mainstream” audience have been pretty much flops (DA2/SWTOR) or at least very hated by the community (ME3).

    • Premium User Badge

      strangeloup says:

      I vaguely remember Varric being kinda neat, and Fenris purely because he had the same voice actor as Final Fantasy XII’s awesome Balthier. Also I think DA2 had a more likeable cast of characters (if not hugely memorable), because frankly I would have quite happily punted everyone but Zevran in DA:O off a cliff and regretted nothing.

    • Solidstate89 says:

      Varric was the single bright spot in DA2 so I absolutely remember that magnificent smartass. I can’t say I remember any other characters’ names.

      I remember there was an Elf mage I spent half the game trying to perform blood magic, but I’ll be damned if I remember her name.

  5. S Jay says:

    I had a big deja-vu in the middle of this interview. It seems I read the exact same words before… (?)

    EDIT: It was in the Torment answer.

  6. Simas says:

    Mentioning Planescape Torment and that you are inspired by that game seems to be new PR meme.

    • Talon2000uk says:

      Yeah I’m not sure its a good idea though. Its like mentioning Citizen Kane, when you are publicizing a Uwe Boll movie. :D

    • newc0253 says:

      I concur.

      DA3 may well turn out great but every time I read an interview with Laidlaw, it reeks of someone trying to hit their fan boy talking points. “Wow, people really liked Torment so I’ll mention that I loved Torment a lot”. Also, “this time your choices actually matter”.

      For the record, despite its flashmob combat, overuse of the same 3 locations and execrable third Act, I really liked DA2. But I guess Laidlaw talking honestly about the flaws of previous games is somewhat outside his wheelhouse.

    • tuluse says:

      It’s clear that every Bioware game since PS:T has been heavily influenced by it. Companion interaction mechanics all basically point straight back to PS:T. Being influenced by something doesn’t mean taking the good ideas from something else, and it doesn’t mean you’ll make something good.

      • Fry says:

        Other than as makers of the Infinity Engine, Bioware didn’t have much to do with PS:T. That was Black Isle/Interplay.

        • tuluse says:

          I’m well aware, but what does that have to do with what I wrote in the slightest?

          • Medicine says:

            They all point back to Baldur’s Gate, released a year earlier (and developed by BioWare). There’s no arguing, though, that Torment took that lovely template and added the depth it deserved (as, latterly, did Baldur’s Gate II).

    • denthor says:

      It’s a desperate attempt to appeal at the player base they pretty much abandoned with DA:2. That is how i read it anyway.

  7. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    The most important question that nobody asks: Is Qunari Sexyback a party member?
    It’s important because of the reason.

  8. Premium User Badge

    cpt_freakout says:

    What a way to not understand Torment’s characters, by the way.

    • Slazer says:

      HE IS ON FIRE AND SAYS “AAAHHHRRGG!!!!!” THATS HOW WE WANT THEM!!!!!

  9. Auru says:

    For me, it doesn’t really matter what bioware or anyone else says about DA3.. I won’t be preordering it for anything.

    Origins was like a revival of the type of game that I utterly love.. and it felt like it was handcrafted and much loved throughout it’s massive playtime/story. Dragon Age 2 was such a massive plummet down from the heady heights of Origins for me, it’s actually the last game I ever preordered :P

    What I will say though is I will check out DA3 after release, I really do hope they capture what made the first one so great… just won’t be a day one buy, not even close.

    • Talon2000uk says:

      Right there with ya. :D

    • EnragedPixel says:

      Exactly the same story here, right down to Dragon Age 2 being the last game I pre-ordered. Before that any BioWare game was bought sight unseen and I could trust in the fact that I’d have a good time with it even if it’d be far from perfect (Mass Effect 2, I’m looking at you). After DA2…. not so much.

      • Solidstate89 says:

        Seriously. DA2 absolutely used up the last bit of “gamer cred” Bioware had with me. Before that game, I’d preorder any game they had announced because I just knew I’d love the hell out of it. If they just announced the name of the game, I’d have probably preordered it if they had given me the ability to without giving me any more details – so great was my trust in them.

        • kament says:

          I don’t get it. It was clear enough that DA2 wasn’t gonna be just like DAO. They showed you how combat looked and worked, they warned you there’s no armor customization for your followers and about their new policy “nonhumans are not allowed”. They released a demo, ffs.

          How did it used any “creds”?

          • Klaus says:

            Exactly. While all those things seemed unpleasant to me at first, and some still are, I knew what I was going into. They were telling people that they were not getting Dragon Age: Origins 2, and the first rounds of criticisms were: “This is such a departure from DA:O!”

    • Premium User Badge

      Rizlar says:

      Yeah, getting somewhat hopeful about this one since all the talk of what made Origins great, introducing environmentally impactful decisions, Torment etc. But then watching gameplay previews… some of the visual and gameplay design elements make me think it’s going to end up much closer to DA2. Hum.

  10. Pich says:

    Yeah, no. Wake me when The Witcher III is out.

  11. Nim says:

    Will not bother, even if it’s good.

  12. kament says:

    Ah, that time. I was hoping someone finally asked about day/night cycle (and weather effects, for that matter). Is it dynamic? I seem to remember it was player-controlled, but then again it was human-only, so that could’ve changed, too.

    It’s not a Bioware thing, yes, but they’re definitely treading a new territory here, and it’s interesting to know how far they are willing to go with, erm, “physicality”, as Laidlaw’s put it.

  13. Alexander says:

    A lot of the interview feels like stuff you’ve already posted. And this is the second or third time I get some RPS deja-vu in the last weeks.

    Game looks ok, it seems they learned a bit from DA2. At least they’ve kept this one in production for a longer time.

  14. Yosharian says:

    Sorry to say it but watching the recent expo footage hyped me up and these two interviews just hyped me down a lot. Laidlaw doesn’t seem to ‘get’ what makes Dragon Age good. He says he doesn’t want to be called a knife-ear all game, actually that’s what makes playing a race interesting, when NPCs constantly immerse you by treating you differently. That’s just one example, the PR-esque way he dodges your pointed questions is another. The way he blathered on about the Kaidan/Ashley thing like it was a great example of choice, blech. The thing about him not being interested in survival being dangerous enough to kill you.

    It just feels like a PR guy talking about a game, rather than a developer.

    Also comparisons with PS:T and BG just need to end, now. It’s just name-dropping, the Dragon Age games are nothing like those games.

    • iridescence says:

      Racism is tough to do well in fantasy games and Bioware, even at their best, aren’t usually good at subtlety. It’s stupid when you’re walking down the street minding your own business and random NPCs constantly hurl racial epithets at you at the top of their lungs, especially when you’re supposed to be somewhat important and heroic. It should probably come up more than “once or twice” but over-doing it is worse and more unimmersive than under-doing it,

      • Premium User Badge

        jezcentral says:

        iridescence says:

        It’s stupid when you’re walking down the street minding your own business and random NPCs constantly hurl racial epithets at you at the top of their lungs.

        Ignoring the strawman use of the word “constantly”, how is this stupid? Do you honestly think this doesn’t happen in real life? Have you never seen this happen?

        • iridescence says:

          No, I’ve never seen it happen to the extent it does in many games. I imagine there are certain places it would happen a lot but those would be isolated areas, not big, cosmopolitan cities and, even if you say that your setting is the fantasy equivalent of the deep south in the 1930s, random-NPC-on-streetcorner isn’t usually going to want to start trouble with the famous guy carrying the huge sword/archmage’s staff.

          It’s the same principle as the idiot bandits who attack you in Skyrim even though you can one-shot them. Why on earth would they do that?

        • kament says:

          There’s no strawman here. Words being used are “entire game” and “all game”, which pretty much means “constantly”. And this is stupid because it’s not “real life” and the protagonist is one of the authorities with heavily armed squad of cut-throats. Laidlaw’s got it right: best if it’s truly impactful and important ramification of being an elf and not just stating obvious: “Oy elf! I know you’re elf!” from every other NPC.

        • Klaus says:

          Having every other person call you a racial slur is ridiculous. There’s a part in Lothering where some dude says he doesn’t usually talk to strange elves. Or in Ostagar where they mistake you for a servant, which in context makes sense. More stuff like that, I think, is fine. It’s antagonistic but not unreasonably so.

          I think going to the Dalish/alienage as a human is a good example. They are mistrustful, and standoffish but don’t completely antagonize you. In the alienage they beg you for money, rather than try to pick fights with the well armed strangers in armor.

        • Grape Flavor says:

          Racism still exists, yes, but in real life it’s usually much more subtle than that. In Western society the days of overt racism being socially acceptable in public are pretty much gone, and even people who are unashamedly racist usually know that.

          Of course, fantasy fiction isn’t obligated to either follow or not follow real life, but I’d hope game writers would be capable of something more complex than just having NPC’s shout slurs at you when you walk past.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      “the PR-esque way he dodges your pointed questions”

      Of course he does. Nathan sometimes goes the full 180° from the “unofficial PR” style and does what I call the “interrogation-style” interviews. He asks a bunch of incredibly loaded questions: “Thing you did/made is terrible, explain to us why you would do such a terrible thing. Okay, next question: Have you stopped beating your wife?”

      And then a bunch of people in the comments get all confused and dismayed that he gets a vague answer that barely even acknowledges the opinion-laden premise of his question.

      Their job is to promote their product. That’s what they get paid for. Not to apologize to game journalists eager to make a big show of how hard-hitting they are. They are not going to give you the answer you want to your loaded questions, and they would probably be fired if they did.

      They are just doing their job, no less, no more, and yet every time people bring out the feigned surprise like it’s some sort of scandal. If writers feel that asking questions that you know they can’t answer is part of your job as a journalist, than that’s fine, but no one should be all disappointed when the inevitable happens.

  15. Koozer says:

    I still need to finish Origins, recently picked up where I left off. My character now feels like an amnesiac; I don’t know who all these people are following me, or why these dwarves seem so grateful over…something.

    It also hasn’t aged well at all. Textures are muddy, and animations are just awful during conversations.

    • Premium User Badge

      strangeloup says:

      To be fair it wasn’t much of a looker even when it first came out.

  16. kament says:

    I wonder if that’s the Inquisitor on the first pic. Watching one of his Keeps being rebuilt. Thinking: “These Basra Vashedan couldn’t build a decent wall if their lives depended on it.”

  17. Premium User Badge

    Big Murray says:

    I’m rapidly starting to hate Dragon Age AND The Witcher. Not even because of the games themselves, they both have their merits … but I can only describe the people who go about commenting how great The Witcher is and how bad Bioware and EA are as hipsters.

    You can’t have a discussion about Dragon Age without the hipsters saying “blah blah lost trust blah blah ME3 ending blah”, and you can’t have a discussion about The Witcher without them going “OMG best game evar OMG you don’t like it you must suck OMG”.

    Hating Bioware has become fashionable. Which is just stupid.

    • gunny1993 says:

      … Not sure you know what a hipster is.

      Oh and people have lost faith in Bioware because they believe their latest games have been lackluster, extending this feeling towards new installments is perfectly rational.

      • kament says:

        I think that this “faith” and “belief” of theirs is exactly their problem. It not rational, it’s, as Big Murray’s said, just fashionable.

        And CDProject is like their new love: they can do binary choices, they don’t have to bother about playable races and companions, they can switch combat to full-blown hack-and-slash and these “beleivers” just keep drooling all over them.

        • iridescence says:

          I don’t know who the “they” you’re talking about is. but I can acknowledge the flaws in The Witcher games. But their stories still move me more than anything Bioware comes out with lately and the 2nd one is the best RPG in my mind since NWN2.

          • kament says:

            I’m talking about people who can’t tell games they (don’t) like from games that are (not) flawed. It’s okay to like or dislike something. But apparently you don’t feel it’s enough to say: “I didn’t like ME3.” You need to justify your feelings. You need it to be “hated by community” (which makes you a part of the community, and it’s exactly what Big Murray was talking about). You want to be dramatic and say “DA2 was a traumatizing experience”.

            But when it comes to Witcher you just go: “Yeah, it’s got flaws, but no matter, it moved me.”

            That’s what I was talking about.

          • iridescence says:

            My comment about DA2 inducing trauma was deliberate exaggeration for joking purposes (although it is definitely one of the worst and most disappointing games I’ve ever tried to play) . I actually haven’t played ME3 (I dislike all the ME games), but the anger in large parts of the community against it was hard to ignore last year,

            I do like DA:O and some of their older games and am hopeful that they can return to form in DA3,

        • gunny1993 says:

          If someone shoots you in the leg twice, it is rational to think they will do it again. Just because lots of people got shot in the leg by Bioware several times doesn’t make it fashionable to not be want to be shot in the leg again.

          It doesn’t matter that WItcher does a lot of the things that people complain to about bioware for, as The Witcher never did give you that choice, i.e. the games have stayed true to what made them good, they haven’t gone and removed core aspects of what made the original good. (I.e the tactical combat mode in DA:O)

          Also, somewhat ironically, accusing people of “jumping on the bandwagon” just to be fashionable is exactly what a hipster would do. (I.e. staying away from the mainstream position)

          • kament says:

            Please, nobody’s shooting anyone. Must you be so dramatic?

            And Witcher 2 did remove many things which were there in the first installment. It’s got dialogue with paraphrases, significantly shorter campaign (that’s how they pulled that two-different-second-acts thing off), a mere handful of side-quests, completely botched the ending with Leto shoving answers down your throat in one final conversation, but oh well, they’ve patched that one eventually, or so I’ve heard. It’s got QTE-based boss fights and combat overall is nothing like it used to be.

            But none of it matter because “pretty” and “adult”. More of the first, I’d rather say.

            Note: I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m just stating the obvious: things that BioWare gets chastized over go unnoticed in CDProject’s case.

          • gunny1993 says:

            It’s an analogy with hyperbole thrown in for good measure.

            You know … hyperbole: Exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.

            The point is not that the Witcher doesn’t have flaws, it does, tonnes of them. The point is that it’s extremely enjoyable despite these flaws (I.e. “The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts) and the changes they did make from the first game were, for the most part, for the better. (You can turn those fucking QTEs off from the beginning of the game)

            People dislike DA:2 because it changed what made the first game good and instead made it a vapid shadow of it’s former self.

            Basically, if you don’t like hyperbole in peoples statements then i suggest you leave the internet or simy ignore the comment sections of websites that aren’t inhabited by soulless robots.

          • Premium User Badge

            Big Murray says:

            I found Mass Effect 3 extremely enjoyable despite its flaws. And even parts of Dragon Age 2. In fact, there’s quite a few games which I could classify as flawed but extremely enjoyable. Seems rather subjective to me.

            I don’t see why The Witcher being “extremely enjoyable despite its flaws” for you places it in a different category somehow to Dragon Age?

          • kament says:

            @ gunny1993:
            That’s a nice sentiment, about the whole being more than the sum of its parts. The thing is, you don’t apply it to, say, DA2. It’s got flaws I had to put up with, but so did Origins. Its combat was troubled both in design and implementation, character builds were boring 1-2-3-unlock something else you won’t use even once-4. Exploration was nearly nonexistent. There was God-awful grinding through endless and dull dungeons.

            And I don’t mind, for that I go elsewhere. But for characters and especially followers there’s nowhere else to go. And DA2 had those in spades. So I think there’s no less reason to put up with its flaws and appreciate improvements, which are there even in the inventory, the most obvious victim of a “hastily made one”. But nooo. It’s just terrible top to bottom. Because paraphrases. Or no races. Or whatever. There are countless hair-splitting deal breakers with the BioWare games.

        • dE says:

          Please do tell, why is it irrational to stay away from something you know you won’t enjoy? And in case you’re referring to the discussion about it, please do tell how discussions about subjective matters would work, if people were not allowed to state how they feel about something – when that is all there is to such discussions.

          • Premium User Badge

            Big Murray says:

            We get you’ve pre-judged the game, and so think you won’t enjoy it. I’ve done the same with the next Call of Duty game; it just isn’t my thing, and that’s fine.

            Coming into every discussion on Bioware and saying “LIES! IT’S ALL LIES!” is different though. As is not being able to have a discussion without someone bringing up how “CDProjekt/Witcher is better”. We get these people’s personal preference/beliefs … why do they feel the need to shove it down our throats all the time? It’s the same hipster attitude that leads to me getting jumped on and insulted every time I say I think The Witcher series is terrible. To them, Bioware is big-corporate-mainstream EA, CDProjekt is good-guy-small-hero studio, and that’s it.

            All I care about is that this game looks like it fixes everything that was wrong with Dragon Age 2, and as a result looks like it might be a really good game. People saying “Well, we know all of that’s lies though.” No, we bloody don’t. Because we haven’t played the game yet.

          • dE says:

            @Big Murray: If I generously remove all the Strawmans and Ad Hominems from your argument, I’m affraid there isn’t much left of it. Care to try again?

          • gunny1993 says:

            The term is “Bandwagon” not “Hipster”

            They’re pretty much the exact opposites of each other.

            The former, jumps on board with the popular opinion of the time, whereas hipsters deliberately move away from the popular opinion.

          • kament says:

            There are many games I know I won’t enjoy. And I’m simply not interested in talking about them of even reading about them. So I just ignore them. But here I see a whole bunch of people wasting way too many time on things they know they won’t enjoy. And things they didn’t enjoy so much they can’t get over it for years.

            The real question is how is that rational?

          • dE says:

            This is what discussions are. People do talk about things they enjoy and people do talk about things they don’t enjoy. You can’t have a discussion without at least someone having a diverging opinion about the topic. What you seem to seek is affirmation and confirmation, a discourse without deviance.

            And let’s not forget, many people discuss for entertainment. I know I do. I also know others do, by evidential proof: the existence of Forums and comment sections.

          • kament says:

            You’re not talking about discussion, you’re talking about self-expression or even booing. Nothing is being discussed about the actual games. All that comes up is “Boo” in various forms. The most productive exchange goes something like this: ME2 was good/I disagree; or: DA2 wasn’t that bad/I think it really was.

            How is that a discussion?

          • Nick says:

            I was saying Boourns.

          • dE says:

            @Kament
            That happens when you disregard opinions and re-package them into a format you can easily attack with a strawman. Suggestion, don’t do that. You might actually see the discussions taking place, once you stop seeing opinions in a discussion as “booing”.

            What it looks like you’re doing, from my end:
            Someone disagrees. No one has visibly disagreed yet, must be in agreement. Switch to us versus them rhethoric. Their arguments don’t hold true for me thus there are no arguments. Therefore they have no arguments. I don’t value their opinion. If they have no arguments and their opinion has no worth, then their posts hold no worth. So they do not contribute.

          • Premium User Badge

            Big Murray says:

            Come now dE, that statement was awfully non-committal to recognition of any side of the argument even existing. Bioware-hating is so rife that to deny it happens would be silly. You only have to look at these comments pages to see the irrational “Bioware must be lying about the game looking good” statements I was referring to.

            Instead of attempting to lay the blame for lack of intelligent discussion on strawmans, ad hominems and other logical fallacies, why not just acknowledge that it’s impossible to have a conversation on Bioware without the Bioware-haters rearing their ugly heads with statements like they must be lying or they’ve done such and such in the past so we can’t trust them, or even “I don’t care if the game’s good, I’ll never play it” as somebody in this very comments thread has stated. I ultimately don’t care what they do as those of us who actually want to talk seriously about an upcoming RPG game will do so regardless … but after so many years it’s become a little tiresome for the anti-Bioware crowd to have not found another ball to play with.

          • kament says:

            @dE:
            Instead of lecturing me in that condescending tone you could just quote some actual arguments, like I did. It’s not that hard.

      • mouton says:

        Well, I found Witcher 1 to be lackluster. Not bad, but nothing to write home about.

        • gunny1993 says:

          Never played it.

          • WrenBoy says:

            I dont see why youd bother commenting on a Dragon Age article unless you had something constructive to say about the Witcher series. Bloody boo boys

    • Talon2000uk says:

      Hipster? I’m 42. Thanks. :D

    • Keyrock says:

      My criticizing of BioWare doesn’t have anything to do with “Teh Witcher is better!!!1!!!!1″, it has to do with the fact that the last 10-15% of Mass Effect 3 and the entirety of Dragon Age 2 were truly bad and bitter disappointments, especially given BioWare’s previously great track record.

      I hope both The Witcher 3 and Dragon Age 3 wind up being great games, I’m not rooting against either one.

  18. satan says:

    Glad to hear they’re moving away from the companion reputation item grind.

  19. Keyrock says:

    Our goal is that, as a player, you should love them or hate them, but you should never be like, “Yeah, whatever.”

    I hope they’re more successful this time around, because outside of Wynne, every single other character in the two previous games was a “Yeah, whatever” for me.

  20. Infinitron says:

    “Whoa! I have a wisdom of 25, so let’s just shortcut the entire ending.” I really like that kind of stuff.

    J.E. Sawyer wept.

    Both Project Eternity and Torment 2 are making an attempt to move away from this kind of “press the AWESOME dialogue option to WIN the conversation” design.

    • Not Marvelous says:

      Well obviously this isn’t about a “conversation win” skill but about providing narrative possibilities even if they are highly contingent. Of course, the end result shouldn’t be anything major, plot-wise.

      • Infinitron says:

        He said “shortcut the entire ending”. Doesn’t seem that obvious to me.

      • Nick says:

        The fact is, in PS:T, if you have the high int/wis stats it opens up new conversation options, its still up to you to pick the right line of enquirey, it doesn’t just go “if stat > x then shortcut ending”. Hell you actually get a longer and potentially more satisfying ending section through the extra dialogue.

        I mean, he has said this exact thing before, I dunno why its been reprinted in a new interview on the same site, but anyway, it sounds very much like he has never played PS:T or if he did, doesn’t remember anything about it/is too thick to take away anything from the characters/themes it actually explored.

      • tuluse says:

        Narrative possibilities is now that same as skipping parts of the game. I’m sure that’s what everyone wants right? Anything to shorten the game.

    • Coming Second says:

      Interesting you should mention Sawyer, because I’m assuming he wrote Ulysses in Fallout New Vegas? If ever there was an example of how NOT to do a “You have to actually choose the right dialogue options to talk this guy down”, that was it. Never encountered a video game character so inadvertently up his own arsehole before or since.

      As far as DA3 concerned, it’s hard to really get any gauge on it from the interview because in common with every Bioware interview I’ve ever read it’s so chock full of bullshit and evasional language it’s hard to know what they’re even promising. If ME3 is anything to go by it’ll be a decent-to-middling game hiding in a vast, sickly confection of hype and cold-eyed gouging tactics, underpinned by hilariously uneven dialogue and pacing.

      • Lycan says:

        Nope, I believe MCA wrote Ulysses in F:NV. Yup, even the great Avellone doesn’t produce a masterpiece every time :P

  21. ocelot113 says:

    “I’ve never been to Antiva. I don’t know what Rivain is like. I’ve never been to the homeland of the Qunari. There’s so much still left out there.”

    This was the same after DA:O, dolts. Moving to a worse cast and time didn’t help.

  22. dicenslice says:

    Mr Laidlaw sounds a lot like Todd Howard and that’s not a good thing.

  23. Megakoresh says:

    What a shame, I like gifting a lot. I mean the repetitious gifts were meh, but some items you picked up just like “Oh, what’s this?” and then you discover it has a great meaning to some character, that was awesome, they shouldn’t take that away.

    • Premium User Badge

      Big Murray says:

      I’m sure they could still do event/item based things like that, but without the “Oo, you gave me flowers … that makes me want to sleep with you 6% more!” mechanic of before.

    • kament says:

      As I understand it (check with Gameinformer on romances, if you want) the approval is still there, so it’s possible the gifts aren’t going anywhere, too. It’s just that approval doesn’t lock you out of content anymore, but “informs the nature of conversation”.

  24. aliksy says:

    You know what would interest me? A dynamic diplomacy system instead of the usual “Do you have Persusion 4? Then this static option appears in the dialog choices” boring shit Bioware’s always done. Let me say “You don’t want to do this” before the fight starts. Make some sort of skill check using my party’s presence/charisma stats, visible scariness, and so on compared to the enemy confidence. If it passes, no fight, full credit.

    If the diplomacy check fails, or I don’t even try, start a normal fight. But let me try to stop the fight at any point during it. If I thin out their numbers, or cut down their leader with a particularly impressive move, let me shout “Surrender now, or the rest of you die too!” to make that diplomacy check again with a bonus. If I succeed, the fight stops.

    It doesn’t seem super complicated, and I’d enjoy it more than the usual “fight to the death always” nonsense. I’ve seen it done in a roguelike.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      To be fair, the “always fight to the death” and “ignore that you’re no match for them” tropes are more of a videogame thing than specifically a BioWare one.

      It’s almost every RPG that has some kind of puny low level bandits try to gank the most powerful people in the world and then fight them to the death.

  25. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    “Who Quizzes the Inquisitors” :D
    I’m so glad I use a text-based browser on lunch breaks. Otherwise, I usually miss these gems next to the “RPS Feature” graphic.

  26. TheBarringGaffner says:

    Right, clearly the problem with Bioware romances is that they aren’t event driven, not literally everything about them.

  27. Apocalypse says:

    “When I think to my personal favorite, Planescape Torment, it’s an amazing game, and part of the thing that made it so amazing was that the characters who surrounded the Nameless One were such extremes. So what’s up with Ignus? He’s on fire and in pain ALL THE TIME. Most of his dialogue is “AAAAGH!” and you’re like, “Wow, okay…” There’s a wise-cracking guy who’s a skull and threatens to bite you. The succubus tries to focus on her poetry.”

    You Sir, just lost a customer.

  28. JohnStarky says:

    Hey thinking about this beautiful game makes me think about a equally beautiful indie game over on Kickstarter right now: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/303658588/apotheosis

  29. Josh W says:

    I get a very strong feeling from this that they have internalised the lessons of the past two games, and probably will not repeat any of their more obvious flaws. This is a good sign really, progress and development. I also like the focus on investigation, as I love the adventure game-rpg hybrids that happen when people start to get clever with quest logic and working things out.

    After having recently played a game in the dragon age setting, my first reaction is that it needs a little more tonal breadth, but if they can focus on doing witcher style depth of treatment and interactivity, get some really interesting problems for people to get embroiled in, it could be pretty good.

    The impending apocalypse of the setting may not help with that, but it would still be interesting.