Dragon Age Interview Plus Magic Book’em, Danno.

Ooh, I do like sex.

What interesting timing. A few weeks ago I talked to Dragon Age’s designer Mike Laidlaw at a press event. It has just gone up on Eurogamer. Of course, this ties in to the uproar around the recent violence trailer. I found myself eye-brow raising a little in the PR-line which Bioware seem to be following with this too, but when pressed Mike defended the mature direction as more than just trailers…

“I’m not sure the level of maturity is the difference – but the depth, the experience itself. Does it all hang together on a single theme? Because I think our greatest failing could be it’s just a standard oh-look-a-unicorn fantasy… also, this guy’s head just popped off. For it to feel tacked on, and not part of the experience.”

More here. Of course, there’s also the sarcastic response inspired by Psychopomp’s comment thread post…

Good work. Though the whining about Marilyn Manson not being real music does make you sound an old English major tutting at children on the village green. I’d have gone for something far harder myself. WE ARE THE ATTTAAAARRRRIII TEEEENAGGGGGEEE RIOTTTTTT!!!! WE HAVE A +4 SWORD VERSUS SCARABBBBBBZZZ!



  1. Tom-INH says:

    I still can’t get over how much of an improvement that is.

  2. Stupoider says:

    <3 It’s perfect.

  3. Carra says:

    I also saw the trailer being posted at a forum for teenagers. A lot of “awesome”, “that music rox!”, “that looks brutal!” comments. So I suppose they did broaden their audience.

    However, this game surely must go for an 18+ rating with all that violence and hardcore sex scenes!

  4. Sartoris says:

    Psychopomp, I envy you, for you have been immortalized by RPS. That video rocks.

  5. demonarm says:

    Major improvement. Thank you, kind sirs.

  6. JKjoker says:

    it goes to show you how important music is for setting up the mood, you can have the best graphics and gore in the world but without a kick ass music score they will never shine above other games

    also the game has such a retarded and generic “epic” feeling that it would be much better if the game didn’t take it self so seriously

  7. Fede says:

    This music seems really more appropriate, it’s funny now :)

  8. Kieron Gillen says:

    I admit, part of me would love to see someone take a The Knight’s Tale esque approach to the RPG.


  9. James G says:

    @Kieron and @JKjoker

    Not played it myself, so can’t vouch for quality, but I was under the impression that the 2005 version of a Bard’s Tale had its tounge firmly in its cheek.

    link to mobygames.com

  10. Some Guy says:

    that music roxx

  11. Homunculus says:

    Man, that’s uncanny how well the Hawaii Five-O theme synchronises with the trailer. It’s bonsai Dark Side of the Rainbow. Man!

  12. MC says:

    Psychopomp also suggested the Cowboy Bebop theme song, which also works uncannily well: link to youtube.com

  13. Tunips says:

    That was one of the things I loved about The Witcher. While most of the time the sound track was well done but pretty generic, during some bossfights it would neatly transition into howling metal. It made the bloody battles rather wonderful by bursting through the mundane soundscape surrounding them.

  14. Bobsy says:

    (I liked the use of tinfoil rawwwwk in the trailer)

  15. JKjoker says:

    @Tunips: I loved The Witcher as well, the presentation was great, i was only midly disappointed by the lack of polish of the latter areas and the char development that felt too simple and consolish

  16. Ben Abraham says:

    Not to get all dry and academic on y’all or anything, but an audio-visual theorist-dude called Michael Chion wrote in the early 90’s about the happy accidents that happen when you place random songs over visuals. He called it “Forced Marriage” and it really is very fun to do.

  17. Jeremy says:

    Watching again, are those two getting it on in the firelight of a funeral pyre? wow….

    Ben Abraham: I was thinking about that watching the Cowboy Bebop remix. Don’t many songs (in the West, at least) use similar patterns and tempo?

    Speaking of weird music, at the coffee shop today, there was a classical opera version of “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

  18. AndrewC says:

    Plus if you put any piece of music with roughly the same tempo on it there will be remarkable match ups, what with ‘verse’ lengths tending to be very standard 8 bar or 16 bar lengths. Plus all the bits that don’t quite match up will get ignored/excused while we focus on the match ups. There are even ‘tempo-analyser’ programmes out there to do your work for you.

    I’m afraid I don’t have much opinion about the game, but I very almost feel bad for the PRs about the trailer. We complained that the previous footage looked dry, dull and old frashioned and so…

    I can’t really blame them, they were just trying to give us what we wanted.

    Anyway, now i’m off to frug.

  19. Dave says:

    I bet “The Final Countdown” would be brilliant with this.

  20. Dinger says:

    1 There’s nothing random about it. Steve and Danno, they made the scene. 1.11 The guilty will not go free.
    1.2 Besides, the MM bit was just such an awful choice for so many reasons. 1.21 Sorta like a less-listenable version of “won’t get fooled again”. 1.12 Seriously, there’s music that demands one’s full intention or an out-of-hand dismissal in the same way as the Tractatus logico-philosophicus.
    2 The happy convergence of Ventures and Bloodspurts almost overshadows the totally sweet caption and screenshot on page two of the article.
    3 The surf genre is seriously atrophied, but not dead. 3.11 So take off your baggies and turn it up, dude.

  21. Jeremy says:

    I bet “The Final Countdown” would be brilliant with this.

    It is, but since the intro is almost a full minute, that’s like half the trailer. I guess if someone has the knowhow to chop it up, it’s work nicely.

  22. Dan (WR) says:

    It strikes me as a bit of a shame to see him talking about things like ‘if I have a warrior in plate mail I expect him to pull the hate of the enemy.’ Has MMORPG become the universal grammar of all CRPGS? Is that what they’re looking to for prompts? Still, I guess if the latest edition of D&D has been taking tips from MMORPG design then there’s not much escape.

    I’m still a little non-plussed about Dragon Age’s claims to originality. Laidlaw might sound excited about creating original IP, but some of the first footage everyone saw was that of generic looking Orc-monsters having a barney with generic looking Knights led by an incredibly-archetypal arrogant noble with a Mekon-forehead. It wasn’t exactly inspiring.

    The ‘maturity’ thing might be more interesting if it was maturity angled towards racial or religious politics (nods towards the Witcher), rather than darkness and dismemberment. And one thing I’ve always thought of the fantasy genre is that monsters that are ‘evil’ because they’re born that way aren’t terribly interesting. Villains that at least have the possibility of being good are all the more heinous when they commit acts of evil. Dark fantasy envisioned as orcs, trolls and demons doesn’t seem anywhere near as interesting as humans, elves and dwarves being shitty to each other.

    Also, the relationships had better be there for a good reason. Some of the existing ones in games (Elanee’s creepy dull stalking-you-since-birth grand-aunty or *shudder* Anomen) are real shoehorned efforts. Romances written for female PC’s always seem particularly arse.

    That said, we have no idea how well written the characters in Dragon Age will be yet and Bioware are capable of hitting great stuff. Fingers crossed, I’ll be completely wrong about it.

  23. DK says:

    “Has MMORPG become the universal grammar of all CRPGS? Is that what they’re looking to for prompts? Still, I guess if the latest edition of D&D has been taking tips from MMORPG design then there’s not much escape.”
    Note however, that DnD has only taken from MMOs for their combat mechanics. The thing DnD has always been about – the roleplaying, dialogue, decisions – are still as freeform as in any previous edition.
    Bioware is making the mistake of streamlining the entire thing instead of just the combat.

    Specifically the line from the interview that stands out is:
    “I think it’s become more demanding in terms of the player’s sense of the experience. I think Mass Effect would have had an influence here. Moving it away from the book and more towards the movie, having a more cinematic experience of dialogue, having a cool camera cuts and dynamic moments.”

    That is completely wrong. If you’re thinking Baldurs Gate and other great RPGs, you’re not thinking “oh I remember that time x blew up and it looked really cool!”. You’re thinking “oh I remember the crazy cool things my Malkavian had to say” or “oh I remember being stuck in an illusionary circus by a megalomaniac gnome”, “oh I remember hunting down the Jack the Ripper-esque killer in the Beggars Quarter”.
    Less Flash, more Substance is what should be the mantra – Bioware’s just openly stated they’re going for the opposite.

  24. Abs says:

    Airwolf goes pretty well with the trailer too. Although its just over 30 seconds short. Hmm.

  25. Pijama says:

    Could this become the first-ever RPS endorsed community action for the effin’ win?

  26. Rei Onryou says:

    Wow, I didn’t think a 70’s theme tune could work so well. The Manson song was just so….misplaced. You wanted angry sex violence stuff. Don’t just choose generic angry music.

    Generic epic classical music woulda sold it better than their choice.

    Grats to Psychopomp for epic suggestions.

  27. clovus says:

    Tunips said:

    That was one of the things I loved about The Witcher. While most of the time the sound track was well done but pretty generic, during some bossfights it would neatly transition into howling metal.

    Ya, but I didn’t care for it when the sound track was pretty generic but during some bossfights it would stop altogether as the game crashed. I really liked the Witcher, especially the game world and story, but it was just way too unstable for me.

    I hope Dragon Age is good. Violence is fine with me. I just want to have an RPG that looks good, has a nice story, and is stable.

  28. clovus says:

    @DK: I really enjoyed the different camera angles and stuff during the conversations. Mass Effect was the first game I’ve ever turned subtitles off for. I really enjoyed watching it, and it was a major part of the experience. Compare that to the horror of Oblivion’s dialogue.

  29. Archonsod says:

    Watching it through the Benny Hillifier also works, but I’ve yet to find a video which can’t be improved by the use of Yakety Sax.

  30. Markoff Chaney says:

    The more I hear, the more I’m scared… The last two days have moved this from an absolute must have day one purchase to a much more standoffish feeling. I can forgive marketers, but some of the things the designer spoke of rub me a little wrong.

    Yes, I want to play a role when I play an RPG. That kind of goes without saying. I don’t have a problem with cinematic cut scenes and, if done in engine, they can be quite good, engine allowing. As long as I can actually define my character, I’ll be happy. I’m happy without an overbearing dichotomy based morality, but I’m still not sold on BioWare letting me get through encounters the way I want to try to. I fear those days may be gone, at least from the supposed AAA publishers. So much goes in to making a P:T or V:TMB though, and they usually wind up being not quite polished. I just dunno anymore…

    Ahh, who am I kidding. Like I can resist a top tier CRPG. I want these games to keep being made, so I keep buying them, warts and all. It’s better than not having them at all, I guess.

    I propose an addendum to my prior statement of “I know far too well what happens when one appeals to mediocrity and the lowest common denominator. You get the same old shit.” and will add a corollary of “If you lower your expectations to think you will always get the same old shit, maybe you can be pleasantly surprised every once in a while if you are lucky. Maybe.”

  31. DK says:

    @Clovus, yes Mass Effects Dialogue was better than Oblivions. That’s hardly a challenge though – Oblivions dialogue work was atrocious (one of the hallmarks of the engine, see Fallout 3’s identically horrible dialogue).
    Compare Mass Effects simplistic dialogues, which fall short in both lenght and depth to Baldurs Gate, or god forbid, Planescape. Bioware’s newer RPGs are beat by quantity alone, as well as quality.

    Yeah it’s prettier. But prettying it up with fewer actual content is not what I’d call progress.

  32. syrion says:

    I think Dragon Age is “original” in the same way that books by people completely unfamiliar with the genre are “original:” it seems original to the writers because their reading isn’t broad enough in the field, but people who have read widely pick up the book and find that their shocking twist is to make the dragons good guys.

  33. clovus says:

    @DK: I have played Planescape and Baldur’s Gate. I didn’t play much of BG because it just seemed like really generic high fantasy to me. There’s even a joke in Planescape about fetching swords for wizards and such.

    My point about Mass Effect was more about how the camera really did add to the game. If I want to read a book then I’ll read Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, or Joyce. Even Planescape is downright horrible compared to a good book. I want an interactive experience in a game. The dialogue system was a bit gimmicky, but most of the time I was able to keep the conversation rolling along in Mass Effect. It was fun to watch.

    Hmm… here’s what I’m trying to say. If a game had superior writing then I guess I would just sit there reading it. I’d read dialogous and all those stupid books laying around. But writing in games is hardly ever even as good as a bad fantasy novel. So I like that they compensate for this by at least making it look and sound good.

    I won’t read a mediocre fantasy novel, but I will have some fun watching a mediocre fantasy movie, or playing a good game with a mediocre story.

  34. Leeks! says:

    I was thinking something contemporary, but also with a classy sort of texture that nods to the period without out-and-out evoking it would be cool. Like this awesome movie trailer.

  35. Günter says:

    I made one too. ^____^

  36. DK says:

    “Even Planescape is downright horrible compared to a good book.”
    This is where Bioware’s Book/Film metaphor leads you astray.
    We’re not comparing Planescape to a book literally – we’re comparing it to the “movies” (ie Mass Effect, etc.). And Planescape is downright incredible compared to that.

  37. clovus says:

    @DK: For video games, I like to see things go boom. I’ll watch The Wire for a good story. Bring on the decapitations in Dragon Age :-)

  38. Muzman says:

    Dinger says:
    1.2 Besides, the MM bit was just such an awful choice for so many reasons. 1.21 Sorta like a less-listenable version of “won’t get fooled again”

    Yeah it’s this I find funny. Whatever you think about him/them, a Manson song like that one is surely about crass marketing, fashion and consumerism.

  39. malkav11 says:

    The Forgotten Realms setting is indeed fairly direct Tolkien-influenced “generic” fantasy, although with a lot of specific setting details that help make it more than that. And the first Baldur’s Gate is, iirc, Bioware’s first game. So they hadn’t exactly got the hang of storytelling yet. But there is some very fine stuff in BG2. Don’t dismiss it just because it’s not as wildly out there as Planescape.

  40. Funky Badger says:

    clovus: there are millions and millions of worse boks that Planescape, in terms of prose, characterisation and structure. Every compy of everything JK Rowling of Dan Brown have ever written, for example.

    malkav: Forgotten Realms is vanilla and dull, its only distinguishing feature is the number of hateful gm-wish-fulfilment characters running around (I’m looking at you, Elminster, or should I say, Mr. Greenwood?) – its easily the least interesting of TSR’s (as was) settings. Would rather see a Planescape, Ravenloft, Eberron, Al Qadim, Dragonlance or even a Spelljammer game before another FR one…

    Having said that, BG was a good old story – the powers and dream sequences were pretty good. Story in BG2 was actually fairly rubbish, but the miscelleny was absolutely fantastic.

  41. Fedora Freak says:

    Sweet! I didn’t think I would get posted!

    That was a very interesting interview. I don’t see what you guys are so whingy about. It seems like he’s got a good head on his shoulders. You can’t really make a judgment on whether they’ve made a step forward or not in moral choices until we see the choices themselves, but it is really nice to know that they’ve cut out the morality slider. It’s a step in the right direction, guys.

  42. Psychopomp says:

    “Though the whining about Marilyn Manson not being real music does make you sound an old English major tutting at children on the village green.”
    I NEVER SAID THAT. I actually kinda like Manson. I said he wasn’t *metal.*
    Which in some ways is worse.


  43. Hulk Hogan says:

    that music rox!

    Hulk Hogan just can’t get excited about yet another generic fantasy RPG though. The Hulkster wants another Planescape game, brother!

  44. Psychopomp says:

    I think it should be know, that Hulk Hogan is my favorite commenter.

    You are the *real* internet superhero.

  45. vicx says:

    I have watched too many game trailers. Once a hobby now a job, I have seen plenty and the depiction of violence in them is taking on a ‘brawno’ aspect. Yeah I know its what plants crave – but really? I’m not a complete pre-post-violent media reactionary; my main beef is with the aesthetic. Depictions of struggle, fighting, agression, and domination are familiar and overused but the bloodlust aspect packaged into trailers these days is the new OTT voice-over guy. I see why they do it – its easy to add basic bloody violence and it will hit some buttons. But it shits me now that bloodlust aka bloody violence is considered transparently interchangable with the other staples of human struggle presented for education and entertainment not just in trailers but in the actual games. The developer diaries are the most telling cause you see a developer on screen talking up his last 3 months of fulltime employment working on evisceration and the new brain bowl animation for headshots that differs wether you are using hollow points or not. Yeah I call wasted developer hours. End game is when the bloody violence ends up getting shoe horned into every title aimed at a male audience even when it makes no sense. I guess I don’t dislike violence as much as I have a distaste for lazy fuckhole marketroids selling mouldy game cheese in free infomerical slots. Absolutely Bird Fucked!

  46. DK says:

    “And the first Baldur’s Gate is, iirc, Bioware’s first game.”
    Nope. First one was Shattered Steel – a fantastic mech game with a great narrator/player character companion AI going crazy.

  47. DK says:

    “And the first Baldur’s Gate is, iirc, Bioware’s first game.”
    Nope. First one was Shattered Steel – a fantastic mech game with a great narrator/player character companion AI going crazy.
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  48. The Fanciest of Pants says:



    Irreverent music makes ANYTHING better.

  49. Jahkaivah says:


    Agreed, the game seems in desperate need of it’s very own Minsc.

    Of course that is not to say it wont have one, as a general rule all the great comic reliefs in games come as a surprise… but somehow I feel Bioware has missed the mark there.

  50. Sonic Goo says:

    That interview has a lot of ‘hey we’re gonna do this and that and it’s really cool’ without telling me why it’s really cool. It doesn’t tell me why I would want that game. I’m not convinced.