BioWare and Dragon Age Panel: The Future of Dragon Age
Eric Swain recounts the PAX East panel on Dragon Age.
“It’s such a relief to leave the internet and come into real life.” So Mike Laidlaw, creative director at BioWare, breaks the ice. There is a difference between the bile that so ever present online verses the vibes of joy and love for these developers the fans in this room so obviously have. Fans decked out in full cosplay of the characters they love pulled from the line and brought in early filled the entire front row.
Prefacing the presentations was the announcement that anything said was about a work in progress, not a product nor the direction the next game – whatever it may be – would go in.
The developers care just as much about their fans and the fans care about the worlds they have created. They started off by saying they were listening to the feedback and most importantly started when they announced they were no longer working on content for Dragon Age II. A montage of changes and improvements asked for by a forum question flashed on the screen, covering the entire screen as each thing flashed for a second before fading. This went on for a while, but eventually only three items remained as recurring requests.
– Stop Reusing Levels
– Decisions that Matter
– Equipment for Followers
Each point got it’s own slide with a single phrase along side each one: “WILL DO!”
They understood the fans for the next entry into the franchise that players want variety in their locations, to see different places and to travel far and wide. They said that the next game would be somewhere more “French.” Later at the Q and A one fan asked if it would be Quebec. Fans will recognize the reference as the land of Orlais.
As for decisions that matter, they broke it up into ‘character agency’ and ‘player agency.’ They said they knew that the character had to feel like he/she was the driver of events and not merely be lead by the nose. Likewise the player had to feel in control of their decisions and that they have an effect on their own story. Both of these things would be done. During the Q and A Mike Laidlaw and David Gaider were asked to expand upon this and they theorized that unique content that develops their character based on the decisions they make could very well be an avenue to explore. They also promised that if you made your character a blood mage, the NPCs would notice that your character is a blood mage. And to make those decisions matter even more that would include those made in previous games.
Finally, they presented some concept art to explain how equipment could be handled with regards to party members. Say you found a breastplate, their example begins, and you have to decide whether or not to give it to a Grey Warden or a Seeker in your party. (At this point they further emphasized that nothing was final.) The breastplate could go to either, but it would not look the same on each character. The breastplate would change shape and aesthetics to fit the particular character’s identity. Regardless of what they were wearing each character would be who they were. In addition they theorized that they could allow the player a certain amount of aesthetic customization to the armor found like altering the color and pattern. This got a huge cheer from the audience.
After that they opened the rest of the panel to Q and A. A few of the choice questions were one person asking about co-op experience in the story of Dragon Age. Laidlaw responded that if they were going to do it they would look back to how Baldur’s Gate did it and use the system as a base to work on. They want it to feel like a bunch of friends going on an adventure together and keep that feeling.
When asked about a Dragon Age MMO, they said that the series would stay firmly planted in a storied experience and that anything like that would be supplemental, but there were no plans for one at present.
In the BioWare offices they debate up and down between the silent protagonist and the voiced understanding the pluses and minuses. At present they are leaning towards having “Hypothetical game called Dragon Age 3” would be voiced, but further and nuance options would be present. Though that did bring up the question would your Grey Warden be voice if they made a cameo in the next Dragon Age game. From the reaction you would have thought everyone thought the developers had got served. Good-naturedly they laughed with everyone else before settling on they would let the player choose which they’d prefer. Though Laidlaw did say they would also have to balance having the Warden come back versus breaking the player’s connection to how they imagined their Warden and whether it was worth it at all.
And yes there was one person who asked how to get passed a boss without any mages in the party. The panel (and quite a few members of the audience) recommended GameFAQs.
This panel was just a fun time. Despite all the controversy, legitimate or not, it is worth remembering how so many people love and appreciate the work BioWare does. They love the world, they love the characters and they love the games. And if the panel showed anything it all comes all from BioWare being BioWare and nothing else.