GWJ Conference Call Dragon Age Interview

Conference Call


An Interview With Bioware's David Gaider About Dragon Age!

Good news and bad news I'm afraid. The good news is we have an interview with the lead writer of Bioware's upcoming PC RPG, Dragon Age. The bad news is the show we recorded at Gen Con got lost in a flurry of new technology. Rob muttered something about frequencies, chipmunks and not being able to slow down the audio track but I kind of quit paying attention by that point. We'll try and round up the highlights next week.

To contact us, email [email protected]! Send us your thoughts on the show, pressing issues you want to talk about or whatever else is on your mind. You can even send a 30 second audio question or comment (MP3 format please) if you're so inclined.

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Comments

Another great interview. David Gaider was clearly a fantastic interviewee. Dragon Age certainly looks very interesting. I'm a bit disappointed that they've removed the "precis dialogue" style of dialogue interface, but if I'm not hearing the protagonist speak, then I can certainly live with it.

I love it when game developers talk about what they liked about other games in the same genre (though admittedly those games aren't directly competing in the same release window). The game development industry seems very happy to support each other's efforts. Presumably the PR weasels are less cool, but the actual creative people all seem to have a great attitude.

Great interview indeed.

DudleySmith wrote:
I'm a bit disappointed that they've removed the "precis dialogue" style of dialogue interface, but if I'm not hearing the protagonist speak, then I can certainly live with it.

It's not that they removed it, it's never been there. From beginning DA was developed as a successor to BG games and ME was intended to be that 'cinematic' experience franchise. I think that it's very wise from Bioware to try develop both of those IPs on their own. Especially because as great as high concept for ME dialogue system might have been, they had some serious problems with writing and content (repeating same lines regardless to what option you have chosen, disjointed responses etc.). And mind you, ME was much smaller games.

DudleySmith wrote:
I love it when game developers talk about what they liked about other games in the same genre (though admittedly those games aren't directly competing in the same release window). The game development industry seems very happy to support each other's efforts. Presumably the PR weasels are less cool, but the actual creative people all seem to have a great attitude.

Yeah, it's great. Especially as a Polish it's always nice for me to hear actual developers heaping some more praise ;]

You can't fool me! The background music playing on and off as part of the ambient noise is really you trying to condition us after you got subverted by the TFL (Robot Panic) guys the other week.

Seriously though, interesting interview.

Excellent interview with some great questions!

One of the highlights for me was the mage being mugged anecdote. Now, completely ignoring the point he was trying to make with that story, I think that (and other things he said) shows that Bioware is on the right track of making a world that feels active, where stuff happens to you, people (esp. party members) spontaneously engage in conversations, instead of a passive world where you have to go from a quest giver to another. I hope to see a very immersive game.

Does the GWJ crew at Gen Con plan on posting further impressions on what you saw of the game? EDIT: Nevermind, it's all on the forum already

UCRC wrote:

It's not that they removed it, it's never been there. From beginning DA was developed as a successor to BG games and ME was intended to be that 'cinematic' experience franchise. I think that it's very wise from Bioware to try develop both of those IPs on their own. Especially because as great as high concept for ME dialogue system might have been, they had some serious problems with writing and content (repeating same lines regardless to what option you have chosen, disjointed responses etc.). And mind you, ME was much smaller games.

You're right that there were some problems with the dialogue in ME, but I don't think they want DA to be any less cinematic than ME. Gaider referred many times to using ME experiences to inform their DA design process, with extra stuff like tracking shots of people talking and walking at the same time. If they had wanted to they could have certainly implemented that way. In the documentaries on the ME bonus DVD they talk about how they were dissatisfied with the usual experience of selecting a whole dialogue response (which you've had to select by reading them all), and then hearing the protagonist repeat what you've just read. However, if the main character isn't going to be heard speaking then it makes sense to do it the way they're doing it, not to mention the fact that ME was designed as a console game and so the dialogue interface was designed with that in mind (just a shame they didn't bother putting any effort into the inventory interface) whereas DA is a PC game first and foremost.

DudleySmith wrote:
I don't think they want DA to be any less cinematic than ME.

In general I agree with that (and all the points that you make later in your post), but once more I think that for few reasons they want to or have to aim at different kind of presentation. So let me ramble a bit on this, as I find this topic really interesting. I think that two main factors here are:
a) fact that they want player to be able to play more generic protagonist which forces them to plan all the scenes with broader strokes; that wasn't a problem which ME had, where all the animation (ME was probably one of the most mocap-heavy games ever made) and voiceovers were Shepard-specific, forcing them only to differ between male and female version; also dialogue itself in DA must differentiate between certain races, character backgrounds etc.
b) general scope of the game differs a much from ME; no matter how massive ME was, it wasn't a game with tons of dialogues or intending to give player tons of choices on how to drive discourse;

I think that even if they'd intend to go exactly down the same path as with ME (which wasn't their intention in the first place, I believe) they wouldn't have a chance to deliver in terms of content. ME was the first experiment on that front, but it was a project with huge budget and that kind of cinematic dialogue was one of it's biggest marketing points. It cost them a ton of development and work and probably ate a considerable part of budget. It wouldn't be wise from them to develop two titles around the same dialogue system at the same time.

So you decided not to air the part where Demi is trying on my underwear?

wordsmythe wrote:
So you decided not to air the part where Demi is trying on my underwear?

That's pretty disturbing. I think after something like that, the recording equipment would melt...

Seriously though, great interview. I think this might actually be another RPG buy for me - it's been a while since I played NWN. I am hoping Dragon Age will rock, even if it doesn't have Minsc in it.

I'd just be satisfied if the end cutscene isn't a concept art slide show narrated by Bob from accounting.

I wasn't all that interested in Dragon Age until I heard this. I admit, I took it for a generic fantasy. Sounds really good now. I want to play a mage.

Rat Boy wrote:
I'd just be satisfied if the end cutscene isn't a concept art slide show narrated by Bob from accounting.

Yeah! It's Ed from sales turn to narrate!

wordsmythe wrote:
So you decided not to air the part where Demi is trying on my underwear?

Just one of the reasons why it's best there isn't a video conference call.

DudleySmith wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
So you decided not to air the part where Demi is trying on my underwear?

Just one of the reasons why it's best there isn't a video conference call.

You don't want to gaze at his mystical hobo beard?

Ok, that psyched me up for this. I can't wait to play it next....summer.

LobsterMobster wrote:
I wasn't all that interested in Dragon Age until I heard this. I admit, I took it for a generic fantasy. Sounds really good now. I want to play a mage. :)

I had to admit I had a hard time getting excited about the setting. Like Mass Effect before it, Dragon age is set in an entirely new universe as opposed to Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, and KOTOR, so there's nothing familiar to draw you in at the outset. Listening to David Gaider talk about some of the backstory definitely piqued my interest quite a bit.

Ok, I was excited.

Now? I'm ready to cream myself. I'm largely uninterested in High fantasy, but this sounds different enough.

Cramps wrote:
Ok, that psyched me up for this. I can't wait to play it next....summer.

Considering Jade Empire just came out for the Mac. I might have to wait a while longer.

http://www.insidemacgames.com/news/s...

(I think they'll probably move Dragon Age onto the Mac quicker than they have JE)

I loved the original story in the Baldur's Gate series, but David Gaider is out of ideas. Wizards are feared because they were arrogant in their rule and attempted to open a gateway to Heaven, but the high god is displeased with this action and casts them out? Someone's read Dragonlance Chronicles! Switching out wizards for clerics does not make your story original.

Originality is overrated and nearly impossible when it comes to broad stroke world context building. Dragonlance is far from the first book series to establish a world based on man challenging the Gods and losing. What matters is the detail and the execution. You can watch a cut scene like this one and get a sense of what they're doing within the scope of the non-original world premise.

You can double (or triple) that sentiment when you're talking about anything fantasy. Peruse the books at your local B&N and tell me you can come up with a unique, totally fresh take on fantasy. There are simply too many books in the genre.

Plus, as we've learned from crude cartoons: the simpsons already did it. I would guess it's a really blurry line between being fresh and being tired.