The Next Dragon Age Game

ubrakto wrote:

It feels gross and disappointing reading that article, but not the least bit surprising. Seems to me like the foundational culture at Bioware took the biggest crack under EA's hammer when the founders left a few years ago. Everything since feels like the inevitable erosion that occurs at every developer EA gobbles up. Eventually, there's just not that much left of what made a place special, which... /shrug/. It's unfortunate, but I got a lot of great memories from what they've already done that no dictated focus on multiplayer or games-as-service can take away; and if they can sell more by appealing to people who aren't me, then more power to them.

I'll still be looking to see what they deliver for DA4 and hoping for the best, but for my money and time, it's got an uphill climb.

This seems to happen at all the big publishers. Likely has something to do with the founders/leaders cashing out though. Would you want to spend your 50's working crunch? Me neither.

If I'm being completely open and honest I think Bioware died for me when Dragon Age 2 became less tactical and more action oriented and Mass Effect 2 made it so their shooting was less RPG. (Hint: I'm okay missing because of a dice roll.)

What I enjoyed in DA1 and ME1 wasn't quite there in the newer games. Perhaps it's on me, as I've changed, but the more ME became a shooter and DA became an ARPG, the less I was interested. I still haven't gotten out of the first location in DAI, which is nuts because I loved DA1. Probably the last WRPG I loved.

Clearly it's EA's fault.

Probably!

garion333 wrote:

This seems to happen at all the big publishers. Likely has something to do with the founders/leaders cashing out though. Would you want to spend your 50's working crunch? Me neither.

If I'm being completely open and honest I think Bioware died for me when Dragon Age 2 became less tactical and more action oriented and Mass Effect 2 made it so their shooting was less RPG. (Hint: I'm okay missing because of a dice roll.)

What I enjoyed in DA1 and ME1 wasn't quite there in the newer games. Perhaps it's on me, as I've changed, but the more ME became a shooter and DA became an ARPG, the less I was interested. I still haven't gotten out of the first location in DAI, which is nuts because I loved DA1. Probably the last WRPG I loved.

Clearly it's EA's fault. :P

Clearly!

To be clear, I don't regard EA as a villain specifically. I mean, I don't like them, but pyxistyx is right to point out the culpability of leadership at Bioware. I didn't state it well, but that was part of my point. When you have strong leaders, like I believe Muzyka and Zeschuk were, there is a stability there that can keep a culture intact even under corporate oversight, because they're also fostering success. When that goes away, and you have some critical misses, I think the balance shifts and things tend to really unspool at that point; which is what I believe we're seeing and why I can't bring myself to get amped up for DA4, much as I have loved the series.

It wasn't in gaming, but I experienced that sort of big owner---little company dynamic at play for 16 years, where your little pool of the business is profitable, but not gangbusters, and doesn't align well with what mama and papa want to do. It's... not great.

But even before Muzyka and Zeschuk left, it had to be tricky. I visited Bioware on a press junket during the late preview period for DA:Origins (such a great memory, that), and you could see how the employees there would get uncomfortable trying to answer questions about where the line between EA and Bioware existed. Lots of talk about giving a little to get a little. I suspect that's increasingly giving a lot to get a little as Bioware's track record gets sketchy.

Again, for me, I got a bunch of great games and memories out of their best years. If their run is over, or if they're going to go in directions that aren't going to appeal to me, that's okay. It was amazing while it lasted.

It's not the same unless Miranda Raison's willing to come by and play Cassandra.

Not to re-litigate the games again, but I too loved DA1. I actually didn't even finish DA2, finding it so repetitive, and then DA:I I enjoyed a great deal more all the way up until I felt like the narrative peaked too early. But I did feel the games shifting in their gameplay, and, speaking for myself, I really, really don't want the games to end up like "Anthem, but with dragons."

Y'know, between this and Pillars of Eternity 2 apparently not selling that well, it's like me enjoying an RPG dooms it's future.

Prederick wrote:

I really, really don't want the games to end up like "Anthem, but with dragons."

Anthem, but with punching the sh*t out of Solas, on the other hand...

Rat Boy wrote:
Prederick wrote:

I really, really don't want the games to end up like "Anthem, but with dragons."

Anthem, but with punching f**king the sh*t out of Solas, on the other hand...

Fixed, for the other half of the fandom.

Which reminds me I recently left my recent Solas Fan Club playthrough at the start of DA2. At least it sounds like I got some time to finish it

ubrakto wrote:
garion333 wrote:

This seems to happen at all the big publishers. Likely has something to do with the founders/leaders cashing out though. Would you want to spend your 50's working crunch? Me neither.

If I'm being completely open and honest I think Bioware died for me when Dragon Age 2 became less tactical and more action oriented and Mass Effect 2 made it so their shooting was less RPG. (Hint: I'm okay missing because of a dice roll.)

What I enjoyed in DA1 and ME1 wasn't quite there in the newer games. Perhaps it's on me, as I've changed, but the more ME became a shooter and DA became an ARPG, the less I was interested. I still haven't gotten out of the first location in DAI, which is nuts because I loved DA1. Probably the last WRPG I loved.

Clearly it's EA's fault. :P

Clearly!

To be clear, I don't regard EA as a villain specifically. I mean, I don't like them, but pyxistyx is right to point out the culpability of leadership at Bioware. I didn't state it well, but that was part of my point. When you have strong leaders, like I believe Muzyka and Zeschuk were, there is a stability there that can keep a culture intact even under corporate oversight, because they're also fostering success. When that goes away, and you have some critical misses, I think the balance shifts and things tend to really unspool at that point; which is what I believe we're seeing and why I can't bring myself to get amped up for DA4, much as I have loved the series.

It wasn't in gaming, but I experienced that sort of big owner---little company dynamic at play for 16 years, where your little pool of the business is profitable, but not gangbusters, and doesn't align well with what mama and papa want to do. It's... not great.

But even before Muzyka and Zeschuk left, it had to be tricky. I visited Bioware on a press junket during the late preview period for DA:Origins (such a great memory, that), and you could see how the employees there would get uncomfortable trying to answer questions about where the line between EA and Bioware existed. Lots of talk about giving a little to get a little. I suspect that's increasingly giving a lot to get a little as Bioware's track record gets sketchy.

Again, for me, I got a bunch of great games and memories out of their best years. If their run is over, or if they're going to go in directions that aren't going to appeal to me, that's okay. It was amazing while it lasted. :)

I know you, Danielle, etc., liked Bioware well past the point I did. Of course, if I had a chance to visit Bioware I probably would've given ME2 more of a fair shake (says the guy who played through ME1 in a weekend).

As Clock frequently points out about Nintendo, they understand that MonolithSoft and their Xenoblade games won't sell like Mario, but it's important to Nintendo to have those long-form RPGs on their roster for their systems.

It seems EA may not quite think the same way. All of Bioware's games have been hits. They're not CoD, but they sell millions. But, I guess, you can't put an Ultimate Team mode in their games...

I still think EA is at fault for wanting an endless revenue stream. Anthem may have been Bioware's big, new ambitious project, but the monetization initiative wasn't game designers begging to make a loot shooter. It's just where it ended when they developed the game relatively aimless for X number of years.

garion333 wrote:

I know you, Danielle, etc., liked Bioware well past the point I did. Of course, if I had a chance to visit Bioware I probably would've given ME2 more of a fair shake (says the guy who played through ME1 in a weekend).

As Clock frequently points out about Nintendo, they understand that MonolithSoft and their Xenoblade games won't sell like Mario, but it's important to Nintendo to have those long-form RPGs on their roster for their systems.

It seems EA may not quite think the same way. All of Bioware's games have been hits. They're not CoD, but they sell millions. But, I guess, you can't put an Ultimate Team mode in their games...

I still think EA is at fault for wanting an endless revenue stream. Anthem may have been Bioware's big, new ambitious project, but the monetization initiative wasn't game designers begging to make a loot shooter. It's just where it ended when they developed the game relatively aimless for X number of years.

Millions might not be enough anymore. It's a little hard to come to terms with in a hobby that still happily calls something a "platinum hit" for selling one million units, but it seems to be the case. There have been a lot of stories over the years where a game that's sold 3 or 4 million copies has failed to meet expectations, and every time, the response has been that publishers have unreasonable expectations. Maybe we're the ones with the unreasonable expectations.

How much does it cost for the "pirate ship" of the Dragon Age team to lurch from idea to idea until they figure out what they want to make? How much did it cost for Anthem to suck up every available worker across multiple studios? For Mass Effect Andromeda to reboot multiple times before landing with a belly flop? All of that adds up and quickly.

I'm sure that there's plenty of regular old corporate greed behind EA's drive toward games as a service, but it's very likely also the path to make most of these projects sustainable. You made the comparison to Xenoblade, but EA and Nintendo are in very different positions.

Nintendo is using Xenoblade to drive a platform. Having a big, meaty RPG on their game system increases the perception of value of that system, and literally every copy of Xenoblade represents at least one Switch sold at five times the cost of the game.

EA doesn't have that platform—at least, not yet—so the games themselves have to be that platform. Thus, everything gets the service model applied to it.

But for all the talk about EA mandating continuous revenue streams for all of its games, that's not entirely true. The EA Originals line of games like Fe, Unravel, and A Way Out have no such publisher expectations. Of course, they don't have much in the way of buyer expectations, either.

Would gamers accept an indie-scale Dragon Age game? (Keeping in mind that this also means most of BioWare's developers get laid off.) If the reaction to the smaller, cheaper Dragon Age II is any indication, the answer to that is no. Fans want bigger, deeper, more detailed, more attractive, higher definition, more reactive worlds, and they don't want to pay more for it. That's not going to end well.

I suspect that EA has kept BioWare around for the prestige and accolades, not the sales numbers. It benefits them as a company to say that they've published the RPG Game of the Year of so many publications. But those bills still have to be paid, and now BioWare has a pretty tarnished reputation.

Who knows what happens from here? EA is obviously trying to get a platform going with EA Access and Origin Access, so maybe that'll change the calculus of how these games get paid for, but who knows. (It's ironic that Anthem was clearly meant to be a hook for EA's subscription services. In that way, it's rough release must have been doubly disappointing for EA.)

ClockworkHouse wrote:

Millions might not be enough anymore. It's a little hard to come to terms with in a hobby that still happily calls something a "platinum hit" for selling one million units, but it seems to be the case. There have been a lot of stories over the years where a game that's sold 3 or 4 million copies has failed to meet expectations, and every time, the response has been that publishers have unreasonable expectations. Maybe we're the ones with the unreasonable expectations.

How much does it cost for the "pirate ship" of the Dragon Age team to lurch from idea to idea until they figure out what they want to make? How much did it cost for Anthem to suck up every available worker across multiple studios? For Mass Effect Andromeda to reboot multiple times before landing with a belly flop? All of that adds up and quickly.

Which is part of the reason why they're probably leaning so hard into "Games as a Service", which I hate as a customer but can absolutely understand idea behind. Lord knows how many copies RDR2 sold, but looking at the lifespan GTA V has had, why wouldn't R* load up the online multiplayer component with methods for them to keep making tons of money years after it comes out?

Is it fair for EA to look at DA and say that the days of creating a game that exists as a completely finished, closed product on release are gone, and that for them to support enormous undertakings like this, ones that can take twist after turn after twist, that they must be able to find (let's call them) secondary revenue streams outside of just sales of the game itself?

Like, I intensely dislike it, but I also feel like it's a rubicon that's been crossed and, as far as enormous, "AAA" titles like this go, we're not going back to "the way it used to be."

garion333 wrote:

I know you, Danielle, etc., liked Bioware well past the point I did. Of course, if I had a chance to visit Bioware I probably would've given ME2 more of a fair shake (says the guy who played through ME1 in a weekend).

By that point they'd definitely begun their swung away from crunchy RPGs that are more at home on the PC; but yeah, I still really loved what they were doing with character and story during that period. DA2 was so different from Origins, I think it suffered from losing the expectations game (of which I was guilty at the time) much more than it deserved to. There were compromises, sure, but in hindsight, I love that game, and it's the only DA game I've replayed to completion (finished it three times). Once you know it's not this big budget and sprawling epic, it's a lot easier to sink in and appreciate all the great character work and small-scale storytelling they had going in there. I'd give up a toe to get another DA game like that. And ME2 will always be an all-time favorite.

It wasn't until DA3 and ME3 (both of which I liked on the whole) that I started to feel like they were going in directions (stitching in multiplayer and weird mobile app hooks and these really not well-thought-out third acts) where I might not being interested in following. And then Andromeda ended up being the first game from them I bounced off of... possibly ever. I put maybe 4-6 hours into it before deciding it was a game that wasn't going to respect my time, and I'm so incredibly done with that kind of thing. Never touched it again.

It's fine. I can go back and play the old games, or play stuff that does interest me, like Darkest Dungeon or Pillars, or Original Sin. (Hell, even those I'm struggling to make time for these days.) And if DA4 comes out, and it looks interesting, then that's great. I'm in. I'm just not holding my breath.

I'm not sure I understand the narrative of Dragon Age 2 and Mass Effect 2 as the pivot point where the company moved away from "crunchy" or "PC" RPGs. From here, those games look like the logical continuation of what the studio had already done six years earlier with Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Or hell, MDK 2. Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights are almost the aberrations in their oeuvre, not the other way around.

It was the changes from ME1 to ME2 and DA1 to DA2 specifically for me, not the company-wide design philosophy. Kotor was great!

I liked the more tactical combat in DA1.

I liked the story and slightly more RPG-ness of combat in ME1. But, really, I just didn't like the story, which puts me at odds with, oh, just about everyone.

So.... this got long (sorry!), but I've got two different answers (to what Clock wrote). Obviously, this just me talking. Your mileage may vary and all that.

I don't think of those sequels as pivot points at all (I love both), but I think if you look at the start of the ME and DA franchises, you see that D&D ruleset and PC RPG influence really falling away into mechanics that work better on multiple platform types and are easier for more people to wade into (not a complaint) without a PhD in D20 Theory. But you also saw that a lot of the noncombat character skills traits (like hacking, survival skills, etc.) didn't work especially great in those first games, and rather than create systems to make them work better, I think they opted to drop them for the sequels and really just focus on what they felt was working (character interaction) or had to work (combat); which... is a choice.

This is just a personal thing, but mechanically, I like my RPGs better when my character has or accrues stats and skills that reflect a whole person and have a big influence in how I can interact with the world and its people, and not just what they can do with a sword or pew-pew blaster. That's mostly all I mean by the "crunchy" stuff. But yeah, absolutely, Bioware had trended away from that path long before DA2 and ME2.

What kept me on was that all three games in both franchises had stories and characters that I adored, and I felt like I was making choices that had an impact (disclaimer: except for the third acts of the third game in both). Also, for whatever they lost in crunchyness, DA2 and ME2 respected my time; and I don't mean the total length, but how much meaning (relative to character and story) they were packing into the time I did spend. By the third game in both franchises, things I loved were most definitely still there, but I started feeling that design focus on ways to ensure people keep playing the game rather than offering a story to inhabit for awhile and then move on from. (Which yeah, welcome to AAA Gaming the 2010s Way.) I could do 2,000 words on War Score and Galactic Readiness, but this is already long. And then Andromeda happened, and it just felt like they dialed those "let us find ways to waste your time" aspects up to 11.

I'm just not down with that anymore, you know? I've got *%$# to do, so make the time I choose to spend with your game worth it to me. I completely understand that is subjective, and every player's line is different, and the reality of AAA game development in 2019 is what it is, so I'm not angry about it. To anyone who loved Andromeda or cannot wait to get into DA4, I'm very happy for you. Truly! I just can't anymore. I need to see something first that makes me believe I'm getting something for my time investment that is meaningful to me the way those earlier games were.

So, yeah. I'm going to shut up about it now, as I've taken up too much thread space that should go to people who feel enthusiastic about what Bioware is doing next with this franchise.

ubrakto wrote:

I'm just not down with that anymore, you know? I've got *%$# to do, so make the time I choose to spend with your game worth it to me. I completely understand that is subjective, and every player's line is different, and the reality of AAA game development in 2019 is what it is, so I'm not angry about it. To anyone who loved Andromeda or cannot wait to get into DA4, I'm very happy for you. Truly! I just can't anymore. I need to see something first that makes me believe I'm getting something for my time investment that is meaningful to me the way those earlier games were.

Definitely feel this. I have it in my head that I'll do one more DAI playthrough to see various other outcomes, but definitely use the guide that tells me what are the mission critical items, and not just random fetch quests. I do feel both Andromeda and Inquisition got bogged down in these annoying time wasting quests that didn't build up the world, and do wonder how much of that was the designers throwing in something, anything, to make it seem like there was more there than actually was (as evidenced by artificial gating on the trials in Anthem).

Dragon Age 4 becomes BioWare's next big focus, as Anthem loses its lead creators

Anthem, believe it or not, is meant to have a 10 year life cycle of post-launch content. But, in light of the game's systemic problems, BioWare's lack of communication, and a dwindling player base, that ambitious post-launch schedule is looking less and less likely, especially in light of recent news about the game's shifting development team.

In recent weeks, three key members of Anthem's lead development team have departed from work on the project, including Executive Producer Mark Darrah, Lead Producer Michael Gamble, and Lead Director Jonathan Warner, with only the latter intending to return to the game following a personal sabbatical.

According to a recent tweet from Gamble, the reason for this behind the scenes reshuffle seems to be Dragon Age shaped, as BioWare places the majority of its focus on getting Dragon Age 4 our of the door, following several reported reboots of the RPG sequel.

farley3k wrote:

Dragon Age 4 becomes BioWare's next big focus, as Anthem loses its lead creators

Anthem, believe it or not, is meant to have a 10 year life cycle of post-launch content. But, in light of the game's systemic problems, BioWare's lack of communication, and a dwindling player base, that ambitious post-launch schedule is looking less and less likely, especially in light of recent news about the game's shifting development team.

In recent weeks, three key members of Anthem's lead development team have departed from work on the project, including Executive Producer Mark Darrah, Lead Producer Michael Gamble, and Lead Director Jonathan Warner, with only the latter intending to return to the game following a personal sabbatical.

According to a recent tweet from Gamble, the reason for this behind the scenes reshuffle seems to be Dragon Age shaped, as BioWare places the majority of its focus on getting Dragon Age 4 our of the door, following several reported reboots of the RPG sequel.

Mass Effect Andromeda all over. Make their money and then cut and run even though the product has tons of potential if they were willing to do the work to fix it.

Rykin wrote:
farley3k wrote:

Dragon Age 4 becomes BioWare's next big focus, as Anthem loses its lead creators

Anthem, believe it or not, is meant to have a 10 year life cycle of post-launch content. But, in light of the game's systemic problems, BioWare's lack of communication, and a dwindling player base, that ambitious post-launch schedule is looking less and less likely, especially in light of recent news about the game's shifting development team.

In recent weeks, three key members of Anthem's lead development team have departed from work on the project, including Executive Producer Mark Darrah, Lead Producer Michael Gamble, and Lead Director Jonathan Warner, with only the latter intending to return to the game following a personal sabbatical.

According to a recent tweet from Gamble, the reason for this behind the scenes reshuffle seems to be Dragon Age shaped, as BioWare places the majority of its focus on getting Dragon Age 4 our of the door, following several reported reboots of the RPG sequel.

Mass Effect Andromeda all over. Make their money and then cut and run even though the product has tons of potential if they were willing to do the work to fix it.

Do we know which members were always planned to move on? I imagine Mark Darrah was.

Honestly, having the producers move on seems like non-news. Isn't that just standard in all game development? They did their job and move on to the next new project.
The loss of lead designers (which I assume Warner is) is something different of course. But he isn't being moved away.
Seems like this is only a story because of Anthems bad launch. And of course because they mention DA4 as a reason. Normally we would not be told why someone moves on to the next secret project.

Probably also very likely that Anthem will lose more people. Got to assume plenty of people are looking at better options than trying to fix a game after it launched.

I agree this doesn't seem like a sign that BioWare is abandoning Anthem or mean anything surprising for DA4. Weren't there just a bunch of Anthem-related job openings posted by EA, including them looking to hire someone with experience revamping loot systems? I just hope that, if/when they do eventually improve Anthem, they learn lessons that pay off for DA4.

When it comes to Anthem, its less about what they plan to do, but more whether the players have any trust in anything happening. The Anthem sub-reddit recently pretty much declared it dead, and I have to say after popping in a few times over the weekend it seems to be the case; matchmaking didn't result in a single other person for any mission I chose, stronghold or otherwise.

Dragon Age 4 not due until at least April 2022 according to this Eurogamer article.

They paused development for the last two years due to Anthem and started ramping up again a few months after Anthem fell flat on its face. BioWare’s in such a bad spot. No one trusts the company anymore.

I do hope this means they are now actually working on getting their culture back on track. The article Schreier posted about the inner workings of BioWare sounds like they were destined to constantly produce subpar games.

The Schreier article described a company that had fooled themselves into thinking their sh*t don't stink. They never had a clear vision for Anthem but clung to the belief their "Bioware magic" would somehow fix it in the end. It could end up being good for them to get humbled.

A delayed game is only late until it releases. A bad game is bad forever.

This comes across as something of a Bioware puff piece, but it does show where they are heading with Dragon Age 4 along with some concept art and very very early stage foootage.

Looks like they are going back towards the Dragon Age 2 "You're not trying to save the world, just survive in it" angle.

I don't think I trust BioWare anymore. Like I may still buy and play their games but I don't think I will be pre-ordering them anymore.

I halfway expected this was a post saying the game had been canceled, or worse, moved to be a multiplayer games as service game.