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Dragon Age Official Forum Highlights & Comments For select forum posts by the game developers collected from the official Dragon Age forums, as well as comments on them. All the news items posted here also appear on the DA official forum news page of Sorcerer's Place.

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Old Fri, 15th Dec '06, 10:16am   #1
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Here are today's Dragon Age forum highlights, taken from the Dragon Age Official Forum. Please take into account that these are only single parts of various threads and should not be taken out of context. Bear in mind also that the posts presented here are copied as-is, and that any bad spelling and grammar does not get corrected on our end.

David Gaider, Lead Writer

Beta

Just to be clear, unless something really odd happens there is no possibility of an open beta. Period. Bioware has its own QA testers, and if need be Bioware has been known to hire term testers to fill out a particular project's needs.

Sorry, but this is one place where speculation doesn't help, because as soon as anyone thinks there's even a small chance the hands start shooting up. So there's no beta, and let's just leave it at that.

Undead, construct or monstrous party members?


Not a majority, no, but there are some. "Good" is definitely a valid motivation for some, but far from the only one and the potential party members cover a fair range of motivations and personalities. You are correct, however, that none of them are stereotypically evil. "Evil" is rarely a motivation unless one is insane.

I want to kill annoying party members

Close enough. Really it's not a matter of keeping them alive because they're needed for all sorts of important plot stuff, it's a matter of not killing them off randomly because we don't think that's a good mechanic, not for the story and not for gameplay.

More:

Would BG have had worse gameplay if your party members couldn't be resurrected 99% of the time, making death a trivial delay at best? Somehow I believe so.

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Really? You didn't have enough money for a resurrection in BG1? Bizarre.

And I suppose you chose to tough it out rather than reload? Well, why not? There were certainly lots of throw-away party members available. For precisely that reason.

But since we're not going back to throw-away NPC's and we're not going back to cheap resurrection, let's not keep returning to this horse. Seriously.

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Not true, if the fact that those characters are dead can be rectified in about the same amount of time that it would take someone to rest in NWN. Potentially it could take longer for someone to be resurrected or replaced, but ultimately the "death" penalty there is measured solely in the amount of time it inconveniences you.

The fact that you look on it differently is all based on your willingness to accept that illusion. I get that it is an illusion you prefer, but presenting it as something other than an illusion isn't helping your case any.

The Importance of Being Evil

There is no alignment or good/evil slider in Dragon Age... and thus we also don't go out of our way to make sure a distinct "evil path" (or "good path", for that matter) exist in every single plot or dialogue, which is something you need to do once you have a system in place for changes to the alignment/slider.

The end effect is that there will be individual instances where you can do some pretty despicable, immoral things... but only where they make sense. Playing good or evil is not really the point of the game as it might be in, say, KotOR or Fable.

Which perhaps is as it should be. Forcing an "evil path" onto an otherwise heroic tale (as most are, whether or not you think heroic fantasy is a good idea is a completely different argument) tends to be a bit forced at times. Not only that, what most players seem to demand is not just to be evil but to be intelligent evil... which is the sort of thing that requires long-term plans rather than short-term actions, which is very hard to telegraph to the player without using outright exposition. And even then, I suspect the answer in many cases would probably be, "oh, that evil plan sounds fine, but my evil plan would be even more sinister and intelligent than that."

Not to say that it couldn't be done, or done better, just that it's problematic when it comes to heroic fantasy. And it isn't something we're concentrating on when it comes to Dragon Age anyhow.

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I'm not suggesting that there are no alternate ways to complete plots... just that there is no forced evil path attached to every single plot and dialogue. Instead we concentrate on there being more logical paths through things irrespective of their morality, with the purely immoral or heroic options coming up when they make sense. A lot of the options will be good or bad depending entirely on your own outlook and the views of your companions. I think the result feels much more natural.

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Yes, I would agree with this. I would sooner call these options immoral rather than evil, per se, and often it's a matter of "the ends justifies the means". The difference as I see it is that immoral acts can be easily justified by those who wish to do so. Evil acts tend to be... well, just evil.

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Perhaps. I'd suspect they're more heroic than good, or at the very least quest-driven, whereas the so-called "evil path" that I see most often requested is stuff that is strictly non-heroic (as opposed to anti-heroic) and non-quest-driven... and thus usually very divergent. Joining the enemy, complex manipulation schemes, fomenting rebellion, etc.

It doesn't have to be divergent, of course. You could establish the "main" story as being non-heroic (the Thief series comes to mind, though that was mission-based and thus strictly linear storytelling with a specific character) and any potentially "good" deed as requiring more divergence than not. The real question there, I suppose, is whether you would want to.

Quicksave/Reload syndrome?

I will just interject that the wounds that players receive are persistent and not permanent. The difference being that the player can treat wounds and recover from them. If they were truly permanent and thus irrevocable, yes, it wouldn't see much use.

Plot Twists in Story Development

I get it up to a point, though. If the player is artificially kept from doing anything to try and address what they themselves see, it has the potential to come across as an overly-obvious plot construct. It really depends on the nature of the twist, though.

The character is not the player and at some level it needs to be accepted that the player may know things that the character does not (and insisting on otherwise is often referred to as metagaming), but take that too far and the character becomes more the author's avatar than the player's.

It can be as simple as allowing the player to address his concerns -- or attempt to. If the player in KotOR had the opportunity to ask some pointed questions to Bastila, even if she quickly shot them down at least the player might have felt as if he'd figured something out. He might suspect that he's really Revan, but he doesn't know. Then again, would it be possible that players who had no idea would find those questions to Bastila and, in asking, have the twist made suddenly known to them? That would be bad.

So it's a tough call. Like Stan said, at some level some folks are always going to claim that they had every plot twist figured out looong before their character did... but that's unlikely to change no matter how much effort we put into making a twist feel more acceptable. Short of blindsiding the player, the twist as a story device is always going to require a certain amount of buy-in if it's going to be used, just as in a movie. The only other option, really, is not to use them at all.

No More 3D graphics please

3D has its share of limitations, but let's not forget that 2D does as well... just different ones. I would, however, say that slowly 3D is starting to overcome some of its more heinous limitations insofar as the expense of creating content goes.

I would say, however, that when it comes to the Uncanny Valley that is not a requirement of 3D art. Maria is very correct that when something attempts to mimic reality it is judged by a different standard... one it can possibly never quite achieve. But there is plenty of 3D games that use a more stylistic approach (World of Warcraft comes to mind) that never tries to be photorealistic. It's certainly an approach to consider.

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Incidentally, Dave, if the cost of 3D content continues to fall at some point I'll start asking for 100 hour games again.

I'm not sure we would ever go quite that far again, but I suspect this will be a bit of a cyclical thing. Once 3D art as it stands becomes fairly cheap to create through various procedural methods, some other new tech that has everyone ahhhing and oohhhing will no doubt become the standard and set it all around again.

Stanley Woo, QA Ninja

A Motivation For Heroics

I think there will be a certain amount of "do the thing because it must get done" in Dragon Age, but there will be a lot of motivation that comes from what happens in your background. Whether that motivates you to "do the thing because I was given a sacred duty by the Maiden of the Pond" or "do the thing because I may already have won the sweepstakes" or "they killed my family, now I have to do the thing" or "I watch Spike Lee movies, so I have to Do the Right Thing" is up to you.

Beta

I know that for the NWN Expansion Packs we had a very exclusive closed beta involving some of our NWN community developers and groups, but I don't think we've had anything for our major releases.

For the most part, people want to become involved in betas so they can play a spiffy game early. These sorts of people don't provide the kind of feedback required by a developer in a beta period.

As Lady Shayna said, it's highly unlikely.

Quicksave/Reload syndrome?

I will never agree that allowing quick saving or saving in general is a bad thing. I really dislike games that only allow saves at save points or checkpoints or at the end of missions, because I hate having to do entire levels or missions all over again simply because I failed at the final section.

In Prince of Persia: Two Thrones, for example, I reached a checkpoint with less than optimal health. From there, I had to go through a timed level where my health gradually decreased. I had to go through that level 10 or 12 times and each time got more frustrating.

Or a huge game like Final Fantasy, where saving is done at save points. You could be playing for hours and be unable to save, so if you die or someone turns off your console, all those hours of progress are lost.

In games where one can save anytime, it's easier to save your progress when you have to leave your game for a time or complete a long, involved mission.

I don't think it decreases the challenge level, any more than allowing saving at all decreases challenge. It's just a way for players to keep playing the game without having to do some parts of the game over and over again.

If you think it makes the game too easy to allow quicksaving, why not think about a game that doesn't allow any saving at all? If you die or otherwise fail a mission, the game either exits or stops, requiring you to buy another copy of the game. Even if this game costs $1 per attempt, it's hardly fun to do it this way, now, isn't it?

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But what I'm saying is that it's not necessarily a feature that indicates difficulty or challenge. If you beat a game and post on a message board saying "I beat Dragon Flame Trucks 4!!!!!", no one is going to care whether you did it in one go, over the course of a few months, or whether you saved once or 100 times. All that matters is that you finished it.

Likewise, if you beat Frongtar the Blobbish, it doesn't matter whether you beat him on the first try and killed your entire party except Jemp Surfstar or had to reload 100 times so that Captain McAlister could land his Dynamo Blue attack. What matters is, you beat Frongtar.

Plot Twists in Story Development

But what's obvious to one person isn't necessarily obvious to another. I, for one, tend to turn my brain off when involving myself in other stories just so I don't spoil things for myself!

We had many comments on the forums alone from people who were absolutely floored by our various plot twists. They never saw it coming, and were very pleasantly surprised by it. That's the kind of thing I like to see. We also received many comments from people who did see it coming but still enjoyed it.

As I've always said, you can't please everyone all the time.

Mary Kirby, Writer

Class-specific origins

Or I could save you some time. . .

The origins tell you little about your past. They mostly focus on your present. This is where you live. This is your family. These are your neighbors. Pretty much everything that game assumes about your "past" is based on events as they play out in your origin story. So whatever happens, you're there to make your choices and have your say in it.

Ferret A. Baudoin, Senior Designer

The Importance of Being Evil

Sometimes I really wonder how well a game would sell if it had a fully fleshed out evil character as the protagonist. You get to play the bad guy in Dungeon Keeper and Evil Genius - and part of me wonders that may be why they didn't sell a ton of copies in spite of being good games.
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