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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 Sun, 7th Oct '07, 10:02pm   #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

Graphics: The Witcher vs. DA

As I've said before on the hair issue, if we wanted to spend the time figuring out how to do long, flowing hair we could certainly do that. We don't want to. The hair we have is both long enough and varied enough, as far as we're concerned. I can understand how it may stand out for some as a really important issue, but we have a million other things to concern ourselves with -- we've moved on. Some developers might indeed spend their time implementing really long hair, and I'm sure it looks excellent, but consider that we've spent that time doing other things they might not have.

Now, back to the topic at hand:

I've played the Witcher, actually. It does look quite good, and I think as far as the overall tone of its look goes it's not all that far off from DA. Insofar as the quality of the art goes, that's a bit harder to judge. We're talking about two games that are entirely different stages of polish, after all. As a guess I'd say they're quite comparable? But ask me again when DA is closer to release and I might say differently.

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There are certainly advantages to having a set protaganist for a game. Think of the NWN official campaign, as a for instance -- that was designed so the protaganist could be anybody... any race, any gender, any class, any background. The less that is set about the protaganist, the less that the story can actually be about the protaganist. At least, not without going through great hoops to somehow determine what those choices made at character generation were and accomodate each one equally in the game -- which can be done, don't get me wrong, but there's a reason that most games opt for the amnesiac or outsider/prisoner angle to start their stories off.

And in case you think that those sorts of tales are indeed about the player character, think again. They're not. Who the player character is is completely tangential (by design). More likely the story is about the NPC's that you meet and/or the setting itself.

Take the next step up: the BG series. You can choose your gender and class and so forth -- but not your background. You will always be the Bhaalspawn, always be the ward of Gorion raised at Candlekeep. Just that alone gives us a hook to center an entire story on. If someone said to me that the story in BG could be exactly the same if the player's status as a Bhaalspawn was optional I'd have to laugh in their face. Try to imagine how much would be required to accomodate a non-Bhaalspawn angle to the story, or even a Imoen-is-the-only-Bhaalspawn angle. Oy.

Planescape:Torment takes that character definition to the extreme end. We have a specific character, with pre-defined gender, name and background. This allows for a very specific story to be crafted around that character -- here is a story which is completely about the protaganist and his transformation. Is it linear and does it allow for no choices? Absolutely not. What kind of transformation the Nameless One goes through is up to you, and there are many paths for the story to take. But any choices regarding your character are removed in favor of placing those choices elsewhere. Could it be the same story just by making the Nameless One female? Certainly not. Not without making the gender completely superficial, meaning people speak to you and react to you exactly the same way no matter what. I doubt that's what's intended.

The same would be the case in translating a set tale, like the Witcher. Sure you could start introducing choices into who the protaganist is... but not without increasingly diluting the original tale. Unless, of course, you wish to make those choices irrelevant.

At any rate, someone may very seriously not like not having a choice about their character -- having more character definition may make for a stronger story that is more about the protaganist, but that doesn't help much unless the player buys into that character. If they don't, it's a strong story about someone else. If they do, they're going to love it -- I suspect that those who bought into the Nameless One's tale love Planescape:Torment more than just about anything else.

But I don't think it can definitively say that one approach is better than the other. Each one has its trade-offs, and how much you value those things that are being traded off (such as gender selection) will affect how big a fan you are of either approach.

more:

Keep in mind I did say that you could do the work to adapt the story to any options that you add. It requires work -- and it also requires adaption. The version of the story where the Nameless One is female, while I'm sure a very interesting angle, is indeed different from the one intended. And the work involved is never insignificant, not unless the differences are purely cosmetic... which we are not talking about.

Considering that the developers who set out to make PST were more concerned with telling a strong story that centers on the protaganist rather than offering character creation options makes the decision of whether or not to do the work to offer a gender option a bit of a no-brainer. For them. Whether or not that made the resulting game appeal to you is a seperate issue.

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If you like. I'm not familiar with the original story. As it is, your contention (and perhaps I am wrong) seems to be that adding a non-irrelevent gender option would not change the intended story at all. And I'm saying that it does. Not the salient plot points, sure, but certainly the scope of the dialogue and certainly how much the story can center on the protaganist without literally writing both paths.

more:

Obviously. I don't think anyone is arguing that what you like is what you like... are they? I'm certainly not. I'm simply saying that definition of the protaganist involves trade-offs that are fundamental to the story design. Either way is a valid way to go, but you do have to make a decision.

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Well, sure... any game could be developed differently. Planescape: Torment could have been developed with a more custom protaganist... just as Baldur's Gate could have had a more set protaganist, a defined male hero with a set parentage and place in the story. Heck, I can think of a dozen different things that could have improved the coherence of the storyline if we could have counted on a set gender alone.

It's simply whether or not the developer feels the trade-offs are worth it.

If it's your intention to make claims about the Witcher being sexist, however, that's certainly your bone to pick no matter how unrelated I think it might be. Any arguments about the Witcher, however, should be moved to Off Topic as we're no longer talking about DA.

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I wonder how Sheryl and Mary deal with such issues?

I doubt they'd see it as much of an issue, though they're free to correct me. They hardly fall within the typical scale when it comes to gaming, however. Me, I require a certain amount of customization when it comes to my character... otherwise, while I may come to appreciate a game with a set character (like I do Planescape: Torment) I will never love. But that's just me, and while there are many developers who are guilty of pandering and titillating, that's a completely seperate argument and blurring the lines between the two is dangerous ground... I don't think one can claim sexism based on the gender of their main character. Even ignoring the intended audience makeup, such an accusation would have to be extended to "No One Lives Forever" and "The Longest Journey" as well, which seems a bit absurd.

Unredeemable, Redeemable, or Quasi-Villain?

I don't think Irenicus had good intentions at heart, not at all. I think some people felt sympathy for him because of what he had lost, the fact that he couldn't even feel remorse any longer and had grown so cold that even the reasons he had originally done all these things meant nothing to him any longer. There was a certain amount of poignancy to his story, even though I think (for most) that didn't excuse what he had done.

There is a huge difference, however, between Irenicus and someone who happens to be a villain but who would never see themselves as such -- Irenicus definitely knew he was a villain, and simply no longer cared.

The Witcher v DA Part II

Of course nobody would turn down free money... but ports are not free. They require (somtimes a great deal of) time and effort, and if it is thought that the port will sell well enough to be profitible then they will probably go ahead and do it. Very much NOT free, however.

Shem-len?


Shemlen is an elven word to describe humans. It does literally translate into English as 'quick children'.


This is correct. Sorry if it comes across as a bit ambiguous -- some editing was required to prevent inadvertant history spoilers.

more:

Err... humans aren't "special" insomuch as all background options give you a bonus of some kind, whether you are human, elf or dwarf.

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so how tall are these elves then (if it does not reveal a part of the origin story that is). D&D or more human (Tolkien) sized?
They are human-sized, on average, if built with a different frame. And, no, you can't shrink them down.

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Err... backgrounds are split by race (and maybe by class). So there is no need for a racial bonus seperate from what you get from the background.

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No size changing spells...

...no height slider for character creation...

*takes notes*
I said neither of these things.

Is Bioware Offering or Creating?

As was suggested, DA's rules are made to work on the computer -- I suppose they certainly could be released in a PnP format, but that would require a degree of adaption certainly.

As for why there's so much work on the setting -- because CRPG's can use that, too? Having a lot of detail in the setting helps us write a story grounded in something that feels real, whether it's for PnP or for the computer. That doesn't necessarily make this NWN, nor is it intended to be.

How much actual background choice is there?

I am leery to respond to this, because without knowing what DA does have or the extent of what it has, anytime we say that we don't have something suddenly all those imagined versions of the game which never were go up in smoke and all you get is disappointment.

Be that as it may, let me say this:

Some of Nicephorous's assumptions are correct. There are not many choices of backgrounds -- the idea is to offer a limited selection from broad archetypes, and allowing you to act as you wish within the boundaries of that background for the beginning of the game (which is background-specific -- a unique beginning chapter of the game for each background and thus not an insignificant undertaking).

Alternatively, we could have offered a plethora of choices, but in doing so would have necessarily had to make each choice far less significant then we have been able to-- without needing to go all the way to the extreme of having a single set background to play off of, which is the route many RPG's would take that don't cast you as the rootless outsider to make their lives easier. Having more choices is not always an improvement.

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It seems that, for some people, character creation means being able to play any concept that they can possibly imagine, regardless of whether or not it fits into the system or the setting. In fact, for some of these people they would rather have backgrounds be disregarded completely during the game rather than have what they see as limits placed on their imagination.

It's why we originally had the "mysterious stranger" as one of the background choices -- until we realized that doing so was at odds with the very reason we were doing the background chapters to begin with, which was to provide the player with roots inside the setting and information on who he is.

We couldn't, for instance, teach an elf or dwarf player who they are without also sending them to their appropriate home area in the game -- which would have meant three seperate "mysterious stranger" backgrounds instead of one that fit all, and even then we suddenly had the awkwardness of trying to teach the player about his own culture while simultaneously casting him as an outsider.

The backgrounds are meant to be a compromise between having a choice -- something that recognizes the decisions you made in character creation and continues to recognize it throughout the game -- and starting off with a single pre-set history that gives us a hook into the plot. It can't also be everything for everybody, and if someone decides that they simply must be able to play their D&D character no matter the game or otherwise make their entire character before knowing anything about the system or setting and then expect that the game never contradict their imagination-- well, if that's a deal-breaker, then perhaps DA isn't for them.

Personally I think the background chapters add a great deal. You are given your circumstances and can then determine how you feel about them and how you react, and go from there. Being an elf or a dwarf or a nobleman or what have you isn't just a stat on your sheet, good for some bonuses and maybe a few lines of off dialogue. I don't really get how someone could say they want lots of options and then, in the same breath, say they prefer those options be mostly meaningless-- but I'm not about to knock anyone just for having a preference.

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This is correct. Also, one should not get the term NPC mixed up with party members -- there are different NPC's for each background's opening chapter, but the background you choose won't restrict what sorts of party members you have available to you after that opening chapter.

Level/Ability/Power choice revert

Hmm. It has always seemed to me that the desire to "respec" seems bourne out of the style of play that one finds in MMORPG's. There the focus by many players seems to be on creating the ultimate and most effecient "build", because the idea of starting another character just because the power you chose does 0.3 dps less than that other power is abhorrent to the extreme.

Not that I think that's a bad thing, necessarily -- I play MMO's, myself, and I like to tweak my abilities as much as anyone else. I do think, however, that when the idea of replayability is central to the game's design and where you're not competing against a hundred other players for a spot on some raid where you get sneered at because you dared to shadow spec -- at that point I think the only real concern should be that all the available choices are valid ones. So long as all the choices are valid, the idea that a player simply must be able to tweak and try all choices on the same playthrough doesn't really seem as vital.

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One might keep in mind, as well, that the "respec" option in MMORPG's came about first primarily because the game is constantly being patched and changing -- you could come to the game to find that your class has been entirely revamped and the abilities you previously picked now work entirely differently. Being able to re-choose those abilities is simply fair at that point.

If the rules are not changing, having the ability to change your level-up decisions is not exactly pressing. At best it's an issue of convenience.

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I don't know. I don't want to come across as an elitist or anything, but I find myself a little resistant to the notion that we must keep the rules very simple or else provide the option to retcon all decisions the player might be asked to make. Is the learning curve of most CRPG rules truly something only the hardcore can grasp? That seems to be what is being implied, here.

Stanley Woo, QA Ninja

Replayability...

Yarr, we already mentioned that the background stories be affectin' things later 'n the game. Wait till ye see what we be doin' with the e--nae, it be better to make ye wait. Yarr!

Craig Graff, Technical Designer

Any convention/show plans?

Um... that was from E3 2004. There are newer photos available on 1up.com from last year, but I don't think we have announced any plans for conventions in the upcoming year.

Georg Zoeller, Designer

Demand for a Linux/Mac version #3

Ugh.

No publisher for the game has been announced. Platform support is a question that requires a publisher to decide.

Therefore we can not comment on it at this point.

Note that BioWare is a business, so for a platform to be interesting and viable, the ROI factor must be favourable.

Level/Ability/Power choice revert

no 'respecs'.

Mary Kirby, Writer

How much actual background choice is there?

So there aren't any party members that are exlusive to a certain background character?

No, there are none of these.
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