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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 Thu, 3rd Jan '08, 1:04am   #1
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Default Dragon Age Forum News III (Jan. 02, 08)

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

Classes ?

Actually, no -- stamina would only get used by employing special attacks and abilities. You can indeed swing your sword all day in regular fashion (if not dramatic).

Dressing up and dressing down

There are a couple of quests that I can think of where you have the option to disguise yourself in an outfit, but no "formal attire only" tea parties that I can think of (though that's a neat idea).

As for armor, there are indeed different types and variances within each. Whether one is prettier or more stylish than the other-- I guess that will be subjective. There is also regular clothing if you want to put it on, but wearing armor certainly isn't out of place in this environment.

Arena

The dwarves use arenas as a method of clan distinguishment and bloodsport entertainment -- they call them Provings (and the arena itself is a Proving Ground).

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Sounds cool. Can non-dwarves participate in provings?

Only the regular ones -- the ones meant to entertain the bloodthirsty masses.

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While the Proving Grounds can be a means to an end, I don't think there's any point at which you are forced to compete.

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Would you miss content? *ponder* I suppose you might decide to go to the Proving Grounds just to see what it's like. It's less a side quest, however, and more of an optional activity -- not UCW optional, perhaps, but optional nevertheless. If you decide to act out of character so you can go Prove your worth, don't blame me.

Why is it so difficult to end a game well? [MANY SPOILERS]

Well, let me say this: the more linear the story, the better you're likely going to be able to wrap it up neatly. Which is to say if you know exactly who your protaganist is, and you know exactly what your plot is going to encompass and when your climax is going to occur, it's going to be a bit easier to bring it all together to make what will likely be at the very least an appropriate ending (though naturally tastes vary and it may not be an ending you like, much).

Add in such complications as a variable protaganist or an open-ended plot and things become much more difficult. You can never quite anticipate what the player's story was (meaning what they experienced as their personal narrative throughout the game) so wrapping it up in a way that will be satisfying specifically for them becomes more challenging.

I do like the Fallout method (if you want to call it that) -- we used it in Throne of Bhaal and in Hordes of the Underdark, as I recall. The thing there is that it's not so much an ending for the player's character as it is an ending for every other character and/or place in the game, right? And since I know exactly what those things are about for certain, I can give them an ending that is appropriate.

It certainly doesn't help that, in most cases, we tend to work on the ending last. Which is to say we usually end up working on the game's ending in a period where we might not have time to do it justice. I would say that maybe we should do it first (or earlier) but then I think of all the times when we have had to radically change things in the story due to outside pressures (like an axed cutscene or some change to the engine) and I wonder how viable that kind of plan would be.

You'd think that the needs of the story would dictate everything else in the game-- but no. Alas, it's a bit more of a dance (or a frantic scrabble, as the case may be) and that complicates something that is already not that easy to do.

It's something that we're constantly trying to work on, anyhow.

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Tsk tsk. You are on the verge of punting kittens there, sir. The problem with time management on projects of this scope is that there is nothing simple about it. No plan meets contact with the enemy, not ever. Entire schools of thought are devoted on how to do this sort of thing properly. And while, yes, delaying the project another week might indeed give it a better ending that tends to be a slippery slope towards delaying it for all sorts of other reasons. And we won't even look at feature creep, which is a whole other ball of wax.

Like I said in another thread, there is so much being done right at the end of a project that you can't just split it all up into things that are "done" and "not done". At no point are we going "okay, we're all done everything else, now let's work on the ending!" -- it's more a matter of working on the ending while you're also simultaneously finishing off every single other part of the game all of which is at various stages of completion.

It might be hard to imagine, but the short story is that we always reserve plenty of time to work on something like the ending. Because we do it last, however, by the time we get to it the reality is far, far from ideal. (And, frankly, this applies to a lot more situations that simply a game's ending.) Such is simply how it has always been. I have no good answers, myself, I'm afraid.

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Tell me something I don't know. Even so, the plain fact is that the needs of the story often have to take a backseat when it comes to more practical considerations, much as we might like it to be otherwise.

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You are twisting the facts there, I think. Their goal is to save the world, and they do just that. For some characters this is a pyrrhic victory, sure, but it is still a victory -- Sauron does not conquer Middle Earth. Evil is vanquished. To portray the Lord of the Rings as a tale where the heroes do not complete their quest is more than a bit off -- it is, I suspect, the most classic example of such.

Some General Questions About Dragon Age

Yeah, DA's a funny project if you're going to talk development time, because it hasn't been developed on a normal schedule. It all depends on what you consider to be "in development", really. Do we count the period where DA was just being planned and there were talks about it? Do we count the time where there was a handful of us passing around design docs and working on the background material? Do we count the period where there was a small team putting together the tech demo for E3 in 2003? Personally, I can't even pinpoint for you when the "full" team came together, as it's been done in bits and globs over the last few years.

I'm not sure how other companies do it, but I suspect you all wouldn't normally be privy to those periods of a project. All that stuff would be going on behind the scenes, with you all blissfully unaware that anything was even going on. Not that this hasn't been a long process, sure, but I suspect it seems longer than you're used to because of the extra early announcement. Whether you consider that to be a good thing or not is debateable, but there it is.

Party banter topics

I'll ask a question, here, because I'm curious:

Is being able to ask your party member anything at all and strike up conversations with them really that important?

And I don't mean this from the perspective of "oh they don't want to read all that!" or anything of the sort. Naturally I love dialogue. I do wonder, however, if having all these discussions with a party member really doesn't offer diminishing returns.

Now, before you scoff and knee-jerk to "but more is better!" think about it. In Baldur's Gate 2, the only party members you could speak to directly outside of directly quest-related conversations were the romances. And even then they initiated on their terms. Did that make you feel less close to them? Did you feel less close to the non-romance characters?

Part of the issue is that I think you get a lot more characterization out of doing than simply talking. When you're talking about something immediately relevant, like the quest at hand or the statue that's in front of you, you're getting characterization in context. But just talking to them seems like the dialogue equivalent of exposition, at times.

Another possible issue is one of expectation. If you can chat with the party member at any time about anything, wouldn't that build up the expectation that you should be able to talk to them about anything?

I'm all for having some flavorful dialogues, and it certainly seems like talking to your party member should just be like dialogue in a book or a movie -- but you have to remember that in those other mediums it's always staged. It's always at the perfect moment, or with the proper sub-text. Not to mention that sometimes I think we almost get more bang for the buck with things like banter between the party members themselves, or the little comments they make at random (the pop-up comments in Hordes of the Underdark were wonderful, I thought, compared to how much work they required).

Maybe the responses I will get will suggest that maybe we're just not doing it right, and maybe we're not, but I find this is one area where my experience says that expectations of what should work do not always match reality.

Questions on magic in Upcoming Dragonage

There are a couple of questions in there, but let me see if I can sort them out.

As far as the power of the individual mage goes, I would say that, yes, they can be quite powerful. A lot depends on the sort of magic they specialize in, but in general magic tends to be pretty blatant in its effect. By and large, spells are crafted for use in battle -- but that is primarily because that is what is taught. Other magics do exist, like mind control, but they are forbidden and obviously not the sort of thing one gets taught at Hogwart's (so to speak).

Which is not to say that an interested mage couldn't learn such forbidden arts, just that he's not going to start off with it.

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1. Can a Mage call fire from thin air? Or does there need to be a source present to manipulate.

Effectively, yes, you can call fire from thin air. Transmutation of such energies is the meat and potatoes of the Primal school, but regardless of the explanation the end result is the same.

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Hmmm. There are limitations as to the scope of magic in Dragon Age -- it's not a power that let's one just "do anything". You couldn't, for instance, just whip up a house... or change the weather patterns, for that matter. Spells are often more blunt in their nature, the application of (or transformation of) energy, and any repercussions are going to be local and immediate. There is also the sort of enchantments practiced by the Tranquil, but that is way on the other end of the spectrum and even less like what you're talking about.

As I said, however, the reason for this is largely because this is what mages are taught -- as in this is what they are allowed to be taught. There are likely more things that magic can be employed for, even going so far as breaking the "rules" of magic -- certainly your average renegade would claim such -- but none of that is going to be common knowledge you start off with.

Does that answer your question?

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No, if your mana is used up, it's used up. There are ways to slow down your mana use, but no ways to simply replenish your mana unless you-- well, no. That would be forbidden. Mustn't discuss that.

Motion sickness sensitive: Will I be able to play?

Dragon Age may not be the game for you, then.

Toolset?

If you're going to put a toolset out there, you want it in a shape so that it would be useable by the general public. And, yes, it would have to be supported. Since the focus of DA is not on having a toolset, it's not going to get as much attention as the game itself is getting -- but that's not to say that we don't want to put it out there. Just that it's too early for us at the moment to judge when & how.

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Err... did we say we would withhold it? You're not talking to a company that doesn't know the value of a modding community, after all. All I'm saying is that whenever we put it out, it's going to work. If we really decide not to put the toolset out there, it's probably because it wouldn't benefit anyone -- not even hidden away secretly somewhere.

PC Personality

As someone who enjoys a little snarkiness, myself, and employs plenty of it in real life I will just point out that sadly it doesn't work quite like you'd expect it to in a game.

The problem is that in order to be snappy or witty you often need very specific lines -- much like the examples you've given. The problem is that they often become too specific. You get players who want to have a playful or cheeky character but who wouldn't opt for that tone specifically (in which case the option is wasted)... you might think it's weird, but when it comes to the funny responses there are a lot more nuances than you might think. Sarcasm is not the same as cheeky is not the same as witty. So which one do you pick?

Not that you can't occasionally find something that's still a funny line without it being so specific nobody wants to pick it -- there are lines like that in DA, for sure. The issue that you need to contend with, really, is just how much time you're going to spend giving the player options on how he says things rather than what he says. Considering that the "smartass" option is generally 100% a how-you-say-it option rather than a what-you-say one, it's often a difficult one to squeeze in.

I suppose we could make a game where there are dozens of option at every node which include all the various ways that a player could say a line, for the purity of roleplaying (and one assumes these dozens would be for every possible what-you-say option)... either that or you get to pick some option at the beginning of the game saying "I am stoic" or "I am a smartass" or what have you, and then all the what-you-say options were presented in that manner (requiring, of course, that we then write every single dialogue options in each applicable variety -- I'm really looking forward to THAT game, myself, wooo)... but, to me, that seems like spending an inordinate amount of time on something that I think you really would get a limited amount of return on. That may just be me, but I think there's a reason you tend to only get these sorts of lines in games where your protaganist is a set one that has already been assigned that smartass-type personality and there isn't any choice in the matter.

Just something for you to chew on. I suspect there are people who will profoundly disagree with me (as always), but all I'm saying is that this is one place where my experience has taught me that what you think might be neat doesn't always play out like you think it should when it comes to actual application in-game.

The Bioware Plot Model [MANY SPOILERS]

The plot model you point out isn't any kind of mandate. It is, rather, an observation of the route we tend to take-- for some very good reasons.

I know that it's very easy for the jaded to bemoan how very tired they are of it all, god forbid their delicate sensibilities have to endure yet another epic adventure, right? But we have our way of doing things, and I think it's pretty fair to say we play it pretty safe. We're not going to do something different solely for the sake of being different. That said, nobody said we won't do anything different. Dragon Age will have its distinctive features and innovations that make it Dragon Age.

Even so, I am quite certain some people will see whatever they expect to see. Break any story down far enough, after all, and you'll be left with the Hero's Journey or something that looks like that plot model. Not hard to do.

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As I said, I've got nothing against trying different things-- but different does not make it good, no more than familiar makes it bad. You seem to be saying that only by doing something different can we be creative, which I don't agree with.

Sure, I wouldn't mind doing something really different with the story, myself-- but I am a writer. If writing were all there were to making a game, that wouldn't be such an issue, but of course it's not.

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I will just point out that "mixing it up" is responsible for some of the worst bits of game design I've seen lately. I'll be playing a game, enjoying whatever element of gameplay that they've put out that's solid and polished -- and suddenly everything gets flipped on its ear and you very much get the impression that the designer suddenly decided to "mix it up" for no good reason and it's very much not fun.

I appreciate the "make it art" advice, but it honestly seems like you are imagining the process to be something it's not.

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I wonder that, myself. Perhaps it's because everyone expects the "next big title". Perhaps it's because any game that isn't pushing the envelope gets written off by the media and the industry. I'd like to think that there's room for a smaller title to be a hit sort of the same way that an independant art film can be -- but something tells me the mediums simply don't compare that neatly. If games were all about the story and the art & technology side didn't matter, maybe that wouldn't be the case... but, again, it really is.

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In other words, to do something great it takes talent, determination and a set of brass ones! And I for one am not questioning Bioware's talent or determination

Uh-huh. Well, thanks for the tip.


Shoot, Miranda is doing it at Ossian Studios with the Obsidian enhanced Aurora engine!

Is doing what? Paying the bills for a company with 350 employees? I suspect not.


Is it just fear that a low profit game (or a stinker) will tarnish the brand? If so, why not create a small sub studio for Indies? Disney created Touchstone...

Perhaps you forget that we did have the Live Team and are moving into creating stuff like the Sonic game -- which does take a much smaller team. I could even see us setting up a satellite studio, who knows? Perhaps we don't do more of that because we don't have the people to spare from the larger projects which we want to do -- or perhaps we're simply not doing the projects that you would like us to do? It sounds like you should be sitting down with the company guys and discussing their business plan with them. Shall we set up a meeting?

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Perhaps instead of holding your breath you should start your own company or get a job in the industry. You might think that unrealistic, but I'm thinking it might offer you some perspective. It is, after all, very easy to cheer from the sidelines when you've nothing to lose.

As for the rest, there's no harm in offering an opinion, so I'll just take it for what it is. Thank you.

How close do you want DA to be to BG?


1. Identifying weapons

No, you don't need to identify anything.


2. Longer story with more side quests
2a More twists and/or deeper story (probably would come with a longer story)

Hard to judge at this point... perhaps? Even so, if you're expecting BG2 kind of longer, that's not going to happen.


3. keep the D&D elements that has made BG II my favorite game of all time

Which are? The DA rules system has some things in common with D&D, but not much.


4. Keep the classes more strict (I think this one may be out already but i'll explain anyway) A mage should not be able to pick up a sword and use it just as good as a warrior/fighter class.

Definitely not in the works. Mages are strict in the sense that they're the only class that can spellcast, but otherwise there's a lot of leeway allowed in which direction you want to take your mix of classes and abilities.


5. Armor that "makes sense" I had a Light armor that was just as good as my heavy armor in ME (this could not happen in BG 2) It could maybe have special abilities but it would not have an armor class just as good as the best heavy armor.

The DA armors are pretty distinct, though it's not clear-cut when it comes to usefulness. Some types of armor are better against certain classes of weapons. Heavier armor provides more protection, but is not always desireable depending on what kind of fighter you're going for.


6. More Cities/different types of locations. (after awhile it seemed like ME looked the same except on the main quest).

We've got some pretty distinct areas, including cultures which have a distinct look, but I'm not sure if this would be more or less distinct than ME. Re-use of art is always going to lead to a little bit of this, but without re-use of art you're never going to get to any sort of volume of content, I'm afraid. If you want longer games with more areas, you'll need to give a little on this area, I think.


7. Less mainstream than ME (ME for the masses BG for true RPGers)

Without question. ME was an Action/RPG for a reason. DA is intentionally aimed more towards the core RPG audience.

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Ha. I think I can say with certainty that dialogue alone is not going to expand your playing time by that much. Some, perhaps, but ultimately more story requires more resources. This is why we designers spend so much time hat in hand imitating Oliver Twist at our project meetings.

This is not to say that DA is going to be short, by any means. The focus is on content, for sure. All I'm saying is that if your expectations run to thinking that the amount of content in BG2 is or should be the norm that you're setting yourself up for disappointment. BG2 is fine and all (I reserve a warm little place in my black, black heart for it, as well) but even had we the capability I'm not sure we'd want to make a game as long again. I'm sure y'all appreciated the effort that went into it, but even as we were doing it we recognized that it was excessively indulgent.

There are lots of things that went into the kind of experience that BG2 offered which can (and are) being brought into DA -- amongst other things. Massively-almost-overlong game length is not all that BG2 had going for it, after all.

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but if you have trouble coming up with a huge amount of new content

This is really not the issue.


But that's *why* people love and remember it.

That's super. I love it, too. It also doesn't change anything.

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I wasn't trying to be snarky. All I was trying to say was that the fact that you or I or anyone remembers BG well doesn't change the reality we're facing today. And someone can be cynical about it if they like and suggest how we "just don't care" about those fans who liked BG anymore, but it's not even about that. BG was a product of its time -- and while you may look back on those days with rose-coloured glasses, *I* certainly wouldn't want to relive most of those difficulties that went into making it. Not for anyone.

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We're still considering our options when it comes to post-release content -- do we want to expand the current story or continue on to new places? That sort of thing. Add-ons like you're suggesting are certainly not out of the question, however.

Chris Priestly, Community Coordinator

What do we want from a Demo?

I would not expect a demo.

That isn't to say that it couldn't happen. But we are not a company that generally does demos. Sorry.

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videos,

Maybe


screenshots

Possibly


concept art

Could be.


gameplay videos

Feasibly


trailers

Perhaps.


big news update?

Perchance.


Any talk about any of this at all for 2008?

Conceivably

But not necessarily.

Toolset?

The important thing for EVERYONE to remember here is that everything is still in the works and no decisions have been made yet. So don't get over emotional one way or the other as nothing has been set in stone regarding toolset, support, release, etc, yet.

When we do have news about Dragon Age and/or a toolset for DA, we'll make it known. Stay tuned.

Scott Meadows, Senior Programmer

Toolset?

Of course there is a toolset.
How else would everyone do their work.

Will it ship to you though... I don't know.
The above link is a good summary to read.

We are trying to focus on making Dragon Age a great game.

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You are not part of a developement company then...

Ever hear of distractions, changes in scope, etc...

I say trying, I could change it to say trying and succeeding, but I am sure someone else out there will come along and twist my words.

To quote Bart and Homer.
"I tried really hard and still failed."
"Well then, you learned a valuable lesson; Never Try."

Georg Zoeller, Designer

Classes ?

There are no class based item usage restrictions (e.g. if you want to wield a sword with your mage, go ahead).

Sheryl Chee, Writer

Arena

Not necessarily. There are different kinds of Provings. The rules of each match are decided before the match begins. It can be a duel to the death (and tends to be, if one is fighting for honor) or to first blood. Breaking these rules, for instance, killing someone during a fight to first blood, results in pretty serious consequences. And the Provings that serve as entertainment don't normally result in a death. They'd just run out of combatants that way, and the fans would be annoyed.

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When such things happen--and they happen very rarely--it's usually an accident. Someone got carried away and went too far. The Provings are almost sacred in dwarven culture, and choosing to disregard the rules of the Proving Grounds is like giving the ancestors the finger. It's not acceptable and you're pretty much bringing shame upon your entire house. Most dwarves wouldn't do it if they could help it.

Whether or not we give you the choice to do it... well, that's like asking if we're going to give you the choice to go on a mad killing spree and murder everyone in a town. No, you don't get that choice. Sure we could give you that choice, but what would it add to the story, really?
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