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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 Mon, 27th Aug '07, 9:17pm   #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

NPC dialogues

For that I would look to Mass Effect, as we'll be using a similar method of animating the character during dialogue (one of the things Scott Greig was referring to when he said we were using a similar system, as opposed to the Mass Effect dialogue thing where you simply select the "theme" of the response choice as opposed to the exact wording).

As for characters initiating dialogue, it's a mix of both ways. If it's really important, characters will pipe up and approach you. Otherwise you'll need to click on them -- occasionally, if they have something to talk about, they'll go straight to that dialogue when you click on them as opposed to their normal "What do you need?" line.

As for how you'll know when to select them, that we're still playing with. I don't think we'll go with a "Carth looks like he wants to talk to you" thing any more, however, but I agree there needs to be some way to indicate that the character has something to say as opposed to just letting you guess. We could go with, say, a small icon on their portrait. We were also thinking that maybe when you're in the camp if they had nothing new to talk about they'd be sleeping or "busy" working on something... so the characters that were available to talk to would always have new dialogue for you.

I suppose that might be a good place to hit you guys up for an opinion. To me, big icons over the head a la World of Warcraft are a bit too meta-gameish, but maybe an icon on the portrait wouldn't be obtrusive? The thing to remember is that this IS a game. Reality would dictate you could always talk to someone and be able to chat with them about whatever you want for any length of time, but of course we can't do that -- so how do we indicate that there's new content to be found without leaving the player to guess or have the party member being the one starting all dialogues (possible intrusively)?

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For DA, only those in your active party actually respond immediately to your choices in the game -- so they may object or approve, and their view of you will change accordingly -- but the other party members will eventually hear about what you've been doing. In fact, they talk from time to time about how they tend to gossip amongst themselves. So they know what you've been doing, and on occasion if something really pertinent to one of them happens while they're not in the party, they might have a word or two for you when you return to the camp.

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I think that in most of those cases it'd be pretty obvious. One party member, for instance, refers to a certain nobleman you can visit as being the man who raised him. So I think it's a no-brainer that having that party member along when you go see this nobleman would result in some additional dialogue. But we're not going to force him into the party just because that's so, either.

Influence

It's not always going to be comparable. If you're rude to a party member and make no effort to befriend them, they may have different dialogue for being hostile to you -- but that does not automatically translate into an equal amount of dialogue as had you befriended them and gotten their story and/or quest out of them. It may, in fact, be a perfectly perfunctory relationship.

And if "playing your PC" means that you never befriend that party member, then that's simply the way it is.

My suggestion, if you wish to play a PC who does what he likes and yet still manages to remain on good terms with most party members, is to play a persuasive character. Often you will get the opportunity to overcome objections and spin them so that they're more acceptable. But even then befriending the party members still takes effort. And that's part of the game.

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Critical path quests? Sure. You don't want the player to miss the really important stuff. But side quests? Sorry, but that's part of the reward for exploring. The game is built so that much of its content can be missed depending on what you choose to do -- you might not even meet certain party members, and you may never even see a large number of quests. The idea is that your path should still be enjoyable even so. The thought of "missing out" may give you a panic attack, but I think the idea that any given player must be led by the nose through all content is really really the wrong way for an RPG to go. Like Mary said, the idea is for your choices to have consequences -- and that includes the choices that you aren't aware you're making, like with exploration or developing a relationship with your party members.

That's simply part of the game we're developing. This is an experience that we're making, and while playing it once may indeed mean you don't see everything that really shouldn't matter so long as you enjoyed the one playthrough that you had.

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I can see that, but realize that having this means you also have the unexpected pleasure of being at the right place at the right time with a certain party configuration and discovering something really cool that you had no idea might be there.

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I suppose that is, indeed, a possibility. And such is the risk when you allow players any degree of freedom. The alternative, after all, would be in staging every single scene throughout the game so every player saw absolutely every cool thing we wanted them to see. And I suspect that most of you, if you thought about it, probably wouldn't want that.


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Yes. The system that governs how much the friendly NPC's like you is exactly the same one that governs how much the romance NPC likes you. So if you're romancing the female party member with sweet talk and then turn around and kill her mother -- yes, the romance may very well be over at that point.

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The idea that one would remove the element of choice from an RPG out of some knee-jerk fear that there's something that one might otherwise be missing is, in my opinion, contrary to what RPG's are supposed to be about. The benefit is that this is your journey. You make your way through the game, and if it's a good one you'll miss some stuff and experience others and overall have a blast. And, yes, part of having choice in the game is having choices that the player may not be aware he is making. Not all choices are obvious and binary, nor should they be.

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Have we ever made the latter? Even if there was some of that in the game, it would no doubt be included as an easter egg if it was completely random in how one got access to it.

You're not the only one doing this, but I find it interesting how some people immediately start conjuring worst-case scenarios every time we mention anything about anything. It says a bit more about you than us, I suspect, but it's intriguing nevertheless.

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Always?

We don't "always" do anything.

Either way, whether there's a single available romance or not, you'll have to keep in mind that it's an optional part of the game. The romance character may indeed be a Robin Hood type or some other personality that won't get along with however you choose to play your character -- and in that case, you won't have a romance. You talk as if you have to romance him. You certainly do not. Hell, you may not even like him very much for all we know.

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So we're supposed to know that HK-47 is an NPC that you'll enjoy... how? We should just assume that and arrange the game so you go to Tatooine first, just in case? Or better yet, have you meet all NPC's on the very first planet you go to, just in case?

There's no way for you to know about HK-47, so there's no way for you to choose. As I said, some of the choices you make you aren't even aware you're making them -- and while we could reduce the game to a Choose Your Own Adventure where every decision is deliberate and obvious, part of being able to choose your own way through the game is the possibility that the path you choose isn't the most optimal one.

Because you simply can't have it both ways. You need to be aware of what you're advocating here, because what you're really asking for is an adventure game. You claim that you aren't, but indeed you are -- and I don't mean that in a negative way. Adventure games can be a great deal of fun, and you play through a story that is set out as one optimum experience... but that isn't what we're making.

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That's true. I wouldn't want to set things up so you could accidentally end up with no time at all with a party member that you came across late but liked -- but the alternative is the NWN OC method, where we trotted out all the party members in a single room to line up and be chosen for a party like it was gym class.

That was an obvious, clear choice -- and the characters were all laid out for you to pick.

Is that preferred? I like something a bit more organic, and unless you start allowing for the option that content will be missed it's always going to end up feeling rather blatant. To a point that is acceptable -- we are not, after all, talking about letting the player wander about willy nilly and miss the critical path completely. Our stories have always been more directed than that. But if what you want is something even more linear than that, whether it's because you say you want your choices laid out neatly for you or for other reasons, you are in essence asking for something that's fundamentally different from what DA is trying to be.

And I'll just leave it at that.

Are there any plans to include gay characters or same sex relationships in Dragon Age?

Perhaps we have poor business sense, then, because we've included such romances before and are likely to do so again in the future. Not everything that goes into a game is there to service the majority -- we just need to be selective about those features we work on that not many are going to see. Sometimes a small feature is worthwhile -- and while the majority might not appreciate the time spent writing a gay romance, I'm pretty certain that there are some people out there to whom it makes a world of difference.

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Nope, none of them there wimps in Dragon Age. We only have REAL MEN.

Yup. REAL MEN. The kind that scoff on all that "man on man" action going on in other games. REAL MEN don't need them casual gamers, no sir.

I am with you ONE HUNDRED PERCENT. Our men don't break a sweat unless they're kickin' *** and taking care of their kids as they damn well should, yup. Dads with hair on their chest who chew tinfoil and spit it out as bullets. Yar.

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Just to put this to rest:

There are certainly worse things you could do than having the characters in your game reflect the makeup of the audience. Everyone likes seeing themselves in the world they're taking part in -- it's their fantasy too, after all, so why should everyone be straight and white just because?

The thing is, we're not making a game to rectify social inequalities. We're not going to put in gay characters just because no more than we would set out to put in different races or any other minorities.

If we put them in, it will be because we find them interesting. Period. And there will be some because, in the right situation, they are interesting. And I'll tell you right now that beating your chest and declaring how you don't want DA "gayed up" for the love of God and country isn't about to dissuade us otherwise.

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Uh-huh. Because including gay characters automatically means chainmail bikinis and soap-dramas? Lord knows that you only find gays in games that are dumbed down and "for the masses" out there, right?

I think you obviously have larger issues, and are either posting in the wrong thread or are exaggerating completely in order to make your point look more valid than it is.

No more dead-beat dads!

I'm sure that the thread didn't "decide" any such thing. If the various romance threads have taught me anything, it's that when it comes to personal preference you're not going to get consensus on it. No matter what attributes I give any potential romance, there's going to be someone who's going to come here and tell me how they

a) don't want to see that attribute again
b) don't think it was a good idea in the first place
c) think this other attribute would be perfect

And yet I strongly suspect that even if I did write that attribute into a romance for them, they very likely still wouldn't like it. Why? Because my impression very often is that the reason they're complaining is not the reason they think they are. Which is to say they're complaining about the symptom without addressing the disease.

And then there's other posters that could go on all day expounding on what they think the perfect romance character would be. Which is great, if I was writing the character specifically for them. Or if they were writing it. Call me conceited if you like, but at the end of the day the only person I can really try to appeal to with my romance is me.

Mary Kirby, Writer

Interesting

Dragon Age and Mass Effect are both using the same system (somewhat modified and adapted in both cases) for facial animations. And both are using fairly cinematic views of the participants in dialogue. That's about the beginning and the end of the similarities there.

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That's correct. You can't interrupt the conversations. You can run through them really fast if you want to, just like you could in KOTOR or Jade, but you can't really interrupt.

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Also correct. No player voiceover. The answers aren't exactly lengthy, but you are selecting your entire answer and not just the tone your answer will take.

Influence

On reputation:

No, there isn't any overall "reputation" stat that governs what people who've never met you before will think of you. That nice mage won't refuse your invitation to join your group based on how badly you botched things way over in the dwarven kingdom. She will refuse to join you when you tell her that you think mages smell and are jerks and someone should send an army of zombie kittens to wipe them all out. In fact, she'll probably be upset enough to attack you in that case. (Zombie kittens get no love. Poor undead kitties.)

On Influence:

NPCs will, in fact, not open up to you unless they like you, and they aren't going to like you enough to tell you their life stories right off the bat. It is entirely possible to make them dislike you enough that they will leave, or even attack you.

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There's no alignment. If you say something to an NPC that they are liable to be upset by, you'll lose influence. If you want to influence a mage, for instance, don't tell him you hate magic. If it's the nature of your PC to be offensive and/or contrary then yes, I suppose some characters are just not going to be your friends. That said, you can also bribe characters into liking you to a certain degree by giving them gifts, so if you're playing a mean character, it might just be better to keep your mouth shut. . .

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Define, "logical" for me here. Dialogue options that let you gain approval with a character are generally always in character for that particular NPC. So the warrior-type who only respects strength will probably like you more if you tell him to sit down and shut up. The sweet little mage who likes puppies and flowers? Not so much.

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Why does it matter if you lose their approval?

Seriously. Why? If that's the character you're playing, and you're enjoying that, who cares if some NPCs don't like you? The "goal" of the game is not to make NPCs like you, and even if that's some sort of personal agenda of yours there are enough opportunities for approval changes that you can lose a point here and there, and still be friends or keep your romance active.

Do you want a party dynamic or do you want a chorus that sings your praises wherever you go? Not every action will make every person happy. A lot of your dialogue with NPCs won't change their opinion of you one way or the other. Some of it will upset them. Those aren't traps, and they aren't rewards, they're just interactions. You do want interaction, right?

Sheesh.

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That is content. There's content written for angry party members as well as for friendly ones. It's not a loss of content, it's alternate content.

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It's really not about replayability, though. It's about whether or not you get to make choices which have actual effects. We don't include alternate paths for plots or different relationships with the NPCs thinking, "Man, it'll take six playthroughs to see all this!" We do it thinking, "This way, you can either bully your companion into staying with you, or win him over, and it actually matters to him when you decide which one to do." If we made all your choices completely cosmetic, you would never "miss" the content of the roads not taken, but is that really what you want?

Are there any plans to include gay characters or same sex relationships in Dragon Age?

Ah. . . another recruit. Thank you! I don't know what I'd do without you guys. Do you have any idea how many zombie kittens it takes to complete a nefarious plan? A lot. As they are easily distracted by string and quickly moving objects, you pretty much have to just keep piling more on any task and hope one of them does it by accident.

The primary religion of Ferelden (Ferelden is the country, Fereldan is the adjective. TheDAS grammar lesson for the day!) has minimal interest in human relationships for those who aren't in the clergy. It's far, far more interested in magic than sex. Not all the religions feel the same, however.

Sheryl Chee, Writer

Influence

There's really only one thing I can tell you: Play the character you want to play. Decide on his values and principles and stick to them. Like in real life, some people aren't going to like what you do, and you won't be able to please all of them.

Dragon Age is just a game with many choices. I can pretty much guarantee that you won't see the entire game in one playthrough, and trying to get all the NPCs to like you at the same time will just cause you headaches and ruin your enjoyment.

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Ah, what makes you think he will like both of those women? If you start doing things Romance Guy dislikes, he might start to rethink his relationship with you, yes? Or... perhaps you'll let Romance Guy influence your character, and start doing nice things for other people because you know he'll like that. Ooooh, many ways to play!

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Is that really what you want? One path through the game where you see everything at once? Where the Ebon Hawk has all its destinations programmed and you can't go to one planet before completing another? When you step out of the Ebon Hawk people just sort of run up to you and spill all the information and quests at your feet? Because you know, this would make things soooo much easier for those of us involved, not having to track what you know and what you've done.

No more dead-beat dads!

Hee hee... I don't know that having us female writers write the love interests would work much better. As far as I can tell, all three of us (myself, Mary and Jennifer) have a thing for awkward nerdy types. And if I got to pick a male romance to write I think he'd be a smart, logical guy who's really clueless about women and who falls over himself a lot. And spills books everywhere. And nerds out about whatever passes for geek entertainment in Thedas. Like, you know, the Dragon Wars series of books. And only the first three ("A Dream Awakens", "The Blood Knight Brotherhood Returns" and "Vengeance of the Disciples of Pain"). The prequels sucked.

All this talk about nubile (but manly) pool boys makes me think that I would be a very poor choice for writing a romance that would make you ladies happy.

Stanley Woo, QA Ninja

Are there any plans to include gay characters or same sex relationships in Dragon Age?

I just think it's funny that for something cosmetic like excess blood/gore or a resting system, people are all too willing to have us work for it and "make it a toggle" or "give the player more choice," but when it comes to something like gay romance, it's "I wouldn't want them to spend zots on it."

It's funny that when people want their pet feature in, they want us to put our time and effort into it and "make it a toggle" to "give players more choice," but if it's a feature they don't want, it's "I wouldn't want them to waste their zots on it." Funny.

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Point of order: we have not confirmed any romance option(s) for ME or DA, and since JE we haven't released a game, so calling same-sex romances a "standard feature since JE" is incorrect.

Georg Zoeller, Designer

About Mod friendly-user to fixed problem if I dont like way bioward set gameplay for magic-user

I wouldn't be too worried about mod-a-bility. You might be pleasantly surprised

In any case, you won't have to deal with hassles like ELC or ILR.

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Probably not. I have yet to see any software that would fit that criteria.
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