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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 Wed, 19th Sep '07, 12:50am   #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

The passing of info between game development teams

Art, Design and Programming can still be broken down further.

Design, for instance, consists of Writers (such as myself) as well as Technical Designers (such as Georg), with some people (like Ferret) doing a bit of both. Technical Designers are the people who do all the implementation -- they do the scripting, they put together the levels and provide all the stats to the models and some of them, like Georg, focus on the game systems themselves. So Georg has a lot of say on the combat system, the magic system and so forth. We all have input on these things, but those things would be Georg's particular bailiwick just as setting and story would be mine.

XP distribution

The current plan is to ensure that companions stay useful choices, even when left for extended periods in the camp.

They will be training / exercising in the camp to stay in shape

more:

There will be "busy" animations for those party members who don't have new dialogue, yes (and by new I mean some new condition has opened up, not simply that they have some dialogue branch you haven't touched yet). Those with new dialogue will be obviously idle, though we will need to see how this looks, and how often it occurs, before pinning down how it's going to work.

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Not necessarily. Every character has a few conditions under which they will actively start a conversation on their own -- but that applies to the camp, as well. If a party member has something important to say when they are in camp, they will approach you to start a dialogue.

Or so is the plan. We will want to avoid the "line-up", should you put off returning to the camp for too long, so this will need to be tweaked in the long run. As it is, most of the conditional dialogues require you to select them for conversation first -- and those are the ones where party members will appear "not busy" in camp for.

Oh -- and in case that was the question, members of your active party become part of the camp again whenever you return.

Basic Survival Optional?, part II

BG2 had a lot of this, and to an extent so did NWN -- but the primary culprit, I suspect, was the D&D system itself. When you have a lot of spells and abilities that are "all or nothing" via the saving throw system you end up with a fight that is potentially either very epic or very short and anticlimatic.

The secondary culprit was probably trying to make up for poor AI. Sorry to say, but sometimes when QA encountered an exploit all we really had time to do was slap a patch on it -- which often ended up being a blanket immunity to the effect in question.

Having control over the system itself, however, does mean that we have a bit more control over this sort of thing. We can say things like "no instant death spells" or "no all-or-nothing effects" or other things that we know make for poor boss battles, having had the experience in scripting against those sorts of systems.

With any luck we will also be able to get our AI into decent shape, but when both the engine and the game system itself are still taking shape during development it's really hard to cover all your bases at once. I don't mean that as an excuse -- the Ascension mod to Throne of Bhaal was partly intended as an experiment of how far AI scripting could be taken with sufficient time and a stable engine, so I know whereof I speak -- it's just good to know the limitations involved and not make your job any more difficult than necessary.

--------

In related news, I believe I already mentioned elsewhere that we never take your party away from you at any point. So it will never be "mano a mano" unless that's the way you want it to be. Your role in the party shall remain your role in the party right up until the end, depending on your choices (and assuming you don't drive off vital companions at key moments by being an arse -- and if you are going to be an arse, I suggest buying up some levels in Persuade. "That bunny attacked me first, I swear to God!" Just sayin'.)

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I mean vital to you, or however you've been playing the game. If you only took one mage into the game, let's say, and didn't take any others at all, and she lays down an ultimatum at some point -- "I want us to do this or I'm leaving" -- and you let her go... well, you might not have a mage at that point. We haven't childproofed the choices. It is possible to shoot yourself in the foot.

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I was referring to party selection, and that should not be taken as a commentary on overall game difficulty. I really don't know at this point where that will land, though with Georg's German sensibilities at play I would probably be more optimistic than not.

NPC dialogues

Actually, in most of the dialogues which they start that's exactly how it goes as it is. And you are free to cut them off right then -- most of the time. Some NPC's, if they really have something on their mind, won't be put off by a "this isn't a good time" response.

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That is a very legitimate scenario. Though in such a case we would usually make sure a party member left in camp only reacts to things that are "publicly" known... we don't simply assume that they will hear about everything that you get up to with the party.

Long hair

I really doubt you'd get anyone to express opposition to including really long hair -- forum logic dictates that anything which offers more options is preferable. "More = better" is not exactly a shocking revelation insofar as preferences go.

With regards to the romantic interest(s), they will have whatever hair style we think suits their character. There are lots of choices for hairstyles, and a number of them are quite feminine in my opinion -- and this includes some elaborate braids, last I saw. If someone really believes that one must have really long hair in order to be feminine and/or a valid romance option and the hair in the game isn't long enough for them... oh well, not much more to be said on that.

It's not as if there's no work being put into hair. There's plenty of work being done. The long beards were investigated because we didn't think our dwarves looked the way we want without them. If the justification for investigating options for really long hair doesn't go beyond "because I prefer it and maybe some other people do" then it's really a matter of whether or not it fits our artistic vision or whether it can be fit into that small "discretionary" zot space -- though, quite frankly, when it comes to art there's not exactly much of that to go around. Either way, trust me -- DA's not going to be lacking in style.

Georg Zoeller, Designer

The passing of info between game development teams

There's a single team working on Dragon Age, the Dragon Age Team. It consists of programmers, designers, artists, animators, qa ninjas and producers.

more:

I'm the Systems Designer for DA ... and that tree artist isn't working on DA

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So there are no trees in DA?! You heard it here first, guys!

Click Here

XP distribution

NPCs will probably be scaled somewhere to your level when they join you first.

Party members will probably earn limited XP while training / exercising at the camp - in any case less than characters actively adventuring n' stuff.

Armor/dodge

Let's confirm a bunch of things.


"Skills are things you can do, like lockpicking and stuff.

Yes. To be more specific, Skills generally grant active abilities to a character (meaning that they don't just give you a passive benefit of some sort - they allow a player to take actions that she can't).


You pick them when you make your character.

Well, you distribute one rank at character creation/


You get a couple of bonus skills based on your background."

You get one rank in one predefined skill based on your background.


"rogue will get to select from the skill pool more often".

In a way. Some classes (like the rogue) get to increase skills every level, others every second or third. Advanced Classes can have different advancement patterns.


...difference between skills and talents...

Talents affect combat prowess (e.g. special attacks, maneuvers and combat boni ) to a character and are always designed to increase combat performance. They are resource dependend (stamina).

Skills are not resource dependent and are often useful outside of combat, but some of them may grant additional tactical options that could help overcoming very difficult encounters.

And some new information...

There is a limited number of skills in DA (much fewer than what you may be used to from D&D) - however gaining a skill rank generally presents the player with an immediately noticeable benefit.

There are no 'fringe skills' (skills only handy in obscure situations), meaning we are trying to make all skills useful througout the game.

There are no 'language' or 'knowledge' type skills.
There are skills that allow the creation of objects.

Skills / ranks often grant access to options completely unvailable to other characters. (Nobody but a person with Lockpicking IV might be able to open a specific chest, not even a Mage - i.e. there is no cheap low level spell to emulate that skill.)

Each skill in DA has 4 ranks, with higher ranks granting more options and better benefits to a player. In order to be increase a skills rank, a character often needs to satisfy a prerequisite ability score (often Intelligence), which means it is hard to rush to rank 4 or in a specific skill very early in the game, completely neglecting others.

Some skills are 'party' skills, meaning the whole party benefits from the highest skill rank present in the party - while others only affect the individual.

At this point, is is too early to disclose the exact list of skills available in DA

Disclaimer:

As always, nothing is certain until the product ships. In the end, there might be no skills at all, if we find that is the proper way to go about it.

I am sorry if you find the information vague, but we've learned it the hard way on NWN to be not too specific at this point in development (and to always include the disclaimer). In any case, this should be sufficient to enable to you speculate

Yes, we do read the forums, and yes, we value your feedback.

more:

Given the size of Dragon Age, as well as the structure of the story (e.g. Origin stories), it is impossible to see all content in one or two playthroughs anyway. Just think of the spiritual successor of this game

That said, other classes get skill ranks as well, so in theory there is nothing preventing you from getting Lockpicking IV with another class (but it would probably mean sacrificing other skills to get there, which in turn means you may be missing out on things related to those skills...). Skills are not limited to specific classes in any way.

Ah, choices, choices, exclusive choices. The dreaded reality of RPGs

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There are a lot of options to customize your character apart from skills, and no character will be able to get all skills maxed out, not even close.

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If you want 'he was only good at opening locks' on the epitaph of your rogue, I doubt you will be able to do that

That said, while you might not be able to increase skill ranks in the same each level, you would still be able to improve your ability to use that skill, through other means. Mystary.

What's the latest on pause and quick saves?

If everything goes according to plan, you can pause the game at any time , you can save at any time and you can load at any time.

We're bringing Mass Effect to the market this year, so Dragon Age won't be released in 2007

Stanley Woo, QA Ninja

Console release please!!!

Dragon Age has only been announced as a PC game.

End of line.

Mary Kirby, Writer

Mythical DA Creatures

Sound is more important than visuals, I think, in making a game feel scary. Because, yes, it's hard to make the image all that scary, but what you don't see. . . now, that's scary. The first Silent Hill did a great job of completely freaking me out just by use of sound. It's dark, foggy, and quiet. . . except for my radio suddenly exploding into static. . . Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain was good at this, too. I still remember Ariel's voice whispering over and over in the background noise of Noprapraptor's castle, and it gives me chills. The same with that particular part of FF7. Suddenly, the music stops. It's dark, and the emergency lights are flashing. . . a lot is left to your imagination to be blown completely out of proportion.

What character will you play?


I was wondering if BioWare were at least to confirm if elves are physically the elves we know even if not culturally?

They walk upright, have pointy ears, all that jazz, yes. You are not going to meet a giant blue squid and have her introduced as an elf maiden.

Differences between male and female NPCs

There will be no stat modifiers or differences between male and female player characters. Let's just get that one out of the way now.

As far as writing characters goes: I, at least, never think about how men and women are supposed to behave, according to the pop psychology/ sociology/ horoscope/ self-help book of the moment. Maybe these sources are correct. Maybe they aren't. It doesn't matter anyway. Years ago, one of my college profs made the comment to me, "Truth makes bad fiction." Merely basing a character on something factual does not make him or her believable. Do I understand the character? Can I make his or her behavior seem natural and comprehensible to someone else? That's all I care about.

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It's not a matter of "pure" fiction. (I don't remotely know how you write fiction without getting some truth in it, if only by accident. The stuff's all over the place, it gets into everything.) The point is that just because a thing is factual or real, does not mean that it is believable in a story. If I based a character on my husband, and that character possessed all his mannerisms and eccentricities and habits, and that's all I did as far as writing him, you'd probably be put off by the character. He'd seem bizarre. (No real person juggles that much!) I have to to know why he does those things, and not merely that he does them. Not that I have to explain the reasons behind a character's behavior to the player, but because if I don't understand how he thinks and why he thinks that way, I'm never going to be able to convince anyone else to understand him. Statistical data of the sort that comes up in psychology textbooks is useless here because it does not tell me why. It can't put me inside the head of the character I'm writing and show me how he sees the world.

Actual people in real life can be completely weird, and we don't question their reality because they're right there. Fictional characters need to be sold to us. We have to buy into their quirks. That's why truth makes bad fiction. It's too easy to think you can purchase credibility for your characters with the cheap coin of fact.

more:

PC: "So which way should we turn?"

Female party member: "Well if you don't know I'm certainly not going to tell you."

PC: "What's that supposed to mean?"

FPM: "Well the last intersection we came to I said we should turn LEFT. And you led us RIGHT."

PC: "Yeah, so? We found that chest with that magical armor you liked so much, didn't we?"

FPM: "You just don't get it, do you?!"

PC: "I get that you look mighty sweet in that armor, baby."

FPM: "Pig!"

*she slaps him and suddenly they begin kissing passionately*

...yeah, it kinda just writes itself, don't it?


Sheryl Chee, Writer

Long hair

Wow. Okay then. Even if we have the resources to make realistic, swooshy hair, don't assume we will give long hair to all female characters. Or even the love interest. Some characters just don't like wearing their hair long.
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