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Dragon Age semi-annual update
Game News - posted by Vault Dweller on Sat 14 October 2006, 16:47:24Tags: BioWare; David Gaider; Dragon Age
It's been awhile since we checked on Dragon Age - a "blockbuster" fantasy RPG - and our buddy Dave Gaider (who has a very dark secret), so let's take a look:
I have nothing against a choice leading in an unexpected direction, so long as it's a logical one and the player is not constantly being "gotcha'd" by circumstance.
As I've said previously, the good/evil dichotomy isn't really what Dragon Age is about... so you're not going to find a clear "good path" and "evil path" in every dialogue and plot. You will find moral choices that apply to the situation, and sometimes they will be very clear-cut and other times it will be difficult to decide what is the right thing to do.
So if you're playing the noble hero, sometimes a very moral option will present itself and will be a no-brainer. Other times you will have to struggle to find an option that you can live with. The difference is very much as subtle as not being "there should be choices that match the type of character I want to play" but rather being "I should be able to at least try to follow my character's path even if I am not always successful."
There are, in fact, several plots we've written in DA where it was pointed out during reviews that there was a "good" path possible in an otherwise very complex situation, even though it would be quite difficult and not very rewarding materially -- and in each case we decided to go ahead and implement it. And for those players who were trying to be the hero, finding that path and succeeding (or failing) was more important to them than the bigger material rewards which might have been available otherwise. That makes, I think, for a more interesting story.
There is a "base camp" similar to the Ebon Hawk where NPC's who have joined you stay when they're not in your immediate party. Your immediate party consists of those NPC's (if any) that you wish to take with you to do your actual adventuring. So there is a difference between people joining you and being part of your party.
DA will have a couple of NPC's who travel with you whether you like it or not, for story reasons, though they don't go into your party unless you wish them to. The other potential NPC's are all completely optional. And that's because this is the type of story we choose to tell. If you don't like that idea, you're free to make your case against it -- but realize at the same time that while DA is neither BG/BG2 (as you've discovered) it's also not KotOR/KotOR2 nor NWN and making assumptions one way or the other isn't likely to be very productive.
The few NPC's that join you are there from the beginning because that is how the plot unfolds. They do not have to be part of your party at any point. And no, you do not have the option to kill them or tell them to go away even if the dreaded thought that this might be a repeat of the Imoen situation pops up in your head, and that will make sense when you play through the game. All the rest of the NPC's are optional to have join you at all, and if the thought of there being a couple of NPC's who you cannot shake and who you might have to deal with at certain points in the story even if they are not adventuring with you the majority of the time is too much for you -- well, that's the "c'est la vie" part, and it's not going to change.
If you make the story not be about the player at all, you run the risk of it not being very engaging. It might be, but if you rely on the antagonist that's only one hook and a risky one at that.
The only way you can make a story not about the player is simply not to have much of a story. Sandbox games like Oblivion do a great job of leaving the player to engage himself in whatever he chooses to -- at the cost of narrative. Even then, it won't work unless the player is hooked somehow into the setting or the gameplay.
Take your average fantasy or adventure story where there's combat -- do the heroes die on a regular basis? No, of course not. If they die, it's at an appropriately climactic or dramatic moment. Having the power to resurrect the dead allows you to have a game mechanic that allows your heroes to die on a regular basis, sure, but I think that this is at the sacrifice of making death a mundane occurance. This is not a good thing.
The consequence for failure does not have to be death. As I said, it can be injury or other impediments. You say that there are many groups that have died -- and, yes, that's true. Even in KotOR if the entire group was defeated you died. Ultimately the story is about the group that succeeded, and having had various party members die randomly along the way would not have made that group's story more fascinating.
Teh dark sekret:
I know LARPing is fun. I happen to run a LARP.