The Writing Of BioWare’s Dragon Age II: David Gaider Speaks



[Gamasutra examines the writing process behind the Dragon Age series by speaking with lead writer David Gaider, delving into how the team wanted to focus more on the “dark” in “dark heroic” and balance player choice throughout the game.]

In late 2009, BioWare booted up a brand new fantasy RPG franchise with Dragon Age: Origins, which rose to change into one of many prime video games of that yr. The sport acquired specific accolades for its writing, which used a decision-based narrative construction and weighty, nuanced dialogue to inform an epic, emotionally-driven story. The writing went on to win various awards, and was a key part within the sport’s success.

Not surprisingly, BioWare moved rapidly on a sequel. Dragon Age II was launched in early 2011, delivering a brand new story that expanded on the unique’s wealthy sport world. Nonetheless, the sport represented a departure from its predecessor, in a story sense. BioWare determined to disregard its personal blueprint for fulfillment with Dragon Age II.

Gamasutra spent a while with David Gaider, lead author on the Dragon Age franchise, who defined the ins and outs of how Dragon Age II was written.

“It is an attention-grabbing course of, approaching the story for a sequel,” says Gaider. “There is a sure degree of expectation amongst followers, and particularly with a sport like Dragon Age: Origins that follows so many various story branches, solely so many choices we may take into account.

“Can we choose one department and proceed the story of the Warden, excluding all others? Can we attempt to accommodate a number of storylines from the outset? Can we begin a brand new predominant character with a unique story department? Or will we attempt one thing new?”

Gaider and lead designer Mike Laidlaw determined they did not wish to inform the identical story with new names and faces. If there was one factor about Origins’ writing that was typically criticized, it was that the plot adopted a predictable Hero’s Journey. In order that they determined to focus extra on the “darkish” than the “heroic” of their “darkish heroic” fantasy sequel, and go for a grimmer, extra private story.

It was Laidlaw who first proposed the brand new sport idea. His concept was this: as a substitute of telling a linear, he steered they modify the construction on a excessive degree and bounce between the foremost moments of a personality’s life. As a substitute of telling a narrative over a brief span of time in a large open world, they might set the sport inside a single metropolis, and bounce by means of an epic ten-year interval. This might be achieved with the assistance of a framing system, permitting for the time jumps to be carried out as flashbacks.

“[The new approach] undoubtedly allowed us some distinctive alternatives,” Gaider says. “Typically the dearth of a capability to hand-wave time passing means we find yourself with lots of occasions occurring in an unrealistically quick span, or repercussions for a participant’s actions that both have to happen immediately or be relegated to the epilogue. So this supplied us the possibility to provide a way of better scope.”

Nonetheless, there have been additionally unknowns. What wouldn’t it really feel wish to play a sport the place you do not see time’s gradual passage? Would leaping by means of time break narrative unity and pull the participant out of the story? And the way would this work from an implementation standpoint? Would inventive sources get slowed down making an attempt to account for the long-term influence of minor choices that the participant made 5 years in the past in sport time?

These questions started to work themselves out as the method unfolded. In some methods, the brand new idea labored simply as deliberate. However in others, the workforce discovered that sure RPG components emerged naturally, as a perform of the style, somewhat than as a matter of custom. The sport finally got here to replicate a mix of those concepts – the idea because it was initially envisioned, and the precise limitations revealed by the writing course of.

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