The Bittersweetest Thing

Lead Writer of BioWare's Dragon Age game series, lover of fan tears. This is where I blog about game development, fandom, and narrative design. Anything I say here is my opinion alone.

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Hearing Miranda use her natural voice is…so bizarre, I can’t even tell you.

Mr. Gaider, out of curiosity, how do you and the Bioware team react to negative fan feedback? I know when I see it on social media or other places it is upsetting to see due to early judgement and the fact that some of the comments are overly dramatic. You guys do work really hard on every game you put out and I believe it is something some people forget when putting out judgement. It is probably due to their high expectations of the game, as we all have,but sometimes how it is expressed is bad.

elementalfurybro

It’s not always easy to do, because we’re human, but we just try and remember that the ones most upset are the ones who are also the most emotionally invested. They hate because they love…which can seem pretty twisted, if you think about it, and it probably can be unhealthy if someone takes it to the extreme. And there is certainly no shortage of unhealthy people on the Internet, in just about every corner.

So you take a breath and try to maintain some perspective. You’ll never please everyone, and it’s part of human nature to speak more when you don’t like something rather than when you do…so we’ll always hear more from those who are upset rather than from those who are pleased. With the Internet acting like a megaphone, it doesn’t take very many of those people to sound like a lot—even to themselves. You could have ten people on a forum thread who are angrily complaining to each other, and someone will walk away thinking, “Wow! Everyone is so angry!”

Which is not to detract from the notion that there is also valid and valuable criticism to be found amidst all that. Which means, as a developer, you can’t responsibly just turn your back on it all even if that would be less soul-crushing. You want to see what info you can glean from it all, keeping in mind that whatever you read is probably going to be from the extreme hardcore (there are no “casual forums for people who kinda-sorta like games but paid the same amount of cash as those who will talk about it constantly for the next three years”). Again, being human, there’s only so much of it you can take even so…despite the notion most fans have that their opinion is a unique diamond, it can all start to blend together and seem like noise after awhile, and you can get irritated with that “many-headed hydra” and all its bitching and complaining.

That’s usually a good indication that it’s time to step back and tune it out for awhile.

Hi there. I have a quick lore question. In Asunder, Wynne calls the the huge chasm in the Western Approach "The Abyssal Rift", but all the maps I've seen – including the one in the book – call it "The Abyssal Reach". Is there a mistake somewhere? If not both, then which one is correct? Thanks in advance!

ewhalen

I think it’s supposed to be “the Abyssal Rift” — at least, that’s what it is on the giant map behind my desk (which is the one I generally look at when I need to reference something).

Though I see it’s called “the Abyssal Reach” on the map in the lorebook (which I think was made specifically for that purpose). Odd. I’ll have to go glare at Ben about that one.

EDIT: Ben assures me that this was addressed in the lorebook erratum. That doesn’t stop the map from the lorebook from still being out there, of course.

Hey, I noticed in the new livestream that Josephine's hairstyle changed from her previous picture. Does that mean the characters appearances may change throughout the game?

Anonymous

Nope. It means that any given character’s appearance will be iterated on constantly from their first piece of concept art all the way up until ship.

kelgrid:

Is the candle multifunctional ?

I knew there was a missed opportunity with that candle.

[I might have asked this before, sorry if it’s a repeat] Hey, I’ve been curious for a while now if you or another writer (Let’s call them AnnaBob) has ever written a part of game lore (like a culture or faction) only to find out after the fact it’s very similar to something from an unrelated franchise which AnnaBob had never read, watched or played, and was thus unaware of. Do you ever worry about having elements too similar to other stories? Have you ever had to change something because of it?

panicintrinsica

Genres are a bit incestuous by nature. Particularly if you read a lot of genre fiction, you can’t help but be influenced by the pool of “everything I think is cool about that genre”, and everything you’ve taken in about that genre will go into the pool…whether you’re actively aware of it or not.

I think that’s the thing that gnaws at me the most, sometimes. Not that we’ll put something into the game that closely resembles an element in another game or a book—it’s pretty difficult to make something in a genre that hasn’t been done before, and every time someone says “that’s just like X” you can probably point to something earlier than X which they were probably influenced by—but that I’ll draw something from that pool which I’m not even aware of.

"Hey, this thing you wrote about…it’s exactly like X from this book series. You even gave it the same name and everything."

"Really? I…read that book, I think. Years ago. Why don’t I remember that?"

It’s at those moments you begin to question not only your memory but maybe your sanity, as well.

So, yeah, it’s happened before. Not as often as some people clearly think (I’ll often see posts about how X is clearly taken from Y…and Y is something I never read or even knew about, will chuckle and think of what X was actually inspired by, and which far predates Y, or I’ll just scratch my head and think those folks are really stretching to make a comparison), but it does happen. If it’s too close, we’ll either change it up or toss it out completely (nobody likes the idea of being too derivative), but if not we’ll discuss it and decide how much we like it.

Ultimately, after all, you’re going to take inspiration from a LOT of sources, whether you like it or not. May as well make it good ones.

Mr. Gaider: What are your thoughts about the overall lack of People of Color, in particular non-asian, in the video game industry (not characters, specifically with developers and team members themselves)? A lot of companies have published their own data and have attempted to make changes in their lack of diversity. Is this something Bioware/EA is trying to combat or do you think things are fine the way they are?

wetnasty

I suspect this is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t have diverse characters on TV, kids who grow up watching TV won’t see themselves reflected in what they’re watching…and thus probably don’t dream about becoming TV stars. No doubt this is also true for video games—you don’t see the developers making the games, but you can see the games themselves, and thus get an idea of who these games are “really for” even if it’s not something a kid might actively think about. Thus they may not think becoming a game developer is a realistic dream, and never pursue it.

Ultimately, you need more diverse people applying for positions at game studios before you can diversify the developers themselves. I’m not part of HR, but my impression is that doesn’t happen.

Is that changing? Yes, I think it is—at least, from what I can personally see. You’d have to talk to someone who works in HR to get details on what they’re actively trying to do to encourage diversity…but I wouldn’t be surprised to discover such initiatives exist. Say what you want about EA as a corporation, it’s pretty clear that diversity—both in terms of their products and our company—is something they consider important.

And I agree. It is important, both in terms of broadening the appeal of the games put out by an industry that is starving for a larger audience, and in terms of the creativity of those games—more diverse developers will lead to more diverse games, which is going to make them more interesting in the long run.

I just wanted to say how much I love your writing and thanks for all your hard work. Asunder was particularly good. I found myself quite impressed with Lambert as an antagonist. To the point that I was almost a little sad that he seemingly meets his end at Cole's hands in the conclusion. I was a little jealous I didn't get to confront Lambert myself. That got me thinking about Dawn of the Seeker though, is High Seeker ranked lower than Lord/Lady Seeker? Sorry if this is a too obscure lore query

Anonymous

Thanks—I’m glad you enjoyed Asunder.

As I recall, the position is officially called “High Seeker”. Lord Seeker or Lady Seeker is a more common reference or form of address, however, depending on the gender of whoever’s in the position.

yukisamui:

Today is DEVS APPRECIATION DAY! the Dragon Age fandom thanks YOU ALL for your work! Keep being awesome! <3

I appreciate how you gave us all our pre-crunch figures—although I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Mark Darrah quite so ripped. Or me so bashful. Though Patrick Weekes is totally going to whack people with that sign, and that is an uncanny likeness.

Also: thank you! This made me laugh a lot.

And big thank you to everyone who also sent kind messages yesterday. I had no idea this appreciation day was a thing, and it was odd to suddenly get an influx of ‘thank you’s and ‘you guys are awesome’s. Not bad odd, just…unprecedented. Everyone at BioWare is very tired at the moment, so it was an awfully nice gesture.

Madame De Fer by GerryArthur

Woah.

#jaw hits floor

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