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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On Positive Messages

I’ve seen you getting a few messages lately that I would call at least somewhat grumpy. I am amazed that you take the time to answer messages and questions that (and maybe I’m being overly sensitive here) feel sort of negative and sometimes even accusatory.

I’m sure you also get plenty of messages that are full of sunshine and kittens as well… but just in case you weren’t currently, I just wanted to break up any potential string of unpleasantness to say YOU ARE AMAZING. Granted, I’ve never followed the team behind the games I love quite like I do with DA, but I’ve not seen someone with his hands in so many pots and still willing to give more like you do. I can’t imagine how stressful this time must be for you and you’re still being gracious. — fan message

I do get many positive messages, actually. Some are very emotional, almost confessional, in nature, while others are simply people dropping me a line to say “I like the stuff you’ve worked on, thanks!” They’re great, and they make me smile. I sometimes reply (usually just with a “that’s very kind of you, you’re welcome”), but I get so many messages it sometimes falls off the radar. Hopefully that doesn’t make them think I appreciate their thoughtfulness any less.

I don’t tend to post those messages publicly, however. For one, I’m not eager to open folks up to those who would twist their words. I’m also not eager to open myself up more to those who would think I’m fishing for even more praise—the same people who appear to enjoy regularly sending me negative messages like “omg you’re a monster” and “get off Tumblr”. Yet it occurs to me more and more that I shouldn’t really care what those people think, as they’ll think what they wish regardless.

So THANK YOU. I wouldn’t say things have been particularly unpleasant lately… either that or my skin is thick enough to view even mild confrontation as par for the course these days. Regardless, work on the project is stressful enough as we slowly come in for the landing that I’m absolutely positive anyone on the team would be really glad to receive kind thoughts right about now. It’s fans like yourself that make what we do all the more worthwhile, after all.

kelgrid:

And then they started a rock band and had wacky adventures. The end.

Note to self: always go with your first draft.

Hi, thank you for being you! Why was Anders chosen over Velanna as the returning character in DA2? I read somewhere she was suppose to be in DA2

edgyhumour

jelenedrake:

dgaider:

dgaider:

For two reasons:

1) Because we needed a mage whose main concern was mages. Velanna’s main concern was the Dalish. We talked about trying to make it work with both, but it just didn’t seem very feasible… not without looping in far more Dalish story than we were prepared to do.

2) None of the writers were very keen on writing her—at least, not in the context of “Velanna possessed by Justice”… which seemed, to us, to be “take Velanna in Awakening and multiply everything annoying about her by 10”. Maybe that idea seems interesting to some folks, but it didn’t to us.

So, ultimately, the consideration passed pretty quickly—there was never a “plan” for this insomuch as a brief consideration in the early development process (among numerous others). I imagine we could have made it work had we been intent enough on doing so, but—like I said—nobody wanted to.

(Cue some folks getting angry about how we should have wanted to, I suppose… but oh well. That’s how writing works. You’ll never get a writer interested in writing something solely because someone else thinks it should be there.)

EDIT: Unless that “someone else” is also your boss, in which case you grit your teeth and find a way to make it work—and pray to God you have a boss who chooses not to invoke that power very often.

Jowan? Jowan who is very likely to be dead? Jowan, who for most players, would be “hey, remember that guy from the middle part of Origins?” Not that it couldn’t be done—we’ve ignored deaths before, even if none quite so statistically likely, and brought forward Merrill regardless of the fact most people never even met her in Origins… but Jowan had no issues at all, other than his own survival. He was meek, one could even say cowardly, and there’s no chance he ever met Justice.

If that’s what you call a “brain lapse”, then I’m not really sure what to tell you. I’m sorry if you thought DA2 ruined “perfect, wonderful, beautiful” Awakening-Anders, but seeing as I’d already written that character twice (three times, if you count the first novel), I really didn’t need to see it yet again… and that also doesn’t make Jowan a more plausible substitute.

I am of the opinion that people that put Awakening-Anders on a pedestal over DA2 Anders weren’t paying attention to the foreshadowing.

I played Awakening AFTER Dragon Age 2 and with foreknowledge… it is no surprise that Awakening Anders would some day blow up a Chantry. IMO, at least.

He just loses his smile inbetween Awakening and DA2 and frankly… that happens.

People failing to realize that characters change just like real life people is not a failing for the writers.

Justice!Anders was perfectly visible in Awakenings. People want to boil Awakening Anders down to Pounce A Lot and “we don’t wear nuffin under our robes” but they forget the morose Anders that got all “the Chantry has to change!” And the Anders that pesters Justice about… Justice for the mages.

I would agree with this… to a point.

I wrote both Anders and Justice in Awakening. The idea of what was going to happen to them was already actively in my mind at the time, and if you follow the dialogue between them (not to mention their dialogues with others), I’d think that’s pretty clear. The discussion at the beginning of DA2 was whether we would follow through on that idea, and how, and whether it might be better to do with another character (like Velanna). It was not something that simply came up out of the ether.

To me, Anders in Awakening is the angry, oppressed person who’s been embittered and rendered apathetic by constant defeat. He covers that with jokes, but the smoldering elements of it are still there… or so I thought I made obvious. Certainly Justice pulled it out of him.

The character in DA2 is not Anders. Or, I should say, it’s not solely Anders. If one was looking for him to be solely Anders, that character is not there. He is both Anders and Justice. As I’ve said previously regarding Anders in DA2, if there was anything I would go back and try differently, it would be to make the transition between the old character and the new a bit less jarring… have him be lighter and jokier in the first Act before he dives into angst.

Then again, for those who were looking solely for Awakening Anders, that would be unlikely to satisfy them anyhow, since that was never my intended development for the character, even back then. That and there’s always an element of this type of reaction from fans who want characters to never change at all. It’s not a desire I’ll ever be willing to accommodate, but I’m not going to knock them for feeling as they do.

As a consumer of entertainment myself, I too have seen characters/plots I like go in a direction I didn’t necessarily want (even if I might appreciate it, which is different). I’m not going to try and make an objective case out of it, as such enjoyment is very much subjective, but people will deal in different ways… and more power to them.

hello, how do you pronounce "Montilyet"? :)

knight-enchanter

Sort of like “mawn-til-YAY”, but with a French accent.

EDIT: Sylvia corrected me—it’s “mawn” like in “dawn”, not “moan”. Which is less funny, but there you go.

I think the last posters comment was in regards to a lack of a Dwarven romance in your games. I have no idea what the situation is with Varric in Inquisition, and I fully support him as a romance for female Dwarves only, but as a Sigrun fan I have to admit I would like to see a full Dwarven romance one day.

thecrazyenglishman

Ah. So we’re back to us requiring some kind of justification for a character to not be romanceable.

Assuming that Varric isn’t romanceable in DAI (which he may be, but I’m not going to suggest anything out of turn), we’ll likely have a dwarf romance someday… for the sake of variety, if nothing else. I know some fans are keen for it, but we feel no particular pressure to do so otherwise.

Do you think that if one went to school for video game design/animation, that they would have a hard time finding viable employment in the industry after finishing their program? (Within Canada) Or if they were determined enough, they could find work

dalish-spectre

It’s possible they could if, as you say, they’re determined enough… but that’s not untrue for any post-secondary education. There is no degree of which I’m aware which is “insert degree, get job.” If you look on your education as a way to provide the skills you need to make yourself a more plausible candidate for development companies, you’ll be in a much better place than if you go in expecting to come out the other end having “earned” a development job.

I will say this: while employment opportunities within the game industry aren’t terrible in Canada, you’ll have a much easier time if you cast your net a little wider. I know there are some dev jobs which allow one to telecommute, but mostly that’s a myth, and your willingness/ability to pick up and go where the job is—and also apply at more companies than just the triple-A devs that fill your eyes with sparkles—will also very much add to your chances of success.

Hi, thank you for being you! Why was Anders chosen over Velanna as the returning character in DA2? I read somewhere she was suppose to be in DA2

edgyhumour

impossicatbug:

dgaider:

For two reasons:

1) Because we needed a mage whose main concern was mages. Velanna’s main concern was the Dalish. We talked about trying to make it work with both, but it just didn’t seem very feasible… not without looping in far more Dalish story than we were prepared to do.

2) None of the writers were very keen on writing her—at least, not in the context of “Velanna possessed by Justice”… which seemed, to us, to be “take Velanna in Awakening and multiply everything annoying about her by 10”. Maybe that idea seems interesting to some folks, but it didn’t to us.

So, ultimately, the consideration passed pretty quickly—there was never a “plan” for this insomuch as a brief consideration in the early development process (among numerous others). I imagine we could have made it work had we been intent enough on doing so, but—like I said—nobody wanted to.

(Cue some folks getting angry about how we should have wanted to, I suppose… but oh well. That’s how writing works. You’ll never get a writer interested in writing something solely because someone else thinks it should be there.)

EDIT: Unless that “someone else” is also your boss, in which case you grit your teeth and find a way to make it work—and pray to God you have a boss who chooses not to invoke that power very often.

Why not go with Jowan instead of Anders? Jowan would have made way more sense insofar as him being a guy going down a slippery slope since the beginning of Origins. Blowing up the Chantry would have been the crowning achievement for him, lol. Plus, I thought he was going to become a permanent companion in Origins, but was cut, after all.

Anders already was a full companion in Awakening, so I’m unhappy because perfect, wonderful, beautiful Awakening-Anders was ruined completely because Bioware peeps had a brain lapse about Jowan. That’s really my only niggle in all these Dragon Age games. -_-

Jowan? Jowan who is very likely to be dead? Jowan, who for most players, would be “hey, remember that guy from the middle part of Origins?” Not that it couldn’t be done—we’ve ignored deaths before, even if none quite so statistically likely, and brought forward Merrill regardless of the fact most people never even met her in Origins… but Jowan had no issues at all, other than his own survival. He was meek, one could even say cowardly, and there’s no chance he ever met Justice.

If that’s what you call a “brain lapse”, then I’m not really sure what to tell you. I’m sorry if you thought DA2 ruined “perfect, wonderful, beautiful” Awakening-Anders, but seeing as I’d already written that character twice (three times, if you count the first novel), I really didn’t need to see it yet again… and that also doesn’t make Jowan a more plausible substitute.

Hi, this is a really minor question. What, exactly, was the inspiration behind the Grey Warden motto (In Peace, Vigilance, etc.)? Was it based off anything in particular?

lurkingandreblogging

Nope. I made it up in my head. It was originally longer, so we shortened it down to make it more motto-like, and less of a mouthful.

Does the Dragon Age team have anything personal against dwarves? So far, they've definitely been the most neglected race in Dragon Age. As a person whose favorite fantasy race are the dwarves, it's something that totally bums me out when I play your games that I otherwise regard very highly.

kal-el-fornia

I’m not sure what you mean. Considering so few players choose to play as a dwarf, if we truly had something personal against them we would cut them out as a playable race completely—because, if there was indeed something we have against them, it’s their height. They and Qunari will always be the most difficult to accommodate cinematically (due to the vastly different heights). I’d like to go back to a dwarven setting like Orzammar again (maybe Kal-Sharok?), but it would require the right story to make it happen.

SO with the news that da:i is being pushed back 6 weeks, is there any (or a better) chance that we'll be getting the character creator and/or a demo?

transcanons

No. This is not a “great, now we have more time to do extra stuff” delay, but rather a “now we have time to finish the stuff already on our plate” delay.

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