Sunday was a very relaxed, wonderful day. The panels focused on Q&A interaction and the audience asked a lot of insightful questions. Unfortunately, I could not personally cover the Women in Gaming panel. If you’re interested in the panel, NerdAppropriate is uploading all panels (audio only) within the next couple weeks. However, I did cover the following panels:
- Dragon Age: Inquisition - Playable Races
- Product Feedback
- Heroes of Dragon Age: The Mobile Game
- Meet the Team Leads from DA: Inquisition
In designing the Qunari, many extreme qualities and ideologies were pulled into the design of the Qunari. Many cultures close to oceans and seas, including the Japanese culture and middle eastern concepts of war, influenced the race’s background.
In Origins and DA2, specific Qunari characters were limited for budget reasons. Specifically for Origins, one Qunari character was Sten. DA2 was the Arishok. Inquisition will feature a character named the Iron Bull, and (if you choose to play as one) a Qunari Inquisitor. If you choose to play as either a female or mage Qunari, the issues of either type and the Qunari’s culture will definitely be brought up in DAI. In many cases, a Qunari Inquisitor will be ostensibly standing there with the look of “I’m not supposed to be there, but I’m the Inquisitor.”
BLOOD MAGE INQUISITORS
The devs were very disturbed by the idea that being a blood mage happened at the press of a button. While they wanted to show the circumstances revolving that choice, it never surfaced in DA2. For Inquisition, they are investigating how to make a blood mage threatening again “from a player perspective…through a bunch of different means.” They don’t want a button press; your choice should have significance.
Accents and voice overs are extremely pertinent to the authenticity of their characters. For instance, in Orlais there are recognizable class differences regarding how eloquent or colloquial a person speaks. Education levels are very distinct in the dialect. Some languages have high form and low form, which addresses formality. Many character insights can be drawn strictly from the voice.
The team utilizes GEOPS - a group that looks for red flags, in order to make sure the game is fitting for distribution in other countries. An example used was the idea of avoiding the show of someone drowning in a game in Japan, considering the Japanese tsunami that happened years ago. The content has to fit within the region and be acceptable to be inclusive of all players in order to join.
APPEARANCES AND ATTRIBUTES
Appearance options are currently under “investigation”, like the unconfirmed idea of Qunari beards with braids in them. Additionally, the hour glass bodies for females are being investigated (think a triangular shape, like an Olympic athlete). Qunari horns versus non-horns are to be determined.
Animations will be determined by class. Racial abilities are to be investigated.
Each race has a background, but not multiple blurbs of background. We can see a similarity to Shepard, where he comes from a specific past that may be drawn out within the course of Inquisition. The devs are investigating different background tracks; some surnames are already released, where some like the Cadash have history (Shale’s family name) and some will make history by the time Inquisition ends.
However, these backgrounds will not shape your character. Inquisition and your decisions will define you. Where you come from will not be as significant as the choices you make.
OFF TOPIC: ELVES
During the Q&A portion, one asked about why elves are barefoot in past games. While they did not have shoes, the reasoning was that they felt more connected with the world around them. The Dalish were more aware of their surroundings. Plus, the elves had it easier not worrying about buying shoes.
The Product Review panel consisted of Chris Bain and Jessica Merizan, giving a general overview of different products through Bioware and asking for feedback on items that fans enjoyed or disliked. Although most of the panel was on products, Chris Bain did note that a main protagonist from Dragon Age: Asunder will be present in Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Here are the highlights:
- In storytelling, Bioware has 100% control on products. While they try to plan the books around the release of the games, it is very difficult since most of them are the actual devs double-working on both (i.e David Gaider, Patrick Weekes)
- Nothing to report on the Mass Effect movie with Legendary pictures, as it is very early in the development
- No plans for a Mass Effect RPG tabletop like Dragon Age. The team is presently focused on the game.
- The Mass Effect hoodies were a bunked idea. While a Tali protoype was made, and not impossible to make, it was not functionally possible. The original artist was notified about it. (And many of the panel audience voiced their disappointment over it)
- A Mass Effect Minecraft skin pack was first shown at the panel. News of the pack for September 4th was released shortly after the panel. The skin pack includes Liara, Male Shepard, Female Shepard, some weapons, Cerberus Troops, a custom map, and many more.
The upcoming mobile game “Heroes of Dragon Age” features a squad-based combat game that allows players to play through different time periods within the Dragon Age lore. The lore campaigns are not chronological, in order to allow different playable missions throughout the lore at will. The game is not confirmed to sync with Inquisition, but some fans present at the panel voiced positives towards the idea.
Heroes of Dragon Age stays true to being a free-to-play game. While you can use experience to gain more heroes, the game offers the chance to buy Recruit, Warrior, and Champion packs to expedite and improve your experience. You can also use runes to improve your stats for a limited duration, like a rune that gives you 10% power for 10 minutes.
Each character is part of a faction: light, dark, or mixed. These colors indicate the level of corruption a character has, and can offer some power bonuses for using specific compositions of characters. Some characters featured include, but are not limited to: Cassandra, Anders, Duncan, Charred Sylvian, Abomination, Orsino, the Architect, Arishok, Carver, Enraged Spirit, Heart of the Many.
The Panel Leads:
- Mark Darrah, Executive Producer
- Cameron Lee, Producer
- Mike Laidlaw, Creative Director
- Jacques Lebrun, Technical Director
- Steve Gilmour, Animator
- Matt Goldman, Art Director
The panel was heavy on Q&A, drawing on past experiences and looking into Inquisition details.
Dragon Age: Keep, the alternative transition for saves and past choices, is the only (announced) online experience present for Inquisition. An actual multiplayer was not announced or discussed during the panel. In another panel, the Keep was reported to be accessible even at owrk, so you can make your character and then go home to play.
CHARACTERS OF THE PAST
My personal question to the devs was if they had any regrets on the choices they made with past characters, or whether they would change any or not. Mike Laidlaw noted how they just have to be satisfied with the artistic choices made - in the essence, “put down the eraser.” One thing they do worry about is the fact that they have many Schrödinger’s characters that may or may not be alive. It is difficult to continue continuity, considering the mortality of some characters are very different from one player to another’s saves. Mark Darrah noted that because they are in that situation, the comics now have to use a certain canon (i.e Alistair as king) instead of a canon-neutral storyline. Because of those types of characters, they have a few less choices that could have returned as companions or permanent threats.
DA2 VERSUS INQUISITION
In short, Inquisition would not be at the scale it is if Dragon Age 2 weren’t created the way it was. Despite the tough, uncomfortable decisions made during DA2’s development, the feedback and the game itself maneuvered the franchise within EA and the competitive landscape to have more breathing room.
THE INQUISITOR AND THE INQUISITION
The original question was why the Inquisitor was chosen as a protagonist, given the connotations of Inquisitor as evil or an “overlord.” For the developers, the Inquisitor and the Inquisition are not inherently evil; the Inquisition itself is a “word of power” that has an existing strength in its name. They used the Inquisitor’s name in order to shape an organization that has discovery, exploration, and leadership covered.
CHOOSING VOICE ACTORS
Voice actors are chosen quite early. For each actor, devs capture early samples, see how they work with the team and director, and evaluate whether they can capture the voice needed. Additionally, the concept artists try matching the voice to the art in order to create a core style. All the major voice actors are tentatively hired, such as the Inquisitor of the demo, but it is possible that they can be recasted if necessary. Matter of fact, they’ve done that a few times already.
Two things that Inquisition offers that took a long time to include are conversations you can walk away from and mounts.
Escapable conversations took a long time to implement. Back after Jade Empire, a prototype was made to offer real-time role playing. However, it was prohibitively expensive with all the break points and conditionals. Mass Effect managed to do this with their interrupts, where they seamlessly engage.
As Mark Darrah noted, mounts have a very special, weird, dysfunctional thing within Bioware. It took a very long time to get people behind the idea. Nevertheless, they are very happy to hear how positive the fans’ reaction was when Bioware introduced mounts.