The Lazy Designer

BioWare-Brent Year 8 (Fall 2006 – Summer 2007)

This is the eighth of ten posts, one for each year that I worked for BioWare.


Another year of solid work on Dragon Age. Good progress was made but there were new difficulties popping up, aside from just technical and creative ones.

Throughout the project there were always many team changes with team members moving onto higher priority projects or people simply leaving. This happened more often than on any other project I had worked on. At the time it was worrisome though in hindsight I think this happened simply because Dragon Age took so many years to finish. Life happened — people wanted to spend more time with their kids, got married and moved to another city or had an awesome career opportunity elsewhere come up. But for those of us who had been on Dragon Age from the beginning there were always adjustments to be made — oh, that guy in charge of that level is gone? Who do I talk to now? That kind of thing.

It was around this time that I really started finding my job monotonous — I was doing the same task over and over. And worse my team was doing it too. I was constantly explaining why they had to redeliver a particular presentation on how their level worked, or how a combat system was supposed to behave because the guy who they had last given the presentation to had left the company. And now there was a new gal. Who needed to know.

This happened in every department that design dealt with – new programmers, new artists, new producters, new marketing staff, and ultimately a new project director. Pretty much every day felt like a deja vu moment.

To be blunt, it got boring. And when you’re spending ridiculously long hours at a job, it better not be a boring one, especially for someone like me who is in constant need of new challenges. And of course being stubborn I wasted energy trying to fix the situation but nothing really worked. The project just had to get done.

Still there was fun to be had as the art started coming online and more systems became available for us to experiment with. We were at the point where we could properly review material and start revising story for quality based on actual feedback. During Neverwinter Nights I was mostly focused on technical systems while James Ohlen did most of the story quality review. This time around I had to be more focused on the entire game and so I learned a lot about game story, how to evaluate it, and how to improve it. I also learned a lot more about gameplay, cross-platform development, and animation. So the monotony was broken up by new stuff, though not nearly so much as it was for me on earlier projects.

By the end of summer we were meeting milestones and the engine was really taking shape; even the most jaded longtimer was realizing we might actually finish this thing.

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“BioWare-Brent Year 8” copyright 2010 by Brent Knowles

Former lead designer at BioWare (Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights). Creator of Raiders of the Serpent Sea.