Disqus Strike 2
Just ran into a problem with the commenting system I use for this blog — Disqus — wherein I couldn’t post a reply to a comment. It cleared itself up after about an hour but I’m curious if others have been getting weird errors when commenting with Disqus?
If you’re unable to post a comment to this blog please leave me a comment explaining the issue.
If you can’t comment throw an email my way brent [AT] brentknowles.com. One more strike and I think I’ll go back to the basic WordPress comment system.
I break things!
I suspected it was your fault.
Hi Brent – I know you’ve said a bit about Dragon Age 2 already, but … is there any way you could be persuaded to add just a bit? For example what you think of the framed narrative approach, and the way the demo has turned out? Have your earlier misgivings about the general direction eased in any way? Do you think it’s inevitable that BioWare games will become more action-oriented with people like Mike Laidlaw in lead roles?
First I should mention I still haven’t played the demo. And BioWare had not started development on Dragon Age 2, other than minimal discussion before I left.
So I don’t know anything.
When I play the demo I’ll probably do a short post about it. Until then this is all just guesswork on my part:
In terms of the framed narrative, as best I understand it from reading reviews/previews, I think its quite clever. It allows for the franchise to shift direction a little while retaining all the cool world flavor and stuff that came before. The frame narrative allows them to ‘reframe’ the player’s view of the franchise.
How it plays out I don’t know until I play the demo.
In regards to my earlier ‘misgivings easing’… I’m not overly interested in working on or playing RPG games with loads of cinematic treatment and an emphasis on action based combat. Just not my thing. I’ve turned down a lot of offers since I left BioWare to work on just this kind of thing.
And I’ve never said Dragon Age 2 would be bad game. Just the opposite, the great team working on it has, I’m sure, made a strong game. There’s a difference between me being uninterested in working on this particular type of game and whether it will be commercially/critically successful. Even if its sells 20 million copies and gets a 100% game review rating wouldn’t change whether I would have wanted to work on it or not.
BioWare worked their butts off to get Dragon Age 2 out on a relatively tight schedule. I’m glad I didn’t have to do that :)
Mike is a great designer but he’s not “turning BioWare towards making more action centric games.” He and his team are designing great games that fit the studio’s direction. He’s not setting that direction, unless things have radically changes since I left BioWare.
Thanks for stopping by and I promise I’ll eventually get around to playing the demo but this month I’m busy getting a novel ready for submission so it won’t be until the snow’s gone up here.
Many thanks for the reply, and sharing those insights. I understand your point about the reframing of the view of the franchise. It seems that games where you have to think outside the box – or even think very much at all – are not really too fashionable at the moment.
I can imagine that there could be a fair bit of ‘pacing up and down the corridor’ from now until the end of the month for some of your friends and former colleagues back at BioWare? They must have put in heap loads of work into Dragon Age 2, and the reframing is not cosmetic. I wish them well – they are the folks that have helped create some of my most memorable gaming experiences in recent years. Do you think there much hope that some of them see that EA – with titles like ME2 and DA2 – are slowly but surely vacating a niche? And that this could be an opportunity they can grasp, given that that this niche plays to their strenghts? Or do you think everyone in the industry believes that the future (financially) lies in transitions a-la ME1 to ME2 or DA:O to DA2?
May I say that I really respect your stand as regards not working on something you believe in (or enjoy). I always end up caving in to pragmatism! There are old soldiers and there are bold soldiers, but there are no old bold soldiers … or maybe that’s just my excuse for not doing my little bit where I can… *goes to get another beer*
Interesting what you mentioned about Mike – I erroneously thought that were just broad-brush concept directions from ‘above’, and the lead designer could put as much or as little flesh on those as s/he saw fit. Would you say you and your team were you given a freer rein with Origins?
I very much look forward to your demo impressions, even though it’s basically only a couple of fights and bink scenes. Can you also say a bit about what the novel you’re working on now is aboutand when it’ll be ready?
To be honest I think BioWare will continue expanding on the ME2/DA2 approach… more cinematic and polished but shorter games.
I don’t think we’ll see another Baldur’s Gate 2 or even a DA:O Especially if DA2 and ME3 are as successful as is hoped. The cinematic dialog treatment is very expensive… making huge games is difficult to pull off on a reasonable budget.
As for my stand, I can’t really pretend I’m making a huge sacrifice (other than that I did really enjoy working for BioWare). I’m in a situation where I get to write what I want all day and have total freedom. That’s pretty cool.
re: Lead Designer’s freedom
The team maybe got away with a bit more on Origin because there was less scrutiny until near the end of development. But studio direction plays a large part in design at BioWare, even more so with EA involved… there’s market research and more discussion on feasibility before a project goes ahead. I suspect this is pretty much the case in most studios.
As for the novel I have two finished (or near finished) — the first is a far-future sci-fi story concerning a lost colony, virtual reality, and zombies that I’m shopping around now. The other one I’m still revising and is more of a paranormal/sci-fi crossover. I want to be submitting it before the end of March and then I’ll start on the next novel.
Cinematics to me are a bit like reading a women’s magazine in a dentist’s waiting room. Quite entertaining, but it somehow seems to dent my pride to admit that! Where I think their use crosses the line is when so much is invested in them from a resource perspective, that only one common set can be made for any single game. Meaning all the mega budget scenes must be written in to affect all playthroughs so as not to ‘waste’ any. That to me jars with the whole idea of choices and diverging paths, which is what an RPG was once supposed to be about. Whenever I see a cutscene in ME2 it’s a mixture of ‘oh, that felt alive’ and ‘oh … so that means the event I just saw is canon, then’ (fourth wall unpleasantly shaken).
Regarding your sacrifice – I meant aren’t you making a sacrifice by not working on a type of game you do not believe in (or enjoy)? You mentioned turning offers down. Or is just that you prefer writing, now that you’ve had the time to get into it?
Regarding the designer freedom – doesn’t sound like fun these days. I’d had this image of it involving lots of creativity, imagination, free-reign etc. If that’s no longer always the case, I suspect we may be in for a few mediocre but well marketed titles in the near future…
Anyway, I forgot to say ‘thank you’ for helping to make ‘Origins’ what it is. For developing one of my favorite pieces of entertainment of all time (yes, including films!). Because of the direction of Dragon Age 2, there’s a bit of discussion on some forums now regarding what the essence of an RPG is, and whether action/cinematics and ‘awesomeness’ are really commercially inevitable. Reading the posts, it is clear there are a lot of people who share my sentiment, irrespective of their thoughts on Dragon Age 2.
I’d like to have a read of something you’ve done already – that link to the Amazon site I take it, already has one of your stories in it? PS still looking forward for that write up on DA2 when you have the time!
Very good points about the cinematics, I feel pretty much the same as you in that regard. The cost does limit choice.
As for sacrifices, yeah I miss working on the types of game that I like but my *main goal* was always to be a writer. Well technically I had three goals — making games (did that!), writing (doing that!) and being an astronaut (probably not happening).
I have several stories on Amazon (some are Kindle reprints, others are links to magazines I’m in).
I have some of the same stories up on Smashwords too
The Prophet and Digital Rights are free right as part of a Smashwords promotion thing (or should be!)
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