My Life

The Flood

A bit of history for today.

“FLOODING OF THE MURRAY RIVER TAKES EIGHT LIVES” — This was the headline of the local paper on March 25th, 1939. The sudden flooding of the Murray River at East Pine during the early morning hours swept away the home of Mr. Wellington M. Warren, carrying eight persons to their deaths in the raging water and crushing ice…

If you read the entire article you’ll come to this bit:

…learning Edith and Mr. & Mrs. Warren were in the same clump of trees, they ran back to try to save them. Edith had climbed into a tree. Mr. Warren was clinging to the trunk with Mrs. Warren at his feet. It was now faintly daylight. Frank tied the ropes around his middle and started on the perilous journey across the ice floe, with Babe and Jack holding anchor ropes. Reaching the tree he saw the body of Mrs. Warren wedged under some ice and Mr. Warren in a delirious state. He got Edith who had been in her nightclothes for four hours and was almost dead of exposure, on his back, twice they were almost lost but Jack and his brother Babe hauled them to safety.

So, what’s this about?

Edith, the teenager mentioned in the article, survived by clinging to a tree while many in her family were washed away in flood waters, including her parents (Mr. and Mrs. Warren, mentioned in the article), her three young sisters and three nephews.

That brave young woman?

My grandmother.

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


  • Jordan Lapp

    Seriously? There’s someone out there who hasn’t played Halo? But yet, since I stopped playing video games, my pop culture references are getting old.

  • Robert

    Hi Brent,

    Thank you for sharing your impressions on the DA2 demo as promised, and I hope I’m not interrupting your novel editing. If I may say so, it’s mighty decent of you taking the time to reply to all these Dragon Age posts.

    Can I say it’s a real pity that you seem to have your mind set against making any sort of comeback into the industry. I think that what you and your team did with Origins is a real masterpiece and one of my personal favorite entertainment experiences ever. From a selfish perspective, I hope you reconsider!

    By contrast I couldn’t manage DA2 for more than a few hours. It was like walking around your home town after a brutal air raid. Everything is familiar, but … horrible and ruined. Do you feel any sense of disappointment that the spirit of something you worked so hard on has been twisted and cheapened?

    BioWare seem to have an interesting conundrum now. Sales are a bit soft – not even through the one million barrier in the first two weeks. So surely the sought after ‘Call of Duty’ audience never showed up, nor for that matter, did many RPG fans. So on the face of it, the streamlining didn’t work out too well. However due to the time pressure, the team also made some elementary slip ups like the recycled environments, enemy spawning in Hawke’s face, and bugs, which could be conveniently be used to ‘explain away’ the sales and fan reaction. Do you think that DA3 will give anyone pause for thought, or did you feel Greg and Ray were determined to take RPGs down the mainstream path, even if it takes a bit of extra marketing to ‘convince’ people?

    Can I ask how you feel when some BioWare staffers criticize Origins as a way of promoting DA2? They have talked often of it being ‘clunky’, ‘vestigial’, ‘unwelcoming’ etc. I actually see it as a complement on your work, because these people know that the biggest threat to DA2 is not from Skyrim, but from its predecessor. It simply set the bar too high and they no longer had the vision or time to step up to the plate.

    In our last discussion (the disqus strike blog) you mentioned that the lead designer would probably be working within stricter guidelines these days. Mike recently passed up the opportunity to share the burden of the ‘180 degree’ design change (as he put it in a Gamespot interview 3 days ago). His says the ideas were his. If that is the case, do you think Greg/Ray/EA whoever will look to someone else for DA3?


  • Brent Knowles



    >> Do you think that DA3 will give anyone pause for thought, or did you feel Greg and Ray were determined to take RPGs down the mainstream path, even if it takes a bit of extra marketing to ‘convince’ people?

    No BioWare title has ever been a smash hit (re: Grand Theft Auto sales) and I believe it is the desire of EA that every game try and aim for that.

    >> Can I ask how you feel when some BioWare staffers criticize Origins as a way of promoting DA2?

    I only notice it when somebody brings it up to me here :)

    Seriously though DA:O was not as respected within BioWare as I would have liked during development so I’m used to it.

    >> If that is the case, do you think Greg/Ray/EA whoever will look to someone else for DA3?

    Game development is a group business. A lead of one department can make certain decisions but every department has its own lead (design, art, programming, et cetera). And Mike isn’t the project director; Mike’s responsible for design.

    Every decision comes after discussion with many different groups. Everybody’s opinions and expectations have to be considered. Mike is taking responsibility as he should but if BioWare decides DA2 has failed (which I doubt they will) he won’t be singled out. Ray and Greg won’t remove Mike from the project because that would be making him a scape goat. And they aren’t the type of people who would treat an employee like that.

    As for sales there is a very “easy out” if DA2 fails to meet expectations. An argument could be made that players did not buy Dragon Age 2 because they did not like Dragon Age 1. It’s not a big leap to say that poor sales in a sequel is because of low satisfaction with the previous title.

    Take care,


  • Robert

    Many thanks for the reply, Brent, and sorry for posting the question under the wrong blog. I didn’t intend to derail the great story about your grandmother. My grandfather was a junior officer in the Polish army and ‘heroically’ charged a German tank on horseback armed only with a bayonet. Unfortunately for him, the tank came out on top in that encounter, so not our family’s finest hour :)

    Re smash hits: do you see it as inevitable that in the next few years no major market players will see a business rationale in making ‘old school’ cRPGs? Are they destined to become the gaming industry equivalent of the musical film, with action games occasionally just borrowing some RPG mechanic or two?

    Re DA:O not being too respected: the sales curve appears to shows that the fans liked it. It was selling close to launch quantities several months down the road. Currently north of four million worldwide cross platform? In the ‘making of’ video, Mike can barely disguise his surprise at the commercial success. What were the misgivings about it that you mention? The only thing obvious to me is the way the game was ported to consoles.

    Re group business: interesting what you say about Greg and Ray treating people – certainly in my industry (finance) politics trumps decency, integrity and humanity without the slightest moment of hesitation each and every time. So it’s reassuring to hear that there are still corners of this world where that is not always the case! So if Mike was design… who was project director on DA2?

    Anyhow, I appreciate that this is all ancient history for you and life’s moved on, so I promise not to raise Dragon Age again! And I also promise to check out your novel too. Just starting David’s ‘Stolen Throne’ at the moment.

    Take care,

  • Brent Knowles


    No worries about posting the comment on the wrong post. Sorry to hear about your grandfather…

    I’m not sure a major developer would build an old school cRPG now. I think there’s the possibility of a developer using enough of the core elements of a good RPG to build a decent RPG but a AAA studio coming out and saying ‘we want to build the ultimate RPG experience to appeal to traditional gamers’… probably unlikely.

    I’m surprised too by the sale numbers. They are higher than my expectations were!

    The misgivings I meant were that a lot of people (primarily PR and marketing) didn’t think a hardcore, old fashioned RPG would sell well. Lots of pressures to change things — simplify combat, make story more accessible, add player VO et cetera.

    Mark Darrah is the Project Director on DA2, so he’s technically the boss of the bosses on the team :)

    And don’t worry about asking DA questions, I don’t mind. (And sadly I don’t have a novel published yet, just a handful of stories).

    Take care,


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