Experienced Points

Experienced Points
The Writers of BioWare

Shamus Young | 4 Dec 2009 21:00
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Captain Emo

Examples: Garrus Vakarian (Mass Effect), Alistair (Dragon Age), Carth Onasi (KOTOR)

I'm sorry boss. I'm just upset. No, don't worry about me, it's just something incredibly tragic that's always eating at me. No, I don't want to talk about it right now. I hope that's okay. If it's all the same to you, I need to get back to my brooding now.

The Shrew

Examples: Bastila Shan (KOTOR), Silk Fox (Jade Empire), Morrigan (Dragon Age)

The only thing more dangerous than her weapon is her poisoned tongue.

SHREW: You must go north now.

PLAYER: I'd rather go south.

SHREW: Why, because you're to stupid to comprehend the idea of north?

PLAYER: No.

SHREW: I see. So you're a coward, then?

PLAYER: I just like south better.

SHREW: Fine, I will follow you on your feeble journey south, if only to laugh at your miserable failure.

PLAYER: Geeze, what's your problem, lady?

SHREW: Oh, did I hurt your feelings? Poor baby. Your childish tears amuse me.

The Shrew is your needlessly combative or abusive female companion who heaps shame and scorn on the player or other companions. The game loves to hamstring you during these encounters so that no matter how intelligent your character supposedly is, the Shrew always gets to eviscerate you in these little verbal exchanges and you can't really do the same in return. She usually gets the last word. You loser.

The Shrew always softens up by the end of the game and usually reveals her Big Secret that explains why she was such a jerk to you in the beginning. And then you're supposed to feel bad for giving her such a hard time.

As if.

What's interesting to me is that BioWare undoubtedly has a very small core group of writers who are responsible for the plot arcs and characters, and who make a habit of returning to familiar ideas again and again. I'm sure they have a larger staff they use to fill out those thousands of pages of NPC dialog and flavor text, but I'm betting the heart of these games comes from a very small group. This means that just a handful of people - perhaps only a couple - are responsible for that unique BioWare flavor of storytelling.

If you played both KOTOR (made by BioWare) and KOTOR 2 (made by Obsidian) you can see the difference that a fresh slate of writers can make. The two games are very different in tone and style. While people disagree on which one had the better writing, it's obvious that a change in writing staff can have a powerful impact on the game as a whole.

But what would happen if the BioWare writers moved on? Would the company strive to make sure the new writers upheld the styles of the past? Would it kill the golden goose? Or would it break BioWare out of their "rut"?

Shamus Young is the guy behind this website, these three webcomics, and this program. And he'd rather learn the ways of force from Jolee Bindo rather than Yoda any day.

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