The Writers of BioWare

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Parallel Streaks:

MarsProbe:

Just for fun, and in light of Mass Effect 2, I can predict characters of the following ilk will be appearing in the follow up to Dragon Age, along with who they will be replacing.

Leliana will be ousted in favour of a brash, heavily tattoed rogue who sings loud songs about the violent exploits of the Antivan Crows and gets her kicks from slaying chantry sisters in her spare time. She also swears a lot.

Shale will disappear in favour of a another golem, imaginatively named Crush, with a penchant for charging head first into enemies and generally being irrationally violent and incredibly bland at the same time.

Alistair will be replaced by a new renegade Templar character that likes to adorn his armour with the bones of Apostates he has slain for abandoning the Circle. After he has tortured them and feasted on their flesh of course.

Ok, maybe this is getting a bit ridiculous, but I had to give it a go anyway.

And throughout the entire story Sheperd.. ahem, Warden will be followed by a mysterious Darkspawn that has become so obsessed with him/her that they wear old pieces of their armour. Which they won't be short of due to the amount I discarded old boots during Dragon Age.

All while you try to stop a new type of darkspawn known as the Collec...I mean, the Hunters, who are attacking human villages and turning the villagers into ghouls.

tjdrummer13:

level250geek:
I am SO glad that I'm not the only one who has noticed that BioWare just keeps rehashing the same story and characters over and over and over and over again.

"You and your band of archetypes must go kill this thing (which is older than time itself) before these evil group of people get to the thing to use it against humanity."

And people complain about the Halo series, Modern Warfare 2, and the like being thin on story?

ha yeah....but i enjoy them all heaps,it's not just bioware, rockstar have had some pretty annoying repettive stuff, every game they make seem to be a revenge story where you were friends with some guy and then he shot some guy that you were also friends with and then you spend the whole game trying to shoot him for revenge. it happened in GTA several times and they are releasing a new game call "red dead redemption" which follows that storyline exactly except its about cowboys instead of gangsters.

And in a way, you've proven my point. Repetitive/rehashed stories are nothing new to games and gaming. That I'm fine with. What annoys me is when sects of fanboys (and BioWare has their fair share) slam other games for having dull stories while their games of choice suffer from the exact same symptoms, yet they get praised for their brilliant narratives.

Honestly, I'll probably pick up Dragon Age because it seems to have a cool fantasy world in which to explore and some really good combat mechanics. I will not, however, expect an edge-of-your-seat narrative full of compelling characters and deep twists.

For that, I will play Assassin's Creed II.

As far as Bioware's concerned, I wrote them off as lazy writers. Every single one of their games is exactly the same with just tweaks in setting. It's like their own little stamp they stick on to other people's shit. Especially Dragon Age, which I like to call Dungeon Siege 3 for this reason.

I just had to laugh at the shrew dialogue part, but only because it's so true.

It's true the archetypes are repeated throughout out the Bioware games, and the writers might want to get a new person in/out. However I think for narrative purposes they form a interpretation of the universe/world they are in which the play tries to understand. I enjoyed Kotor 2 more then Kotor 1 though, mainly due to the better mechanics as well as Kreia *awesome*

Maybe it's for the player that Bioware sets these archetypes, for comfort and for finding additional layers of depth in the game.

Alister? Emo? Really? I actually thought "Finally, a male lead who isn't a weener like Carth or Kaiden"

Still won't stop me from enjoying there games. Yes, they all follow the same formula but so does the Phoenix Wright games for the DS. Heck probably even more so and yet, I still loved them. Even though Bioware games seem to have repetitive plots/characters the games themselves are usually fun, and in the end thats what really matters

Miki91:
Well, actually these standard characters appear quite frequently in both video games, movies, manga, anime and so on. They are some of the classic main-characters-cliche that fill a lot of entertainment today. Sure BioWare use these over and over again, but many do! I'm sure you could find the character cliches in Harry Potter if you gave it a shot, and I'm confident almost every anime out there will include some of the classic characters that we know and love. The dark one, the happy cheery and innocent one, the careless one and the mean one. D'uh...

Yes, thank you. These are character archetypes that go back to the foundations of literature. It's not that BioWare is writing with cliches, its that there are only so many types of personalities that writers can portray. The artistry lies, in part, in crafting unique variations on standard character types.

For example, I think that Tali from Mass Effect was an interesting take on the idea of "The Pilgrim" (to use Shamus's term). She was a quester (another archetype) removed from her nomadic, exiled culture; she was, in a way, she's a pilgrim's pilgrim. Add the weird face mask, the interesting social structure of her people, and their racial guilt surrounding the Geth. The result is a unique, well-formulated, intriguing character with an compelling story line.

Using archetypes is not bad writing or even tired writing. It IS writing.

MarsProbe:
[quote="Xandus117" post="6.159510.4008572"]I agree with you on most of these except for Alistair and Garrus.

How is Garrus emo?[quote]

Personally, I wouldn't even call Alistair emo.

alistair is not emo?!?
"OMG i dont wanna be the king", "to much pressure", "why dont you listen to me", "nobody understands me" always moody etc..
i hate alistair.
that's why;

Interesting article, Shamus and now that I think about it. As I play Jade Empire I'm seeing parallels with Mass Effect and KOTOR. I hope Alpha Protocol doesn't end up like this.

level250geek:

Honestly, I'll probably pick up Dragon Age because it seems to have a cool fantasy world in which to explore and some really good combat mechanics. I will not, however, expect an edge-of-your-seat narrative full of compelling characters and deep twists.

Interestingly enough i found it the other way round. The setting was dull and generic, even more so than Faerun which is an impressive feat of writing but probably not in the way they wanted. The game featured a typical Bioware story and structure, opening segment, then a choice of 3 locations, before railroading where you had to go in its final chapters, with little side quests dotted about to mix things up a little. Maybe its because they've written the same characters so much that they were so entertaining and one of the few things along with the combat that kept me going through it. The little asides they make whilst traveling with each other were often hilarious.

On Alistair:

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

For the Ungrammatical was still characterized for me by nothing but his own Error, and therefore, on grounds of human tolerance, I maintained my rejection of personal attacks in this case as in others. But the Ungrammatical almost never achieves Correctness; it is the Correct who fall to the Ungrammatical. Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Mighty Creators: by defending myself against the Ungrammatical, I am fighting for the work of the Forum Lords. And so he [the Ungrammatical] advances on his fatal road until another force comes forth to oppose him, and in a mighty struggle hurls the forum-stormer back to 4chan. -- My Struggle

I'm increasingly catching myself making those kinds of mistakes. Regardless of whether this was intentional.

Shamus Young:
Yes, I realized I omitted Kaiden after I'd submitted the article. He was more Emo than Garrius.

Thank you. I was going to point that out.

BioWare definitely uses archetypes, but their hardly carbon copies of each other. Calling Carth and Alistair remotely similar beyond both having tragedy in their background is a gross oversimplification. It's likes saying Tony Montana and Vito Corleone are the same character because their both mobsters.

Archetypes exist throughout literature. But it's the characterization of a particular archetype that makes him/her memorable. And certainly BioWare's done that. I don't mind that they fall back on archetypes, because they keep the characters fresh enough to prevent them from being stereotypes. And as far as I know, the so-called debate about KOTOR and its sequel is fairly one-sided. Most people (not all, big disclaimer here) seem to prefer the first.

Sorry, I just can't see how that is really a bad thing. Writing for a game, particularly one as open ended as Dragon Age or the various other Bioware games (including Neverwinter Nights), is hard. Very hard. When you have to repeat the process over and over again with very different settings and very different mechanics then you find yourself recycling concepts and fitting them into a comfortable niche. When you take the work out of something like that you save money and precious development time.

Believe it or not that entire list is ridiculously versatile for character tropes. Some were characters to have in your game, others were not, some will have compelling stories that are worht the time it takes to do their sidestories, others exist only for comedy value.

Similarities in story and character do not detract from a good gaming experience. If such a thing were true. JRPG's would have faded and died long ago, before Bioware put a voice to a murderous android.

You can already put all of the known characters of Mass Effect 2 into those categories.
nice. :(

level250geek:

And in a way, you've proven my point. Repetitive/rehashed stories are nothing new to games and gaming. That I'm fine with. What annoys me is when sects of fanboys (and BioWare has their fair share) slam other games for having dull stories while their games of choice suffer from the exact same symptoms, yet they get praised for their brilliant narratives.

Honestly, I'll probably pick up Dragon Age because it seems to have a cool fantasy world in which to explore and some really good combat mechanics. I will not, however, expect an edge-of-your-seat narrative full of compelling characters and deep twists.

For that, I will play Assassin's Creed II.

One other interesting thing about Dragon Age is that it goes where few other Middle Ages + Magic fantasy settings do: it doesn't just bring in the medieval feudalism with knights and dukes and nobles, it brings in the medieval Church with Templars and the Chantry. Most other 'medieval fantasy' settings I've seen just leave out the one major institution of the European middle ages they're all based on while wrapping themselves up in the other.

i honestly doubt if i was given these charicters i would write the same story 3-4 times, that and the shrew would end up being the badguy. dunno, never wrote a dick charicter

You could draw parallels with characters from basically any RPG in the world, dice or mouse-based. It's because they all drink from Lord of the Rings.

Also, water is wet and fire WILL burn you.

high_castle:
BioWare definitely uses archetypes, but their hardly carbon copies of each other.

I never suggested they were.

The point wasn't to suggest that the characters were all the same, but merely how they were all the product of a small team who return to themes they like.

You could make a similar list about Stephen King archetypes, that doesn't mean he's a bad writer. It does mean that it would be tough to replace him without people noticing.

Which I think is interesting. They could fire all of their programmers and hire new ones and we wouldn't likely be able to tell the difference. This is not true of the writers.

Bioware's writers aren't so much in a rut as they are a comfortable groove.
I don't know if the same could be said for Square-Enix's writers pre-Final Fantasy 12 changing of the guard. Then again, the changes to their writing staff was not necessarily to their betterment.
It might not hurt them to try something new or maybe they could end up with their own equivalent of Star Ocean 4.

As long as they throw a new skin on em' I could care less if they stayed right in this formula forever.

It's just THAT good.

Good God I am sick of Pilgrims. Or any character that doesn't at least acknowledge a swatch of gray in their world view. I left Mission on the boat every chance I could in KOTOR1, and I didn't give Tali the chance to open her mouth, since she sounded like a carbon copy of Mission's relentlessly sunny attitude. Now I come to find out that as I start Dragon Age, I'm headed straight for another character of that archetype, and my character's choices for romance options are her and the Shrew? ::Bangs head against the wall until a bloody smear is left::

I had noticed that the characters were incredibly hit-or-miss in Bioware games. There's a bit of cognitive dissonance between Dawn Star's "I'm not sure what's going ooooonnnn . . . " and the fact that she can carve a guy into quivering jiblets without hesitation. Mission and Zaalbar I'd like to dump out airlocks, but some characters can be whiny without being feeble (Carth is a good example, so is Wrex).

I was so glad that there was a complete lack of whiny characters that need to be lead around by the nose in KOTOR2. The Handmaiden came close, but she managed to pull off sheltered without being annoying. See Liara for further evolution of the concept.

::Clears throat:: More on topic, however, I might contest that these are not so much archetypes Bioware uses as archetypes writers use. In the format of the adventuring party, having someone who's a wide-eyed young'un, a guy who's too old for this sh!t, a hot-headed rebel, an ally of questionable motives, and a lovable animal character are all sensible, tested concepts that can make for good group dynamics.

I also feel obligated to point out that there are many characters not mentioned in this article that do not have clear mirrors in other BW games. The Disciple and the tech spec from KOTOR2 leap to mind, as does Juhani from KOTOR1.

I feel like it is unfair to call Bioware on using archetypes and then citing examples from games they did not make (KotOR 2). While they might have started the universe they had no bearing on it.
And at least they can tell a captivating story with decent gameplay unlike 80% of the other crap.

Bayushi_Kouya:

I also feel obligated to point out that there are many characters not mentioned in this article that do not have clear mirrors in other BW games. The Disciple and the tech spec from KOTOR2 leap to mind, as does Juhani from KOTOR1.

I feel I should point out that Bioware didn't make Kotor 2.

TheAmazingTGIF:
I feel like it is unfair to call Bioware on using archetypes and then citing examples from games they did not make (KotOR 2). While they might have started the universe they had no bearing on it.

He used Kotor 2 and NWN 2 as examples of games that were built upon the same world and events as a Bioware game but by a different writing staff, thus with much different results. Writing in Bioware games does tend to be rather samey, particularly in terms of the cast.

Also, shame on you for calling Garrus emo, Shamus. He was Dirty Harry: a bitter, frustrated, angry, space cop and definitely not emo. He is one of the few Bioware characters that doesn't have an analogue in another one of their games.

Tennyson:
You forgot to mention Minsc in the Berserker category.

And, frankly, if Minsc popped up in every Bioware game, I'd buy them for that reason alone.

Truer words have never been spoken.

TheAmazingTGIF:
I feel like it is unfair to call Bioware on using archetypes and then citing examples from games they did not make (KotOR 2).

I feel it's unfair to call BioWare for putting a Yoda-like older mentor figure in, you know, a Star Wars game, and then when they put another older mentor figure in a game say they're repeating themselves. Jolee is way more Yoda than Wynne.

ark123:
You could draw parallels with characters from basically any RPG in the world, dice or mouse-based. It's because they all drink from Lord of the Rings.

And in the case of Mass Effect, from Dune. OMG the thinking machines are back from beyond the known universe(highlight whitespace for spoiler).

Meh plots follow certain rhythms as do character arch types, the tick of it all is to bend those set rule with wit, humor and intricately intuitive gameplay, DA dose this for the most part tho I'd like to physically dodge shots, as when you move you should get a 90% chance to dodge a hit, sure make a few things homming but.....I hate how all range stuff is homming >>

But aside from that I think the pit bioware fell in with DA is by the numbers generic tree dialog, making the dialog tree disappear faster and harder to start it back up is not moving us forward in terms of dialog tree evolution....

I also miss the cues about what side I am leaning to those should have stayed in just be off by default if people hate the good/evil meter.

A thought about the moral meter, When you do bad things out of view of people and far away from others you get few evil points, if you do it around people but are unseen you get more if seen you get A LOT based on whatever it is you did. Also it needs need local and world meters, world defines what the next new locality thinks of you and local is what the locals think of you, get to many bad point hits and the law will look for you.

Cheeze_Pavilion:

level250geek:

And in a way, you've proven my point. Repetitive/rehashed stories are nothing new to games and gaming. That I'm fine with. What annoys me is when sects of fanboys (and BioWare has their fair share) slam other games for having dull stories while their games of choice suffer from the exact same symptoms, yet they get praised for their brilliant narratives.

Honestly, I'll probably pick up Dragon Age because it seems to have a cool fantasy world in which to explore and some really good combat mechanics. I will not, however, expect an edge-of-your-seat narrative full of compelling characters and deep twists.

For that, I will play Assassin's Creed II.

One other interesting thing about Dragon Age is that it goes where few other Middle Ages + Magic fantasy settings do: it doesn't just bring in the medieval feudalism with knights and dukes and nobles, it brings in the medieval Church with Templars and the Chantry. Most other 'medieval fantasy' settings I've seen just leave out the one major institution of the European middle ages they're all based on while wrapping themselves up in the other.

Yes it does knights are Ser (Insert name) Heck noble human and noble dwarf are orgins. Banns are dukes

IceStar100:

Cheeze_Pavilion:

level250geek:

And in a way, you've proven my point. Repetitive/rehashed stories are nothing new to games and gaming. That I'm fine with. What annoys me is when sects of fanboys (and BioWare has their fair share) slam other games for having dull stories while their games of choice suffer from the exact same symptoms, yet they get praised for their brilliant narratives.

Honestly, I'll probably pick up Dragon Age because it seems to have a cool fantasy world in which to explore and some really good combat mechanics. I will not, however, expect an edge-of-your-seat narrative full of compelling characters and deep twists.

For that, I will play Assassin's Creed II.

One other interesting thing about Dragon Age is that it goes where few other Middle Ages + Magic fantasy settings do: it doesn't just bring in the medieval feudalism with knights and dukes and nobles, it brings in the medieval Church with Templars and the Chantry. Most other 'medieval fantasy' settings I've seen just leave out the one major institution of the European middle ages they're all based on while wrapping themselves up in the other.

Yes it does knights are Ser (Insert name) Heck noble human and noble dwarf are orgins. Banns are dukes

I know--that's why I said "it doesn't *just*" not "it *doesn't* bring in the medieval feudalism with knights and dukes and nobles, *instead* it brings in" or something. I think you just misunderstood me.

Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: The Writers of BioWare

The characters in Dragon Age: Origins feel a little...familiar.

Read Full Article

Shamus Young:
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"?

Thing is; all the character types you list are present in almost every genre in some form and if the genre can't accept them then they have types of their own to fill the void. So no, they'd just rehash the character types like everybody else does.

level250geek:

And people complain about the Halo series, Modern Warfare 2, and the like being thin on story?

..."You are a badass soldier. Go shoot things."

Yeah, I wonder why.

Bioware's games are admittedly formulaic, but they're so well-written they're hard not to enjoy.

Is it just me or is his list here missing most of the best Bioware games.
The Remorseless Killer: Sarevok from BGII Throne of Bhaal.
The Pilgrim: Neeshka from NWN2 and Imoen and sort of Aarie.
The Mentor: Sand from NWN2
The Shrew: Jahiera.
Captain Emo: Admit it, Atton Rand and Carth Onasi are totally the same character.
Berserker: Minsc and Kelghar

The list probably goes way farther than that.

That conversation between the shrew and player was hilarious. All the more so for how true it is. You could pretty much replace north and south with option A and B, and use that template to fill out 95% of arguments with the shrew.

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