The Writers of BioWare

 Pages PREV 1 2 3 4 5 NEXT
 

Archetypes are usually unavoidable in games even with a new writer. The most popular and common archetype now is "Grizzly war veteran" like the Gears and Space Marines or "Witty one liner action hero" like Drake and Dante.

This article is just a rehash of this:
http://digg.com/gaming_news/BioWare_RPG_Cliche_Chart

including its failure to list any games pre-KotOR (Baldur's Gate)

The Bioware writers have already defended themselves against this accusation by pointing out that all heroic characters follow patterns, first identified and thoroughly defined in Joseph Campbell's 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces' and other works. If you look at those archetypes they are the heros and main protagonists of virtually every game and work of fiction.

If there is a problem with originality in games it is industry-wide, and not fair to single Bioware out.

I thought sten was funny, in a quiet sort of way. His replies to your sarcasm are always a treat.

Nooo! If you hadn't pointed it out, I wouldn't have noticed. Gosh darn it.

calydon:
This article is just a rehash of this:
http://digg.com/gaming_news/BioWare_RPG_Cliche_Chart

including its failure to list any games pre-KotOR (Baldur's Gate)

The Bioware writers have already defended themselves against this accusation by pointing out that all heroic characters follow patterns, first identified and thoroughly defined in Joseph Campbell's 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces' and other works. If you look at those archetypes they are the heros and main protagonists of virtually every game and work of fiction.

If there is a problem with originality in games it is industry-wide, and not fair to single Bioware out.

Agreed. Plus, for all their "repetitiveness", BioWare sure have a lot of respect in the RPG community (if not the gaming community as a whole). They've made successful games for two of the biggest franchises in geekdom - Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons, so surely they must be doing something right?

In comparison, I find Bethesda games playable (post-Morrowind, so Oblivion and Fallout 3) but something isn't right about them.

Excellent article, and very true. I fucking adore Biowaregames, but this is indeed a pattern that Bioware needs to change. Even though every Biowaregame had characters I loved (and still love), and they all fitted in one of those stereotypes. I didn't have any problem with this so far, but it does make characters a bit too predictable. In a (simple) movie that's okay, it's what the characters are supposed to do, but in Biowaregames you are supposed to be interacting with 'real' people, who are more than 3 lines of character-description. Sooner or later this will hurt the experience.

One advantage though: if Bioware wll make a really new character in a future game, it will blow my mind.

Edit: ah, too bad this isn't a truly original article. It makes it a bit less excellent, but fortunately it doesn't make it less true.

Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: The Writers of BioWare

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

Read Full Article

My good man, it's called tropes. There's a very popular website dedicated to them. You might want to look it up... ;)

Some characters might feel familiar, but this is hardly soley Bioware's fault. It's more of an industry-wide (or even broader) "problem" where some character patterns repeated to an extent (aka Tropes). If anything, it's your own fault for having exposed yourself to enough media so the patterns are apparent enough.

I've thought that about Bioware games for a while now, thankyou Shamus for voicing it. Still love their games, (well, Jade Empire and Mass Effect anyway, i like it when i'm DIRECTLY involved in the combat) but their theme's seem very similar.

Always a safe bet with Bioware!

I think some of my fellow readers are interpreting as criticism something that wasn't meant *as* criticism. It was, in fact, a discussion of the character tropes common to bioware games, not an "accusation" that Bioware are a bunch of uncreative dolts.

Wrex certainly doesn't fit the 'kill for laughs' stereotype: You're meant to think of the "proud warrior race" stereotype and then he completely reverses it by being sick of the way his society acts, morose about the future of his race, and almost poetic in his dialog style.

There certainly are these types, but in some cases I can imagine it's coicidental, since there are some great differences in writing in single categories. It might have went something like this:
"look, I've thought of this character"
"oh good, than we don't need another one of this type"
rather than filling in a form, the other way around.

I also wish there was more originality, but some cases are worse than others. I thought Mass Effect was pretty flat, while I can enjoy Dragon Age.

In Mass Effect I would like to point out another element: the villain and his female sidekick. This appeared already in BG2, and you might also call their respective tragic or ambivalent traits generic, and the spirituality in parts of the story (either in fantasy and science fiction), and so on.

danpascooch:
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.

I agree, and it doesn't just extend to characters, as this chart from Hellforge demonstrates.

If you have the formula for Coke, you can add cherry or vanilla flavor to it, but it's still Coke. Does this mean it's bad? Not necessarily. Unless you're more of a Pepsi person.

calydon:
This article is just a rehash of this:
http://digg.com/gaming_news/BioWare_RPG_Cliche_Chart

including its failure to list any games pre-KotOR (Baldur's Gate)

The Bioware writers have already defended themselves against this accusation by pointing out that all heroic characters follow patterns, first identified and thoroughly defined in Joseph Campbell's 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces' and other works. If you look at those archetypes they are the heros and main protagonists of virtually every game and work of fiction.

If there is a problem with originality in games it is industry-wide, and not fair to single Bioware out.

Aw, man. You beat me to it. Well, welcome to the Escapist.

Seems to me that breaking up any stories to it's more and more basic components (this guy doeas that thing etc) is a ridicules notion.

Following that line of thought we come to a conclusion that every story ever is a copy of some other story... they all have SOME kind of protagonist and, if they are any good, SOME kind of plot. <gasp> Woe is us! The terrible truth has been revealed.

I am, of course, exaggerating, but it doesn't make it any less true.

Video game stories are not meant to be analysed. They are meant to be fun. So before gatting all whiny, ask yourself: Did you, despite all those similarities, enjoyed the story? If you did, then perhaps there ARE some subtel differences between it and previous ones, cause nobody likes to hear the same thing over and over again. Unless its a really good story.

Shamus Young:

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.

Perhaps. But as you said, successful and talented authors return to themes they like all the time. It doesn't make their work any less valid. Take a look at the prolific works of Philip K. Dick. The man was a literary genius and many of his books and short stories stand revered as classics in their genre. But most of his characters fit the Everyman or Dark-Haired Manipulative Woman With a Secret personas. The characters are different in themselves, but the roles they fill are the same. Does it make his books any less valid or meaningful? No. BioWare works in a similar fashion. They use familiar archetypes to tell different, meaningful stories. I just don't think it's as much of a negative as your article seemed to imply.

To be honest, after playing both Mass Effect and Dragon Age, I kept comparing the character designs. There's some evolution happening there, but they are still very similar. I've always regarded it as a good thing though, them not fixing what isn't broken, so to speak.

Great article. Though I haven't played much BioWare stuff (no Xbox for me), I can definitely see the similarities from what you said. I liked the captain emo part too, definitely struck me as Garrus's type.

I suspect when you read anything by the same authors you're going to find similarities amongst their characters. It's not really surprising that different authors would have different styles, is it? It seems to me that you can make broad comparisons of almost anything if you generalize enough.

I'm not sure that I agree with many of the categories of comparisons that were presented in the article either, but even so it's probably something to consider. We wouldn't want to have it seem like we were in a "rut", now, would we? ;)

Thanks for the article, Shamus. It's worth a thought.

It's important to remember that Tropes Are Not Bad, and that I think it's more important whether or not Tropes are used WELL than whether or not a given Trope is overused.

These archetypes in adventure and drama date back to classical Greek plays, and when it comes to conflict, there can be nothing new, every conflict has been done through history.

Even Star Wars, while using a lot of ideas from other movies, uses the same Mentor, Jester, Grim Warrior etc.. archetypes that always have existed, so all poeple can do is try to find new filler for the same formula in order to make it seem fresh.

To me, the archetypes present in these games are a good thing. Not just for their writing, but for the way in which they act as environmental cues for how I might wanna act. As a focus in Bioware games seems to be on the player having to consider the outcomes of his decisions (much more than whether you get a sport a halo or devil horns on your head), the archetypes provide a way for us to predict what will happen if we, for example, decide to let the stupidly overprotective mother die to save her son (you mean that might piss someone off?). We are able to be considerate of different relational dynamics that exist between ours and other characters and actively work to manage those relationships, much like we have to do in real life. Plus, it provides a great device by which to make me unsure of what decision to make, as I'm trying to balance what the core of my character is with the value systems of my companions. I don't know how many times in Dragon Age I've been afraid to make a decision because of how I expect it to influence my party members. Good stuff.

BlueInkAlchemist:

danpascooch:
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.

I agree, and it doesn't just extend to characters, as this chart from Hellforge demonstrates.

If you have the formula for Coke, you can add cherry or vanilla flavor to it, but it's still Coke. Does this mean it's bad? Not necessarily. Unless you're more of a Pepsi person.

And if you mean coke the drug, then that REALLY doesn't need to be changed, lol

level250geek:

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.

There is a difference between well written characters fitting into general archetypes and having a dull narrative.

dante brevity:

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.

Agreed. Honestly, if you tried, you could make any character in any game or other work of fiction fit into an archetype, but that has no bearing on how well they're characterized.

Anyway, it's certainly possible to play to archetypes to dash expectations. For example, when I first met Tali, I was instantly reminded of Mission, only to be pleasantly surprised when, after talking to her, I realized they were almost nothing alike, other than their archetype.

Bayushi_Kouya:
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 really recommend that you try talking to Tali. I still hold her up as the most relatable character in Mass Effect, and even if you find her personally boring, Quarian culture, of which she is your primary source for knowledge, if fascinating.

coldalarm:

calydon:
This article is just a rehash of this:
http://digg.com/gaming_news/BioWare_RPG_Cliche_Chart

including its failure to list any games pre-KotOR (Baldur's Gate)

The Bioware writers have already defended themselves against this accusation by pointing out that all heroic characters follow patterns, first identified and thoroughly defined in Joseph Campbell's 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces' and other works. If you look at those archetypes they are the heros and main protagonists of virtually every game and work of fiction.

If there is a problem with originality in games it is industry-wide, and not fair to single Bioware out.

Agreed. Plus, for all their "repetitiveness", BioWare sure have a lot of respect in the RPG community (if not the gaming community as a whole). They've made successful games for two of the biggest franchises in geekdom - Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons, so surely they must be doing something right?

In comparison, I find Bethesda games playable (post-Morrowind, so Oblivion and Fallout 3) but something isn't right about them.

I know what you mean. I love Oblivion and Fallout 3, but they make the other characters feel, with a few exceptions (most notably Dogmeat, but also a few others, usually differing for each person), like simply means to an end, rather than actual characters, if that makes sense.

webrunner:
Wrex certainly doesn't fit the 'kill for laughs' stereotype: You're meant to think of the "proud warrior race" stereotype and then he completely reverses it by being sick of the way his society acts, morose about the future of his race, and almost poetic in his dialog style.

I was thinking that too (it just occurred to me that I started using that phrase because of KotOR, lol). Wrex is a good deal more complex than he seems at first. Kind of goes with what I was saying about Tali: she seems similar at first, but once you really talk to her, she's really somewhat unique. Still fits with the archetype, but is very different in the particulars.

This seems very negitive, maybe it's the use of the word "rut" at the end?
Anyway you've got a very good point with the shrew, if I can think of something to say but it's not a option then there's a problem.

Maybe there characters are very similiar but hey it works and so far I havent played a single Bioware game I regretted buying.

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

Though you could be forgiven, for sure. I actually never remember even speaking to Kaiden. Further, Garrius did quite a bit of daddy-whining, if I am to recall correctly.

Sylocat:
It's important to remember that Tropes Are Not Bad, and that I think it's more important whether or not Tropes are used WELL than whether or not a given Trope is overused.

This might be old news, but Yahtzee/ZP/The Escapist show up in some of the entries (I made the mistake of clicking that link and well...you know how that goes from the xkcd comic)

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/YouFailSexEdForever
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ZeroPunctuation

I think it's more of a "house style" than anything else. There's plenty of new blood in the BW writing staff, but the leads who plot the overall course of the games naturally tend to have worked at the company the longest. Seniority and all that.

Let's take a loot at the writing credits for DAO:

Dave Gaider (lead, who posted upthread) - at BW since BG2
Ferret Baudoin - his first BW game, though he worked on KotOR2 and NWN2 at Obsidian
Sheryl Chee - first game credit ever
Daniel Erickson - first BW title
Jennifer Hepler - first game credit ever
Mary Kirby - first game credit ever
Luke Kristjanson- the first BW writer, hired for BG1
Jay Turner - his first BW title as a writer was Sonic Chronicles

And now the previous BW game, Mass Effect:

Drew Karpyshyn (lead writer) - at BW since BG2
Luke Kristjanson - see above
Mac Walters - at BW since Jade Empire
Chris L'Etoile (me!) - first BW title
Patrick Weekes - first game credit ever

I don't know...there's definitely something to this, but you're also just listing some pretty wide-ranging sets of very common fictional archetypes.

The Bioware character archetypes may be a common element in each of their games, but it's always managed to seem fresh each time, and I'm not sure Garrus is "captain emo" for Mass Effect, but then again I played Mass Effect after KoTOR, so compared to Carth a real emo would seem vibrant and lively. Still It's a system that works, and since their games are almost always critical successes, it seems to work just fine.

Oh god, you guys really suck. I mean, Bioware keeps making good games, and yes, they look abit alike, but it is that kind of thing that really pulls you in. And I really don't care if it looks like mass effect and kotor and stuff, 'cause these are just brilliant games and you guys have to fuck it up again.

Meh, don't really care. I still love Dragon Age.

Stormwaltz:
I think it's more of a "house style" than anything else. There's plenty of new blood in the BW writing staff, but the leads who plot the overall course of the games naturally tend to have worked at the company the longest. Seniority and all that.

It is definitely a house style, and not simply an issue of the same people rehashing the same stuff on every game. It is more than just the leads plotting the course, though... it's an entire cultural thing. The "new blood" is recruited because their ideas mesh with the existing company style, and that perpetuates the same concepts. In some ways it's actually worse because of this; if it were the same people for every game, they might realize they've "done this before" and move on. As it is, their house style has become obvious and a bit tiresome in their games.

In addition to the shop perpetuating a familiar culture, some of it is due to the talent pool they draw from. A lot of the BioWare RPG folks are the way they are simply because they 1) are Canadian, 2) often come from the same few educational institutions & socioeconomic backgrounds, and 3) are living in Edmonton. The winters here *do* things to your brain, man. Also, hiring is based heavily on "who you know", and if someone inside BioWare is your friend and connects you for employment, chances are good that you already think like them. This is true for most companies, of course, but I think it shows more in BioWare games because of the type of games they create and because they have managed to keep their "small shop" feel for so long.

Beyond that, I'm still amazed at how many people fail to see that the entire Mass Effect story was just a really bad Star Wars ripoff. Far past the "oh they're just classic archetypes!" argument. I'm even more amazed at the staunch personal belief by many of the BioWare folks that this was one of their greatest stories ever.

It's also interesting to follow some of the folks who have left BioWare, and watch how their style evolves. Their origins are not usually hard to spot.

Sources: I've met with some of the people in your list in casual conversation, regarding their life at BioWare and just shit in general. Not trying to name drop (much :), pretty sure none of those folks would remember me, and it's not exactly hard to find BioWare folks to chat with if you live in this city and have any involvement in the tech scene.

wandatheavenger:
To me, the archetypes present in these games are a good thing. Not just for their writing, but for the way in which they act as environmental cues for how I might wanna act. As a focus in Bioware games seems to be on the player having to consider the outcomes of his decisions (much more than whether you get a sport a halo or devil horns on your head), the archetypes provide a way for us to predict what will happen if we, for example, decide to let the stupidly overprotective mother die to save her son (you mean that might piss someone off?). We are able to be considerate of different relational dynamics that exist between ours and other characters and actively work to manage those relationships, much like we have to do in real life. Plus, it provides a great device by which to make me unsure of what decision to make, as I'm trying to balance what the core of my character is with the value systems of my companions. I don't know how many times in Dragon Age I've been afraid to make a decision because of how I expect it to influence my party members. Good stuff.

http://www.justpushstart.com/2009/11/07/dragon-age-origins-gifts-giving-guide-raise-approval-ratings/
you'll never worry about that again. i say whatever i feel and because of the gifts i still keep all my relations at max. it's a nice little loop hole in the character approval that lets you do whatever you want.

calydon:
This article is just a rehash of this:
http://digg.com/gaming_news/BioWare_RPG_Cliche_Chart

including its failure to list any games pre-KotOR (Baldur's Gate)

The Bioware writers have already defended themselves against this accusation by pointing out that all heroic characters follow patterns, first identified and thoroughly defined in Joseph Campbell's 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces' and other works. If you look at those archetypes they are the heros and main protagonists of virtually every game and work of fiction.

If there is a problem with originality in games it is industry-wide, and not fair to single Bioware out.

Amen brother. Oddly, the Game Overthinker said the exact same thing in episode 29, Continuum. As I read this, I couldn't help but feel that archetypes aren't going anywhere and no matter how you slice it, everything is going to feel familiar in some way shape or form.

 Pages PREV 1 2 3 4 5 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Registered for a free account here