The Writers of BioWare

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How am I gonna put this without having someone yell "IGNORANT FANBOY!"? I don't think it's possible, but I'll try.

Yes, Bioware have a few molds that they reuse but it's not as bad as you make it out to be. Take Garrus, Carth and Alistair, while they all share a common trait they are as a whole very different characters. Even so it's a formula that works, It all comes down to storytelling, and for that there are a few character stereotypes that work better than others.

Though I wish they would stop milking HK-47 -.-

Good point, but I think that BioWare has managed to characterise their "archetypes" so well (both voice actors, backstory and visual design) in their different games, that it doesn't really stand out as a cliché or something cringeworthy.


They may have mized everything up but they have done it in a good way, for me anyway.

Although a bit of change would certainly be interesting, Archetypes Are Good!
Speaking as long-time roleplayer, both PnP and computer, archetypes are easily definable ways of establishing character and setting. Of course, in pen & paper rpgs, you can more easily expand on the archetypes once you're comfortable with the basics.
This is a bit harder in computer games since there's no room for improvisation.

That being said, Bioware does a wonderful job of establishing an easily relatable setting with easily recognised and relatable NPCs, which is in the end mostly a backdrop for the main story.
Most of the times, they succeed making said NPCs so much more than their archetypes, if you read a bit into their behaviour and take the time to get to know them, although of course at times the personalities don't shine as much or subvert the trope as much as we could hope and want for. At other times, like Wrex as far as I'm concerned, they go far beyond awesome.
Its a bit of a hit/miss thing I suppose, some characters just don't shine as much as others.
On the the other hand, Bioware games usually have a large handful of NPCs, so there's bound to be something for everybody. After all, you're not necessarily supposed to like EVERYONE you hang around with to save the world/galaxy.

On the note of Mass Effect being a Star Wars rip-off, I honestly saw it more as a Star Trek/ Lovecraft inspired story and not particularily rip-offy. Kind of like the Borg meets the Great Old Ones, who will rise when the stars are right from beyond the comprehendable universe and harvest all insignificant lifeforms for their lunch or whatnot

I, too, leap to the defense of Garrus' honor.

Really, I think this is an overreaction. In all fully-realized stories there's going to be an overlap of character roles. Because similarities can be drawn does not make these characters replicas of one another.


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.

That's because it's actually a really good Dune rip off ;-D

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

Alistair is not emo! He's a goofball trying to deal with the sudden pressures of having all his friends get torn to pieces, then getting stuck with fixing a problem that normally requires the might of multiple nations (The Blight) and THEN he gets told he has to run a Kingdom, which requires a lot of personal sacrifice and will pretty much shoot any chance he has to actually do what he wants through the face...

Yeah! I'd be kinda upset too. But Alistair always has a joke handy or a witty quip.

So, I guess I'm the only one in the "I <3 Alistair" club...

I feel somewhat like you only looked at these characters at face value, they are actually much more developed than their inital appearances would lead you to believe.

Also, I think the writers acknowledged their face value appearances, as I did note that there is an option to tell Morrigan that she's a "disgusting, hateful shrew".
FYI, that's the "I hate you and I'm just saying spiteful things to hurt you" option.

Anyway, I personally believe that even though you can just file these characters under archetypes for personallity traits, I feel like they're more developed than a mere archetype, the archtype is just something they're wearing because that's how they want the world to see them.

Kind of like how guys in hoodies are trying to seem "hard" when all they probably need is to get laid, really.

Also, is it me or is it really just too easy to be cynical and call every character ever a copy of another character?

"Casabanka is g-!"





I agree with you on most of these except for Alistair and Garrus.

How is Garrus emo?

Personally, I wouldn't even call Alistair emo. At least in this neck of the woods (and in certain circles) emo has come to signify someone acting moody and depressed with no good reason to do so. In Alistair's case, seeing your close friend and long term mentor die due to a last minute act of betrayal and also bearing the potentially huge responsibility of having to be King someday, despite the fact the very prospect scares the hell out of you. seem like viable reasons to me.

Exactly, I'd say it made Alistair human rather than emo. Normally when people die in game its a case of "shit happens... Right; what's for lunch?"

Alistair at least could show some sort of connection.

Nice to see somebody skipped over Baldur's Gate and NWN so easily.

K'mon? Space hamster? When has Bioware EVER done a space hamster in any game since BG; hell he even has dialogue!

And my God man, how could you leave out Aribeth! Talk about someone who defies archetype.

Note: Ok I'm being lazy because I'm at work and I don't want to look through all four pages to see if someone said this already. If they did, please disregard and I sincerely apologize. If not, however.

I thought it worth mentioning that you forgot the Rogue Archetype. Zevran (Dragon Age) Sky (Jade Empire)

The "Don't hate me because I'm handsome, hate me because I may knife you in the back when someone throws me some cash" character that you either keep around because you really enjoy the dialogue, or because you just need someone to open those chests because you couldn't be bothered putting points into lockpicking yourself.

That's because it's actually a really good Dune rip off ;-D

Well if anything the lander part was just a bad starcon2 rip off :) And the cyclical evil from beyond is probably the most excusable trope of that game...

Yes, Bioware have a few molds that they reuse but it's not as bad as you make it out to be. Take Garrus, Carth and Alistair, while they all share a common trait they are as a whole very different characters. Even so it's a formula that works, It all comes down to storytelling, and for that there are a few character stereotypes that work better than others.

Yes, it is a formula that works. In that regard, it's like buying the latest iteration of Final Fantasy, only they don't name their games so boringly. When you buy a BioWare RPG, you know exactly what you're getting; black & white moral "choices", a predictable cast of party members, and an "epic" storyline to save the universe from some big bad evil. There's nothing wrong with any of that, really... especially since they only come out every couple of years anyway so there's plenty of time inbetween to get all nostalgic for another classic BioWare game.

I think the frustrating part is when they pretend it's NOT going to be another formulaic BioWare game. I remember reading articles about how Mass Effect's paragon/renegade system was going to be nothing like the binary black/white morality system of all their previous games. Uh huh. I also remember reading about how their revolutionary dialogue system was going to be, um, revolutionary, but then turned out to be just another BioWare dialogue tree that was slightly easier to get through with an xbox controller (and never mind the horrible UI flaw that skipping over dialogue used the same button as selecting a tree option, leading to countless "do-overs" as I accidentally picked choices I didn't mean to make while skipping through text). Or their "immersive action gameplay" system which turned out to be an autolock FPS-knockoff that I would have happily gone without in exchange for the classic turn/squad combat mechanics of KoTOR, which might have actually allowed me to use my party members as more than just an interesting difficulty enhancement mechanic.

I can't speak for any of the other "complainers", but for me I would simply like to see the talent at BioWare try something truly innovative/new for once, just to see what they could come up with.

Nice to see somebody skipped over Baldur's Gate and NWN so easily.

Mainly because BG and, to a lesser degree, NWN, established what we think of as the "standard" BioWare RPG in the first place. It would be like getting mad at Wolfenstein or Doom for being too "typical" an FPS. We all know that when BG came out it was fantastically interesting and new. The issue is that BioWare hasn't really strayed from the storytelling formula they laid down in BG so many years back. This isn't strictly a bad thing, but let's not pretend that it isn't true.

You forgot one type: Hopelessly stereotyped Chinamen - all jade empire characters

That's an innocent jibe. I give them all the credit in the world for making an RPG based on non-western fantasy tropes, even if it wasn't so great.

I really only see this as criticism when the type used is very simple. Like Wrex in Mass Effect, who couldn't have been any simpler without delving into "Super Mario" ground (he's already a thinking Bowser, isn't he?). Also Alistair, though very well done and entertaining, bothers me a bit with his uncanny resemblance with Carth, Atton Rand, and probably a few others.

But a bigger problem is when storytelling seems familiar, because you probably still have the memory of when when this element worked best in another game, and while others might not consciously notice it, those who cherished a similar element in another game, might find the rehash less worthwile.

i see nthing wrong with it i like both mass effect and dragon age becuase of how they are different to other RPG's they should continue to make games like both of them

Absolutely nail on the head.

I love Bioware games, they are great games, but its sad that they are great games almost by default.

They are really the only dev studio (with an honourable mention to Obsidian, and also I guess to the devs of the Witcher) who actually deal with real characters and real conquences to your actions. But in terms of gameplay? They really haven't evolved since Baldur's Gate 2. I mean Dragon Age was great precisely BECAUSE it was essentially Baldur's Gate 2. Compare the actual gameplay mechanics and you'll find that apart from graphical changes the game is 99% the same.

You're right about the two types of good RPGs which essentially boils down to Bethesda style RPGs and Bioware style RPGs (JRPGs are a non issue really.). Bethesda make a lot but spread the characterisation thin. The point is theres really no technical reason for it to be that way.

Taken in its most basic terms Bioware has a cadre of characters who react to conversation trees and as the game progresses more trees open up based upon past responses. Theres no real technical or gameplay limitation that precludes these things being included in Bethesda style RPGs its just that in general they aren't due to differing design philosophies.

If Bethesda got serious about characters we might see a game that would redefine gaming for this generation, the sort of game we really haven't seen since Half Life.

With regards to your specific point about the formulaic nature of bioware games, this link says it better than I ever could.

I agree with you on most of these except for Alistair and Garrus.

How is Garrus emo?

Alistair...not emo? If he wasn't whining about *insert spoiler here* than it meant he wasn't in your party.


I agree with you on most of these except for Alistair and Garrus.

How is Garrus emo?

Alistair...not emo? If he wasn't whining about *insert spoiler here* than it meant he wasn't in your party.

Hey, you would be whining too if your father figure was killed along with all your friends and your brother.

I eagerly await Shamus' new video game/movie/book/etc... oh wait? He creates nothing and instead judges everyone else??? Wow, I had NO IDEA. Actual writer's don't have time to put others down. Cheers. :)

Well this has been amusing.

I thought it was an interesting article, and I really didn't see him "Putting anyone down" here. It's a valid point, the judgement of whether or not it's a good thing or whether we like what Bioware does or not isn't something Shamus is stating directly, he's leaving it to the reader.

Personally, I love Bioware games. Yes, there are similar archetypes being used, but you could say that about these kinds of stories in general. And I can handle Alistair being a reincarnation of Carth, it's like having an old friend of the family come to visit; Sure you know most of his jokes, but it's still fun to have the guy around, and they may occasionally surprise you still.

The article material wasn't exactly new, though many similarities indeed existed.

First things first. Neither Garrus (good heavens!) nor Alistair qualify for being "emo" (the damn word is so overused it doesn't really have a proper meaning anymore). Garrus is simply a youngster that wants to change the world, or at the very least, to see justice done. However, his father is a rule-freak. The commanding line of C-Sec are rule freaks. Hell, Garrus was chosen to become a Spectre, the highest honor he could imagine. In turian society, honor is above all. Imagine the utter frustration when his father turns the offer down in his name - not only has Garrus lost the chance of a lifetime for being one of the revered elite agents in the galaxy, but his pride was also hurt by his father, who decided in his place. I mean, if one of my parents ever made a decision for me that denies something important to me, I'd be pissed off of them and everything they stand for, too. C-Sec was just that for Garrus - a metaphorical prison, where rules were above justice. That's why he was sometimes acting a bit disregardful for laws in favor of vigilante justice. The salarian doctor who escaped his grasp was yet another drop. After all that, how do you NOT get grumbly and brooding at times? Garrus was pretty much my favourite teammate in Mass Effect, so damn it, lay off his back!

Now, for Alistair. Emo? Lolno. Whiny and childish? Yes. Whoever can call the mourning of his freshly lost father-figure that pulled him out of the hated place of growing up emo, is an insensitive bastard. I'm sorry, that's just how it is. Landsmeet and the stuff around that one? That's just being childish and running away from responsibility. Not emo.

As for the familiar characters... why reinvent the wheel? Why drastically change something that works? I am so tired of the modern day obsession with originality. Yeah, it is great to have original works, but good lord, demanding it from EVERY single work of fiction that comes out is a bit of an overkill. Another thing - people like nothing more than the stuff they are familiar with. So why change a formula that works? Sure, I will admit, there are similarities in the story base of Bioware games. So what? I still greatly enjoy the stories. I mean, look at Star Wars. Heck, just look at this review by Angry Video Game Nerd. It explains it all.

Another thing. People should not expect top novel quality writing from video games. Just stop. Please, all you'll get will be disappointment. The quality of writing will always be sacrificed for the sake of the quality of gameplay. You will always be the underdog rising to power in order to beat the Big Bad Evil Guy. Why? The RPG mechanics say so. The game level mechanics say so. You will always be fighting The Army Of Evil. Why? To level up. To get that loot from somewhere. Sure, there may be some exceptions to the rule, but in most RPGs, it just doesn't happen. So why exactly should Bioware get all the flak for the limitations of the genre and the medium itself? No idea. I guess because they are currently on the spotlight.



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.

Oh, I'm not saying that they aren't thin on story. I'm saying that BioWare is no better.

"You're a badass soldier. Go kill things, and find this ancient relic before the bad guys do."


So, I guess I'm the only one in the "I <3 Alistair" club...'re not. You're really, REALLY not. <3


Also, Dragon Age has plenty of morally gray choices. I don't want to post any of them, because spoilers r bad and I don't know how to do that 'spoiler' thing where you click on it to reveal it.

Anywho...Dragon Age has some flaws, but its kept me playing for over 200 hours, so it has to be doing something right.

Oh, and did anyone else notice the lovingly realized and in depth religions in the game? I found it downright fascinating and well done and all sorts of other nerdy things. could fucking worship the Chant of Light in the real world and it'd mostly fit. Mostly.

(course, that might be cause they borrowed a lot from the early Catholic church, but whatever, Andraste is cooler than Jesus.)

Most things new are things old, but well forgotten. Dragon Age is such a well-done and huge game, I'm sure most of the haters, if there are any reading this topic, would find something they actually like about the game, if they can stick around long enough with it, heck, the party banter alone is a good enough reason to buy this game, enjoy it and spend countless hours with it. And as someone already pointed out, this is not a problem, if you'd like to call it that, with Bioware, or even with games in general, it's a persistent trait of the entertainment industry. With Bioware the games are actually remarkable though, people remember them for a long time, hence they finish a Bioware game and think "This was awesome yet again, if only it didn't seem so familiar". The Witcher is the only RPG game I can think of (mind you, I don't pretend to be an expert so there might be more that I don't know of) with an original story, probably because it's based on the works of a Polish writer. Sadly,

Personally I believe Bioware has managed to maintain a level of originality; as masqueraded as it may be, primarily due to the setting of their games. KotoR is based upon the Star Wars fantasy; Jade Empire takes place in a factious China and Mass Effect in Outer Space. The only game to return to familiar standings is Dragon Age, albeit Baldur's Gate is largely thought ancient by today's standards, thus such is lost, and DA flourishes.

Either way it is remarkable the praise the company receives and near worship status amongst gamers - many of whom dislike other roleplaying games - is this wide spread in spite of similarities in their titles. They certainly have done something correct.

I can't really associate with the non-fantasy RPG references. Perhaps if you'd included some of their much older RPGs.

MUST everyone CONSTANTLY forget Sonic Chronicles when they're talking about BioWare?

I am offended by this article because, and this is the only reason, there are no characters from Baldur's Gate mentioned. I realize that they may not be as fleshed out as some of their later characters are, but still, it's Baldur's Gate dammit! Come on! It was the beginning of D&D gaming awesomeness!

So, you know, at least add Minsc to the list, because he's a pretty awesome character. And Imoen, she's pretty complex too. And Jaheira, for the love story(but not Khaleid cause it might get awkward). Oh, and Viconia, she's got the moral issues. And obviously Boo, the best miniature giant space hamster that ever lived, because...well...he makes that adorable squeak when you try to take him from Minsc's inventory. That's all Boo needs for his place in the museum of great characters.

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.

seconded and we cant forget boo :D


K'mon? Space hamster? When has Bioware EVER done a space hamster in any game since BG; hell he even has dialogue!

Giant Space Hamsters did exist in old AD&D... in the Spelljammer setting. It was pretty nutty. Minsc believes his to be a miniature version (instead of, you know, a normal hamster), because of yet another recurring trope - being crazy makes you meta (and sometimes medium-aware).

Hey, you would be whining too if your father figure was killed along with all your friends and your brother.

Having a decent reason to whinge doesn't mean you aren't whinging. And Alistair could get a bit... excessive at times.

Lets add BG2&NWN2 characters to the list.

The Remorseless Killer : Khelgar, maybe Ammon Jerro
The Berzerker : Korgan, Bishop
The Pilgrim : Nalia, Neeshka
The Emo : Aerie, Shandra Jerro
The Shrew : Viconia, Qara
The Mentor : Imoen (not old but gives the background of setting), Sand
The Pet : Boo, Construct

Black Isle, Bioware, Obsidian all have the same cliches going I guess.

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