Dragon Age lead writer David Gaider says that while Mass Effect is a “more cinematic” experience, BioWare is looking back to its Baldur’s Gate roots to deliver a more traditional RPG with Dragon Age: Origins.
Gaider, who joined the company in 1999 to work on Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn, has since been involved with the Throne of Bhaal expansion, Knights of the Old Republic, Neverwinter Nights and its two expansions, Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark. In an interview with Gamasutra he said that while gamers may compare the upcoming Dragon Age: Origins to BioWare’s previous release, Mass Effect, he hopes that people will appreciate that the company is going for something “a little different.”
“Mass Effect is great – it’s more cinematic – whereas with Dragon Age, we’re definitely going to something that’s a little more traditional. There’s nothing wrong with traditional. We’re looking at our Baldur’s Gate roots,” he said.
Gaider said working on Baldur’s Gate 2 was a particularly good experience because the studio was using a “tried and true engine,” which meant the team could focus on content creation and testing from the very start. “We haven’t really been in that situation since. Mass Effect 2 is there now, which is good for the team. Hopefully, for Dragon Age, we’ll get there, too,” he said.
“But [with Baldur’s Gate 2] we were in this great place where we could just generate content and be a little bit experimental in terms of what we tried. We tried romances – we just said, ‘Can we do that?’ or, ‘I like working on this Drow setting. I’d like to try this’,” he continued. “It was very permissive, allowing the writers and designers to have ownership over what they were working on. The idea was that a lot of the story was told through your followers, the ones you had in your party.”
Computer-controlled party dynamics were a standout feature of Baldur’s Gate and Gaider said followers in Dragon Age will also have “a bit of exchange.” They’ve also allowed the writers greater flexibility in questing and morality options, rather than simple “good” or “evil” options. “From a writing perspective, when you have these followers, and you get a different range of their own morality and their own agendas, you get to use them almost as a cipher through which the story is told, because we’ve taken away the morality bar,” he said. “Taking that away allowed us to have different options for the quests and the dialogue, but we don’t need to always have ‘evil’ and ‘good.’ We are allowed to put in options that are just logical. They can be very different. You can think there’s a good reason to do all of them. They can be a little in the gray area.”