All Train2Game students should appreciate Dragon Age: Origins

The first details of Dragon Age 2 have come to light today with US magazine Game Informer featuring some impressive artwork on its front cover. In this writers view Dragon Age: Origins was last years top RPG and it still continues to be a very impressive game. Why? The storyline, the setting, the characters and the dialogue are all extremely impressive, making Dragon Age a game that all Train2Game students – be they Games Designer, Games Developer or Games Artist & Animator – should take notice of. This is especially true of the Games Designers, the people who’ll be writing stories of future games. Though Games Developers and Games Artist & Animators, feel free to read on!

I’m a veteran of Japanese Role Playing Games; there isn’t a Final Fantasy title I haven’t played (Discounting handheld releases.) However, despite my interest in all things fantasy, until earlier this year I hadn’t played a traditional Dungeons & Dragons or Lord of the Rings style RPG. This is despite being rather tempted by World of Warcraft in the past.

I started Dragon Age: Origins for the second time last Friday – that’s six days ago now – and I’ve already managed to spend over 24 hours playing it at the time of writing. Why is this? Well, partially there’s the classic ‘Just one more level/dungeon/search for loot’ factor, but Dragon Age is massively helped along by the fact that the Bioware created Characters just seem so real. This isn’t necessarily graphically, but when it comes to their different personalities, emotions and beliefs, it really feels like you’re engaging in dialogue with a real person

Your companions react realistically when in conversation with your character, no matter what option on the expansive dialogue trees you choose. They can react positively or negatively to not only what you say, but your choices as to how you complete quests in the open world of Ferelden. The sheer amount of effort the Games Designers and writers must have put in to all of the different outcomes is amazing. Of course, we mustn’t forget the Games Artists & Animators who provided Dragon Age: Origins with its look, or the Games Developers that programmed the game.

As I mentioned above, I’ve played plenty of RPG’s but none of them have drawn me in as emotionally as Dragon Age. The clue is in the genre title really – Role Playing – and I’m playing the role of a human female (as opposed to an elf, or a dwarf, or a male) Rogue. I’m starting to think that because of Biowares excellent character development I’m currently being overly consumed by my role.

Don’t worry, I don’t think I’m a red haired noble woman who’s good with a sword and a dagger – If I did I’d probably be locked away in a ‘safe place’ right now, but the combination of the Dragon Age approval system, and  the characters emotions and morals,  mean I’m really having to think about what dialogue options I choose.

This has actually gotten to the point where interactions with one of my party, Alistair, have gotten somewhat awkward. The reason being that he approves so highly of my character he keeps trying to chat her up. And while party members can become engaged in Romance or *ahem* sex, I’d rather my character didn’t get too involved with Alistair. So why is this awkward? Well, to put it bluntly I want my character to let him down gently but at the same time I don’t want to make him feel bad. This is partially because a reduction in approval will make him slightly less use in battle, and partly because he just comes across as a real person with real feelings. Now I know how girls I’ve awkwardly tried to show interest must have felt like…

What was my point? Oh yes, the fact the characters just seem so believable. They really do draw you in.  Dragon Age: Origins really is a brilliant game, and the Games Designers really deserve all the accolades they receive. If you haven’t already, I really recommend playing Dragon Age yourself in order to witness how an epic game should be designed.

So you budding Games Designers (And Developers, and Artists & Animators) How important are characters and storylines to you? Do you think you’d like to attempt anything on the scale of a massive RPG like Dragon Age? Or would you prefer to produce smaller titles?

As usual leave your comments here, or on the Train2Game forum.

1 thought on “All Train2Game students should appreciate Dragon Age: Origins

  1. Bioware are one of the few companies who actually employ full-time writers, not just designers who also do stories. This is certainly a trend that a few of us wouldn’t mind seeing more of, though the rise of the narrative designer might actually be a sign that pure writers are not right for every studio’s needs.

    I think the signs are all pointing to videogames being their own medium with their own special needs from writers. Just as ‘programmer art’ went out of fashion in the ’80s, so too are ‘design-team stories’ going out of fashion.

    Ironically, Bioware’s writers have been a recent topic of discussion within the IGDA’s Writing Special Interest Group. To some people, it is a dream-job. To others, Bioware’s entry-requirements seem insurmountable.

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