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Dragon Age III team looks to win back fans with more open development
 Dragon Age III  team looks to win back fans with more open development
September 17, 2012 | By Eric Caoili




BioWare has announced Dragon Age III: Inquisition, and emphasizes that it will be transparent with development, as it seeks to appease fans put off by the last entry of its fantasy RPG franchise.

When Dragon Age II launched last year, the game was met with criticism from the series' devotees, who complained about changes meant to appeal to a broader audience, as well as its decreased difficulty and sense of scale.

"To be honest, we lost some fans," admitted Electronic Arts' (Dragon Age's publisher) Frank Gibeau at the time. "They were not pleased with some of the innovations and things we'd done.. ... As we think about where we take the franchise next, we're going to take that into consideration and really engage them."

Dragon Age III: Inquisition's executive producer Mark Darrah notes that his development team at BioWare Montreal and Edmonton includes a lot of the people who worked on the original Dragon Age and Dragon Age: Origins, and emphasizes the group's commitment to listening to fans' feedback this time.

"We've been listening, and we will continue to listen," he says. "We are going to be as open as we can. We will continue to have a dialogue with you and answer what questions we can. Keep providing us with your feedback."

BioWare's Montreal and Edmonton teams have worked on the project for nearly two years, and intend to release it in late 2013 to unannounced platforms. It's building the game with a new RPG engine that uses DICE's EA's Frostbite 2 (Battlefield 3, Medal of Honor: Warfighter) as a foundation.

Darrah says the new engine allows BioWare to offer a more expansive world, better visuals, more customization, and more reactivity to player choices -- the perceived lack of reactivity to player choices angered fans of another popular BioWare RPG released earlier this year, Mass Effect 3.

BioWare sought to pacify fans then too, and eventually released a free downloadable update with new endings meant to address their criticisms.


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Comments


Jack Matthewson
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"BioWare Montreal and Edmonton includes a lot of the people who worked on the original Dragon Age and Dragon Age: Origins" Did I miss something? Arn't those two the same thing or does the article mean Awakening?

The series lost me at DA2, but I'm open minded and willing to give another one a try. I played the hell out of Origins and thoroughly enjoyed it. Looking forward to a return to form.

John Flush
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They lost me at "Published by EA"

Kellam Templeton-Smith
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So you only play games by indie devs and possibly NEA, I assume.

John Flush
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Not always, but I find that more and more the case actually. I should probably explain more of why I have the distaste for EA but it is almost universal on the internet these days, but I might have something different than the norm. I'll try and verbalize it the best I can.

I tried really hard to get into DA:O, but the codex was broken on the X360 edition and never fixed. I actually sold the game and got it the PC edition instead where it wasn't broken. Shortly after I got started again, DA2 came out and I viewed it as a major change from the original to more of an action game - it didn't appeal to me. I quickly put down the first game after that, never to return.

EA has a tendency to do that any game they publish. Mixing online, with multiplayer, with action in genres that people like me just don't want them in. When I see EA that is what I think of and why I usually see the EA logo and don't bother anymore.

Michael Rooney
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You could, you know, play games because they're good not because of who published them.

Essentially you're saying, "I am going to ignore about 1/3 of the market because bad games exist in that third of the market," but bad games exist in every part of the market. Just like great games exist inside and outside of that third. The fact that EA is the most hated company in America is really telling; Banks that sent us into a recession and oil companies that cause the largest environmental disasters in history are outranked by a company that makes games? Really?

It makes no sense. If the game is crap don't buy it. If it's great, buy it. Are you going to pass on The Hobbit because MGM and Warner Brothers are involved instead of just New Line Cinema? It's silly.

John Miller
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I can only speak for myself and not the Original Poster. But it's not a matter of not buying something because it belongs to some company. It's not buying it because it's a bad game due in part to the company that released it.

Since the topic of Films was brought up. Say you really like Comedy Movies and there is a franchise that a small studio has which has released 2 big hit movies. Now because of their success a large media company buys them up. This media company knows that action films are very popular so they feel to get a bigger draw from the franchise if they make it have more action with a bunch of car chases and explosions.

Well they do that but the new movie ends up not really being that much of a comedy and is not very funny. Being someone who prefers Comedy films and dislikes action flicks your now forced to go else where and don't bother watching the movie. You didn't choose not to watch the movie because you dislike that media company but rather you dislike what they made. And then when they do this over and over to other franchises you once liked then you do end up generally disliking them because of all the things they ruined that you once loved.

I'm with John though in that I mostly buy Indie games and such these days. And it's not because I have some grudge against the large companies like EA. It's because they release over priced games that are not very good. About the only time I get the AAA games these days is when they are 50-75% off. With very few exceptions.

Thanks to DD like Steam it's getting even easier for indie studios to release their games without having to sell out to large publishers, and then be forced to change their whole game play models. They either sink or soar based on their own merits.

Michael Rooney
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@"You didn't choose not to watch the movie because you dislike that media company but rather you dislike what they made."

The problem is that's not what's happening. The problem, as evidenced by what John said, is that he is judging a game, which is at present just as likely to be one of the best games ever as it is to be one of the worst, just because of it's association with EA.

It's really easy to just wait a week for someone to tell you what it's like and form an educated opinion about whether or not you like the game and then buy/avoid it. There's no reason for EA to ever enter into it.

I think a lot of people also ignore a huge amount of EA's catalog. EA makes a huge amount of games. A lot of them are great. The SSX reboot was great, the dead space series is great, ME2 (released post EA acquisition) is generally regarded as better than ME, ME wasn't even that bad except the last half hour or so, Mirror's Edge was great, BF3 was pretty good, Crysis is getting better in it's sequels imo, Bulletstorm was a lot of fun, Dante's Inferno was actually pretty good, even though a lot of people don't like the sports games lately they've been pretty good, Kingdoms of Amalur was great despite the studio going under, at least half of the NFS games are really good (usually the ones made by criterion), Rock Band was great, Skate is pretty awesome, MMA and Fight Night both solid. Shank/2 and Deathspank were both published by them also.

You're saying you would pass on all of those games because they're associated with EA? What if EA released your favorite game of all time tomorrow? Would it be worth it to miss that game just because you generally dislike EA games?

I don't really buy a crapload of EA games or games in general; I don't have a huge amount of time. I just think it's absolutely ludicrous to judge a body of work because of it's association with an entity that is not it's creator.

John Flush
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@Michael
The problem is judging whether or not a game is any good before you buy it. We have reviewers that rave about Mass Effect 2 and 3 - I played the second and hated it. I have reason to believe the same thing is happening with Mass Effect 3, the aftermath of the release proves there was some validity to it.

I have found even though 'games' might be good on their own, EA has a habit of making sure every game have multiplayer hooks, online requirements, tons of DLC, a high price tag due to limited resell value if I don't like it and more.

The EA label defines a game that has these things, things I don't value. With the amazing amount of games out there, indie or not, I just don't have time to constantly debate if reviews are lying this time with the latest EA game - or if this one has features that will turn off in a year - or one time use codes despite me owning two consoles, etc.

To go back to what you were saying, yes I am ignoring EA's part of the market. I'm ignoring it because it has an EA label on it. That is 95% of the time right for my situation, and I lose more by even looking into them than I do by ignoring them.

It was just a lot easier to say "They lost me at Published by EA" than all that other stuff.

Michael Rooney
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@"I have found even though 'games' might be good on their own, EA has a habit of making sure every game have multiplayer hooks, online requirements, tons of DLC, a high price tag due to limited resell value if I don't like it and more."

Does it not seem wierd to you that none of your reasons for not buying an EA game are that the game is/looks bad?

By your logic you shouldn't buy games by any major publisher, so why just EA? For example, Valve has no games without multiplayer iirc. I think all the games they've released require steam, which has a pretty obfuscated process to play games offline. L4D and TF2 have tons of downloadable content. CS:GO has a handful of DLC maps coming.

@"The problem is judging whether or not a game is any good before you buy it."

The internet is a really hard place to find information these days.

You can do whatever you want, but you should know you're going to miss out on some great games if you keep in that mindset just like somebody who only bought big budget games would miss out on a bunch of great indy games.

I don't see any reason for a publisher to ever come into this:
1. Hear about a game that looks interesting
2. Are you sure about game's quality? yes->Goto 4. no->Continue.
3. Ask someone/research if game is actually good or would interest you.
4. Buy or don't buy game.

John Flush
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@Michael

"Does it not seem wierd to you that none of your reasons for not buying an EA game are that the game is/looks bad?"

Nope. It is the same as seeing a movie preview that has Ben Stiller in it (for me anyways). I don't care if it is good or bad, I don't want to see it because I hate Ben Stiller and his style "Oh, but he is different in this one!" - Then why did they cast Ben Stiller in it?! Same thing with EA. I know what they stand for - "oh but this game is different' - sure it is, why did they get EA to publish it then?

"By your logic you shouldn't buy games by any major publisher, so why just EA? "

It isn't just EA. There are others that are just as bad that I also avoid, but this was an article (and comments) directed at EA. I could have dove into other publishers, but it didn't seem relevant in the context of the article. Until Ubisoft recently mentioned they are removing their 'always on DRM' I did the same thing for their games.

"For example, Valve has no games without multiplayer iirc."

Yes they do. Portal 1. They also make games that can be played independently from the online - but yes there are many games I can quickly eliminate from the list of 'things I might be interested in' by using that. Again article about EA game... EA related comment.


"I think all the games they've released require steam, which has a pretty obfuscated process to play games offline."

Yep, but it doesn't game game to game, month to month... and they don't happen to change / turn off their service every year when the latest model comes out. EA != Valve


"L4D and TF2 have tons of downloadable content."

Two good reasons I skipped them.

"CS:GO has a handful of DLC maps coming."

Didn't know, CS was removed from my view years ago. When I see CS I don't even bother reading more. It isn't my kind of IP.

"you're going to miss out on some great games if you keep in that mindset just like somebody who only bought big budget games would miss out on a bunch of great indy games."

But see I don't care. I never knew about them, thus I never actually 'missed' anything. If I don't have something to play, I lower my expectations and scan game news / libraries over again. I rarely go low enough to care about EA. But you are right, this is where I would find an EA game. Say I wanted to play golf. After scanning and scanning I find out that the only golf game alive is made by EA... yep, now I really have to debate - feed the EA beast or skip golf? But I rarely have to look at EA unless they have a monopoly on something. Dragon Age? hell, fantasy action games are a dime a dozen. I can just exclude it quicker by seeing EA on it than looking into the game at all.

"I don't see any reason for a publisher to ever come into this:
1. Hear about a game that looks interesting
2. Are you sure about game's quality? yes->Goto 4. no->Continue.
3. Ask someone/research if game is actually good or would interest you.
4. Buy or don't buy game."


The problem is #1. It is near impossible to find info on anything but AAA unless you avoid it to some degree. And near impossible to look into every game out there today, thus it is nice to have on some filters that reduce the amount one has to look at.

My process for finding game just happens to have a '0' step on there that helps reduce or exclude publishers that produce stuff that pisses me off. Without watching where your money goes unfortunately one ends up supporting practices that they don't want to be more wide spread in the industry.

The industry use to be about the games... now it is about 'the game'. With only so much money I watch where all of mine is going so hopefully my money speaks for me.

Michael Wenk
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If this means they go back to the boring parts of DA:O, then they lost me.

What I loved about DA2 was that it was exciting and fun throughout the entire game. It was a bit short, and I definitely see the scale issue, especially with the many area reuse they did.

What I hated about DA:O was that much of the game was actually quite boring. The Origin stories were a ton of fun, but then once you got out of those, the various quests and parts of the main storyline were boring. I have never been able to finish the game more than once, because on subsequent replayings, my interest dies around the mage tower. I think people confuse difficulty with tedium. I never found DA:O to be a difficult game if you spend 5 minutes to set your stuff up.

I also don't look forward to DA having multiplayer aspects as I want to play a freakin single player RPG.

Jeremie Sinic
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I found DA:O much better since I was able to finish it, unlike DA2 where I got a critical bug preventing me from continuing the main quest. After 20+ hours through the game, I didn't feel like restarting.

I also agree that I couldn't care less about a multiplayer mode in that game. Unless they make it a turn-based RPG.

Nou Phabmixay
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I found both to be easy but in DA2, I get to watch an animation of a jump kick to throw a potion instead of just throwing a potion.

Michael Rooney
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To be fair, DA:O had one of the worst experiences I've had in a game I actually enjoyed. That mage tower quest was brutal. Remember the game for it's successes, but don't forget to take off the rose colored glasses to remember it still had quite a bit of room for improvement. I think both iterations were good for different reasons; unfortunately those reasons don't overlap as much as they should for sequels.

Hopefully this one learns from the mistakes/accomplishments of both games.

k s
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I was not very impressed with DA:O and heard DA2 was terrible so I'm not going to get this game either.

John McMahon
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I just wished they were open and transparent with Mass Effect 3, that would have averted controversy.

Kellam Templeton-Smith
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What was there to be transparent about? 2 entirely static games where you basically get to quibble over details followed by a third game where you spend the entire time getting to quibble over details results in...an ending where you basically have to make a static decision.

People bought into promises Bioware made back when they mentioned wanting to do this as a trilogy. Then, these people never modified their expectations when the reality became apparent.

Sarah Johnson-Bliss
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The only problem I had was the over use of the same areas. If they had significant uniqueness to each zone, and didn't reuse them... I'd be a very happy camper. There were other issues on DA2, but they were minor in comparison.

Ron Dippold
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'They were not pleased with some of the innovations and things we'd done..'

Abusive (and more importantly, blatantly obvious) asset reuse is one of those innovations users are pleased with like they're pleased with Wells Fargo's innovation of foreclosing on houses that don't even have a mortgage.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Adam Bishop
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I don't care how open they are with development, I just want my RPGs to stop trying to be action games. I *like* games that reward patience and planning.

Dave Kay
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TRPG GO! There's a miserable shortage of them, in my opinion, unless you want to play them on a handheld, and I don't.

Marc Audouy
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The problem here is there are two different fanbases that don't overlap much, the fans of tactical RPG (DAO) and the fans of action games (DA2). They just have to make a choice and stick to it because trying to appeal to both fans is probably doomed to fail.

Nou Phabmixay
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Yeah!

They shouldn't have mixed the two fanbases. The orginal fans wanted DA:Origins, not a minor reboot. DA2 should have been another franchise or a reboot after the trilogy was over.

I didn't even think about how not only did they alienate their fans, but had their fans fight against each other.

Kyle Redd
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Also don't forget those who prefer focused, single-player games with those that demand co-op or multiplayer of some sort - another couple of groups they're trying to appease with every game.

Chris Dickerson
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Quantity over quality (more sales), rather than executing master game making that Bioware is capable of.

I would rather give money to several Kickstarter projects instead of paying for the mediocre deliverings of AAA titles being put out at the behest of some publisher and their poor ideas of what constitutes a good game.

I enjoyed Mass Effect up to a point, but eventually they tore the game apart, paring down enjoyable mechanics, so that it endedup a click and win game -- with an ending little better than the poor finale to Lost (Egyptians? Nope, it was all a dream).

Michael Rooney
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"I would rather give money to several Kickstarter projects instead of paying for the mediocre deliverings of AAA titles being put out at the behest of some publisher and their poor ideas of what constitutes a good game."

There are a lot of terrible ideas of what constitutes a good game on Kickstarter also.

Nou Phabmixay
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I hope they listen to my feedback: Don't listen to player feedback from the mob.

Kyle Redd
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I think the idea of them "listening to fans' feedback" is mostly just marketing. They want to appear as if they're making a community-built game to mask the reality of it being made with a specific list of mass-market, bullet-point features just as virtually all EA games are made now.

For instance, I'm pretty sure a huge majority of the PC community would prefer they release the game DRM-free, but I suspect they're going to completely ignore that request.

Paul Marzagalli
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Speaking strictly as a fan, my only real concern is multiplayer. Namely - I don't want it. It detracted from ME3 and if I am remembering correctly negatively impacted it as well. I wouldnt mind some kind of fable- like social/light co-op integration but a stand-alone mode? No thanks.

Steven Wade
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@Anthony - I believe he is referring to the fact that you had to play the multiplayer in order to get the best ending. Your war assets are cut in half if you don't play it at all. My father, who is about 70, absolutely adores the Mass Effect games and wanted to see his character survive. So he asked me to play the multiplayer for him so he could get the best ending. However, maybe a week ago my father beat the game for a second time and didn't need me to play the multiplayer. Either the new DLCs added enough war assets or the second play through helps out. Anyway, I believe it is the fact that the multiplayer affected the single-player that Paul is referring to.

Ian Welsh
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DA2's combat was broken at release for at least one class (the rogue, who was knocked back all the time). It had massive reuse of areas. The boss fights were MMO style, and the second act boss fight was the most tedious I have ever had to spend 15 minutes beating. The story falls apart in Act III and the protagonist's actions mean virtually nothing to how the plot plays out or to how the world is at the end. The game had the feel of a novel in which the point is that no matter what you do, everything will turn out like crap, everyone will abandon you and the world will go to hell. That might be ok, if that's the way the game had been sold, but it wasn't.

All that said, I did finish it, and I did like it despite its flaws. But it was immensely flawed, and as with ME3, had that "rushed out the door" feeling to it. I can't really see pre-ordering DA3 the way I did DA2 and ME3, they've lost my trust that they can, actually, tell a good story. And when you're Bioware, fans losing trust in your storytelling ability is killer.


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