I was speaking to [Dragon Age writer] David Gaider, and he brought up some of the reactions on the internet to this game and its trailers -- "Well, I don't understand what makes this different from Lord of the Rings," or other comments about it looking like generic fantasy. What do you do to counteract that perception? How do you sell this game, particularly to people who aren't in the super-dedicated group who's reading every article that comes out?
GZ: That's an interesting point because it is a challenge and something we've dealt with and worked on for a long time. Part of it is to try and show the story. I think the thing we always find interesting is that a lot of the later trailers we do in our games tend to start giving you examples of the amazing things that you can do and try to have story elements.
It's always hard. Things like this -- explaining it, explaining it, re-explaining it, trying to get the online community talking about it and discussing it, and trying to point out some provocative things in this game that make it different.
Finally, I think there is power of word of mouth, in this world particularly. It's always a scary way to release, but when it gets released, folks talks about it, and if they're already aware of it, then people realize, yeah, it really does deliver on this depth of story.
I think there are things we can do to fan the flames of the community and spread the message.
All these things are not as easy as putting a pretty picture in front of a magazine. Marketing itself has actually become a lot more complicated.
It's evolving just as fast as all these technologies are evolving. It's trying to hit every note on all these different modalities, to try and catch folks.
RM: You have to show examples of what a Grey Warden does that's different than what a character in Lord of the Rings would do, and why that's cool.
GZ: Or just even that you have the choice. This is the thing, the fact that it's non-linear.
RM: Yeah, it's different. One example that we keep giving just to frame it is elves in Lord of the Rings are very angelic. They're at the top of the value chain in terms of respect and in terms of the way people view them, and they're an aspirational ideal for that world, the perfect creature, thousands of years old and very noble, gracious, respected.
Dragon Age flipped that convention on its head. Elves are not special -- well, not to everybody. To themselves, maybe; but to humans, they were a slave race for a while. They were enslaved, captured, and defeated.
As a result, there's a hatred. The elves hate the humans. The humans despise the elves and regard them as second-class citizens. Imagine playing as an elf in that world, interacting with humans. Imagine playing as humans traveling to the origin and seeing how elves were treated. You have that opportunity.
In Origins, it leads you to that experience, and it continues from there, where everyone treats you differently depending on which one you've chosen. But you're immersed in a world that's very dark, mature, gritty. It's not all noble elves prancing around. They can be powerful, they can be Grey Wardens, they can be magic users, rogues, warriors. They can be tremendously powerful legendary warriors, and yet they can be disrespected at the same time behind the scenes.
That adds a certain tenor or flavor to the
experience that is fully unique. It's not seen in Lord of the Rings. It's not
seen in high fantasy. You look at George R. R. Martin's works, and that's an
example of darker, what we call lower fantasy. That doesn't mean it's bad; it's
great, it's amazing, it's fantastic, it's beautiful. So is Tolkien's work, it's
amazing in a different way.
Dragon Age actually is heroic, and it's dark at the same time, and it's because of that dichotomy, that combination that it's unique. The Dragon Age experience for a player is different. And you, as a Grey Warden, embody that dark heroic prologue. It's a hero's journey, but it's a dark journey as well. That's different. I think it's very fun, too.