Archives for Dragon Age category

DAIn the morning of the second day we got a chance to check out the studio a little. There were some parts that were off limits, due to work on a not-so-top-secret MMORG, but we still got to get a feel for the working environment. Despite Jay’s protestations that it was just like any other office, there were some differences from regular offices I’ve been to (or even other studios) - a lot of personal touches, and clearly a lot of pride. The walls were dotted with concept art, and the visitor’s area also included various memorabilia from Bioware’s games - including some carved plaques that Beerfish had made. They also had a special event running - ’shoot a designer day’. This involved shooting as many people as possible with toy guns, though the definition of designer seemed to be pretty loose, as we were fair game. It was hard to tell how much work actually gets done though - there’s clearly not enough crunch time in Bioware! We never heard who won the game, so I’m going to assume it was me, though we were weaponless and had to rely on hand grenade style.

DA Dogs
Reservoir Designers (from left): Jay Watamaniuk, Daemonblackrazor, Adam Miller, Alazander, Stratovarius

So back to the toolset. There are a number of editors in the toolset I haven’t really talked about, but the one I’ll finish with is the dialogue editor. This editor follows the familiar tree-like structure that those who have used NWN1 or NWN2 will be familiar with. Building in responses is as simple as clicking a button and typing the text. It has also evolved from both NWN1 and NWN2’s editors: no longer do you need to attach a script for every condition or plot update you want to do, and nor is the basic functionality dependant on parameters. Instead, you can set plot variables in a special section of the dialogue editor, and switch them on and off in the dialogue branches themselves. At least for all but the most complex plots, this will make setting up and tracking quests very simple (editing the journal can also be done here). It takes something of a change of mindset to get used to it, but once you do, the simplicity of it is easy to appreciate (it was quite interesting watching the response of each builder as they ‘got’ it). More complex quests may require some 2da fiddling, but that’s something that I didn’t really get to grips with.

DA Dialogue
Overall though, Dragon Age looks like it should continue Bioware’s streak of great RPG games. For me the visit to Edmonton dispelled quite a few worries I had both with the game and with the toolset. For the game, I was pleased to see Bioware not straying to far (at least gameplay-wise) from the winning formula of Baldur’s Gate. I read a recent review where they complained about lack of innovation, but this is one of those cases where what’s been retained is the good stuff. Don’t get me wrong though, there’s plenty of new stuff to see too. I also saw a toolset I could get pretty confortable using, and that’s important because I want to see a strong community behind Dragon Age: Origins. This is a game I want to get passionate about.

To get your own view of the Dragon Age Toolset, why not head over to the Dragon Age site and check out the videos?

If you found this interesting or helpful, why not drop by with your comments?

DAWell, there were no bikini clad fans to be found anywhere, but there was a toolset to look at, and let’s face it, that’s what we really came for. Jay Watamaniuk (Community Guru) and Fernando Melo (Producer Guru) organised a number of ‘lessons’ for us where we went through some of the editors available in the toolset. My first thought was that it looked a lot like the Neverwinter Nights 1 toolset, though with the distinct advantage of being able to open several assets at once. It was easy to pull open an area and to start playing around in it. The controls for moving about in the toolset are much like those of the NWN2 toolset (less than intuitive for me, but you soon get used to it). Dropping in objects and creatures is just like you will have encountered before in the other toolsets, though now there are some easy to use extra buttons that allow you to control pitch, rotation and height. In addition, there is a multi-level undo that seems to be present in all of the editors (this was our first ‘aaah’ moment as we remembered the pain of the NWN2 undo).
DA Toolset

Dressing and modifying your characters is also easy. There is a mini viewer when you are adding equipment so you will know what the armour looks like, and like nearly everything in the toolset, what you see in the toolset is what you will see in the game. But perhaps the neatest feature of customising characters is the head morphing tool. This neat utility allows you to mess around with your character’s features (something like what you did when setting your character for Oblivion for example, but with a lot more choice). As a result, with the different racial and gender based starting models, you can create literally thousands of unique heads. Even better, the system is semi-intelligent, in that if you add a beard, by default it will switch off some of the other incompatible options. There are dozens of tabs on the head morphing tool that allow fine control (set out logically for you to work from left to right), but you can make fairly unique heads just by making a few adjustments - or indeed by randomising.

DA Event3
The event itself with the Bioware folks at the back from left: Dryan Derkson, Georg Zoeller, Ferret Baudoin (sitting), Fernando Melo, some guy I didn’t meet (!) and Scott Meadows
In the second row (from left): fluffy, Alazander, Hugie. Back row: B G P Hughes, Adam Miller, some other studio folks (!), Daemonblackrazor, Beerfish. Picture courtesy of Hugie.

The script editor feels very comfortable for a fan of the NWN1 script editor, though with some additional functionality that significantly improves it. The layout and the scripting language are similar but not identical to that used in NWN. One useful functionality that you can see from the screenshot is a panel at the bottom with some help-like details of what a command does when you have it selected. So far, there haven’t been a lot of details released on the script editor, so I’ll leave it there. In the next part, I’ll also take a brief look at the dialogue editor and wrap up with a trip round the studio to discover what actually goes on inside…
DA Script Editor

DA Deamon Blackrazor had the decency to admit he didn’t sleep because he was so looking forward to seeing the toolset. I just blamed it on jet lag. Either way, we were all pretty keen to see how the day unfolded, and after stuffing a couple of the free Hershey minis in my swag bag, I was ready to get to the ‘real deal’.

After a pretty sumptuous breakfast we headed over to the studio for a live look at the game, presented by Project Director Dan Tudge. You can check out the demo they are showing off at the Dragon Age site. I have to say though that the videos don’t really do it justice. Up close and personal the game looks awesome, and you also get a much better feel for how it plays. You won’t find any spoilers here, but I will say I was impressed both with the camera control and also how the game ‘felt’; a sort of combination of Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights. For me, looks come after gameplay, but I felt pretty satisfied with both, though we didn’t actually have hands-on time on the game itself. The ogre fight in particular was pretty cool - see for yourself in the demo vids.
DA Gameplay

During the game presentation itself and also during the whole event, we got to meet a lot of the ‘Bioware legends’ who make the games and lurk on the boards. It really impressed me that, despite a clearly busy schedule, many of these guys were on hand to help out and to give us tips, and what’s more, they were clearly passionate about the game and genuinely interested in seeing what our impressions were. One couldn’t help wondering before we got there whether us rather lowly amateurs and half-amateurs would actually be worth listening to, so the attitude of the folks at Bioware and EA in getting this event scheduled and then following it through with such passion was a big positive that I took away. These guys are really serious about the community, and that bodes well for all of us. As far as I’m aware, this was the first time there was a hands-on of the toolset for anyone outside Bioware. Whatever your hopes or fears about Dragon Age: Origins, you can’t argue with that kind of commitment.

I’ll talk a bit more about my toolset impressions in tomorrow’s update, but first a little about some of the Bioware names. Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet up with Stan Woo or Rob Bartel, but I did meet many of the other names you’ll all be familiar with. I got lots of unpublishable insights into Derek French and Ferret Baudoin, and it’s also pretty clear that Georg Zoeller is some kind of scripting god, even in Bioware. I also got to spend a bit of time with Lead Writer David Gaider, and gain some insights into how the writing and the world of Dragon Age came into being (he’s the guy on the right in the picture). The biggest scoop for sure was the Incontrovertible proof that Brian Chung does not have any bikini clad fans.

DA Visit
David Gaider talks to (from left) Alazander, B G P Hughes, Alex ‘Hugie’ Hugon and Beerfish

To get your own view of the Dragon Age Toolset, why not head over to the Dragon Age site and check out the videos?

DAEarlier this week I returned from an extended trip overseas, the highlight of which was a visit to Bioware’s studios in Edmonton for a special invitation event to take a look at the Dragon Age toolset. Why was I there? Good question. Apparently I had been mistaken for an important contributor to the NWN community, so I kept the visor of my hat down low while I rubbed shoulders with the likes of Adam Miller, Beerfish, Hugie, Stratovarious, Alazander, Daemon Blackrazor and fluffyamoeba, and did my best not to get ‘rumbled’ by security. It wasn’t long before a number of us were sitting at our PCs and ‘ooohing’ like a bunch of schoolgirls in front of a Brad Pitt movie.

Rewind a few weeks, and I receive an email from Jay at Bioware inviting me to a ’secret event’ and warning me to pack warm clothes and be prepared for ‘ice wolves roaming the tundra’. After a brief panic over flights and the happy discovery I didn’t need a visa, I found myself in a not-so-cold Edmonton, sadly devoid of the wolves and tundra, but fairly well endowed with cars, parking lots and steak.

An early highlight was a bag of swag deposited in my room, then it was out for an early dinner, and a chance to meet some of my fellow adventurers. Hugie and Adam looked pretty much exactly as I had imagined, while Strat and Beerfish did not - and actually nor did most of the Bioware folks I met, so it was great to start getting names to faces. It was pretty clear early on Jay was a swell guy who will want to invite me to all future events. The other adventurers were a nice crew (though not as nice, since I’m not sure they have any cool events to invite me to). It was pretty clear we were all eager to get our hands on the game or the toolset, but since we didn’t really know what we were going to see, all we could do is speculate. So I’m going to go off and check my NDA now, and see what I can tell you in tomorrow’s update. For now I’ll leave you with this neat screenshot of the ogre from Dragon Age: Origins.

Dragon Age Screenshot1

 

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The AME (Academy for Modding Excellence) is a group... for Neverwinter Nights.