A First Look at Dragon Age (Part 4)

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?

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About AME

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