Preparing for Dragon Age Inquisition

WarTable_WM_webI am now nearing the end of what seems like an eternal wait. Dragon Age: Inquisition is released in the EU this Friday! In the run up to the release I have been doing my due diligence and looking back at the first two games, preparing, getting everything ready and myself in the right mindset so I can step back into the lands of Thedas once again with ease.

This is going to be a lengthy piece so get a cup of tea before you go any further!

Like all of Bioware’s franchises Dragon Age is special to me. I initially struggled with Dragon Age: Origins past the Origins point and gave up on it. I figured that while it was a good RPG it just was not the right one for me. I had enjoyed it a lot but I was getting bogged down in the game’s clumsy UI and the various bugs made it a jarring experience at times. I put it to one side and added it to my eternal pile of shame. Then half a year or so later I decided to give it another go. (Mainly at the urging of the members of what used to the be the NowGamer Forums, we are now The Checkpoint, go check it out!)

This time I chose a different origin, Human Noble, and got stuck in. Finally the game gelled with me and I knew what mistakes to avoid in the early game. Also the UI while still terrible was at least usable by me now. Many hours, the Awakening Expansion and all the DLC later and I had seen and done everything that the game had to offer. I even took the time to check out the other origin stories. I embraced the setting, characters and lore. It was a game that taught me a valuable lesson, sometimes you just have to give things some distance and then give them a second try. Dragon Age was “this close” to being a franchise I was going to pass on and now it is one of my favourite IPs.

The choices in the game have weight to them, the characters are three dimensional and have their own problems outside of your main quest. Then there is the story itself which is a grand epic of twists, turns, betrayal, love and loss. The combat is very tactical and you have to really plan out what you are doing. It truly is a superb RPG. (One that really needs a next-gen Remastered Edition!)

Then came Dragon Age II…

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Mass Effect 3 “Day 1 DLC” Controversy

While this could be worded a lot better and not in the “Shut the hell up with your complaining!” way of talking about this issue it still proves its point.

The argument is that day one premium DLC keeps a lot of the main production team in a job and working on the game for longer. It also allows them to continually generate new DLC content as a persistent production cycle for the support time for the game. Which is all good in my book. It give me more Mass Effect to play at the end of the day.

The only problem I have with the From Ashes DLC is the price. 800 Microsoft Points is £6.85 according to XboxPointsConverter and the DLC is also included in the Collector’s Edition package for the game, which is the one I bought. Not a bad price when you look at it but I think it should be cheaper for a number of reasons:

  1. This is day one content. The people who have bought the standard edition which this DLC targets have already paid up to £49.99 depending on where they got it from and if they are crazy enough pay full RRP for the games they buy. This is an additional cost that many feel they will have to buy (rightly or wrongly) to get the whole Mass Effect 3 experience.
  2. EA/BioWare can not argue that the price allows them to quickly re-coup the production costs for the DLC. This is because of the game’s use of booster packs in the multiplayer. The booster packs can be bought with in game earned currency or with Microsoft points at 80MSP (69p) or 160MSP (£1.37). The cost of producing the From Ashes DLC have already been quickly recouped by people buying 2-3 booster packs. The booster packs are also pretty much pure profit for EA because they were produced alongside development of the game’s multiplayer as an integral system. This isn’t an extra addition that adds more content to the game this is a main aspect of the multiplayer for ME3.
  3. Scarifying a week’s worth of profit from the booster packs to make the From Ashes DLC cheaper and in the 400MSP (£3.43) range would have gone a long way to avoiding all these people shouting at EA and BioWare for making the game they wanted to make. Player’s would be more likely to buy the content if they were told, “We made this but we have purposely kept the price down so you can all buy it with your copy of the game.” EA would still get their money because there would still be profit in the 400MSP price point along with all the money made from the booster packs.

Like the above image says modern game development is complex but it still does not mean that EA are allowed to charge as much as they want for the privilege of playing the game and all of its content wether it is on the disk or not. Also behaving like a child and throwing your toys out of the pram over it is not the way people should be dealing with or complaining about this issue. It doesn’t help anyone when you reduce an issue to base name calling and slurring. Just saying!

Eurogamer Baldur’s Gate Retrospective

Link: Eurogamer Baldur’s Gate Retrospective

You will be seeing a fair few look backs at the Baldur’s Gate games as we approach the impending Steam release of the second game and this teasing website that promises future forays (or at least an update/remake of the first game) into the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons and Dragons. The two main Baldur’s Gate games made by BioWare are an important part of video game history, for me at least and Paul Dean who has written the Eurogamer article this post links to seems to agree with me on this too. 

There were the first games I came across where the world seemed to be an actual living breathing place. There was adventure and intrigue around every turn and no matter how long it took or how many quests you battled your way through it never got old. The brilliantly written companion characters kept things fresh and the attention to detail put into the games is still amazing by today’s standards. The you had the D&D rules of the time implemented in to some surprisingly solid game mechanics that have left their mark on RPG design ever since. The EG article is worth a read for a nostalgic look back and as an introduction to people who have never heard of the franchise. Baldur’s Gate is the blueprint for what BioWare has continued to do with every game they have made since. From continuing save files across multiple games to providing rich characters in detailed worlds with the majority of the number crunching common to RPGs hidden under the hood of the game quietly rolling dice in the shadows for you. Baldur’s was the starting point for all these ideas and they are two games worth playing no matter how old they are.

As for the teaser website that popped up this week? While a new game would be great, I feel that its magic might be lost among the methodology of modern RPG design. It will be a good game for sure but it just wouldn’t be the same. So I find myself rooting for a HD remake of the first game or both games updated and released as a single epic. Not just on PC mind because a game like Baldur’s Gate would work brilliantly on the iPad and maybe usher in an era of fully-fledged isometric RPGs for the device.

All I’m going to say is that the website was discovered this week and on the 7th March Apple are unveiling their fancy new iPad 3 and now that Steve Jobs is sadly no longer with us, Apple can concentrate of the games market a bit more aggressively if they wish. They need a game apart from Infinity Blade that shows the iOS as a valid gaming platform rather than a heaven for casual games and games “inspired” by popular core console titles, and Baldur’s might just be the game to do it.

Go check out the article and remember fondly the days of yore!

Why A Video Game Blockbuster Will Finally Allow You To Be A Gay Man

Link: Why A Video Game Blockbuster Will Finally Allow You To Be A Gay Man

BioWare and sex seem to go together like bread and butter. This surprisingly interesting Kotaku article about how the male Shepard in Mass Effect 3 can now get it on with his fellow male crew mates is worth a read. It details the history of the relationship functionality present in BioWare’s games and why they have finally included the option in latest Mass Effect game. 

It is a topic that has popped up several times over the past few weeks with BioWare usually being at the heart of the discussion due to their more progressive stance on player/character sexuality. The online response has been mixed at best and sickening at its worst. But at the end of the day it all boils down to giving the player a better experience by giving them more choice to experience the game how they want and on their own terms. Which is something a lot of games could learn from, not just RPGs. If you don’t like the idea of man on man space action you don’t have to experience it but for those who do I’m sure it is a breath of fresh air.

Weekly Update

In an effort to keep content appearing on here regularly I will start doing these weekly updates. These posts will be on top of any other, more detailed, posts I make regarding the various project I’m working on. So let’s get on with the update!

Project Superman:

The final documentation for this part of my honours project will be in the form of one sheet posters giving the viewer all the key information they need. So this past week has been spent messing around with Adobe Illustrator and teaching myself the basics of it. This week has also been spent making titles and headers for the various sections the posters will cover. Here’s a few samples of them in their basic form:


It the font looks familiar, it should! I have managed to find the font, Atomic Wedgie, which bares a close resemblance to the Action Comics font used by DC Comics. The very comic that is a major influence on the design of the game!

These titles are images taken from a web based preview application for the font. So all that needs doing now is a bit of light editing and they should be ready for use on the posters! While this might not seem like a big step in most game designs, for this one it is. Mainly because it is a very visual way of showing the documentation for the game. The titles and overall presentation are all part of the final design so every element has to fit in with the style and tone of the game. 

In other Project Superman related stuff, this week also saw me looking at Factor 5’s now cancelled Superman game and giving my thoughts.

Time Travel Game:

So this past week saw me make a start on what will eventually be the prototype level for the game in UDK. You can see that by heading here. I also finally received my copy of The Time Traveler’s Pocket Guide and read though it. (The website for the book can be found by heading to timetravelbureau.com) It is a great quick and funny read that fits in with the lighthearted tone of the game perfectly. So I expect it to be featured quite a bit in the final design.

This week also saw me make a start on the documentation side of the Time Travel Game, the online Wiki. It is very bare at the moment as I get to grips with wiki editing but expect more content to appear there rapidly over the coming weeks. You can get to the Time Travel Game Wiki by heading here.

Hunters of The New Dawn:

After a successful IP Presentation (which I will upload soon) I have taken that presentation and turned it into a very rough draft of my IP Statement. I have also ordered and am now eagerly waiting for a Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition Starter Set to arrive in the post. 

There are multiple reasons for getting this starter set:

  1. After much soul searching, lack of information and Bethesda being slow, it has become to unrealistic to prototype the game in the still yet to be released Skyrim Toolset. I could use other RPG toolsets such as Neverwinter Nights and Dragon Age’s (this is still a possibility) but this is next easiest and funnest way to do it! I can quickly modify the game and it’s rules to suite my design and get people testing it ASAP. Which is essential for the timeframe I have for the project.
  2. Lots of articles I have read recently and advice given to me by both my tutor and people in the games industry is to play more games like Dungeons and Dragons. DnD is at the heart of many of today’s games and it’s stat system the basis for how many seemingly unrelated games work. The general consensus is to mess around and have fun with DnD as an easy way to bounce ideas off a small group of players quickly, with the minimum of fuss.
  3. I haven’t played DnD in years! The last time I played it was around 7-8 years ago! So a small part of me is looking forward to getting back into it after such a long time away from the game.

Also it has things like 20 sided dice and d20s are awesome!

Games I Have Been Playing:

I have returned to my Insanity Mode playthrough of Mass Effect 2 because I am determined to finish it 100% by the time Mass Effect 3 comes out in March. I have also been playing Star Wars: The Old Republic in one or two day bursts. Then to play something not made by BioWare I have been jumping in and out of the odd bit of Halo: Reach/CE:HD multiplayer. On the go this week I have mainly been playing Infinity Blade on my iPad when it decided to work (I keep getting persistent crashing).

That’s it for this week and the first of these regular updates!