BioWare’s Greg Zeschuk has revealed that there are quite a few writers on the teams for Mass Effect and Dragon Age, and because of this, the teams are able to not only create rich lore for the games, but memorable moments as well.
Speaking with Gamasutra, Zeschuk said that there are bout “three or four writers” for each team with one lead out of the bunch spending the first year creating all the back story elements.
“[We're] a company with really prolific writers and folks that can pound it out, so there’s a lot of info,” he said. “We will figure out what we want to use, we’ll strip some of it down, put it in, say, the books in Dragon Age or whatever. What’s really amazing about those, I think for our games, it’s an essential ingredient to make it all whole together, because we’re creating not just the game but the world the game is in.
“If we’re effective in creating the world, making it believable and everything makes sense and it’s well-rounded, then we get to reuse that potentially indefinitely — forever. And I think that’s where the value comes in.
“After the trilogy of Mass, there will be other Mass stuff, but now we’ve got this fertile ground to plant it in. So, it is a huge endeavor, but it’s something that we think that if we didn’t do it, it just would not be any good”.
With creating a story also comes creating the gameplay to go along with it. Because of this, there are different areas of the game that involve immersing the player in the story, the action, and then the actual roleplaying itself.
For BioWare, there isn’t a basic formula for determining the balance for each type of action the player will be doing in its RPGs, be it combat, diplomacy, exploration, or other gameplay elements.
Instead, it’s more concerned with creating a memorable experience players can relate to and share with others.
“I don’t know if I know the right balance yet,” Zeschuk said. “We’ve explored different balances. We did an experiment years ago and it, during [the period] right after Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and I think James Ohlen, who is the creative director down in Austin, said, ‘Okay, let’s do an experiment. Everyone write down what they think the percentage of time they spend doing traveling, in your inventory, combat, and dialogue.’
“And everyone wrote down the percentage, and then we had someone play it, a bunch of us played it and time it all out, then compared it. It was totally different. You didn’t perceive that, actually, the amount of time you were fighting was way less, but that’s what stuck in your mind. Everyone kind of over-expanded the combat stuff.
“It was interesting. And we didn’t realize how much time we were spending on other things. I think it’s a reflection of memorable moments. I think that’s something where we’ve been focusing a lot of our effort, because those can happen a lot of times in the cinematics. Like the interrupts for Shepard — memorable moments that really stick with the player.
“Those are the things that they remember and emphasize as part of their experience and share with other people”.
Awakening, the latest expansion for Dragon Age: Origins, landed on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 last month.