Dragon Age: Origins Updated Q&A - Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, and Now

Dragon Age: Origins has a lot to live up to, considering its predecessors Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights. Executive producer Dan Tudge explains how the new game will stack up.

Dragon Age: Origins is the next role-playing game from BioWare and will tell an epic story in a dark-fantasy world. Although the studio became a premiere console-game developer with 2003's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic for the original Xbox, it really made a name for itself years earlier with the epic computer role-playing games Neverwinter Nights and the Baldur's Gate series, dating back to 1998. Yet the studio is determined to take all of the best features of its past games and make an even better, more-evolved role-playing game. Executive producer Dan Tudge explains.

GameSpot: We understand that Dragon Age: Origins is intended to be the spiritual successor to BioWare's best fantasy role-playing games, such as Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights. What was it about those games that you definitely wanted to capture in Dragon Age?

Dragon Age will attempt to offer an epic, story-driven experience that tops Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights in every way.

DT: Fans who loved the rich story, interesting characters, and tactical combat in the deep fantasy setting of Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights will love what we're doing in Dragon Age: Origins. We're capturing the same great spirit of story, exploration, tactical combat, and character progression that we delivered in those previous titles and bringing it to a dark, heroic fantasy setting. We've taken a lot of what we learned from creating Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights to make Dragon Age: Origins even better, so fans can expect a lot of what they enjoyed about those games, but with next-gen improvements.

GS: Both Neverwinter Nights and Baldur's Gate had long-running stories that spanned multiple games/expansion packs. Over the course of those stories, not only did players' characters become stronger, the characters and world around them changed: key characters died, and allies became traitors. How does the story in Dragon Age compare?

DT: BioWare has always focused on delivering deep, story-driven experiences, where your actions and choices have meaningful consequences. We're taking that even deeper with Dragon Age: Origins by introducing a new feature called "origin stories." You start the game by choosing and then playing through the origin story of your choice. You start off in a unique place in the gameworld, which sets up the way you become a Grey Warden and flavors the rest of the game in terms of your motivations, how you perceive the world, and how the world perceives you. Your choices will open up different story branches, dialogue options, affect how other characters treat you, and change the state of the Dragon Age world by the end of the game. Compared to our previous titles, the story and scope of Dragon Age: Origins is the most ambitious of any BioWare game yet.

GS: While most RPG fans enjoyed the Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights games, some hardcore players complained that the ethical alignment system wasn't completely balanced--for instance, some characters didn't truly play to their alignments, and also that playing an evil character wasn't nearly as fleshed-out an experience as playing a good character. How will these issues be addressed in Dragon Age?

DT: You can choose which type of hero or antihero you want to be, meaning that it won't always be clear which decisions are "good" and which are "evil." You'll face a lot of tough moral decisions along the way, and sometimes you may have to make seemingly evil decisions for the greater good. The choices in Dragon Age: Origins are not always black and white, but rather, shades of gray. The important thing to remember is that every choice you make will have a consequence. For example, there is a "party approval" system where members of your party may disagree with certain choices you make. If you keep making decisions that they don't like, they may get angry with you, or even leave your party.

GS: Those previous fantasy games were also known for having addictive, hack-and-slash gameplay with plenty of engaging tactical combat. What lessons have you learned from those previous games' battles, and how will they be applied to Dragon Age?

Heh! Time for a bit o' the rough-and-tumble! Dragon Age will feature tactical combat with pausing.

DT: Dragon Age: Origins uses a party-based tactical combat system that is really a next-gen evolution of "pause and play." The action is fast and happens in real time, so if you like to just get in there and hack-and-slash your way through your enemies, you can do that, but you will quickly learn that you will need to think much more tactically if you want to survive. With the pause-and-play system, you can pause the action, issue a string of robust commands to your party members, and then jump right back into the action. You'll have full control of each party member, so you'll have a lot of different abilities and attacks at your disposal, including magic and spell combos. You have a lot of control over the camera, too. You can zoom out to a tactical view so you can see all your enemies and direct your party, and you can zoom in so you're right in the thick of the action. That's where you'll want to be when you land a punishing death blow!

GS: Another highly addictive aspect of games like Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights was their character-advancement systems, which, for veteran players, led to a sort of advancement metagame. Not only did players enjoy playing and advancing their characters, they'd also compare, plan, and strategize about exactly how they'd develop their characters--which items they'd eventually use, whether they'd change classes using the Dungeons & Dragons dual-classing system, and so on. How will character development in Dragon Age compare? Will there be any analogs to dual-classing, for instance?

Swords, not words! You'll determine your party's personal and professional development over the course of the game.

DT: Character progression has always been a core pillar of every BioWare game. In Dragon Age: Origins you will choose your player's race, gender, class, customized appearance, special abilities, and of course your origin. Players will develop their skills, talents, and spells to support their style of play. Do you want to create a healing mage, a dual-weapon-wielding rogue, or a sword-and-shield tank? As their characters advance, players can also choose a class specialization that will unlock advanced talents and spells.

GS: The Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights series also had memorable companion characters that joined you on your quest, and opened up opportunities not only for backup in battle, but also side quests and even romances. How will party relations be expanded in Dragon Age?

DT: The party-approval system plays a big role in the dynamic between you and your party members. Make decisions they agree with, and they'll follow and support you. Make decisions they despise, they may turn on you. Each character has a very unique personality making them enjoyable to interact with. However, it is their interaction with each other that I find most entertaining. There are romances you can choose to pursue or not, and you can also forge strong alliances, friendships, or even betray those around you, with different consequences for your actions. Don't forget that your choice of origin story also heavily influences the relationships you'll have throughout the game.

GS: And again, one of the most addictive qualities of those games for advanced players was taking that top-down look at the games and their characters and planning out party composition and party side quests in advance. How much of that element will we see in Dragon Age? How will the pool of joinable characters be expanded to accommodate a wide variety of play styles, such as the players who want to play a party with nothing but evil characters, or the players who want to play through the game with only two characters in the party, and so on?

DT: You can have up to four members in your active party (including yourself), but you'll be able to swap out members of your party for others throughout the game. Each character not only has their own unique set of skills and abilities, but they also have their own unique personalities and behaviors, which may or may not complement your style of play. You'll meet a lot of different characters along the way, so there will be plenty of opportunities to try out different compositions of party members, each with their own unique advantages or disadvantages. It makes for a lot of great replayability, too. And for those who want, you can play the entire game in tactical view just like Baldur's Gate.

GS: And those games ended up living long, productive lives past their shelf date thanks to toolsets and modifications. How malleable will Dragon Age be at launch with regard to users modifying and creating their own content? What specific plans do you have postlaunch to further extend the game's life with expanded toolsets or other community-focused content-creation tools?

DT: We'll be announcing more details of the Dragon Age Toolset very soon, but for now I'll tell you that we can't wait for the community to get their hands on the new toolset. We really wanted to empower our fans with the ability to create their own next-gen adventures within the Dragon Age universe, so they can expect a lot of great things they can do with scripting, cinematics, objects, and so on. And of course, we at BioWare will provide lots of support on our community site. We do have some very cool plans for downloadable content, but we'll be talking more about that later.

You must gather your party before venturing forth, and you must also wait until 2009 for Dragon Age: Origins.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about the way you hope Dragon Age will stack up against the Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights games?

DT: A big difference between Dragon Age: Origins and our previous fantasy games is that Dragon Age is our own original dark-fantasy universe. It's a completely new world that BioWare designed from the ground up, with its own deep history and lore, so fans will see things that they haven't seen before in other fantasy games. It's also the darkest and grittiest game we've ever made. It's intended for a mature audience, so if you're looking for a fun, sophisticated game with a page-turning story set in a huge dark-fantasy universe, this is the one for you. It's BioWare fantasy role-playing at its finest, and you may even be shocked by some of the things you'll see...!

GS: We can't wait...! Thanks, Dan.

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137 comments
detege
detege

Damn it's overhyped alright, and I can't wait to buy the game, release it already!

Merlanni
Merlanni

Overhyped and postphoned to release it at the same time as the console version. Can you believe it postphoned to release it at the same time as consoles? The community was dumbstruck, flabergasted. And now they release it when all the competition is releasing also.

haegint
haegint

Sounds good, I definitely have it on my radar for 2009. However, all the features do not sound much different than what I have already in Neverwinter Nights 2. So I expect a NWN2 with different/newer graphics, different game world, story, weapons, etc but not really all THAT different. Which would not be a bad thing.

lambizkit
lambizkit

Bennae66... I wouldn't say that it's 'the power', as you put it, of the XBOX 360 that simplifies the game but the makeup of the controller system. You can't deny that Oblivion was made for the XBOX 360 first and then ported over to the PC. Everything from the inventory layout and the map to the combat system screams console system unlike it's great predecessor Morrowind. In fact console systems are just now catching up to the depth of RPGs that the PC has enjoyed for so many years. Apart from that Dragon Age is looking and sounding better all the time. I have no doubts that Bioware will release yet again another classic RPG.

mankeyador
mankeyador

I just wish it had your own character talking like in mass effect. Considering it's the same company made both games. Bioware is a large company now, but I wish they wouldn't spread their resources making 3 AAA games (mass effect 2, The Old republic, and dragon age). I think they should just focus on one or two major projects.

TehUndeadHorror
TehUndeadHorror

Is it just me or do all their games seem a bit too alike? No offence I think they're brilliant but I've just noticed most their games don't really offer anything revolutionary save for the story of course. I just really do hope this isn't just an updated Neverwinter Nights with flashy graphics and epileptic spells. :P

Taskmaster
Taskmaster

Hey bennae66, most new TVs (which your 50" sounds like) have a computer option for DVI. I know my 61" DLP does although the kids hog to so I have to stick with my widescreen monitor.

bennae66
bennae66

bioware and bethesda get my vote regardless of platform, almost every time

bennae66
bennae66

wow everyones really phobic of 'xbox syndrome' in here. do you people really think the 'power of the xbox' simplifies the game, or the programmers make a different type of game? i will let you in on a secret: the programmers make the games! (gasp!) i know its hard to believe but its true. mass effect was one of the greatest games i ever played. so was oblivion, so was fallout. neverwinter 2 was good, but i need something 'less dumbed down' than 'point and click' thankyou. (before im labelled an xbox lover; you shou;ld know i own a top end laptop, ps3, wii and 360 so this is not stemmed from bias) i thought spore was a little basic. i cant get that game on a console, and i dont reallyu care. i hope dragon age is a 'meaty' game, and if it is, and it launches on multiple platforms, i will be reclining on my couch, admiring my 50" screen as opposed to a monitor at a desk. if it only comes out for pc, then i will have to put up with a 'dumbed down' sized screen and a sore back. now that i have upset many people no doubt, let the hatemail begin!

fluffebunnie
fluffebunnie

Thank god for this game. There is a serious drought in good RPGs lately. Tactical combat with pausing is a gem in todays FPSRPG world.

fightingfish18
fightingfish18

maybe after this, we could get a pc dnd game based on 4.0 rules. preferably not in a forgotten realms setting though cause the spellplauge ruined everything :( stupid warforged...

world69star69
world69star69

Nice!!! I can't wait for this game!!! Finally Bioware getting back to it's roots. Let's hope this game isn't dumbed down for the xbox crowd, as this was originally a pc only game, I hope they make it for pc first and port it to the consoles later like the witcher did. Doing that means the pc game gets to use the pc to its full advantage and complexity. We don't need another dues ex 2 on our hands!(my example of a good series getting dumbed down for xbox!) If the game is good I will be picking this up for both pc and ps3!

ldonyo
ldonyo

As long as there is a pause option for combat, I'll be all over this title. 30+ years of turn-based gaming is hard to overcome. ;-)

bishopphoto
bishopphoto

@ madabada I have Fallout 3 in the Mail today. I hope I can enjoy it as much as you did. @ everyone else, BioWare is solid, this game will definitely be at least a 7.5/8 ranking here on Gamespot.

madabada
madabada

@humorguy I'm not sure if you played fallout 3 then, because i was able to clock about 70 hours into one of the DEEPEST games i've played since NW or BG, but to each their own....i guess.

bodeen80
bodeen80

I'm very excited about this game. BG2 is one of my favorite games of all time. My only real concern is the graphics. The last two NWN releases have been very poor visually. Hopefully they take some lessons from Blizzard and give us great design with little system requirements....oh yeah it'd be nice to swim and jump as well.

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

Why no games like this in Sci-Fi, Drama, Thriller, Japanese Fantasy, etc. As soon as Bioware move way from AD&D type fantasy they go more action-adventure. You couldn't call Mass Effect or Jade Empire deep RPG's like BG or DA, so please, more genres in deep RPG's. Even Fallout 3 only got halfway there.

xsa
xsa

@billg4 You're quite wrong there, the emphasis on evil characters are clearly stated as you basically can't play an evil character in baldurs gate 1 & 2, there are no evil choices for completing quests in the same sense there are good/neutral ways, which do bother people like me who tend to play through games more then once, wanting to explore more options in the gameworld. Also, since BioWare games have pretty much never been about "saving the world" but rather uncovering the truth about some grand scheme that can be twisted with words into seeming good aswell as bad, all the more reason a character of any alignment should be able to effectively progress, but differently, through the gameworld following the alignment he follows, sure there are some occassions when you can be both, but the reputation system effectively killed any sort of viability to be excessively evil in the way it was implemented.

scruffer66
scruffer66

if EA put a limit on how many times u can install it im not buying it. and ill firebomb their HQ

advancedcustom
advancedcustom

And in the witcher was the really big disappointment absence of autoloot. Hope they make it here.

advancedcustom
advancedcustom

The gameplay looks really cool. The only thing that troubles me is that both screenshots and videos show us a noticable low quality textures and graphics. Hope that production release will be graphically cute - not like NWN2 crap that I was tried to start playing several times but it was such a disappointment so I trown it to trashbin. The only game with really cool graphics since than was Titan Quest, IMHO. Witcher was better than NWN2 but also not that good as Titan Quest howevet it turned me back to BioWare engines. Even recently released Sacred2 isn't that good as TQ was.

billg4
billg4

What's with the emphasis on evil characters in this preview? How dumb is that? That's about the least important feature that could possibly be considered. Honestly, how many players will really care about something like that (except apparently for the GS reviewer)? Hey, as far as I'm concerned, if they don't change anything from Baldur's Gate I & II, I'm in.

Hothor
Hothor

"GS: And those games ended up living long, productive lives past their shelf date thanks to toolsets and modifications. " We'll see. If EA continues with their 3 install + no revoke policy, this will have a very short lifetime. It will be zero for me, since I will not support this drastic a level of BS DRM.

FistandantilusX
FistandantilusX

"Bioware are overrated, it'll be the same linear design that they always have in their games, the world will be just gfx and not interactive (like in TES series etc), bet you can't swim, dive or even climb/jump." Bah, I'll take depth over breadth any day. and BioWare's games are not like Bethesda's games either; BioWare makes great, deep games that tell stories to the player, and they can merely influence the story and enjoy the ride. Bethesda creates a much shallower world and lets you make your own story (the exception to this is Fallout 3, but it is still not BioWare quality depth)

dussan2
dussan2

chrisballer: "Looks good, I wish it was based in the Forgotten Realms though. I know it might not be a big deal to a great deal of gamers, But it might be enough for me not to pick it up." The Forgotten Realms and Dungeon and Dragons as a whole is virtually unrecognizable today when compared to the days of Baldur's Gate. The changes that have occured are HUGE. So huge, Bioware's decision to create their own world makes much more sense then contiuing to expand on DnD.

TehEliteElite
TehEliteElite

bemushroomed: "Bioware are overrated, it'll be the same linear design that they always have in their games, the world will be just gfx and not interactive (like in TES series etc), bet you can't swim, dive or even climb/jump." I suppose compared to TES, Bioware games COULD be considered linear. But then again, that's a pretty small price to pay for actually having a PLOT (damn good ones, too).

chrisballer
chrisballer

Looks good, I wish it was based in the Forgotten Realms though. I know it might not be a big deal to a great deal of gamers, But it might be enough for me not to pick it up.

Elchaseo
Elchaseo

looks promising...bioware has made some great games, anyone who has played baldurs gate knows, but in recent years they haven't been able to develop. It is difficult to put table top gameplay elements directly into a game and not limit things, but i hope for the best with this title it looks like it could be really good

Vrygar777
Vrygar777

So long as it has a good battle system, i'd say your right bemushroomed

bemushroomed
bemushroomed

WoW fanboy, uh no? I like what Bioware is doing with dialogue, characters and graphics, i'll give them that. But when it comes to exploring, interactivity, immersiveness and level design they're kind of weak. Maybe they've learned to catch up with the times, but i seriously doubt it, i'd be VERY surprised it they had included for example, NPC schedules in this game. They'll get away with "Baldur's Gate in 3D graphics" so easy that they don't really need to care.

biggest_loser
biggest_loser

Excuse me, Mr. uhh "Hazzerz" is it? Yes ahem. I spent many sleepless hours of the night trying to come up with that title. I hope you learn to appreciate and understand its complexities more as you move through the world of Dragon Age. Thank me later my friend!!

zomglolcats
zomglolcats

Game looks awesome. Unfortunately, being published by EA means the PC version will definitely have SecuROM. *sigh* Although, if there was a game to make me just say "screw it" and get it regardless of SecuROM, this would be it, assuming it lives up to its potential.

zomglolcats
zomglolcats

"But come dude....WoW fanboy much?" What? Unless I missed something, he never once mentioned WoW... even checked his pofile, nothing about WoW there either.

hellside
hellside

looks promising, I will track this one

Cloud_Reaper
Cloud_Reaper

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Cloud_Reaper
Cloud_Reaper

"Bioware are overrated, it'll be the same linear design that they always have in their games, the world will be just gfx and not interactive (like in TES series etc), bet you can't swim, dive or even climb/jump." I am not particularly excited about this game that much. The pause and play is just not my style. But come dude....WoW fanboy much?

calanorn
calanorn

marder-I The main story will be the same on consoles as on the PC but without the player made mods which for me are one of the key selling points of bioware games. nwn etc lasted a few days before i finished them. The mods increase the life of rpgs hugely and bioware products are allways extremly moddable

LysanderNaFaile
LysanderNaFaile

Everything about this looks promising, apart from the EA part.

SpikeOmegaTerra
SpikeOmegaTerra

Dragon Age has got my hopes up for my PC, hopefully my PC will be able to run it well.

Emilyek_1
Emilyek_1

Yes, InsipidMonkey, there is a toolset, but you won't actually be able to create any new areas in it because EA wants to sell lots of episodic DLC. DA is probably going to be the best PC Fantasy RPG that we'll see for a long time (and maybe even the last ever designed by a major company on and for the PC). The DLC crap EA might subject us to could be very ugly indeed, though. But these new screens look totally hot, and the game can't hit shelves fast enough, as far as I'm concerned.

Adam_the_Nerd
Adam_the_Nerd

Sounds like the fantasy Mass Effect. I'm pumped!

bemushroomed
bemushroomed

Bioware are overrated, it'll be the same linear design that they always have in their games, the world will be just gfx and not interactive (like in TES series etc), bet you can't swim, dive or even climb/jump.

Marder-I
Marder-I

Looking foward to this as well, and I hope the console versoins are just as good and "in depth" as the PC one!!! Cheers Tom

WiiNut6493
WiiNut6493

will pre order when or when not they announce a CE edition.

dun
dun

aaa!!! cant wait for this game!! its been awhile since a BG2 style game came out... i think im gonna freeze myself just like cartman and unfreeze in 2009 lol :D

johnnyan
johnnyan

@ Lucidmike78 You have some problems with your computer, the only part of the website that could use some resources is the flash animation from the menu, it shouldnt create problems tough. @ Planeforger I too consider Neverwinter Nights a weak game(the first one at least) and i really hope Dragon Age will be more like the Baldurs Gate or Icewind Dale series, but to be honest i really doubt that this is possible, just thinking this will come on consoles too makes me sad...