The adaptable duo of BioWare and Dark Horse

Comic-Con 2011: Video game studio and noted comic book publisher discuss their "perfect handshake" for Mass Effect and Star Wars: The Old Republic comics.

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Who was there: Dark Horse public relations representative Jeremy Atkins, BioWare comics editor Dave Marshall, Knights of the Old Republic comic author John Jackson Miller, Mass Effect franchise writer Mac Walter, The Old Republic senior writer Alexander Freed, and Dragon Age producer Mark Darrah.

One of the writers for the upcoming Old Republic comic book, Alexander Freed.

What they talked about: Mass Effect and Dragon Age studio BioWare was on hand today alongside big-time comic book publisher Dark Horse to talk about the duo's partnership and what it means.

Dark Horse got right to business, confirming to the audience that Mass Effect: Invasion, the latest series comic book, is due out on October 19. According to the publisher, the book's narrative will tie directly in to the fiction of the upcoming Mass Effect 3, which is due out on March 6, 2012.

More specifically, the panel dove into the narrative of Invasion, saying it will follow Aria and relate how her home planet of Omega is important not only story-wise, but also strategically in the bigger picture. Invasion takes place between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, leading directly up to the events of the upcoming video game.

The panel also talked about the upcoming Old Republic comic series, Lost Suns. This story follows two previously released Old Republic comic books--Threat of Peace and Blood of the Empire--which were both prequels. It was created and written by Dark Horse with the help of the game's development team at BioWare's shop in Austin, Texas.

According to Freeman, Lost Suns' narrative is the first to take place during the events of The Old Republic, BioWare's upcoming massively multiplayer online role-playing game. The fiction follows a spy for the Republic, who is the son of a Jedi grandmaster but is not a Jedi himself. The character gets keyed on to an "enormous" secret and teams with a "senile" Jedi to learn more.

The conversation then switched to the relationship that BioWare and Dark Horse have forged, and the implications for both parties.

Mass Effect video game story writer Mac Walter said, "We aren't going to tell [Dark Horse] how to write their comics." He further expanded on the subject, saying that the relationship between the two is based on trust and is very hands-off.

While the partnership was described by panelists as autonomous, Walter said there is definitely collaboration between the pair. He called their relationship a "perfect handshake of two different areas of expertise."

Dark Horse and BioWare, a "perfect handshake."

In the question-and-answer session, a fan queried Dark Horse about the difference between working on the Star Wars franchise and working on BioWare properties like Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Dark Horse editor Dave Marshall admitted that there are definitely more levels of oversight working on the Star Wars series but that he feels this is not a problem but actually a strong point.

"We're very used to working with the oversight. It means we make better comics," Marshall said. He elaborated, saying that the important part of working with Lucasfilm is channeling into a direct conduit with writers, producers, and directors.

Freed said the partnership between the two has helped connect the video game world with the comic book contingency. He said licensed comic books stem back to the beginning of the medium, but video game comics have existed only since the 1980s.

In the beginning, Freed said comics didn't interlink with the original property, noting that they were "the equivalent to a T-shirt."

According to Freed, Dark Horse was a player in the first movement toward integrating these worlds across different media types. Free said, "What happens in these comic books counts. It's a fun working progress to do both at once and to know both things actually matter."

Freed also explained how the development thought process changes from video games to comics, calling the difference "tremendous." Freed admitted that the "fundamentals are the same," but that's largely the only similarity.

Freed said that there is a "player-first mentality in games" and that "comics can set up characters and do what they're naturally inclined to do."

Quotes: "Mass Effect is our new Star Wars."--Dark Horse's Marshall, on BioWare's space role-playing game franchise.

"We don't talk about Shepard with pronouns."--John Jackson Miller, on the Mass Effect comic books honoring the decision to keep the captain gender neutral.

"Whenever you stray away from the strengths of the medium, you need to know what you're doing."--Alexander Freed, on extending too far from either comics or video games.

"My head explodes just thinking about it."--Mac Walters, on the possibility of open-ended comic books on an iPad.

Takeaway: Dark Horse and BioWare have developed a working relationship built on trusting each other to do what's right for the needs of both.

Discussion

29 comments
TheWarscent
TheWarscent

lol. i wrote scent instead of scene.--smack--

TheWarscent
TheWarscent

@ShadowofSonic When i saw the arrest scent for the first time i felt sick to my stomach and wanted to leave the theater,but sat and watched the rest like a lil @$#%. George needed a top level SW fan to follow him around and smack him in the head with a stick when he came up with a stupid idea.

revanknight
revanknight

On the whole Star Wars discussion, I just want to say that even though the prequels had conspicuous flaws, the setting had a lot of potential that could be (and eventually was) further explored in the expanded universe. That said, the only one of the prequel films that came close to capturing the quality of the original films would be Revenge of the Sith. Sure it had some dumb moments, but the others had plenty too! (Ewoks defeating the empire and Boba's ridiculous demise to name a few) Over all, I enjoyed all the movies for what they were, and didn't really look for reasons to complain while watching.

June-GS
June-GS

@ShadowofSonic: Well, there ya go.

ShadowofSonic
ShadowofSonic

@June-GS It was ok for the first 4 or 5 episodes,but I lost interest.FAST.

June-GS
June-GS

@ShadowofSonic: Yeah, I hear ya. What you're tryin' to say--which is what I'm explicitly saying now--is that taken as a whole, they're still okay. Which is why--despite the flaws--I never said I hated the three prequels. I guess the more accurate word would be "disappointed." Speaking of disappointments, I know I already ribbed the animated series earlier, but seriously, what were they thinking? It's the first Star Wars series in ANY Star Wars media that I literally stopped supporting halfway! Simply because I couldn't take it any more. For someone who makes it a point not to quit on anythin' until the very end (e.g. Lost), trust me, that's sayin' a lot! LOL

ShadowofSonic
ShadowofSonic

@June-GS @Snaptrap I do agree that the latest three had some WTF moments but still. I disliked how the third movie (Return of the Jedi) It felt like you were re-watching parts of the first movie (4) with yet another DeathStar.

June-GS
June-GS

@Snaptrap: I totally agree. Thank you for being a fair fan like me. This is comin' from someone who'd read practically EVERY novel and comic book about the battle-hardened veteran Jedi Masters--including Windu--who attempted the apprehension of Sidious. Knowing what I know about these characters--including Palpatine and Anakin themselves, the way the "arrest team" died was simply ludicrous. Not dissimilar to you @Snaptrap, whenever I see or watch that scene, I still cringe and quietly utter a "WTF". This is not a beat-down on Lucas, I love the man and always will. But after this and watchin' that interview where he mentioned how PROUD he was of one of his last masterpieces before he retires, that is, the newest animated series... sigh.

Snaptrap
Snaptrap

@ShadowofSonic Because too many of the segments were unrealistically created to convenience the story. For example Sidious killing 3 Jedi in a matter of seconds. Every time I watch that scene I think to myself how they ever made master. Agen Kolar was struck down with his back turned to Sidious. Last I remembered you're suppose to be facing your attacker. Then Saesee Tiin was just standing there like he was posing for Jedi Monthly magazine. Also if the Jedi were so concerned about Anakin don't you think they would be watching him more carefully instead of allowing him to do whatever. I can name dozens of inconsistencies within new trilogy. I'm not saying the original is not without it's own but with Lucas directing, they definitely did not reach the potential that Kershner set with Empire Strikes Back. You'd have to be an nonobjective fan not to see how poorly scripted the latest films are.

ShadowofSonic
ShadowofSonic

I disliked The Star Wars Holiday Special and Jar Jar Binks as well. What was wrong with the newer three? They tied the story together quite well.

Snaptrap
Snaptrap

@ShadowofSonic Yeah if you like The Star Wars Holiday Special and Jar Jar Binks. Worst pieces of science fiction history.

Snaptrap
Snaptrap

@ShadowofSonic That was true with the original trilogy.

Coolyfett
Coolyfett

Looks like a very interesting game that is coming.

ShadowofSonic
ShadowofSonic

@Snaptrap I mean the quaitity of the movies.

Snaptrap
Snaptrap

@ShadowofSonic Everything eventually gets tired, and then it gets rebooted with added nudity. Star Wars: Revenge of the Nerds.

Hatemachine25
Hatemachine25

@ioannisdenton, as I didn't particularly enjoy the first iteration of the series I HAVE in fact discarded all concern or care for it and any of it's needless spinoffs or cliched gimmicks. Just stating an opinion likely to be as flawed as yours is in mine own eyes, and when a single episode of star trek the next generation has more redeeming qualities, better dialouge, acting, and plot devices than a 10+ hour game designed by people renowned for great story telling, I by my standards would call that Mediocre. Didn't mean to offend anyone's sensibilities or prod anyone of their insecurities in their choice of games, just stating my amazement that a product I find lacking in every conceivable aspect is receiving treatment and indoctrination into a medium I find particularly enjoyable.

Phaselinear
Phaselinear

Dark Horse is a Goerge Harrison (Think Beetles) original from years gone by.....

N0tYrBeezin
N0tYrBeezin

EA bought Bioware and DA2's quality went down hill soon after. But isn't that what EA did in the last twenty years?

nteger
nteger

I enjoyed the mass effect comics. They fill in some of the questions that most people ask when they aren't answered in the games.

TimeFrame
TimeFrame

The Mass Effect games is imo some of the best zhizwitz the game industry managed to come up with in a long time. :)

ioannisdenton
ioannisdenton

@Hatemachine25. No mass effect games ARE nOT mediocre , if you do not like it do not play it, Dragoan age 2 is mediocre i bought and i wish i could delete my trophies. it is that bad.

Hatemachine25
Hatemachine25

Mass effect comics!? was this really needed? was ANYONE clamoring for this?, the games are mediocre at BEST and it's supposed to entertain for HOURS, comics are little bundles of fun wrapped in a velour of awesome with sprinkles of complex interactions. IE Preacher, V for Vendetta, JTHM, and the immortal and loveable Squee. One man's opinion though.

prismtech
prismtech

i do not usually read comics but i think i will try getting into it by reading mass effect

zoktor0
zoktor0

I enjoyed Redemption and Evolution, they give some insight of what some characters were doing before Mass Effect 2.

dkdk999
dkdk999

I hear the mass effect comics suck but I think I'll pick some up anyway. Anyone like them ?