The wait is finally over for Dragon Age: Inquisition fans in North America, and in just a few short days the game will be available all around the world.
Bioware’s epic RPG features a vast, open world full of dynamic choices you can make alongside unique characters. Customize your Inquisitor and explore all the different regions of Thedas.
We sat down with David Gaider, lead writer on Dragon Age: Inquisition, to learn how the team at BioWare crafted the epic story behind the game.
What were the earliest inspirations for the story in Dragon Age: Inquisition?
Parts of it existed as far back as Dragon Age: Origins. When we made the first game, we had a long-term plan for where we wanted the story of Thedas to go, and what would need to happen in order to get us there. There was also an expansion initially planned for Dragon Age 2 called “Exalted March”, and while the expansion got cancelled there were elements of it that we wanted to keep. So what we ended up with, as we prepared to make Dragon Age: Inquisition, was a blend of those initial ideas with the story of the expansion—something that grew naturally out of the conflict set up in Dragon Age 2, but which also pushed forward that overall narrative. It was definitely an interesting place to begin our planning.
How did the DAI story evolve over time?
Well, the first thing we had to contend with is that we had too much planned. This isn’t uncommon when it comes to narrative design—but in this case we had two games worth of plots that we either wanted to resolve or somehow bring to fruition, in addition to adding new things. By the time we had finished drawing up our original plans, we realized that we’d need to decide which elements were more important for us to focus on, and then deliver those in as impactful a manner as possible.
We also had to contend with the introduction of the exploration mechanic as present in Inquisition. We wanted the game to have a BioWare-style story like the fans would expect, and yet to also have open world questing that integrated seamlessly with that. It was a tall order, and not something with which we’d really contended before. It meant a lot of iteration not only in the story we were presenting, but HOW we were presenting it.
You can make your Inquisitor any race or gender. How important are choices like that to BioWare?
BioWare’s roots are in Dungeons & Dragons, which is an RPG where you can make your character any race or gender you like—so I think that’s the default from which we always start. It just makes sense, and is a way for a player to personalize their experience right off the bat, as opposed to being handed a character to play.
How has player feedback helped shape the story of Dragon Age: Inquisition?
We always listen to player feedback, whether it be on our personal forums or elsewhere, both negative and positive. It’s not prescriptive in the sense that we’re making a laundry list of every individual persons beefs and ensuring we tackle those—we can’t possibly do that, as our players cover an incredibly diverse group of interests—but we do want to hear what people enjoyed and didn’t enjoy, and that’s definitely going to sit with us as we start planning the next iteration of our game. Certainly it was there as we planned Inquisition—we heard loud and clear what people wanted following Dragon Age 2, or what they missed from Dragon Age: Origins, and while ultimately we have to do what we personally feel works best, these are the people for whom we made this game. That’s always going to be present in our minds.
What would surprise fans about the scope of the Dragon Age: Inquisition story?
The sheer amount of exploration, really. Considering that exploration and side quests have been pretty limited in the past, even in a game that was as big as Dragon Age: Origins, someone could be forgiven for being skeptical at descriptions of how much exploration we have in Inquisition…or at believing that we couldn’t present it as a quality experience next to the “main story”. That is, however, what we’ve tried to do, to use it to help impart a real sense of building their own Inquisition from the ground up.
Across entertainment – including movies, TV shows, other games, etc – did anything stand out in terms of inspiring the story arc of Dragon Age: Inquisition?
It’s difficult when you discuss inspiration, as some people take it to mean “we looked at that and tried to copy it”. Inspiration comes in many forms, and usually it simply amounts to an element of something that you really liked and which influenced you. I suspect Skyrim would be an obvious choice, when it came to our incorporation of exploration elements. Game of Thrones would be another one, particularly with regards to its focus on character and politics as a part of its fantasy world, as opposed to solely focusing on the fantastical. That’s what we’ve always tried to do with Dragon Age, as well.
How long is the actual script for Dragon Age Inquisition – pages or word count?
If you’re talking about the amount of spoken dialogue, I think it’s in the ballpark of 500,000 words (or about ten novels long). If we include the amount of text written in the codex entries (where we impart of lot of the lore) or the operations (missions you engage in at the war table), then the number gets much, much higher.
All RPG’s have interesting supporting characters – do you have a favorite in Dragon Age: Inquisition?
Sera, probably. She’s an elven archer character written by Lukas Kristjanson, and is so impish and likeable and so unlike anything he or we’ve tried before. I’m really keen on her.
How do you keep a story arc consistent throughout such a gigantic, immersive world?
Practice. Mistakes. Iteration.