Dragon Age 4 (expectations and desires)

“Ambitious”? They played it as safe as they possibly could: they stuck with the Frostbite engine long past the point they knew it wasn’t a good fit; they handed the game off to a tertiary studio with limited experience in the franchise (because all their top people were wrapped up in Anthem and other games); then they ignored that same team telling them the story was leaning too hard on old, stale, colonialist tropes. Nothing about Andromeda was a risk.

Did you actually read anything about its development? The project went off the rails from the start because they wanted to put a greater focus on exploration and tried creating a planet randomization program that would create a near infinite galaxy (they were actually surprised by No Man’s Sky announcement and how it was exploring the same thing as them). That starting decision for development is what ultimately led to every other decision because they used up too much time on an idea that was way to large in scope to implement in a narrative heavy RPG, not leaving them enough time to change course enough to salvage the project.

I normally like taking the piss with Bioware, but a lot of the venom surrounding the Andromeda discourse is just angry yelling with no context or foundation for the explanations for how the game ended up the way it did. The exact same thing happened with Mass Effect 3, a game with problems blown wildly out of proportion by an absurdly spiteful fanbase.

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This exactly. Criticism is completely fine and god knows Andromeda deserved it but the tone and amount of hate this game got even before it was officially released was absolutely ridiculous.

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The thing with this is that while I can appreciate their attempt to do things like create an infinite universe, Mass Effect is ultimately an RPG series and in reaching for the moon, it felt like they fell dramatically short in every possible way. Maybe Andromeda didn’t deserve the hate it did, but there are plenty of massive fucking holes in the writing–which they were working off of the very flawed premise of exploration for the sake of space-colonialism, an already shitty premise that people tried to warn them off of from the onset–to completely justify what the game did poorly narratively.

Unless we’re just going to pass over the character that just straight deadnames herself right to your face?

Like, if they’d focused on one singular aspect to improve, maybe they would have come out with a solid title, but the end product just had me wishing they hadn’t even bothered.

Oh don’t get me wrong, I generally agree, but when it starts going into implying Bioware doesn’t care about or actively hates their own work or their fan base, I gotta call that out as the ridiculous vile it is.

And I mean, Bioware is the sincere studio! Obsidian is the one that calls you a piece of shit!

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Oh for sure! Too bad they made the only good Fallout game :c

Eh, I wouldn’t say Obsidian’s love of calling you a piece of shit is a weakness of theirs—kinda the opposite, really. Obsidian’s willingness to actively piss off and subvert the player is a big part of why I love their games—I actually wish they’d lean into it more a decent amount of the time. (Though, equally, it can certainly be a bit much at times.)

It is definitely odd that they tend to receive almost unreserved love from their fan base for it, though, when BioWare - a studio that is about as closely tied to Obsidian, through shared history, focus and, indeed, franchises, as any studio could be - couldn’t get away with even a tenth of it without sending a significant proportion of their fanbase into a spitting rage.

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Once again I feel I have been misread lol. I like that Obsidian is critical of the player.

As for Bioware, they have one massive difference from Obsidian - EA. Those chucklefucks are the major reason why all hatred for Bioware has become an absurd shitshow, not helped by their decisions occasionally impacting Bioware games (though not nearly as often as some say). This makes Bioware’s flaws become more visible because they’re now attached to one of the most despised companies in the world, period.

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After DA:I, I’m not even sure I want another Dragon Age game, but since it’s inevitable, I just want them to bring it back to a DA:O scale. Bioware chasing the open world craze has been really detrimental to their games overall. I also want them to back off of the elven storylines because it’s just gotten really muddled and out of hand at this point.

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I know this is an old thread but Kotaku just posted this article by Jason Schreier on the development of DA4: The Past and Present of Dragon Age 4

My expectations for the game have definitely changed. I’m disappointed that they’ve moved away from their original approach. When discussing DA4 I always felt that after the large, sweeping scope and massive zones of Inquisition, a smaller game with a heavy focus on story and choice is exactly what the series needed.

Still incredibly suspicious of the games as service model but at least the game hasn’t been cancelled altogether?

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After the anthem article… I no longer have any expectations or desires for DA4.

I wish the team luck and I hope management gets its act together.

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I got to this line, in the third paragraph, and I’m not sure I can bear to keep reading.

[I]t led to today’s Dragon Age 4 , whose developers hope to carefully straddle the line between storytelling and the live service that EA has pushed so hard over the past few years.

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I’m not precisely sure what I want out of a Dragon Age 4 at this juncture. I kind of feel like BioWare has gotten all of the mileage they can out of the “talk to your party members in whatever your Normandy du jour is and then pick two and go adventure with them” formula. If there’s a way to recontextualize the character-building they do so well, I would love to see it.

As to what I expect out of Dragon Age 4: there will be a Normandy-style hub area where you can talk to your party members (and romance at least some of them), probably built on whatever the final iteration of Anthem’s hub tech is. You’ll be able to collect resources to upgrade it because BioWare has to sell you something in-game. There will probably be loot. Missions will be sort of akin to Anthem’s missions, except the game’s main story missions will have you deploy with your party members, and the strikes and raid(s) will have you matchmake and play multiplayer. I expect the strikes/raids will be where you find the dragons (and cosmetic loot - also for sale).

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I only want Tevinter if literally the entire game is kicking their asses. I already know they are terrible I don’t need to endure five hours of an introduction showing me how awful they are isn’t it awful how awful they are treating you, the main character oh here’s a sword now kick their asses.

No I just want to kick the awful mages’ asses.

Select/replace Tevinter with Qunari if you prefer.

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The only hope I have for DA4 after that article is that DA3 was already a less advanced and monetisable form of the same corporate mandate.

That game needlessly padded out its content in a manner that we’ve become pretty familiar with in the era of live services, and I still loved where that game ended up after all the DLC was finished. That being said, if DA4 turns out good, it’ll be because the development team managed to make a great game in spite of the top-down vision for the project. As I say that, it seems impossible.

That all sounds really bad and my expectations are low.

Honestly I figure why even bother with Bioware anymore. Unless a ton about the company’s inner structure changes soon, I can only see repeat performances of Andromeda and Anthem, plus a lot of destroyed lives on the way there.

EA continuing to push “”"""“live service”""""" models on genres that don’t work with that model is not helping ward away my cynicism.

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This bit of the Kotaku story is genuinely heartbreaking, particularly after reading their Anthem piece:

Perhaps the saddest thing about Dragon Age 4 ’s cancellation in 2017 for members of the Dragon Age team was that this time, they thought they were getting it right. This time, they had a set of established tools. They had a feasible scope. They had ideas that excited the whole team. And they had leaders who said they were committed to avoiding the mistakes they’d made on Dragon Age: Inquisition .

The plan for Joplin was exciting, say people who worked on it. First and foremost, they already had many tools and production pipelines in place after Inquisition , ones that they hoped to improve and continue using for this new project. They committed to prototyping ideas early and often, testing as quickly as possible rather than waiting until everything was on fire, as they had done the last time thanks to the glut of people and Frostbite’s difficulties.

Everyone in project leadership agreed that we couldn’t do that again, and worked to avoid the kind of things that had led to problems,” said one person who worked on the project, explaining that some of the big changes included: 1) laying down a clear vision as early as possible, 2) maintaining regular on-boarding documents and procedures so new team members could get up to speed fast; and 3) a decision-making mentality where “we acknowledged that making the second-best choice was far, far better than not deciding and letting ambiguity stick around while people waited for a decision.” (That person, like all of the sources for this story, spoke under condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about their experiences.)

Another former BioWare developer who worked on Joplin called it “some of the best work experiences” they’d ever had. “We were working towards something very cool, a hugely reactive game, smaller in scope than Dragon Age: Inquisition but much larger in player choice, followers, reactivity, and depth,” they said. “I’m sad that game will never get made.”

The idea that, after the hell that was the development of Inquisition, the Dragon Age team had genuinely committed to a development process that was built around avoiding ‘BioWare magic’-style last-minute crunch, and all the stress and pain that goes along with it, only to have that ripped away from them by a decision from on-high… I’m not surprised that Laidlaw left–I’m sure plenty more would’ve, if they actually had a choice.

It’s emblematic of the kinds of utterly banal evil massive corporate structures can wreak. From “‘some of the best work experiences’ they’d ever had” to, well, this:

In order to protect the identities of employees who spoke to us for the Anthem article, we weren’t able to share some of the saddest and more devastating anecdotes we heard during reporting, but they painted an ugly picture.

It’s so fucking pointlessly sad.

Finally, to allow myself to be completely selfish for a moment:

Another former BioWare developer who worked on Joplin called it “some of the best work experiences” they’d ever had. “We were working towards something very cool, a hugely reactive game, smaller in scope than Dragon Age: Inquisition but much larger in player choice, followers, reactivity, and depth,” they said. “I’m sad that game will never get made.”

You’d play as a group of spies in Tevinter Imperium, a wizard-ruled country on the north end of Dragon Age ’s main continent, Thedas. The goal was to focus as much as possible on choice and consequence, with smaller areas and fewer fetch quests than Dragon Age: Inquisition . (In other words, they wanted Joplin to be the opposite of the Hinterlands.) There was an emphasis on “repeat play,” one developer said, noting that they wanted to make areas that changed over time and missions that branched in interesting ways based on your decisions, to the point where you could even get “non-standard game overs” if you followed certain paths.

A large chunk of Joplin would center on heists. The developers talked about building systemic narrative mechanics, allowing the player to perform actions like persuading or extorting guards without the writers having to hand-craft every scene. It was all very ambitious and very early, and would have no doubt changed drastically once Joplin entered production, but members of the team say they were thrilled about the possibilities.

This honestly sounds like my Dragon Age 2-loving arse’s dream Dragon Age in a lot of ways–it specifically addresses everything I didn’t like about Inquisition, while building on some of the ideas from Dragon Age 2 that I thought really set it apart from BioWare’s other games. I’m honestly super bummed that I’ll never get to play this.

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As someone who has adored Dragon Age across its run as a series (despite its fair share of problems), all of this is very upsetting. I’ve been so looking forward to the follow up to Inquisition; it feels like that universe is primed to do some real ridiculous shit plot-wise right now. If we get Anthem but dragons (or really ANY game-as-service model, which seems exceedingly likely at this point), I will be so upset. Andromeda was definitely disappointing, too, but I don’t know if I can’t handle seeing them tank this one.

I guess the bigger thing for me is: PLEASE QUIT TRYING TO SHOEHORN MULTIPLAYER INTO EVERYTHING. I wonder how awesome KOTOR 3 would’ve been if we hadn’t gotten that MMO instead.

Dammit, Bioware. (Also, of course, dammit, EA.)

Part of me wonders what would have happened if ME2/ME3 multiplayer wasn’t so surprisingly good. Would they have gone back to a strictly single-player focus and been better off for it? Or would that lack of a revenue tail have resulted in EA killing the studio? It just feels like multi-player is an uncomfortable fit for the BioWare of today, but once they showed they could ship something that people liked in that area, the deal with the devil was signed and there was no turning back.

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Between Jason’s DA4 piece and his Anthem expose, I am seriously worried about the future of BioWare. I feel like it won’t be long until they are dissolved and just become EA Edmonton or something. Frankly, I’ve been really worried about them since the first Anthem trailer a few years ago.

DA has always been a series I’ve wanted to like, but never really got in to. The world just never clicked with me. I still like reading about it, and have always been glad it exists. It makes me really sad to read that an interesting premise is being ditched for another always-online monstrosity.