Gaider: 'Degrees Of Consequence' Key For Dragon Age Storytelling

In a new Gamasutra feature, BioWare's David Gaider tells Gamasutra about the process of writing the RPG sequel, saying that "The guiding principle is [creating]
In a new feature interview, BioWare's David Gaider tells Gamasutra about the process of writing the RPG sequel, saying that "The guiding principle is [creating] degrees of consequence" for in-game choices. Dragon Age II, like its predecessor, is played on two levels. On the one hand, it's a party-based dungeon-crawler, full of stats and levels and weapons and upgrades and so forth. However, the more unique and compelling aspect of the game is its decision-making component: every interaction involves complex dialogue choices that let the player affect how plots evolve down the road. There are hundreds of such interactions across the game, which means players end up making hundreds of choices. "The guiding principle," says Gaider about how all these choices are handled, "is degrees of consequence. You can actually split choices up into several categories. Many are going to be flavor. You're asking the player to make a choice, but either there is no 'real' effect, or it's immediate. The player doesn't necessarily know that, however, and for them the fact they're being asked to decide something gives it weight. "Other choices are going to be local in their effect; you see a repercussion after the choice is made, but it's confined to the plot or the region the choice occurs in. Then a smaller number of choices are global; they have effects down the line, affecting the critical path in small and large ways." "What's important is that there's a balance," he continues. "Not necessarily balance in the number of choices, but more that you have a spread among the types of choices. Too many flavor, or local, choices, and the player begins to lose a feeling of agency." The sum total is this: in the Dragon Age games, decisions matter. The player knows that not every choice will have a lasting impact, but any choice could have one. Combine this with a deep back story, a gritty world of thorny conflicts, and a cast of nuanced characters, and you get a game that, for better or for worse, develops different for each player, delivering a highly individualized gameplay experience. The full feature interview contains more insights by Gaider into the writing of Dragon Age II, and is live now on Gamasutra.

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