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GB: Take us through the game's development history from the beginning, if you will. If things would have worked out better between BioWare and Interplay years ago, would you have been interested in developing a direct Baldur's Gate sequel? Or did you decide after Throne of Bhaal that you'd rather pursue your own IP, which then led to the development of Dragon Age?
Dan: For BioWare, Dragon Age: Origins represents a return to our own origins, in this case the fantasy genre which is really what put us on the map with games like Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights. We wanted to take the best elements from classic fantasy RPGs but make a dark heroic fantasy RPG that delivered a gripping story, exciting combat, and emotionally compelling moments all rolled into one spectacular next-gen experience. Dragon Age is our own IP so we have a lot of creative freedom which we're taking full advantage of you're about to see a lot of things that you won't find anywhere else.
GB: Baldur's Gate is regarded as one of the best cRPG franchises in existence. What exactly should we expect from its spiritual successor? What aspects of the game will make Baldur's Gate fans feel right at home?
Dan: Baldur's Gate was based on a very deep and engaging story with fascinating characters, so fans can expect to be thrilled by a bigger and better adventure in Dragon Age: Origins. Party-based adventuring was key in Baldur's Gate, and it's the same with Dragon Age: Origins where you'll engage in some heart-pounding tactical combat with each member of your party having unique personalities and abilities that are just fun to experiment with. What fans will see is that Dragon Age: Origins is a (coming of age) for fantasy RPGs it's a more mature and sophisticated take on classic RPGs, with very dark elements that may even shock some people.
GB: You originally announced Dragon Age in 2004 but then waited until it was only several months from release before showing it to the public. Why the four-year silence? Have any of your goals changed during that time?
Dan: This is a completely new intellectual property so we had to design an entire world and its history from the ground up, and that takes a lot of time, especially if you care as much about quality as BioWare does. We also had to spend time constructing the tools and technology needed to fully realize the scope of the game which, by the way, is enormous. One of the goals all along was to create a world within which you could base an unlimited number of stories, and Dragon Age: Origins is just the beginning. It's a huge undertaking, but that's what it takes to deliver the level of quality our fans deserve. It'll be worth the wait.
GB: Tell us more about the "Origins" aspect of Dragon Age. What sort of "individualized experiences" will players participate in at the beginning of the game and what effect will they have on the rest of the game?
Dan: The Origin Stories are one of the defining features of the game. Your choice of Origin Story not only determines how and where your adventure begins, but defines how the world sees you and how you see the world. Characters will react differently to you, depending on your choice of origin, and you may have different dialogue options, plot twists or story branches that impact how your adventure plays out. You could play the game so many different ways and get a completely unique adventure each time, and it all begins with your choice of Origin Story.
GB: How many attributes, skills, spells, and other character traits do you intend to implement into the game? How can such abilities be utilized during non-combat situations?
Dan: We're not revealing specific numbers but I can say that customization and character progression are key design pillars in all of BioWare's games. The character creation system is very robust, so you can make your character male or female, and customize their appearance in great detail. There are a wide variety of talents and spells available, and you can choose to progress those down a number of different paths and specializations. A character who has a high (Persuade) ability, for example, may get different dialogue options, which may lead to different character reactions and storyline outcomes.
GB: Are there any factions we'll be aligning with or opposing during the game? If so, are there any notable ones you can tell us more about?
Dan: You'll be recruited into the Grey Wardens who are a legendary group of warriors charged with defending Ferelden against the darkspawn. There are many different types of darkspawn, like the Hurlocks and Genlocks we've shown in our demos, but there are plenty more types of creatures that have yet to be revealed.
GB: How linear is the game? Can players break away from the game's main quest at any time to participate in side quests?
Dan: Absolutely. You could stick to the main quest, but you'd be missing out on a lot of fantastic things to see and do if you didn't explore the world. Players will have the freedom to explore the world and pursue the story in a number of different ways.
GB: We've seen the ogre from the E3 footage and, with a name like "Dragon Age", we assume the game will feature dragons. Aside from those two creatures, what other monsters might we be going up against? Are there any creatures you can tell us about that are unique to the DA universe?
Dan: You may have seen the Genlocks and Hurlocks from some of the Dragon Age videos out there. Genlocks are the shorter of the two, but they're the most numerous of the darkspawn and are notoriously difficult to kill. Hurlocks are the most common darkspawn footsoldier because of their raw physical power, and they often form the strongest part of their armies, wielding primitive swords and axes and wearing patchwork armor. Gamers should definitely check out our videos so they can see these creatures in action, but rest assured there are plenty of other deadly creatures you'll have to face in the Dragon Age world.
GB: How will inventory management be handled in the game? Will be carrying around a set number of items per character (Baldur's Gate), will all items be grid-based (Diablo), or will we be working with a totally new type of system? Is encumbrance a factor we need to worry about?
Dan: You and your party have a shared inventory based on slots, so the amount of items you can carry is based on the number of slots you have between your party. The inventory management screen uses a very fast and intuitive drag & drop system. You can also instantly switch from a primary to a secondary weapon with just one click, which is very useful for archers who want to quickly draw their sword instead.
GB: How did you arrive at the decision to make Dragon Age: Origins single player only? Is there a possibility that we might yet see some type of small-scale co-op multiplayer support like we had in Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II?
Dan: We wanted Dragon Age: Origins to immerse the player in a rich story that really made them feel that it was their own unique story, and that their decisions had a meaningful impact on how the story unfolded. We don't currently have any plans to make it co-op, but it's still a party-based game where you'll adventure with a number of interesting characters along the way. Ultimately this story is about your character and your own choices.
GB: What can we expect from the game's toolset? Will it be on the same level as the Neverwinter Nights toolset or something smaller in scale?
Dan: The Dragon Age toolset provides players with developer-grade tools. Using these tools, you can take the rich set of Dragon Age assets and locations as starting blocks and then modify them by adding new quests, characters and scripting to create your own adventures, conversations and cut-scenes. You can also fully customize combat and creature AI, allowing you to create detailed action sequences. And of course we plan to fully support the toolset and our content creators community with additional assets and features for the toolset in the future.
We appreciate your time, Dan!