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Page 2 of 3GB: I also remember reading at one point that the approval rating even affects your followers' performance in battle. So if you're a good-natured character taking the righteous path in the world, that makes certain followers in your party more powerful in combat... but what about the more nefarious you are? Are there characters that respond to that?
Mike: Morrigan's general opinion is that every mage in the tower should be put to the stake. That's not the nice guy route, but it's what she thinks should happen.
GB: So if that's the route you take - if you just cut them down, that will improve your standing with her, and, ultimately, her combat performance?
Mike: That's right. Now how is everyone else going to feel about that, including the circle mage, who could join you? Not so good.
Yeah, there are definitely conflicts in terms of morality and goals between the party members, and they make it pretty clear. And there are times when, you know, they're like, "What the hell are you doing?" They actually just stop you in the middle of a big decision. And you can try to talk them down, but often, you just watch your approval dip by 20 points. And you're like, "Oh, God. Okay. They didn't like that."
GB: Speaking of which - have you announced the total number of followers in the game?
Mike: No. Not the total. Because there are some surprises in there.
GB: So that's something that you're just going to leave for people to find out for themselves?
Mike: For a little bit, yeah.
There are some surprises. And honestly, the neat part is that there are followers you could miss, depending on your actions. Followers you could eliminate before they even join your party. Generally, you can tell, but you know, if you want to do that, then go for it.
GB: So between all of these followers, do they provide every spectrum of what your party might need, regardless of which origin story and class you took for your protagonist?
Mike: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes. You are never going to be left with a, (Oh, God, I have nothing but mages. I have no one who can take any hits.) No. You're never going to end up in that situation.
And the best part is, once you get them, you can build them however you like, so you know, maybe they'll join at level 6, and you've got 14 or 15 levels to customize them from there on out. So you say, (I get what your thing is for your type of magic, but you're also going to start healing now.) Sure. You know, you're not going to be locked into it. They're not going to level up on their own unless you want them to.
GB: I only ask because in the Neverwinter Nights 2 adventure pack Mysteries of Westgate, there is no mage you can recruit into
Mike: Oh, dear.
You are missing a significant chunk of the D&D ruleset then.
GB: Alright, moving on... Dragon Age has a massive history behind it, a history that you've put years of work into. How do you keep track of it all, and make sure that none of the designers or other team members are accidentally breaking something that isn't supposed to be broken?
Mike: Right. Making sure that you have people that are immersed in the IP, the intellectual property, and having really good and empowered leads and sub-leads that kind of understand what the goals of the game are from a high-level view. So when we talk about broken, there's the history of broken, like, (Well, hold on, you don't do that with magic in this world.) Right?
That's largely handled by the writers and the editors, and we have a full team that works on that, Dave Gaider being the lead writer for the game, who then wrote the novel as well.
And so you have this watchdog element, and they're doing most of the writing, so most of the factual stuff is either in the codex or the journal of what people say. So as long as that team's all on the same page, and I'm on the same page, then we're all in pretty good shape there.
For keeping the game itself functional, in terms of how it runs, that's where the programming and art come into there. The technical designers will build the levels, construct them. And they all understand, by working directly with the writers and the artists, what the goal of the level is, and what the overall theme is.
So that's where you get things like, (Well, it would be cool to have a dragon there!) But this is a subtropical climate or whatever, and that's not where dragons live. So what else can we do?
It's funny. The goal is to have a big fight here, so what can we do, the equivalent of that?
GB: So how do you police that with fans who are going to be creating modules for the game? How do you keep them from stepping out of your boundaries or do you not care if they skew your history?
Mike: You basically have to accept that if it's going to be fan-made, and they're just going to work, it's going to be non-canon. You know, it's kind of like fanfic, right? You accept it. I remember reading one where someone had taken the Jade Empire ten years later, or what would happen if you hadn't come back, or you died, or a number of different elements like that, and they explored that space.
I mean, it's written, and it's there, and you know, it's cool, but it isn't the canonical version of what happened. If people want to try and build it to be as accurate as you can, our goal is to try and support them, and give them the info they need. But at the same time, unless it's an official licensed product then there's not much we can do.
If we do a licensed one, well, then, it's basically up to us to make sure the documentation's there, and then we have someone that can go through and just check what they have.
GB: So you've considered the possibility of licensing Dragon Age out for some type of module program?
Mike: Well, we don't have any specifics announced on licensing deals and that kind of stuff. But you can already see the intent in doing the pen and paper role-playing game, which is your first example of something beyond pure BioWare tearing into the Dragon Age universe. And it's been really cool. I mean, it's really neat to kind of go from a company that takes pen and paper and turns it into video games, to a company making video games that get turned into pen and paper.
So that's a beginning. Where it goes from there, we'll have to wait and see.
GB: I did an interview with Chris from Green Ronin on that, too. It'll be interesting to see the final product. Where does that project stand, and do you see that releasing in the same schedule, or at least around the same schedule, as Dragon Age?
Mike: Yeah. That's the intent.
GB: Do you plan on expanding that into adventures, modules, and that sort of thing?
Mike: I'm hoping. I think that'd be great.
They've been quite good to work with. Certainly pretty true to the lore, doing their best to pull in the elements that kind of explain the whys, that the game maybe doesn't go into detail, because in dialogue, people don't go, "And here is why I'm doing that." Right? So yeah.
GB: Is it difficult keeping that project on track to make sure that the ruleset and everything that they're describing matches up to what you want to do with Dragon Age the video game?
Mike: No. Not terribly. And I think honestly the key is strong upfront communication, and saying, (Here are our big goals for Dragon Age as an intellectual property. These are the themes that we explore, and that we want to continue to explore. And do you guys feel that you can work with me on those specs?) And if they say yes, then, you know, we can basically come to an agreement to be true to the spirit of the thing.
You know, the exact rules don't have to be the same, but I mean, they have all the spell lists and all the data. They understand the how and why of the way it works in the video game, and then from there can extrapolate out to the how and why of the RPG. And the rules can be different, as long as the intent and spirit of the things are the same.