David Gaider Interview, Part Two

GreyWardens.com let us know that the second half of their interview with BioWare's David Gaider is now available. This time, David answers questions about his Dragon Age novels, the lessons he learned from Origins and Awakening, and more:
For video games, especially roleplaying games, the story is one of the most important parts of the game. A good story can lead gamers to forgive dodgy game play, just to see the tale unfold. On the reverse, bad storytelling can break even the most polished of games. So, as the Lead Writer, what do you feel is the most important thing to bear in mind when writing for video games and why?

Players need agency. They need to feel like they are the one leading the story rather than the reverse, and it's when the reverse is true that they suddenly feel like they're playing a game and the illusion is broken. Of course it's an illusion there's no way it can't be an illusion as you're only ever going to be able to do what a game allows. You can add choice upon choice upon choice into a game and you will never break the barrier of allowing actual freedom in fact that can do quite the opposite. If you start to promote the expectation that a player should be able to do anything in a game you'll only make it all the more jarring in those moments where they can't. What you can do, however, is get a player to the point of buy-in where they're willing to accept the limitations of the game. They accept that this is the story they're participating in and believe that these characters are actually reacting to what they're doing and caring about how they do it.

You can't get buy-in from everyone, that's a given, but you can get that buy-in from most if you keep in mind that it's their story the players are most interested in and not yours. That's an easy rule to break, especially when you're working on a game where the protagonist is such a blank slate it becomes easy to forget that they're the important character here and that all those other characters you're creating exist in relation to them and have no importance on their own. Sometimes you realize too late that you forgot the player and became focused on your precious, precious story.and that's going to be where you lost your audience. It's something you have to learn as you go on, finding out what works and what doesn't.


At the end of The Calling, The Architect lost his hand (right if memory serves), in recently released footage the Architect is clearly shown possessing two hands. Additionally, there appear to have been a significant aesthetic change in the Architect's physical appearance and attire. Would you be able to shed any light on the reasons behind these choices?

It was a decision made by the art department, to make the Architect a more visually impressive figure. I can't fault them for the decision, to be honest, even if there are some people who feel the character should have been adapted directly from the book. A game is a much more visual medium, whereas with a book I need only to construct an image with words. A book also doesn't have to deal with resource limitations, which was part of the issue with the Architect's appearance in Awakening (he needed to have a unique silhouette compared to the other darkspawn, but his model and animation rig also had to be based on one currently existing in this case the one belonging to the Arcane Horror).
If the villain lost his hand in a prequel novel, then they should have presented him that way in Awakening. Regardless if it hurt his appearance in "a visual medium", it would have definitely helped generate some buzz about the novel (how did he lose his hand?). At the very least, there should have been an explanation for the hand's abrupt regeneration.