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Page 6 of 6The Dragon Age Toolset
Unfortunately, I didn't get any hands-on time with the toolset, but I did get a 30-minute demonstration of it from Ferret Baudoin. During the demonstration, Ferret used the game's existing assets to create a small campsite, complete with a custom quest-giving NPC, a Genlock waiting in ambush, and a two-wheeled cart as dressing.
To accomplish this, he first used the toolset's face-morphing tool to customize the NPC's features. While this is similar to the customizations players have access to when first starting the game, the toolset actually allows for much finer tweaks that aren't possible with the sliders in character creation. From there, it was off to the dialogue editing tool, where our quest-giver's entire dialogue tree was presented for manipulation. Ferret quickly added a new dialogue choice in the first set, along with a couple of possible responses beyond it. He then dropped the two-wheeled cart behind the quest-giver and showed how the toolset allows you to adjust the height and rotation of placeable objects in order to make them look more realistic when resting on the existing topography. After that, the Genlock was put in place and everything was ready to go.
In a matter of twenty minutes or so, this small but viable encounter was finished. Granted, it wasn't able to provide a whole lot of entertainment value, but it was interesting to see how quickly talented modders can throw something together when using existing assets. Ferret also briefly discussed the new cinematic tool they've added to the toolset for the creation of cutscenes, but the demonstration concluded before I could see it firsthand.
The only drawbacks I foresee with the Dragon Age toolset are the increased difficulty in creating custom assets for a modern 3D game and the lack of multiplayer support. The first issue will certainly be overcome by the most determined modders out there, but unless a talented team of fans takes it upon themselves to add a multiplayer component, you probably won't ever see this toolset used to create persistent worlds like the ones available for Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2. It's not going to be an issue for those people who prefer a single player experience, but for others I'd imagine it's going to be a deal-breaker. Time will tell, I guess.
A True Baldur's Gate Successor?
I'll be honest after being bombarded by action-heavy trailers that were part of the game's recent Marilyn Manson-led marketing campaign, I sat down in front of Dragon Age: Origins with more than a few reservations. Now that I've had two days worth of hands-on time with the game, though, my enthusiasm has returned. Aside from the modern 3D engine, the switch from D&D to a proprietary rules system, and some fundamental gameplay changes (regeneration and persistent injuries instead of death, for example), the game really looks and feels like the Baldur's Gate successor it was always supposed to be. It still remains to be seen if our goal to end The Blight is as compelling as the confrontations we endured as a Bhaalspawn or if any of our companions have enough personality to mention them in the same sentence as Minsc or HK-47, but at this point I find myself very optimistic. Dragon Age: Origins just might turn out to be BioWare's finest role-playing game since Baldur's Gate II.
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