• Guest, The rules for the P & N subforum have been updated to prohibit "ad hominem" or personal attacks against other posters. See the full details in the post "Politics and News Rules & Guidelines."

Bioware details their writing process

Red Storm

Lifer
Oct 2, 2005
14,214
215
106
I thought the lead writer left after Dragon Age 1? I'm pretty sure there as a head of something that left after he saw what they were doing with DA2.
 

magomago

Lifer
Sep 28, 2002
10,973
14
76
http://www.pcgamer.com/2013/01/11/dragon-age-lead-writer-details-bioware-writing-process-from-start-to-finish/

I find this rather amusing, as every single one of their RPG following Baldur's Gates have been formulaic.

What they need to do is go play The Witcher 2 from beginning to end and learn from those guys.
I haven't played the Witcher 2, but I agree with your sentiments.

I think having a formula is fine: Greek theater also had a formulaic approach. I don't care that I already know the Hero will have a fatal flaw, I want to see how its exposed, and how his particular story is woven within the simple rules of Greek tragedy.

However, there is more than one style when writing a story, and it would be nice to see something else.

More specifically, having a couple different formulas that are employed across different games is important.
And even within a forumula, not repeating things in the exact same way is important; this is where elements like the 'dream sequence' fails, because its less of a concept and more of story implementation; it sounds like the intent may have to suddenly have a revelation into some key insight...but they decided the best way to do it over and over was a dream.

Anyways its interesting, but a story is key.
 

Red Hawk

Diamond Member
Jan 1, 2011
3,254
162
106
Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age 2 were the least formulaic of BioWare's games. But people showed how much they cared for that with Dragon Age 2, and I often hear that the story was the worst part of ME2. There's a reason formulas are used; they get reliable results.
 

Dumac

Diamond Member
Dec 31, 2005
9,392
1
0
Mass Effect 2 was pretty formulaic...

DA2 wasn't, but different isn't necessarily better. The quality still has to be there.
 

Charles Kozierok

Elite Member
May 14, 2012
6,762
0
0
The problem with DA2 was not that the plot was unformulaic.

The problem is that it was non-existent.

The whole game is little more than a series of gopher quests, combined with a dull, unrealistic combat system and recycled scenery.
 

magomago

Lifer
Sep 28, 2002
10,973
14
76
Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age 2 were the least formulaic of BioWare's games. But people showed how much they cared for that with Dragon Age 2, and I often hear that the story was the worst part of ME2. There's a reason formulas are used; they get reliable results.
To be fair, the character plots were all really well done (except Jacob's...I thought his was weak). That pretty much constituted most of the game: go on adventures bonding with your co workers!
 

Red Hawk

Diamond Member
Jan 1, 2011
3,254
162
106
Mass Effect 2 was pretty formulaic...

DA2 wasn't, but different isn't necessarily better. The quality still has to be there.
Mass Effect 2 wasn't terribly original, but it wasn't BioWare's typical formula; that is, explore various areas in order to gather Macguffins (Star Maps in KotOR, military aid in Dragon Age Origins, or...plot stuff...in Mass Effect). One could say that squad members themselves are Macguffins in ME2, but they don't really drive the plot forward (except for Mordin) and you don't really explore areas to find them, you go on specific missions.
 

StrangerGuy

Diamond Member
May 9, 2004
8,428
119
106
KOTOR2 even in its horribly unfinished state all thanks to Lucasarts meddling, had a story head and shoulders above KOTOR1 which only relied on that twist which grew old quick.

Anyway, I think they should just stick to sci-fi like Mass Effect where the more imaginative setting can cover up for the writing flaws instead of overused fantasy genre because DA: O was a boring disaster.
 

Red Hawk

Diamond Member
Jan 1, 2011
3,254
162
106
If EA were stop making games tomorrow, the world would be a better place.
Erm, what? No. EA may have questionable business practices but it still makes (some) good games. And if EA was dissolved then there would be tons of programmers and game developers out of work. The industry would be shaken to the core without the cash that EA provides flowing.

Anyways, this is BioWare's writing team we are talking about, not EA management.

KOTOR2 even in its horribly unfinished state all thanks to Lucasarts meddling, had a story head and shoulders above KOTOR1 which only relied on that twist which grew old quick.

Anyway, I think they should just stick to sci-fi like Mass Effect where the more imaginative setting can cover up for the writing flaws instead of overused fantasy genre because DA: O was a boring disaster.
KOTOR1 had a good story and great characters. It was the Star Wars setting and story told straight, and it was done very well (down to the bad romance lines...:p). KOTOR2 was also very good, but different. It was a deconstruction of the lore and tropes of Star Wars. That doesn't make it better, it just makes it different. Ok fine KOTOR2 was better. But KOTOR1 was still great.

And if we're talking about formulaic, KOTOR2 stuck to the formula just as much as anything else, arguably more so than some other BioWare games. After the opening levels, you get a mission to collect MacGuffins, which are Jedi Masters in hiding this time around.

As for Dragon Age: Origins, I thought it was a great game with a similar goal as KOTOR1; that is, playing the familiar fantasy tropes mostly straight and in a well-executed manner. DA: O had great characters, cinematic direction, writing, atmosphere, etc. It wasn't really trying to be a deconstruction, more like a reconstruction. And that's fine; there's a place for both. It certainly wasn't a disaster by any means.
 
Last edited:

Mopetar

Diamond Member
Jan 31, 2011
4,696
879
126
I really don't care if a story is overly formulaic if it's told well or has a cast of well-written characters. For example, one of my favorite console RPGs is Lunar SSSC. The overall plot is a bog standard young man goes off on an adventure and must save the love interest (and the world) from the big bad. It has some other standard elements such as acquiring legendary items in order to combat the big bad. Probably the most basic plot you can possibly have. However, the characters are so well written (and the voice acting is quite good for its time as well) that it doesn't matter that the game is just retelling the same story that we've all heard dozens of times before.
 

StrangerGuy

Diamond Member
May 9, 2004
8,428
119
106
Erm, what? No. EA may have questionable business practices but it still makes (some) good games. And if EA was dissolved then there would be tons of programmers and game developers out of work. The industry would be shaken to the core without the cash that EA provides flowing.

Anyways, this is BioWare's writing team we are talking about, not EA management.



KOTOR1 had a good story and great characters. It was the Star Wars setting and story told straight, and it was done very well (down to the bad romance lines...:p). KOTOR2 was also very good, but different. It was a deconstruction of the lore and tropes of Star Wars. That doesn't make it better, it just makes it different. Ok fine KOTOR2 was better. But KOTOR1 was still great.

And if we're talking about formulaic, KOTOR2 stuck to the formula just as much as anything else, arguably more so than some other BioWare games. After the opening levels, you get a mission to collect MacGuffins, which are Jedi Masters in hiding this time around.
Disagreed. Even on the subject of MacGuffins, the star maps in KOTOR1 were just a tool advance the story while doing nothing else, while the Jedi Masters not only did that but each of them is character itself with their own opinion on the PC and their past. KOTOR1 also lacks the overarching theme regarding the philosophical implications of the Force which was explored in the sequel. There is simply no contest.
 

s44

Diamond Member
Oct 13, 2006
9,426
16
81
To be fair, the character plots were all really well done (except Jacob's...I thought his was weak). That pretty much constituted most of the game: go on adventures bonding with your co workers!
Yeah but... that's what Bioware does well. Maybe *all* they do well now. And now that ME3 came out and sucked and ruined the grand story whatever, can we admit that ME2 was the best Bioware game?

KOTOR2 even in its horribly unfinished state all thanks to Lucasarts meddling, had a story head and shoulders above KOTOR1 which only relied on that twist which grew old quick.
KOTOR2 presented an awesome/hilarious meta-story that unfortunately had *nothing to do with Star Wars*. MCA does better with settings we don't know much about (like, you know, Planescape).
 
Last edited:

Red Hawk

Diamond Member
Jan 1, 2011
3,254
162
106
Disagreed. Even on the subject of MacGuffins, the star maps in KOTOR1 were just a tool advance the story while doing nothing else, while the Jedi Masters not only did that but each of them is character itself with their own opinion on the PC and their past. KOTOR1 also lacks the overarching theme regarding the philosophical implications of the Force which was explored in the sequel. There is simply no contest.
And? How does that make it less formulaic? They are still MacGuffins. KOTOR1 does involve philosophical discussion of the Force, from Jolee, Bastila, and Juhani. It just doesn't have the deconstructive viewpoint of Kreia.
 

blackened23

Diamond Member
Jul 26, 2011
8,556
1
0
Bioware sold out years ago, the last games that I really enjoyed from them were DA:O and Mass Effect 2.

Dragon Age 2 was a complete joke, literally the entire game sends you to the same dungeons over and over and over and there is 1 city. I was stupid enough to play that game from start to finish and the only redeeming quality was the graphics - everything else was complete and utter trash. I cannot get over how all of the quests send you to the same dungeon 30 times with re-skinned enemies :rolleyes: After the excellent Dragon Age origins, I can't properly express how much of a disappointment DA2 was. That game was definitely completely rushed to cash in on the name, never again bioware - never again.

I cannot believe that the studio creating DA2 is the same one that created Baldur's Gate 1/2, DA:O, KOTOR, etc. What happened? Electronic Arts has added yet another developer that has jumped shark. Bioware is forever tarnished in my eyes.
 
Last edited:

Nintendesert

Diamond Member
Mar 28, 2010
7,761
5
0
All stories are based on a formula. Holy smokes you people need to go take a literature class or a creative writing class. ALL STORIES.
 
Aug 11, 2008
10,457
641
126
And? How does that make it less formulaic? They are still MacGuffins. KOTOR1 does involve philosophical discussion of the Force, from Jolee, Bastila, and Juhani. It just doesn't have the deconstructive viewpoint of Kreia.
I thought the Jedi Master device was really weak in KOTOR 2. It was such a momentus choice whether to kill or save them, but it the end it made very little difference in the outcome of the game and even with your relationship to Kriea. I thought KOTOR 2 was a good game, but personally preferred the first game. I know some prefer a more ambiguous morality like the second game, but the whole plot just did not make sense to me. Kriea hated the force, but she trained you in it not matter which path you chose. And in the end, you had to fight her no matter what. Basically was kind of a foreshadowing of ME3, you played 60 hours or whatever, light side or darkside, and if I recall correctly, the only difference was the cutscene you got at the end. Note: havent played this game in many years, but I believe my recollection of the ending is correct.

Edit: The ambiguities and plot holes of KOTOR 2 would have bother me a lot less if everything would have been tied up in a third game, but unfortunately that never happened.
 
Last edited:

JamesV

Platinum Member
Jul 9, 2011
2,003
2
76
All stories are based on a formula. Holy smokes you people need to go take a literature class or a creative writing class. ALL STORIES.
Perhaps you should take a class, because all stories are not based on a formula, unless you are talking about the generic 'start, middle, and end'. Or maybe you are talking about video games only; in which case I may agree, because good writers write books, game writers are second rate talent. If you take offense at that, then you are not an avid reader.

Some writers do use a formula, but it is of their making, not some industry-wide accepted 'way to write'. Look at a formulaic writer like Salvatore, in which many of books end with the hero going after the head of the 'evil enemy' (among other across-book similarties). But then look at Sanderson's Mistborn and other novels, where the only formula could be that it is in a fantasy setting.

We are not talking about original stories, which is another issue alltogether, which might be what you meant to comment on.
 

CottonRabbit

Golden Member
Apr 28, 2005
1,026
0
0
Meh, the Bioware story makes for a good RPG. I couldn't care less whether or not they are formulaic. If you made a cliche chart for Hemingway, it would probably look similar.
 

Red Hawk

Diamond Member
Jan 1, 2011
3,254
162
106
Bioware sold out years ago, the last games that I really enjoyed from them were DA:O and Mass Effect 2.

Dragon Age 2 was a complete joke, literally the entire game sends you to the same dungeons over and over and over and there is 1 city. I was stupid enough to play that game from start to finish and the only redeeming quality was the graphics - everything else was complete and utter trash. I cannot get over how all of the quests send you to the same dungeon 30 times with re-skinned enemies :rolleyes: After the excellent Dragon Age origins, I can't properly express how much of a disappointment DA2 was. That game was definitely completely rushed to cash in on the name, never again bioware - never again.

I cannot believe that the studio creating DA2 is the same one that created Baldur's Gate 1/2, DA:O, KOTOR, etc. What happened? Electronic Arts has added yet another developer that has jumped shark. Bioware is forever tarnished in my eyes.
I'm curious, what was your opinion of Mass Effect 1? It had much the same setup of a central area (the Citadel) except it had more areas (Viscount's Keep, Hightown, Lowtown, Docks, Gallows, Darktown, vs. Council Chambers, Presidium, Wards, and C-Sec). Dragon Age 2 had more recycled environments (cave, riverside cliff, underground compound, warehouse, back alley vs space freighter, a mining tunnel, an underground compound, and a modular building, to be exact) and they were bigger than Mass Effect 1.

Recyled environments were somewhat annoying in DA2, but they were unique areas to explore and it wasn't exactly game breaking. No one made a huge ruckus about ME1 recycling environments; not sure why it's suddenly such a big deal in DA2. Either way, BioWare has stated they will address the issue in DA3 with no recycled environments.

As to the story of DAII, it wasn't BioWare's best, but it was still good IMO. The Qunari arc is legitimately great.
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY