After almost a year without information, BioWare finally broke its silence last week with the release of an impressive new Dragon Age: Inquisition trailer.
At Electronic Arts' E3 press conference, BioWare general manager Aaryn Flynn took to the stage to promise a truly "next-generation RPG", featuring a "vast open world" and "choices that impact the story and the world around you".
And yet, by the exec's own admission, the impressive video raised far more questions than it answered.
Following the presentation, CVG managed to secure face time with Flynn in order to secure more information on Dragon Age, and hear his thoughts on the future of role-playing games.
CVG: What are your thoughts on leading BioWare during this new console transition?
FLYNN: Well it's a lot of responsibility but I feel really energised having shown off the Dragon Age: Inquisition stuff. I know that we've been relatively quiet about Dragon Age for a while now, but it's only because we wanted to get this first reveal and subsequent stuff right for our fans. We want to make sure that they know we've been listening to them, we care what they want and that we want to build this game with a lot of what they wanted right at the heart of it.
Our studio's good. I look after both Edmonton and our smaller team in Montreal and it's great. Everyone's working really hard. I wouldn't say our transition to the Frostbite engine is complete but it's underway - the fruits of that labour can be seen in the Inquisition trailer. So it feels good a momentum is building.
Anybody you talk to will tell you that switching engines is one of the hardest things you can ask any game team to do. The Dragon Age has done it now and they're feeling really good about the progress they can make.
We get the impression you're going to be very thoughtful about how you trickle out new details on Dragon Age 3 going forward?
I think so, but at the same time we have to recognise that now this [new footage] is out there it's probably going to create more questions than answers, so we probably want to get back out there with new information over the coming months.
We've got a while now until we launch so there's lots of time, but at the same time we want to start with a lot more information and get it out there in the very near future. Mark Darrah the executive producer is back in Edmenton right now and is starting to get that ready.
"We want people to have lots of freedom in terms of what they play as and how they play"
What can you tell us about the character players control in Inquisiton?
We're not saying much about that. What I will say is that the player is leading the Inquisition, but we want to make sure that people get to put their choices on that character in terms of customisation and stuff. It's not just a stock character - we want people to have lots of freedom in terms of what they play as and how they play.
A lot of fans have been asking exactly how deep customisation will be in the new game.
Certainly what I can say is that with the new technology we have in Frostbite - not necessarily the next-gen stuff... the systems we have built in to it do allow for a lot of really deep customisation for all of the characters in the game. That's really important to us. We want to make sure people feel that it's their character and that it's what they want it to be. So we have to empower the player a lot to do this - that's a big priority for us.
How ambitious are you being with the open-world design?
Oh pretty ambitious! That comes down to some of the feedback from Dragon Age II and wanting to give people a lot more exploration. That's one of the reasons why we chose Frostbite as an engine, because we went through a big review of that.
We knew that our own engine Eclipse that did Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age II was getting pretty long in the tooth. Continuing to develop on that engine would've taken a lot of investment and time. But when we lined up a lot of the opportunities for engines, one of the things that we loved about Frostbite was that it did terrain streaming and big open environments quite well.
So we thought that if we could take that and then layer on beautiful open-world systems and quests, that would be a pretty killer combination. That was a big priority for us.
The first and second Dragon Age titles are quite different games. How are you going to balance Inquisition in terms of incorporating various elements from those games?
The idea for 3 is obviously that the medium has moved ahead again. So we have to take advantage of that and figure out first and foremost where the medium is going. Then from there based on where we see it going, which is to bigger, open areas and more things to do, we then have to decide what from Origins and Dragon Age II we're going to bring in to that.
Each game has things that we like. For example, Origins has a great, tactical combat feel. I personally like that Dragon Age II has a faster, more action feel to it. So we want to blend those and bring them in to Dragon Age: Inquisition and then have it play out in larger, open spaces.
Will player choices from the previous two games factor in the Inquisition story?
Certainly we want to respect the investment that people have made in the first to games. We don't have a specific comment yet on how we're going to do that, but it's become a really big 'BioWare-ism' to do that so want to keep it going. We just don't know how we're going to do it yet so we can't comment.
What can the next generation of consoles bring to the role-playing genre?
I think for us when you see the Inquisition trailer you'll see that it's such a radical leap in character fidelity. These are characters that now feel alive. Our goals is to get right past the uncanny valley and right to characters who you love and interact with. Morrigan for example has moved radically forward in terms of that kind of stuff.
The computing power behind the new consoles just enables so many things. And then you get in to the peripherals that they have and it's almost too much - you've got to really pick and choose what you can do cool stuff with.
It's nice. I was telling some people that it feels like they're long overdue. It feels nice to have all of that head room again on consoles. A lot of our jobs the past few years have been to get really good at squeezing out incremental performance out of the consoles.
Now our job is quite a bit different: now our job is to quickly fill up all of that space with really cool things. We're actually going back to the drawing board with a lot of it and asking, "what can we do now?" Even our developers are surprised with some of the things we can do. I'll tell you: none of our developers expected that our characters could look that good when we started this project. They're excited and amazed.
What ramifications could cloud technology have for role-playing games?
We don't have any comment yet for what we're going to do with that, but it certainly does open up opportunities for sure. RPGs are great because there's no shortage of data or things to use more computing power for, right? If we can be smart with that and find ways, then we'll throw it over to the cloud for sure.
Do you think, with the way new consoles are set up, we'll see more online RPGs arrive?
If developers can figure out clever ways to use the online... I think that's the important thing. Hopefully nobody does anything just because it's there and tries to make it gimmicky. There's a lot of opportunity for that space with RPGs. They're maturing as a genre.