‘Dragon Age: Inquisition’ To Feature a New Take on Romance

Aug 29, 2013 by  

Dragon Age Inquisition Romance Love Interests

Whether justified or not, the idea of romantic entanglements in video games and BioWare have become nearly synonymous. With romance and courting gaining special attention in both Mass Effect and Dragon Age, the studio’s writers know that the shift to next-gen means every aspect of game design will have to raise the bar: romance included.

With Dragon Age: Inquisition getting even more time in the oven than first expected, the development team is placing more emphasis than ever on player freedom. Love interests are certainly included, but as the lead writer and director make clear, Inquisition will be a new chance for the team to get relationships right, and make something truly groundbreaking out of what some feel is a disguised (and occasionally offensive) game mechanic.

Diehard fans of fantasy role-playing may have accepted Dragon Age: Origins‘ system of wooing lovers by saying what they wanted to hear and giving them gifts – adorable, hairless pig-rabbits as they may be – but those looking for true immersion had to suspend disbelief. That’s something that the team hopes to change with their first next-gen release.

Dragon Age 2 Same Sex Romance

So, first things first: how do the developers decide which characters will be potential love interests for the player? Lead writer David Gaider explains the challenge to Game Informer:

“We’ll talk about what the romantic arc is and what that character’s story can tell as a romance… Because there’s more than insert coin, get sex, right? There are different types of romantic tales and romantic archetypes. I know people can water it down and say they’re all the same, [but] no they’re not, there’s a different story that can be told.”

Gaider was quick to clarify that the team of writers doesn’t lay out large romantic arcs, scenes, and love interests ahead of time. The top priority is building each character to stand on their own; when they’re interesting enough to do that, pairing them up can lead to some surprises, as one particular character in Dragon Age: Origins proved:

“Trying to figure out what the romance is…sometimes it requires you to sit back and think about the character a slightly different way because you’ve always thought about them [one way]… Morrigan initially was not supposed to be a romance. I had to change the way I thought about her… [I saw her] as her having built up this sort of armor around herself — that there was a different person underneath. One that she purposely had to squelch because she thought that [it] was weak, because that was what she had been taught. Suddenly when I thought about that, it was, ‘Oh, that’s an interesting place to go.’

“You could almost sleep with Morrigan immediately — before you even got to know her at all — and that was part of her thing… She expected that and right afterwards it’d be over, but you could then scratch beneath the surface and break through her armor.”

Dragon Age Morrigan Romance

Gaider is right to point out BioWare’s attempts at making sexuality a healthy part of certain character’s lifestyles – not uniformly positioning a romantic encounter as an end ‘objective.’ In truth, the decision to introduce characters who view romance, friendship, and apparently revealing clothing in vastly different ways was an interesting one. Fans of Dragon Age: Origins would likely say that same mentality is what led the developers to give player’s the choice of their own race and class (a choice that’s returning in Dragon Age: Inquisition).

Modern game designers may be approaching photo-realistic graphics, but simulating real human behavior remains a challenge. Instead of trying to portray a love story in the midst of an epic action-oriented game, Gaider claims that the hardest part of his job is making romantic relationships seem natural; not only for those who choose to engage in them, but making sure players who don’t pursue romance aren’t cheated of content:

“Our romances tend to grow out of a friendship, out of necessity, almost more than anything else… We want a player who isn’t romancing a character to still get a sense of who that character is and feel like they have a relationship. You’re going to walk the same path, but then at some point, you’re going to grow into the romance, and that’s going to be separate content.

“We still want the heart of that character to be available to anyone… So for us, it’s, ‘How do we make that seamless?’ And if it’s seamless, the player isn’t going to be able to distinguish between those two paths necessarily.”

Dragon Age Romance Alistair

It’s that goal which seems to be bringing the most changes to Inquisition‘s follower relationships: in both Origins and Dragon Age 2, characters whom the player had made little effort to grow fond of had their respective content locked off. Since the sliding scale of approval often lumped romance and friendship together into the same blurred system, the results were… less than natural.

The team’s solution is a clever one, but an incredibly large challenge. By building content to be “event-driven” instead of approval-driven, the writers allow approval to merely inform the tone of the conversation that would take place regardless. Creative director Mike Laidlaw explains:

“They’re like, ‘Yes, you’ve chosen a thing that I disagree with, but we’re good friends… So that’s going to change the color and tone of [those interactions], so [they're] more nuanced. I think that’s going to take them beyond what’s been done in the past.

“In my ideal scenario, your interaction with the character isn’t just about having interacted with them; it’s about your interaction with them in relation to the whole game that you’ve chosen to play. So if you make really sweeping decisions in other parts of the game, that may actually change the nature of those interactions.”

As if Inquisition didn’t have enough riding on its success already – as BioWare’s first next-gen entry, setting the framework for other studio franchises, and looking to earn back fans who were disappointed in Dragon Age 2 – the developers seem eager to add serious character development to the list as well.

Do you think they’ve got a handle on the most nagging issues? Or do you think the romance system is working fine the way it is? Share your own thoughts in the comments.

_____

Dragon Age: Inquisition is expected to release in 2014 for the Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4 and PC.

Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.

Source: Game Informer

24 Comments

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  1. I am more and more hopeful for this game with every post….although…I do recall saying that about DA2.
    That being said, personally I thought DA2 was an okay game. It simply wasn’t finished in my opinion. This one has been in the tank for a while and I really do feel like it will be done right.
    …hopefully.

  2. The character interactions and relationships are some of the best parts of Dragon Age. If they can make it even better then I’m all for it. :)

  3. I believe in Bioware. When it comes to humanity and romance Bioware has no equal.

    • Sheesh, have the fiascos of ME3 and DA2 really vanished down the memory hole already? Are you guys really going to get sucked into buying from these guys again? Sorry but the old Bioware is not just dead, it is rotting and lurching around like the undead thing it is.

      • Pfeh, stop it with the melodrama already.

        ME3 was an amazing game to end an amazing trilogy, and having a disappointing ending didn’t change that. The last 5 minutes of the series didn’t suddenly erase all the epic events and endearing characters from my memory — and if it did for you, then that’s sad.

        As for DA2, that was a decent game that was decent ONLY because BioWare’s strengths as a studio rescued it from the short development cycle EA was pushing. DA2 had great characters and an interesting narrative style written into an underdeveloped and small setting without enough meaningful content. People think of it as a disaster not because it was actually a terrible game, but because it was a merely “good” game that came from a legendary studio. This crap is blown way out of proportion.

        • I agree with JC’s statement. ME3 is an amazing game with characters that still make me grin at they’re side comments. I may not love how it ended but I can still appreciate the amount of effort that went into the project as a whole and the characters we grew to love.

          For DA2, yeah, it may have some elements that were missed from its predecessor but how can one not love the Varric and comedian Hawke duo? Point is, Bioware can use these games to see what elements worked and what didn’t to create an even better piece. You learn from mistakes, not success after all.

  4. *sigh*

    During the past few days, some of us were talking about romances. I guess David Gaider posted this due to our conversation. As I was talking to others, while on BioWare’s social site, I came to the conclusion that we didn’t need romances.

    Dragon Age’s version of romance: give gifts to win favor, jump in the sack, tuck in your shirt, and go kill the end boss.

    Mr. Gaider has always been great with fan concerns. When I posted a critique about his novels, Gaider released a very long and in-depth blog. rofl… I knew David was addressing my post, for he was using certain terminology.

    I must have accidentally started another firestorm. rofl…

  5. Oh, this is excellent. It’s refreshing. I personally liked DA2 a lot. They gave me characters that I was able to embrace and a storyline that I could buy into. It just wasn’t done, that’s all. They didn’t put the work into it that they needed to, obviously rushed through it (possibly getting lost on the ever-repeating paths and caves), and didn’t put the heart into it that they needed to.

    That said, I’m so excited that they’ve obviously learned their lesson. I think character interactions really are their forte. I’m glad it’s getting a good amount of their focus, as the ever-evolving worlds Bioware makes have always held a warm spot in my heart.

  6. So in other words they have no desire to pay for the use of the dialogue wheel now that it has been copyrighted. So get ready for auto dialogue relationships.

  7. “Event driven” relationships/romance is basically what Mass Effect had, right? At least ME2 and 3, anyway.

  8. As one of the many females who played the games, I have to say that the ability to develop a relationships was a major thing that kept me playing Origins. I loved that I could stop in the middle of the deep roads and flirt with or kiss my RI. Or just talk with any of the others in the party. It helped to develop an emotional level of game play. It also really seemed that Origins was aimed at both male and female players.

    DAII was disappointing in the romance and relationship department, to say the least. I hated that I could only talk to my part members by going to their place of residence (and sometimes not even then!), and as for the romance department… that was a total fail. And while I think this was a fail for both the girls and guys, I have to say that the girls really got the short end of the stick on that one. Guys got mauled by Isabella, or got Merrill in some sexy garb and a long chat while laying in bed. What us chicks got was… not even worth mentioning. The only remotely exciting moment came from Fenris, but you had to be in a love/hate relationship with him to get it.

    So reading this, gives me hope that maybe . . . just maybe, the team at Bioware has heard the cries of female gamers everywhere . . . and will keep them in mind when creating romantic interests. Cause surprise surprise, girls love the sexy/tender/awkward/emotional romance parts just as much as the guys do. I may even dare to say, probably more-so.

    • I was going to write a long post saying the exact same thing as you RowanBells. It’s like you read my mind. I hope they bring some of the magic back from the first game, and if we’re lucky they’ll even expand on it. I want something more then automated responses from my companions when I’m out in the world fighting evil. In Dragon Age II I didn’t even get a proper ending. I felt I was forced into a relationship with someone I ended up hating :p Me no happy.

    • As a fellow female gamer, you are my hero for putting this into words. I know exactly what you mean and I certainly hope that Bioware figures out that Origins and the relationship and the romances and what not was fantastic and we would like to see more. Then How DA2 wasn’t as gratifying to say the least, at least in that department. I personally didn’t really care for DA 2. But you’re absolutely correct, please Bioware, hear our cries and think of the possibilities.

    • The crucial point is.. I want RIVALMANCE, much more passionate than friendmance. So this article kind of depressed me since this is all about “developing friendship” sigh .. Love/Hate is my kink, give it to meeee ;_;

    • lol, i have to agree. that was a major let down on the girls view. although i have to say i love the accents. Although i wish they could have kept anders personality the same as awakening. He seemed to have gotten way winer and annoying on da2. I hate to say it but i did enjoy getting to finally kill him and be rid of the whinning. Which is sad cause i loved his corky, sarcastic approach in DAO.

  9. I have never actually played this/ any of these games of the past, and I have never actually encountered a “sexual episode” from any video game. This seems to have caught my eye for god knows what reasons.

    Though I have two opinions-
    1) As i heard from the other comments, ME2, ME3, and DA2 had romance, and I do not know if this will end up as a disaster, or just as a new mechanic that everyone will love. Bioware may need to think on the topic on displaying “porn” in a Mature rated game.
    2) Many people love playing a game that goes far further than just out of sheer boredom. In fact, this mechanic may in fact be played far more usual if there aren’t just certain characters, than are sort of “love-dolls” -_- when in fact everyone, can do it.But i vote up.

  10. Honestly people, let up. ive play DAO and dragins age 2 numberous times. ( and im still playing today.) Yes dragon age 2 was not as good as dragon age origins story wise, both games still had a great story. As far as fighting goes, i like the rogues hack and slash better in dragins age 2 than in origins. The companion communication was way better in DAO and had more interactions. It was frusterating that they cut alot of the communication down in DA2 but it didnt completly kill the game for me. I have read numberous blogs and comments from people bashing DA2 then going to admit that they never played the game. So basically your riding your judgment on others who may have a different opionion. DAO was better than DA2 but i still loved both games and think Bioware did a good job, and im completely excited for inquistion. I love that they braught varric back and i hope i see other characters in there also (besides morogan) no effense i liked morogan too, but that was already a no brainer that she would be back. I just hope that they bring the companion chatter like DAO back. You could talk to them whenever, not just within certain parts of the game. Lets face it the party banter does make things interesting while your running around trying to reach your destination, alot better than silence.

    • I agree Krystal Dragon age origins was better then dragon age 2 as much as team communication and also traveling go but combat wise i give it all to dragon age 2 because you had to make your person fight instead of him/her auto attacking also i like how in number 2 you had family put into this even though i wish you could know hawks dad also i am happy they put the choice of race back in the game because i love playing as the elf also its going to be exciting playing qunari even though i might never play them i was never a fan of the qunari but that just me mostly because they put everything into there religion which makes them unique.

  11. I’m also a girl gamer, I love all of biowares games, even if i was disappointed with certain things, Like how short DA2 was or how small the map was, or even the ending to the Mass Effect 3 ending. I also miss the character interactions with companions in random as hell places. but as far as romance, I didnt mind it so much, i mean it was lacking a lot compared to DAO, But I still got to romance Isabella, and it was hot, for the 2 minutes it lasted(if it was even that long.) I always loved how bioware didnt judge or put any block on same sex romance, obviously I would want to pursue a romance I can relate to, but that does stop me from make another female character to romance the guy companions. I loved the romance with Alistair and even Zevran just as much as i did with Leliana because they were different and fresh in their own way. But in DA2 I didn’t even bother, Fenris was all judge and mistrusting, and Anders(though i liked him in Awakening) sucked in DA2 because he whined about everything!! the only romances I had my fem hawks pursue was with Isablla and Merril, and though both pleasant for the short time they lasted, they both lacked something My fem gray warden got with Leliana. There was no character connection between my hawk and the companions, they automatically loved hawk and she just had to choose who the sleep with. Need less to say, I’m super excited about Inquisition and for sure hope that the romance in Inquisition is similar or hopefully even better then DAO. Heres Hoping.

  12. I personally am all for the romance and building relationships . I find that to be one of the greater things that sets Dragon Age apart from all the other RPG games out there. So I hope that it really takes a large step further in Inquisitions. Dragon Age. being my favorite RPG by far, I really hope Inquisitions will be Amazing. :)

  13. I honestly had no problems with both Dragon Age’s, they both were great. The only thing that I believe Bioware needs to focus most of their attention on would be the story, its characters, the combat, and how all your choices will have an affect on the story as you continue to play it and have the romancing aspect of the game a secondary thing for now.

  14. I love the romance in the game I wish more games had it. I am a game master table top normally and don’t get to play any rpg table tops this gives me that. Romance gets the girls involved with it more otherwise its just a shooter or hacking game with maybe a good store I loved Dagonage 2 I just wish it was longer. I loved Dragon-age but the no voice bugs me now. But the banter back and for is awesome. When Morgan and Lianna go at it when your guy is romancing them both is just a laugh. No other game company has that . I just got done playing Mass effect trilogy and was upset with the lack of romancing and I was on the option of RPG. What happened? Please keep the romance no matter what gender, its what makes the game for me.Put more in like what was in Dragonage and maybe more.

  15. I was a little disapointed by the “romanceable” characters of DA2. For me they were to “troubled”, seemed really crazy at times. I mean Isabella was the most normal one, in my opinion, and that’s saying something. I just hope the new characters in Inquisition will not be completely mentally f****d up by their past.

  16. Personally, relationships with other characters have always been my favorite thing about DA games. Epic action, witty remarks, great storyline, carefully-used lore, AND character depth/romances?
    There’s so many different ways to go about a romance. Do everything they hate, but make them unable to resist you. Do what is right, what they think is right too, and fall in love. And all of the relationships had their problems. As for DA2, there’s a lot more unspoken depth- it spans over six years. After losing Bethany/Carver, Hawke has three years for friends to console him/her, not to mention other jokes and happenings. Then, after the Qunari, there’s three more years. As for Origins, I can’t complain; I came to love all the characters.
    If Inquisition is bringing even more depth to the interactions and characters, I’m not complaining.

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