BioWare's Dragon Age team held a PAX East panel at the weekend to share ideas for a "completely hypothetical project" that you can more-or-less take to mean a work-in-progress, and unannounced, Dragon Age 3.
On the panel were Dragon Age's Mike Laidlaw (creative director), Mark Darrah (executive producer), David Gaider (lead writer) and Shane Hawco (assistant art director). But Laidlaw did all the talking.
The panel was a response to a Mark Darrah forum post, which announced that the Dragon Age team had fully moved onto The Next Thing, and that work on Dragon Age 2 had come to an end. The post asked for fan feedback about the future of the Dragon Age series.
Laidlaw's presentation, filmed by GameSpot, was based around the three most heavily recurring ideas fed back.
Laidlaw began with the caveat that he was talking about no specific product, and wasn't making promises about content for a future game. He was sharing ideas. "However," he said, "you can get a pretty good sense of where things are headed in the future."
"Maybe let's go somewhere new, somewhere that's more... French."Mike Laidlaw, creative director, Dragon Age series
Stop Reusing Levels
The on-slide text surmised, "Will do!"
Laidlaw dropped a hefty hint that Dragon Age 3 will be set in Orlais, the France-inspired southern region of Thedas, the Dragon Age world. I'll just push my spectacles up my nose and tell you that Orlais also provided the setting for the most recent Dragon Age novel, Dragon Age: Asunder. A coincidence?
"We're looking for variety, we're looking for space, we're looking for scope, we're looking for something cool, hidden, forgotten and lost," shared Laidlaw. "And if we really need to go somewhere more urban, let's make sure it's not Kirkwall.
"Maybe let's go somewhere new, somewhere that's more... French."
Laidlaw's presentation slides showed wide open, hilly and mountainous green landscapes, akin to those commonly seen in The Lord of the Rings films. He also showed underground waterfalls lit up by torchlight, and an urban interior with appropriate French tones.
Decisions that Matter
"We will absolutely make sure that's what we're delivering, including your previous game [saves]."Mike Laidlaw
The on-slide text surmised, "Yes!"
"We will absolutely make sure that's what we're delivering," said Laidlaw, "including your previous games."
He elaborated: "We're aware of some import problems, we're aware of some weirdness, so we're going to do everything we can to make sure that the game you want to play and the world you want to bring forward is what's happening."
Laidlaw split decisions into "character agency" - "my character has an active effect on his or her world, determined by my choices" - and "player agency", which means "I have control over my gameplay experience".
Some people liked the Hawke story of Dragon Age 2, Laidlaw said, but others felt "dragged along" by it.
Equipment for Followers
The on-slide text surmised, "Yes!"
"Yeah, it's back," reaffirmed Laidlaw.
"So, suppose in your party you had a Grey Warden, let's say... And suppose you had a Seeker... You know... A Seeker..."Mike Laidlaw
He explained that BioWare still wants characters to have a "signature look", so you can pick them out on a crowded battlefield, "but we don't want to take away agency as players".
"So, suppose in your party you had a Grey Warden, let's say," said Laidlaw, with a pause and a smile, "and suppose you had a Seeker... You know... A Seeker..."
(Seekers are the top-tier agents of the Chantry that do The Divine's - think, The Pope's - bidding.)
Laidlaw showed concept art of both characters, and demonstrated how an armoured breastplate would make a visual difference when equipped, but also dynamically fit each character's overall style.
"Maybe we'll let you mess around with stuff like colour, or even material," Laidlaw went on to tease, showing slides of optional colours and materials, which was met with whoops and cheers by the audience.
And that was that.
Note, not all of these ideas are freshly aired. Laidlaw discussed equippable followers back in August, among other things.
Multiplayer has also been strongly linked with Dragon Age 3 - as an arena-style PVE or PVP mode, if rumours are to be believed.