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Dragon Age developer discusses why big games take so long, and why they're announced so early

"It might be because the studio wants the game announced because they're worried the publisher might kill it otherwise."

Dragon Age: The Veilguard screenshot showing three companion characters posing with weapons.
Image credit: BioWare

Dragon Age creator and BioWare veteran Mark Darrah has discussed some of the reasons why big-budget games seemingly take so long to make - and why some projects are announced so long before they're ready to release.

Darrah, a veteran of BioWare back to the original Baldur's Gate, previously headed the Dragon Age franchise and returned to work on the upcoming entry Dragon Age: The Veilguard as a consultant.

Speaking via his YouTube channel, Darrah provides some interesting insight on the topic of big-budget game development. And, while he avoids namechecking any of BioWare's games directly, it's not difficult to read between the lines at certain points as to how this wisdom relates to the company he's spent most of his career at.

Dragon Age: The Veilguard reveal trailer.Watch on YouTube

To begin with, Darrah counters the question of why AAA game development takes so long by simply saying that it doesn't - or at least, it doesn't take as long as you might initially believe. In practice, various games get announced well in advance of full development taking place, with only small teams working on pre-production or ideation for several years.

"There might be a small nascent seed of a team, but really there isn't any work being done for quite a long time," Darrah notes. "Studios can kind of be misleading on this front, because they'll say things like 'we've started work on Elder Scrolls 6', or they might even a trailer for the game even though the current team size is under 10 people.

"So they're giving the impression that this is parallel development, that the team is working on this game, when in fact it's a few people having a few meetings, and not much is being done."

As a reminder, BioWare released its first teaser trailer for Mass Effect 5 in 2020, even though the bulk of BioWare has been busy working on Dragon Age: The Veilguard in the meantime. BioWare has updated fans with fresh concept art and other visuals each year - but it's clear the game is still nowhere near launch.

"There might be reasons why it's important for the studio or the publisher to have that game in the public consciousness," Darrah continues. "It might be because the publisher's slate is a little weak, and they want the public to remember it still has important games in its back pocket. It might be because the studio wants the game announced because they're worried the publisher might kill it otherwise."

Announcing projects early isn't the best strategy, Darrah continues, but sometimes "needs must".

Why Do AAA Games Take So Long?Watch on YouTube

The full video, above, is worth watching to hear more of Darrah's thoughts on what holds up big budget games from being made, including the growth in size of open-world or live-service projects in scope (and therefore the need for bigger, more cumbersome teams of people making them), a push from publishers for greater iteration and a "fidelity death cult" where projects have to continue pushing the bar in terms of visuals.

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