Dragon Age 2: On Branding and Circumstance

Small roundup for you folks today, one item dealing with the marketing for Dragon Age 2 and one item dealing with the way conflict is structured in the game. First item of interest comes from an interview over at Game Informer with the Bioware founders, Greg Zeschuk and Dr. Ray Muzyka, where they touch upon why the standard male Hawke was chosen as the ‘face’ of Dragon Age 2.

” That’s a great question. One of the things we really embrace in our games is diversity and enabling people to take on different roles so, obviously, we have strong female leads. We have amazing voice acting talent for both the male and the female roles.

That said, for the marketing face we have to make a choice. And it’s a tough choice to pick an iconic face — the face of the brand. You have to pick an iconic representation for the brand and it comes down to the marketing team’s intuition. It’s not easy because we know a lot of the fans enjoy playing the female lead so we always make sure it’s just as high quality as the male lead for the main characters in our games.”

Hmm. Does gender dictate how iconic something can be?

Second item was found over at GameBanshee from yet another interview with Mike Laidlaw defending Dragon Age 2. A good deal of criticism for Dragon Age 2 honed in on the fact that it lacked an “epic scope”; ie an easily identifiable evil villain for which you must overcome all odds to defeat. Instead, we got a lot of politics and circumstance and it wasn’t easy to point fingers or cast blame over the situation. He states the following on the subject:

“The “prominent antagonist” is a staple of fantasy, be it the brooding eye of Sauron or the endless hordes of the archdemon. For Dragon Age II, we wanted to attempt something different and break the mold and try to vilify circumstance, rather than a specific evil. It’s a story of how heroes are made, not born, and I think that by the same token, it’s a story of how the antagonist need not always be the villain. To me, that’s a very human tale. I believe the early game likely could have used some additional appearances by Meredith, but we were likely being over-cautious of her being perceived as a source of confusion or frustration for players: “I think she’s important, but she feels disconnected from my current goals!” ”

Nonetheless most players felt lost and aimless, as if the three acts were disconnected and you were never sure what Hawke was trying to do, exactly. I think that may be why fans clamored for an easily identifiable villain–it would provide them with a sense of purpose and direction. Personally, I found their choice to make a ‘villain’ out of circumstance admirable and refreshing.