The lights are on
Romance is only a shred of BioWare's sprawling storylines,
but to some fans, it's the focus of their journey (whether BioWare intends for
it to be or not).
Picking your one-and-only isn't easy with all the eclectic
personalities in the Dragon Age universe, especially if your beau has opposing
views. How does BioWare make these romances so appealing? Are they planning
changes in Dragon Age: Inquisition? Find out why selecting romance candidates
are never cut-and-dried, and how BioWare attempts to bring out a different side
to a character during courtship.
Love isn't decided right out of the gate. BioWare builds its
characters before even thinking about the romantic content. "If you build the
temptress or something like that, you're going to build a cliché," says
creative director Mike Laidlaw. "You need to make sure they're a real character
and a person first." Once BioWare forms the history and motivations, the
writers sit down to address how many romance options they need, and begin
dissecting their characters.
"We'll talk about what the romantic arc is and what that
character's story can tell as a romance," says lead writer David Gaider.
"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." This can be seen with polar opposites Morrigan and
Leliana in Dragon Age: Origins. Leliana provides a traditional romance arch;
you had to build up her trust and then she starts addressing you lovingly.
Morrigan's is more about reading between the lines and not giving up on getting
into her heart. "You could almost sleep with Morrigan immediately — before you
even got to know her at all — and that was part of her thing," Gaider says.
"She expected that and right afterwards it'd be over, but you could then scratch
beneath the surface and break through her armor."
Giving players a variety of romance arcs is something the
writers address by making sure they have the right people in place for the
role. "When we're talking about what these romantic arcs are going to be, we're
trying to figure out if we're going to provide choice for a player, what
[styles of romance are you choosing between], and seeing what we have," Gaider
says. "If we have no variety, then maybe we have to move back more towards
content." Laidlaw adds, "Or do we need to take another character and say, 'You
know what? Guess what? You're getting in the big leagues.'"
But characters aren't necessarily axed from the paramour
role if they're not working. Sometimes, BioWare has to look at a character in a
different light to cast them as a unique and viable romance contender. "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]," Laidlaw says. This is exactly what Gaider had to
do when he wrote Morrigan's romance. "Morrigan initially was not supposed to be
a romance," Gaider says. When the decision came to put her in that role, Gaider
had to think long and hard about the character he created. "I had to change the
way I thought about her," he says. "[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.'"
BioWare also has to make sure they've looked at a
relationship from every angle. This forces the team to look beyond just the
premise and into what implications it presents. "Are there issues of feminism
or other problematic elements? What are we saying about this character we
aren't intending to?" Gaider says. "We have to think about all those issues
first and try to distill it down into a set of stories that we want to tell and
feel good about telling."
Up next: Romance challenges and changes for Inquisition...
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.