Blood, Sweat, and Pixels by Jason Schreier

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels by Jason Schreier

Author:Jason Schreier
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 2017-09-05T04:00:00+00:00

BioWare’s main headquarters are nestled in a small office complex near downtown Edmonton, a city best known for its enormous shopping mall and for temperatures that regularly plummet into the obscene. It’s no wonder the studio came up with Dragon Age. If you want to dream up a fantasy world inhabited by fire-breathing mythical creatures, few cities are more suitable for the act than Edmonton.

Dragon Age, which BioWare hoped would become the Lord of the Rings of video games, first entered development in 2002. After a hellish seven-year slog, BioWare released the series’ first game, Dragon Age: Origins, in November 2009. It was appealing to all types of gamers. Hard-core RPG fans dug the strategic combat and consequential choices, while the more romantically inclined loved that they could seduce their dreamy party members, like the snarky knight Alistair and the sultry wizard Morrigan. Dragon Age: Origins became a massive success, selling millions of copies and, most important, inspiring hundreds of thousands of lines of fan fiction.

Leading the Dragon Age development team was Mark Darrah, a well-liked BioWare veteran who had been at the company since the late 1990s. Darrah had a dry sense of humor and a bushy beard that had been bright red in 2013, when I first met him, but three years later was invaded by blotches of gray. “Mark is very good at the business of game development,” said Cameron Lee, a producer at BioWare. “Internally, we call the Dragon Age team the pirate ship. It’ll get where it needs to go, but it’s going to go all over the place. Sail over here. Drink some rum. Go over here. Do something else. That’s how Mark likes to run his team.” (An alternative take, from someone else who worked on the game: “Dragon Age was referred to as the pirate ship because it was chaotic and the loudest voice in the room usually set the direction. I think they smartly adopted the name and morphed it into something better.”)

After shipping Dragon Age: Origins in 2009, Darrah and his crew of pirates already had some ideas for their next big game. Whereas in Origins you played a fanatical Grey Warden whose life was dedicated to thwarting demons, the next Dragon Age game would be about larger-scale political conflict. Darrah envisioned a game about an Inquisition—in Dragon Age lore, an autonomous organization that solves conflicts across the globe—with the player as leader and Inquisitor.

Then, plans changed. Progress had stalled on one of BioWare’s other games, the MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic. Developed at BioWare’s studio in Austin, Texas, The Old Republic kept missing release dates, gradually slipping from 2009 to 2010 to 2011. Frustrated EA executives wanted a new product from BioWare to bolster their quarterly sales targets, and they decided that the Dragon Age team would have to fill the gap. After some lengthy discussions, Mark Darrah and Aaryn Flynn agreed to deliver Dragon Age 2 in March 2011, just sixteen months after the release of Dragon Age: Origins.


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