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A Wish List for Dragon Age 3

I've been gaming since the early 1980's on Intellivision, Atari 2600, & Commodore 64. I'm a gamer, and not particularly interested in the Dragon Age universe beyond the video games. I neither support nor condemn Bioware / EA / any individual; as a consumer I simply want a quality product in exchange for my money.

This blog lists twelve things I hope to see more of, and nine things I'd like done differently in future Dragon Age games. Although the pros are more numerous, they're shorter because I assume that anyone reading this has played the games and will understand, even if not in agreement. The cons are longer because there's not much point in saying X sucks without explaining why.

At the end I go off on a rant concerning fairly recent developments in the video game industry that bother me a lot (and are also present in DA). By "a lot" I mean enough to seriously be considering giving up on gaming for good after all these years.

I think that gamers are very severe in judging products because the games must be worth both our time and our money. I get angry after wasting an hour at a bad movie. Playing video games requires thought & interaction, and receives our attention for a lot longer; they need be worthy of that level of involvement. As consumers we demand a lot more entertainment value from a game in comparison to other mediums such as tv, film, or music.

Please refrain from using this blog to bash DA / Bioware / EA / any individual.
Be constructive, not destructive.

A Dozen Things to Keep

  • The cinematic feel & storytelling.
  • Remain a single player non-linear dungeon crawl. If DA ever turns into an open world MMORPG I'll cry like a big baby, then go buy something else.
  • Com-E-dy. Some of my favorite moments have very little to do with the actual game, and a lot to do with humor, banter, pop culture references, playfulness, and personalities.
  • Strategic elements. I like emphasis on thought and strategy over speed and gore.
  • DA:O's environmental sounds were well done. During my first playthough, (using quality headphones) I thought that a distant barking mabari in the origin story was a real dog outside.
  • Decisions that have consequences to storyline / companions / gameplay.
  • Being easily moddable brings extra value & life to a game, and some simple-yet-useful mod ideas are easy to adopt for DA3.
  • Some of the music was very good, and it contributed a lot to the game's atmosphere. However, I did think that the music added in Awakenings sounded cheap and out of place, I would have preferred no new tracks to what was produced.
  • Playing with or without friendly fire makes a huge difference to gameplay, and both styles can be fun depending on what type of gaming experience the player would like to have. I'd like three difficulty settings with friendly fire, and three without.
  • DA2's crafting system. Some may disagree, but no running around to multiple vendors for crafting supplies sure floats my boat.
  • DA2's interface improvements. The devil is in the details, and small things make a big difference, such as the take all / sell all buttons, auto-locking quickbar, etc. Incorporating the DA:O hide helmets mod into DA2 was also a nice touch.
  • DA2's home: the storage chest, writing desk, & ability to buy limited supplies such as potions / runes / etc.

Nine Things to Change

  • More maps, larger maps. There's nothing like DA2's 'been here before' feeling while doing the same maps six times in one playthrough to destroy my potential for immersion.
  • Make characters that can move & execute commands w/o getting stuck on stairs, doorways, tables, etc. "Hawke, I said attack that guy... not ram yourself into the pillar and forget what you're doing." For a wealthy and respected champion, s/he sure is stupid sometimes.
  • Finish the tactics system. Some skills are more effective when used on an enemy with a specific status, but even after four DA2 patches not all of those statuses are included in the tactics list (ie. stunned): an epic fail. Implementing some ideas from the DA:O advanced tactics mod into DA2 was great, but some more features (ie. logic statements OR / NOT) are still needed.
  • Junk loot is a waste of time & it breaks character. The sell all junk button in DA2 is convenient, but self-referencing item name gags aside, junk loot is utterly pointless. Picking up garbage for 3 copper also makes Hawke an insane hobo like the DA:O scavenger. S/he sees a moldy doll as something worth looting while ignoring everything else in the room - this leads me to suspect a serious mental disorder.
  • Precise & complete in-game information is a good thing. After multiple playthroughs I'm still scratching my head about a few things in the DA universe, especially vague item properties (ie. improves backstabs).
  • Less unnecessary running. My time is valuable to me. If I wanted to waste it on needlessly repetitive and/or time-consuming in-game tasks with negligible entertainment value purposely designed to increase playtime, I'd play a monthly-fee MMORPG. When the player needs to pass though a fully explored area (free of enemies & active event triggers) to get somewhere else, provide an option to bypass running by clicking on a map exit.
  • Less emphasis on the generic / cliché aspects of the DA universe & more on the original. Much has already been established in the game series, so it's too late to go back now - but there are many interesting things going on in the DA universe that deserve attention, focus on those & downplay the generic fantasy / RPG details that have been done a thousand times before. I see why some cliché ideas such as dwarves with drinking problems are fun for some people, but after a couple of decades worth of 'em in my video games it gets old. I don't want to see the dwarves living in clouds up in the sky or elves that have developed space travel, but too much attachment to the stereotypical fantasy / RPG doesn't work either.
  • Add a little more social / environmental realism:
    • People normally object if you take their possessions.
    • Nobody chooses to set themselves aflame by deliberately walking into a fire (unless immune, panicked by chaos, utterly insane, perhaps the victim of an entropy spell, etc.).
    • People usually have some sort of a reaction to violence nearby.
    • Not everything is bolted to the ground. A warrior Hawke is stupid enough to ram into tables and chairs instead of enemies during a fight at The Hanged Man... Bad enough, but despite Hawke's ability to ram enemies with enough force to knock them down, when ramming an empty chair it doesn't move an inch & makes Hawke stop dead, as if he hit a brick wall. Devastating to immersion for me.
    • If allying with an NPC & friendly fire is enabled, I have a little courtesy and restrict my spell use. It would be nice if NPCs could do the same. When I'm trying to save your life, a fireball in the face is not "helping" me.
    • While not engaged in conversation, all NPCs should move around within a limited area while doing various things in relation to character / setting / nearby events / plotline events. Stationary NPCs ≠ immersion.
  • Warning: The rant begins here. I fear that this one is a lost cause, as the gaming industry is on a quest to suck money out of player's wallets in every way imaginable. But here we go: A web account & internet connection are not needed for a single player game. I paid money in exchange for the product because I wanted to play a video game - not because I wanted to become a forced target for direct marketing. I strongly object to advertising incorporated within video games in any way whatsoever. It starts with little ads in the corner of the title screen, but if consumers don't say no it will get out of hand. Either provide me with an opportunity to opt-out of in-game advertising, or I'll opt myself out by not purchasing your products in the future.
I also do not appreciate paying for "extras" that should have been included in the game in the first place. What a wonderful world gaming companies have created for themselves, where they get to charge us for the same product twice, simply by withholding or delaying parts of it for a short amount of time. Forty dollars of DLCs doubles the cost of the game.
If the questionable money-grabbing approaches to designing products that have been introduced in the gaming industry over the past decade continue to get worse, after 30 years of gaming I will stop buying. I fear a future where every single item in games such as DA will require 'points' that can be purchased with real money, à la Railworks 3 (the game that costs $1,800 USD if you're nutty enough to pay for everything). We're already slowly being nudged in that direction, the idea of paying real money for imaginary in-game items was laugh-out-loud funny not all that long ago, and look where we are now.
I'm approaching a point where objections to intrusive and disturbing practices will cause me to walk away from gaming forever. I did not ask for this, nor do I want it, but that is the path that the gaming industry is leading me towards. No matter how wonderful it has been to experience the evolution of video games firsthand since day one, and how amazing they have become in terms of graphics, sounds, depth, realism, etc.; I will not hesitate to throw in the towel when my tolerance for being treated as cattle made of cash has been surpassed. I believe in voting with my wallet, and I am selective about who / what gets my money.

──┤ 22px-5308644.png Eganogard talk ├── 04:18, August 25, 2012 (UTC)

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