Dragon Age franchise writer David Gaider have the keynote address at PAX Australia today where he shared stories and interesting insights from his time at BioWare before leaving the company.
Gaider, who announced a brand-new game and studio at PAX Aus, started off by recalling his time with BioWare which started in 1999 when he was recruited by BioWare’s James Ohlen to work on Baldur’s Gate II. Gaider was working in hotel management at the time, and he initially turned down the job to work as a writer on Baldur’s Gate II. However, as fate would have it, the hotel he was working for at the time was acquired by a larger hotel chain, and as part of this, Gaider lost his job.
He called Ohlen to ask if the Baldur’s Gate II writing job was still available–and it was. It was a big job working on Baldur’s Gate II, as Gaider and his team wrote an astounding 1.2 million words for the game. After completing that game, Gaider wrote for Neverwinter Nights and the Star Wars game Knights of the Old Republic, which is one of the most highly regarded Star Wars video game stories. Gaider said during the panel that he’s proud that some of what he wrote for the game is Star Wars canon, along with the HK-47 Assassin Droid that went on to become a fan-favorite. He described HK-47 as a combination of C-3PO, Bender from Futurama, and the dog from the Canadian TV show The Littlest Hobo.
Also during the panel, Gaider spoke about how he became known as BioWare’s “romance guy” for the characters he wrote in Baldur’s Gate II and Neverwinter Nights. However, some female fans complained about the romance options in those older games, and to make better characters and romance options, Gaider and his team looked at various online forums, including “Ladies of Neverwinter,” to help improve things.
The conversation then shifted to Dragon Age, the franchise that Gaider is perhaps best known for. He was the lead writer on Dragon Age: Origins, and he said part of his guiding philosophy for the title was for it to steer clear of what Gaider saw as pitfalls from Dungeons & Dragons. Specifically, Gaider said it was important for him to writer the world such that it didn’t have the kind of all-power, unquestionable gods like in D&D. Gaider pointed out that “faith requires doubt,” and it was important to him to communicate this in Dragon Age.
Gaider also shared an interesting, if not completely new, story about how BioWare came up with the name of Dragon Age’s setting, Thedas. The team struggled to come with a name for the Dragon Age setting, so they called it “The DA Setting.” The shorthand became (The) (D)ragon (A)ge (S)etting. Later, in an editorial meeting, a writer asked if they could just call it “Thedas.” And that’s it–that’s how it happened.
Here are some other takeaways from Gaider’s keynote at PAX Aus today.
- People assuming Gaider is the reason why BioWare games have same-sex relationship options, but in fact, a separate team inside BioWare that made Jade Empire is responsible for making BioWare’s first same-sex relationships.
- Gaider said around the release of Dragon Age II is when the interaction with fans began to change, due in part to the access fans had to the team–it wasn’t always positive. Gaider remarked, “Maybe familiarity breeds contempt.”
- Some people thought BioWare focused too much on same-sex relationships at the expense of other content. “There should gave more much more focus on making sure us Straight Male Gamers were happy,” Gaider recalled someone saying.
- A Dragon Age II expansion called Exodus was canceled, and Gaider remarked, “I was devastated.” The idea, he remembers, was that BioWare would cancel the expansion to focus on making Dragon Age: Inquisition bigger and better.
- Dragon Age Inquisition was designed to be a “comeback” story for BioWare after Dragon Age II disappointed some fans. There were 850,000 words in the script.
- Gaider broke down and began to cry when discussing an Inquisition storyline he wrote involving Dorian that related to themes about gay conversion.
- He said this storyline, and the impacted it had, proved to him the power of video games and their ability to communicate important, powerful, and impactful stories.
- Gaider worked on the world-creation elements of Anthem, but he ultimately moved on. “It just wasn’t the same for me; something was missing,” he said.
Gaider is now heading up the Melbourne studio Summerfall, which is working on a musical adventure game called Chorus. For lots more, check out GameSpot’s interview with Gaider.
PAX Aus runs October 11-13 in Melbourne. GameSpot will be at the show all weekend, and you can follow along with all the action from the GameSpot Theatre.