As the second part of our three-part interview series that took place at Bioware’s Edmonton studio, we had the opportunity to interview the Executive Producer of Dragon Age: Origins, Mark Darrah.
: Let’s dive right into Dragon Age. What’s your favourite character throughout the single-player campaign?
Mark Darrah: My favourite character would have to be…hmm. Good question. I guess it would have to be Morrigan. As for my favourite non-playable character, it would have to be Connor, but I can’t go into details of why as it would ruin the storyline for gamers.
Burn, baby, burn! Disco inferno!
Looks like an elf, talks like an elf…she must be an elf.
Dakota Grabowski: Out of the romance scenarios, which do you favor?
Mark Darrah: Morrigan’s is a little bit more interesting because you can get things started pretty quickly, though it will take awhile for it to reach its culmination. As for Leliana, she’s harder to get started, but easier to get to fruition.
Dakota Grabowski: Starting with the “Origins” story arcs, which of the six were your favourites and least favourites?
Mark Darrah: Dwarf noble was my favourite. I really loved the political aspects of it. The back-biting and intrigue was high. My least favorite was probably the human noble due to that it’s the most conventional of the six.
Dakota Grabowski: If you had to create an origin story for the darkspawn, what would it entail?
Mark Darrah: For the darkspawn?
Dakota Grabowski: Yeah, if there was to be a character that a player could control, how would you go about creating an interesting story?
Mark Darrah: I think one thing with the darkspawn is that they are elemental.
Dakota Grabowski: Are they truly evil?
Mark Darrah: They are more elemental with no intelligence within themselves. An arch-demon brings them in and collects them. It’s more of a hive-mind type of thinking. So if you were to do an origin story for the darkspawn, you would have him break away from the arch-demon and the hive-mind to explore free will. They aren’t irretrievably evil. They are more a force of nature. They are a force of destruction and would create a unique situation that could be explored.
Dakota Grabowski: From Dragon Age: Origins, what was your favourite main quest and side-quest?
Mark Darrah: My favourite quest is probably the Red Cliff open world quest. There are a lot of interesting emotions that we don’t normally explore within video gaming. As for a side-quest, there’s a relatively minor side-quest that you get a star medal in a random encounter that I found pretty funny playing through.
He's little for his age.
Put your staves in the air!
Dakota Grabowski: How long did it take you to finish Dragon Age: Origins in your first play-through and what was the most difficult aspect of it?
Mark Darrah: So my first play-through was as a dwarf noble. I think my first play-through took around 65 hours in total. The most difficult aspect of it was probably the Broken Circle fight. Of all my sessions though, the most difficult portion was The Fade with the mage character.
Dakota Grabowski: Looking back at Bioware’s expansive history, what would you say was your favourite character that has been created by the team throughout all your titles?
Mark Darrah: It’s kind of clichéd, but Minsc is my favourite character. I’m not being creative or anything as he shows up on a lot of lists, but he’s my favourite character we’ve ever created.
Dakota Grabowski: Are there any inklings or throwbacks within Dragon Age that people can look back and think, “This is similar to something I’ve encountered in Baldur’s Gate or Neverwinter Nights?”
Mark Darrah: There's a few things similar to that. In Denerim, the main city, there’s a shop, which is heavily inspired by the magical shops in the Baldur’s Gate series. We obviously have to be careful of copyright infringement. There are a few plots that are heavily reminiscent. There are a few undead off the unbeaten path that people will recognize. For the hardcore Bioware fan, we make very minor references that, if you really, really, really know the story from our previous games, you might catch it. But I’m not sure how many people will notice them.
Dakota Grabowski: Where do you see the role-playing genre going forward after Dragon Age: Origins releases?
Mark Darrah: I think the interesting thing we are seeing is that the other genres are bringing in more storytelling. The edges of the role-playing genre are softening to a certain degree. I think we’ll always see the Japanese role-playing style where they concentrate on younger characters and linear storytelling. I think the western-RPG will continue with open-ended gameplay and more branching storylines. But you are seeing things like Bioshock, Grand Theft Auto, and even Mass Effect to a certain degree, challenging what is a role-playing game and what’s not. We’ll continue to see the genre exist, but many other genres will implement elements into their titles.
Dakota Grabowski: As an individual, how smooth has the transition been with the purchase of Bioware by Electronic Arts?
Mark Darrah: It’s actually been real good. One thing EA has brought to the forefront for us is that they have a strong public relations and marketing group. As a triple-A developer, it has allowed us to implement triple-A marketing and PR in the video game development process.
Resisted? How can you resist Dragon Age?
It's the edge of the world as we know it.
Dakota Grabowski: How do you feel about moving on from Dragon Age: Origins? Will there be a special place in your heart where you wish you could just continue developing the title?
Mark Darrah: It’s hard. It’s sort of a good and bad thing. It’s hard to work on something for this long and say it’s done. At the end of the project, it’s pretty stressful, so it’s a great relief to take some time off and recuperate to recharge your batteries.
Dakota Grabowski: Thank so much for your time Mark. I can’t wait to see the final product of Dragon Age.