A whole generation of RPG gamers was first introduced to the genre thanks to Bethesda's Skyrim, a title which has sold millions and has led to "totally different expectations" in storytelling and exploration, saysMark Darrah.
That's why Dragon Age: Inquisition has gone 'back to scale' with its explorable worlds, as RPGs have 'shrunk' over the years in sacrifice to fidelity. BioWare is now gunning for both.
We're weeks away from Dragon Age: Inquisition installing to our PCs, and even on our consoles if you're so inclined. Executive producer Mark Darrah from BioWare says the change in technology, and the switch to DICE's Frostbite engine, has really let them have the best of both worlds.
The RPG playing field has moved on since the early days of Baldur’s Gate, and Darrah concedes that RPGs have 'shrunk' in scale when it comes to their worlds over the decades as more emphasis was put on making the worlds as beautiful as possible.
Now the technology is here to leverage fidelity and scale, with Inquisition going back to those roots.
"Now suddenly you have 15 million people that have basically had the first RPG they've ever played as Skyrim. They have totally different expectations of what storytelling is, what exploration is, and I think exploration is really where we've seen the biggest change," Mark Darrah tells.
"Games haven't been this big in ten years: Baldur's Gate II was this big, or close to this big. It's not just Bioware, really nobody was this big - games were getting smaller and smaller. I mean look at Uncharted, that's a four hour experience. There's nothing wrong with that, it's an amazingly polished four hour experience, but it's not a big experience. Whereas if you look at role-playing games from the late 90s, I mean Daggerfall is 65,000 square kilometers."
The raw power of hardware can support these vast and beautiful worlds, and that's empowering RPGs.
"What we've traditionally seen is that as a console generation turns over the dominant genre has changed. Shooters weren't the dominant genre a generation ago, it was racing games. If you go back before that, to the PlayStation 1 era, it was actually role-playing games," he continued. "I think that's what we may be seeing here. I don't know that role-playing games will be necessarily dominant but I do think we may see open-world exploration games being the dominant genre of this generation."
BioWare has been insistent that Dragon Age: Inquisition has embraced more of the series past by recapturing certain elements from Origins, but it's the sheer scale that leads it's development.
"It's bigger. Bigger than Dragon Age: Origins and certainly bigger than Dragon Age II, with more deliberate combat: the combat is trying to fall between the two games. It's different in a lot of ways, if anything I think it should probably make Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II feel more cohesive. It almost completes the set and makes the set make sense," explained Darrah.
"Dragon Age II had a lot of experiments in it, some of which I'm glad we did but some of which were very big mistakes. Dragon Age II had some very experimental storytelling in terms of the very personal story, not a big, threatening overarching villain. I'm glad we did that but those are all very challenging from a storytelling perspective."
Check out thebetween Mark Darrah and GamesIndustry.biz for more on the expectations of , which releases on PC November 18th in the US, 21st in Europe.