Dragon Age fans, rejoice! A first look at the upcoming Dragon Age: Dreadwolf Codex entries has been unveiled as the writing team discussed their process and internal cooperation in a new BioWare blog post.
Ryan Cormier, Narrative Writer and Sylvia Feketekuty, Senior Writer, discussed at length how a concept develops from idea to implementation and how the writing team ensures quality and consistency:
Sylvia: Very early in the design stages, the editing team provides feedback to the rest of the narrative team on high-level elements such as new characters, plot, and themes. After the first write of a character or major mission is complete, we also have editors who give us their formal feedback during our large peer reviews.
Ryan: At this point, as we approach pre-production, the editors are talking with the writers about general topics such as characters, lore, and themes. These items require the most time. Editing starts broadly and gets detailed later in the process, because it doesn’t help a writer to hear, “This is an execution sentence,” when we’re still five drafts away from the final. We save the line edits for last. Until then, editors try to keep quiet about grammar and punctuation.
Sylvia: After peer review, when the revisions are complete and we are able to start recording the voice dialogues, I work more closely with the editing team. Editors will suggest better ways to get one sentence into the next, spot inconsistencies, and point out when I’ve written something nonsensical. Every editor also “owns” certain character voices, just like the writers, and I’ll often go to them to prep something for a particular character or to get a second opinion.
Ryan: Here, in the final drafts, no editing is too picky. This is where editors tweak the writing with changes to grammar, punctuation, and flow and where the passive voice dies a quick death. We read lines aloud at our desks while reviewing lore, tone, voice, and other details that change how a line reads in the recording booth or appears in captions. Voice recording notes and plot summaries are also finalized. All of these tweaks involve close work between a writer and an editor as we pass edits back and forth, fix this, change that, re-edit, debate, agree, and finally send it off for recording and translation.
The two went on to explain how a finished concept gets passed down to the development, performance, and localization teams:
Ryan: Editors are the bridge between writers and non-studio partners like actors and localizers. Once the final versions are completed, our game dialogue is sent to our in-house performance team, voice actors and translators, all working in many languages. Editors work daily with these teams and are the troubleshooters when technical or cultural issues arise. Sometimes an English joke just doesn’t land in the localized copy, or maybe we learn that a name we’ve chosen for an idyllic village in Thedas has an inappropriate meaning in another language.
Sylvia: One of the best Dragon Age: Inquisition™ translator questions I’ve ever seen came from a German translator who wanted to know what a character meant when he said “dancers with pom poms”.
I mentioned it above, but most of my cross-team work involves maintaining communication. Does the audio team have all the context they need? Does Character Art know that a plot point requires an alternate character outfit? People often compare narrative games to movies, but many of them are nothing like movies, structurally speaking. RPGs the size of ours are more like a full season of a weirdly non-linear TV series with so many moving and changeable parts.
The Dragon Age series has a particularly recognizable in-game encyclopedia called the “Codex” which expands as the player progresses through the game. The Codex provides critical exposition on the franchise’s high fantasy world and is particularly appreciated by Dragon Age enthusiasts.
So, Ryan and Sylvia took the time to reveal the first Dragon Age: Dreadwolf Codex entries, one of which was written by Sylvia herself (“Necropolis Misconceptions”). Check them out below:
The release date and launch platforms for Dragon Age: Dreadwolf are still unknown, although we can expect it to be limited to the current generation of consoles.
We will keep our readers informed of any new developments.