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I have been gaming since I was a kid, and when I was a kid I never expected gaming to be seen by the world as an art form. However the older I get the more I see people looking at gaming as an art form and I can easily say that Bioware has made a large impact on the Gaming Industry and the way people see gaming. With Dragon Age: Inquisition releasing in a few weeks, Bioware’s accomplishments in the world of gaming definitely should be recognized. 

Before Baldur’s Gate released in 1998 for the PC, there had never really been any games that gave the player a choice with how dialogue progressed between the characters and NPC’s, the Reputation system in Baldur’s Gate also gave the player a visible impact on how their character’s actions impact the game and the interactions with characters, NPC’s and the world. The foundation of deep storytelling, great characters and fantastic writing led on to Baldur’s Gate II, Neverwinter Nights, and eventually to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. With Knights of the Old Republic, Bioware attempted something that pushed the envelope even further. They expanded upon the reputation system and the D&D Alignment system to enable the player character to choose Jedi or Sith abilities as well as their own alignment. Each of their companions had an alignment as well that impacted how each companion approved (or disapproved) of each decision the player character made. This was a stark difference in the gaming formula from games such as The Elder Scrolls, which punished thievery and murder but really didn’t cause it to impact interactions with characters or the world around the player. The endings in Knights of the Old Republic were determined by whether the player character chose a light side path or dark side path, leaving a very binary sort of ending that depended on the type of character that was played.

Knights of the Old Republic Dark Side and Light Side

 

When Mass Effect released in 2007, the alignment system persisted with the option of choosing Paragon or Renegade. However Bioware attempted to make Commander Shepard more three dimensional by enabling players to choose a back-story for their play-through. In addition they veered away from the binary good or evil options, and put the Paragon and Renegade scales as two separate indicators so that NPC’s and squad-mates would take notice and react accordingly. The endings of Mass Effect also broke away from the binary formula; instead of being determined by the player’s Paragon or Renegade status, it was determined more by the choices players made throughout the course of the game. This method was later used in the Mass Effect Sequels as well as the Dragon Age series. Mass Effect also introduced romances, though for the first game there were predominantly heterosexual romances with the exception being Liara T’soni, the Asari squadmate.

Beginning with Dragon Age: Origins the way players interacted with characters changed. An approval meter was introduced, with companions having distinct likes and dislikes based on choices the player makes. Dragon Age: Origins also put a more heavy emphasis on making your decisions have repercussions that shape the entire world, with your main player character (called The Warden) even having the possibility of dying at the end of the game. While Dragon Age: Origins differed from Mass Effect in that the protagonist of Dragon Age: Origins was a silent protagonist, something that changed in it’s sequel Dragon Age II, it carried on with the origin story idea from Mass Effect but went a bit more in depth with it. Romance wound up being much more varied and complicated in Dragon Age: Origins, with character options for heterosexual, homosexual and lesbian Wardens to romance. The approval system changed in Dragon Age II so that instead of your characters simply liking or disliking your main player character, instead they were either friends or rivals, with associated content depending on the status of either rival or friend. It has also been stated that in Dragon Age: Inquisition the approval system and romances will be overhauled once again, where approval will not be shown by numerical values, but by thresholds and landmarks that affect how your conversations and interactions with characters develop over time. This will make the already sophisticated system feel even deeper and make it more realistic so that players aren’t just giving characters gifts to farm up their approval rating like in Dragon Age: Origins.

Dragon Age Origins Approval example

It was the attention to detail where interactions with NPC’s, characters and the overall emphasis on choice are concerned that elevated Bioware games beyond simple entertainment value. With the Dragon Age series for example the player begins to see that over the course of the series (and into Dragon Age: Inquisition which i’m certain will carry with this theme) their decisions change the world and the quests that can be undertaken. These things changed the face of gaming, showing that artful storytelling, deep characters, and solid gameplay could make show gaming as an art form instead of simply entertainment. The cinematic storytelling and complex characters led (in my opinion) to games like Bioshock and other story based games where as the emphasis on subtle, far reaching choices led to games like the Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead series.

With Dragon Age: Inquisition releasing on November 18th, 2014, the expectations are high for the newest title in the Dragon Age series; however since it is being created by the developer that contributed to changing the way people look at gaming, I for one have high hopes. With all the information that has been released on Dragon Age: Inquisition it would be odd for Bioware to disappoint players after all of this hype. Regardless we all have Bioware to thank for causing people to see Gaming as an art form instead of just a form of entertainment. The gaming industry is faring better than ever and I fully believe that Bioware contributed largely to the success of the industry.


Alexx Aplin

I am a life long gamer with a love for writing and journalism. If i'm not writing articles for Tech Raptor I'm playing RPG's or Puzzle games, as well as watching livestreams. I am very passionate about equality in all things and I believe that gaming is becoming a wonderful art form to speak on various social commentary issues.



  • coboney

    There were story heavy games before Bioware was around – games in the Adventure Genre or if you go back further things like Betrayal at Krondor. I think attributing all of that to bioware is misleading and also Bioware has only really led to a single type of story telling.

    Bioware tells ‘cinematic’ stories – which tend to have minimal actual choice, lots of false choices and surface choices.These are games that approach storytelling in a movie style manner more than story telling in a games manner. Games can tell stories like movies or like books but can’t in either way really completely match the original style it was developed for. Games need to embrace storytelling as games and taking the strengths the medium itself has.

  • Fenrir007

    I really have no hopes for Inquisition. Not only has the real talent behind Bioware left over time (including the doctors!), but also the EA meddling seems to be one of the factors in turning the series to shit in DAII. A partial list of people that left Bioware or are stuck in the Tortanic gulag:

    Brent Knowles left after Dragon Age Origins
    (Creative Director of DA:O and designer for Baldur’s Gate 2)
    Kevin Martens left for Blizzard
    (Senior Design Consultant.)
    Dan Tudge left for Disney
    (Executive Producer and Project Director)
    Even people like Walton left the SW:TOR team
    (Vice President of Bioware Austin.)
    James Ohlen, left to work on SW:TOR
    (One of the lead designers for DA:O)
    Drew Karpyshyn
    (Lead writer of ME1 and also worked on many past Bioware gems)

    Brent Knowles departure is especially interesting. His reasoning for departing seems to hint at EA’s new direction of EA trying to cater towards a more casual, action oriented crowd:

    “Discussion on Dragon Age 2 began around this time and looking ahead I
    knew that I wasn’t going to be satisfied with what Dragon Age 2 would
    be. Party control/tactical combat are huge factors in my enjoyment of a
    role-playing game as is adopting the role of the hero (i.e., customizing
    my character). I was fairly certain Dragon Age would transition towards
    more of a Mass Effect experience, which while enjoyable is not the type
    of role-playing game I play. Could I be the lead designer on such a
    title? Certainly… though if I were going to work on a game adopting a
    set-in-stone protagonist I’d rather work on something lighter, like a
    shooter.
    Through a series of circumstances it was decided that with my not
    wanting to participate on Dragon Age 2 it was time to transition in a
    new lead to finish the Dragon Age console versions and ramp up for
    Dragon Age 2”

    http://blog.brentknowles.com/2010/08/15/bioware-brent-year-10-fall-2008-summer-2009/

    Some of his collected quotes here can also be seen as a fundamental disagreement on the artistic vision of game creation from current Bioware:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/masseffect/comments/r0z6p/brent_knowles_lead_designer_on_dragon_age_origins/

    I know more people departed from Bioware, but I stopped tracking after those. So, really, Bioware is just a husk of its former self. Who is still there from the old guard? Gaider, the same guy that thinks “choice” is meaningless on a goddamn RPG game (like ressurecting Leliana even if the player killed her in his playthrough just because?).

    There is also the problem that DAII created. It essentially split the fanbase. On one hand, you have a sizeable portion of former fans that loved DAO hating its new direction. However, at the sime time, it did attract a host of new followers that enjoyed the more “dynamic” system in place, regardless of the story and characterization. How can Bioware/EA possibly please these 2 camps? Will they simply go back and please old fans, alienating the new ones? Will they pander to the new crowd, once again giving the finger to fans of the 1st game? Will they peddle a middle ground and risk losing EVERYONE?

    I don’t see a way out of this for EA, especially since their idea is always to maximize profits by going for the lowest common denominator. I’ll look for “The Witcher”, “Torment”, “Wastelands 2”, “Pillars of Eternity”, “Divinity: Original Sin” and “The Magical Realms of Tír na nÓg: Escape from Necron 7 – Revenge of Cuchulainn: The Official Game of the Movie – Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa” if I want good western RPGs instead.

  • I am a former Bioware fanboy, who would now only ever buy a game from them if I found it in a bargain bin so I could use it as a beer mat (remember when games used to come on DVDs? haha).

    After the steaming pile of poop that was DA2 (which naturally got rave reviews in oh so many of the media outlets now on the receiving end of gamergate), the chance of me buying DA:Inquisition is slender indeed.

    The only people I pre-order from these days is CD Projekt Red. Roll on Witcher 3!

  • Fenrir007

    Pretty much me as well. I used to love Bioware, but after EA acquired them, everything went to hell.

    I’m equally wary of pre-orders, and CD Projekt is the only company I still pre-order from as well. They have yet to dissapoint, and I love GOG.

  • On one hand I can understand where this article is coming from, on the other, I believe it paints Bioware in too positive a light.

    Yes, the overall interaction mechanism was pretty original when the Baldur’s Gate came out, however in essence the system has barely evolved over the years. A few token different NPC responses don’t help flesh out your character anymore. Not when the entire world barely registers what you’re doing.

    Mass Effect gave the promise that it would actually address that, but in the end, the promise rang hollow. No matter the choices, the end would be roughly the same, with minor deviations. Also, I’m pretty sure ME wasn’t the first Bioware RPG to feature romance options.

    As for the upcoming Dragon Age:Inquisition, I doubt Bioware will suddenly improve tenfold in all aspects. This is the only way I can see that game being passable at best, because their output and mentality have degenerated greatly over the years.

  • chris perez

    I am somewhat indifferent when it comes to Bioware. KOTOR was a good game and so was the DA 1 and 2. I agree 2 was not as good as 1 but I don’t understand why it is so hated by most people. Mass Effect 1 and 2 were incredibly good but ME3 was an insult to loyal fans. I will most certainly be waiting on Inquisition until I get some feedback from people on it. In regards to writing, nothing Bioware has done can compare to Planescape Torment.

  • MT Silver

    Where’s the love for Jade Empire?

  • Nick

    I totally agree with this, but also lets not forget that Bioware stopped actually producing games when they got purchased, they got setup as a place to train the other EA techs on how to build games in an attempt to try and rub off enough of the Bioware magic onto everything EA. I don’t think it worked very well in the end though.

  • Pugna

    I’m coming right out and just fucking saying it. Bioware are grossly overrated IMO. Mass Effect is one of those games where it’s considered progressive and an example of video game art for having a homogenous cardboard cut out of a protagonist because “Oh you can be bisexual and swap genders and shit”. It’s stories are riddled with plot holes and their main characters consistently have huge amounts of plot armour. To me, Red Dead Redemption stands as a shining example of story telling in video games.

  • inespie

    Hello, fallout here. bioware games, Your choices are minor and don’t change shit in the end. Still very white/black, too.

    the fact that the only data we got about inquisition is the romance and companions option speak much for the importance of the gameplay and story. I still hope to be proved wrong.

  • Zanard Bell

    Mass Effect didn’t affect me the way Dragon Age: Origins did, which, to be honest, is possibly one reason why I’m still alive today. Those endless nights playing as a City Elf Grey Warden and his merry band of misfits gave me a sense of purpose and happiness. And when my Warden finally sacrificed himself, I knew that Bioware did something profound, something magical here.

    And that’s not even counting me playing as Revan.

    They may have been grossly oversold, but Bioware (or at least what little remains of it) is for me one of the more talented developers pre-2008.