Dragon Age Week

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In the first week of January, I tweeted several times about DA Week, talking about things I did and/or saw. You may have questions:

  • If we have a team dedicated to Dragon Age, how can we have a DA Week?
  • What is DA Week?
  • If Sir Pounce-a-lot and Barkspawn got into a pie-eating contest, who would win?
  • Why is there a lamprey on a shirt further down in this article?

I will answer some (but not all) of these questions in this post.

What is it?

Dragon Age Week is a weeklong period during which team members work on their own projects. These projects can serve a multitude of purposes:

  • Investigate a feature that is not currently in the plan.
  • Learn a skill outside their current area of expertise.
  • Look into projects outside the scope of current Dragon Age work.
  • Almost anything else.

Teams are allowed and encouraged.

At the end of the week, each person or team is expected to have something to show.

Before DA Week, we ran a series of DA Fridays where Friday afternoons were devoted to similar goals.

Why do it?

Game development is a creative process. As teams have grown bigger and bigger, dependencies have become increasingly important to understand and track. This is great and all, but it has the side effect of restricting what a developer can work on and when. When other people are depending upon my output, it is difficult for me to experiment and try new things.

But therein lies the problem. Experimentation is where a lot of the best features come from.

Off-book things that I personally have been responsible for:

  1. The Wild Mage in BG2
  2. Creature possession in the NWN DM client (though this quickly BECAME a core feature)
  3. Combat balancing in Sonic Chronicles

How’d it go?

We had excellent participation through the week. I think it was a great success.

Anything come out of it yet?

Yes:

  • Several smaller tech initiatives will be rolled over directly into the codebase.
  • We had four different groups who worked on board/card games. They are all great games with good “feels.” We haven’t yet figured out exactly what the next steps are for those.
  • Several people worked on creating assets from a discipline outside their own. This is an EXCELLENT thing. While most of these assets won’t be used in the game itself, the exercise gives a greater appreciation for the work that other disciplines do. Additionally, it actually tends to improve workflow, as domain experts are forced to explain things to non-domain experts, often revealing holes in the documentation or workflows.
  • Several interesting art projects. Some of which you may see in the store in the future. Some of the more “interesting” offerings caused us to start looking into a print-on-demand store. Things like this:

 

There is a story that goes with this. REALLY, I promise.

Callback

What if it was fish pies?

Discuss this!

Author: Mark Darrah

Executive Producer of the Dragon Age Franchise. Game industry veteran since 1997. Follow Mark on Twitter @BioMarkDarrah