The Sound and the Fury: What we listened to while writing Dragon Age: Inquisition

ScreenshotWin32_0012_Final_WMIf you wandered into the Writer’s Pit while Inquisition was in full swing, you probably would’ve seen seven writers (and one editor) with headphones on, eyes fixed on monitors, typing furiously. Most of the writing happens when we can shut out the rest of the world and immerse ourselves fully in the story and characters. For many of us, this requires music. Often the music we listen to informs and even inspires what we write.

So, what was coming through those headphones when we wrote Dragon Age: Inquisition?

 

Sheryl Chee writer of Blackwall and Leliana

My characters’ voices don’t really establish themselves firmly until I’ve written one or two conversations for them. While I often have a good idea of their arc and personality, how they express themselves usually takes some poking around.

Music often helps get me into the right mindset, so when I set out in the early stages of planning and writing a character, I begin by building a playlist that evokes a certain mood. For instance, Leliana’s playlist is sweetly melancholic, with occasional moments of self-indulgent gloom and anger. Though it starts off with A Perfect Circle’s “The Noose,” it’s otherwise dominated by female voices like Suzanne Vega, Tori Amos, Anna Ternheim, Laura Veirs, Poe, and iamamiwhoami.

Blackwall was a bit of a special snowflake, and I ended up with two separate playlists by the time Inquisition reached its final stages. From the start I knew that I needed a classic rock playlist for a certain furious energy that I find reflected in songs by Cream, Rush, and Led Zeppelin. His second playlist, on the other hand, was extremely eclectic, running a gamut of genres from folksy Americana to electronica. These songs, chosen mainly for their lyrics, came from artists including The Civil Wars, Kate Bush, Grizzly Bear, and Blaqk Audio, and were used as inspiration for the writing of his personal story.

For wildernesses and codex entries, I would usually listen to whatever fit my mood at the time. However, generally the more work I had to get done and the less time I had to do it in, the louder and faster the music got. There was a phase when I was listening to nothing but electronic body music. Then there was the time I was writing combat barks for Multiplayer. That was done to “Timber,” by Pitbull and Ke$ha on repeat.

It got the job done.

 

Sylvia Feketekuty writer of Josephine

I often write without music at all, but sometimes I really need a track to keep my thoughts company. It often doesn’t have much bearing on what I’m writing—I mostly use whatever song is stuck in my head at the time, set it to repeat, and start writing.

When I’m in a good stretch the music gets zoned out and becomes part of my background thought process–something I don’t notice consciously, but would miss if it weren’t there. According to my DA:I playlist, the artists I listened to the most on the project were the Scissor Sisters and the Electric Six. That sounds about right.

 

Ben Gelinas editor for Sera, The Iron Bull, Blackwall, Varric, Leliana

I am many kinds of nerd. I have too many video games, I see too many movies, and I speak in dusty Simpsons quotes. But it’s the title of “music nerd” that I hold most dear. When I don’t have to think too much about the task at hand, I’ll listen to weird rap like Run the Jewels and Death Grips, weird hardcore bands like Converge and Daughters, and weird electro like FKA Twigs and Baths. But when I’m working with words I get very specific. Editing text—and I mean substantive edits, rather than the spelling, grammar, and consistency checks that come later—requires music that is both dramatic and blends into the background so I can concentrate on each line of dialogue I polish.

For Inquisition, I kept returning to a few key albums:

The Haxan Cloak’s Excavation is a dark, disturbing, and unpredictable ambient gem that proved a perfect soundtrack for the Fade.

Jon Hopkins’ Immunity and Kuedo’s Severant are lighter albums than the Haxan Cloak, and squeeze a surprising amount of emotion out of their entirely instrumental tracks. Both also thump along at a steady pace, keeping me motivated and focused.

Jonny Greenwood’s soundtrack to There Will Be Blood is beautiful stuff, but it sure is unsettling. It wasn’t right for Sera at all, but I listened to it a lot while working on “In Hushed Whispers.”

Joanna Newsom’s Ys is basically Ferelden in an album—and has some of the best lyrics ever put to music.

Chelsea Wolfe’s Pain is Beauty actually has a song called The Warden.

But the single track I listened to the most on this project was Eclipse/Blue by Nosaj Thing. The video was often on repeat for entire days of crunch edits because it’s just too pretty.

 

Brianne Battye writer of Cullen

I listen to music that I‘ve connected – sometimes tenuously – to the character or scene. Cullen’s playlist had a lot of songs that were calming, if at times somewhat melancholy. I had a fairly decent split between songs with lyrics – such as “Grey” by Dave Gunning, “Curse Me Good” by The Heavy, and “Falling Slowly” from Once – and instrumentals, such as Chris Tilton’s “Olivia” from the Fringe Season 3 soundtrack, Danny Elfman’s “In the Tub” from Big Fish, and Sam Hulick’s “We Fought as a United Galaxy” from Mass Effect 3. Sometimes I throw the playlist on and let it go. Other times, I need to listen to the same two or three songs on loop while working on a particular scene.

While writing content for the wilderness, my playlist was mostly instrumental and dependent on the area (open and awe-inspiring, dark and eerie, etc.). I did the same for codex entries.

Then there was one late night where I wrote combat barks while listening to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” on loop. No idea why.

 

Patrick Weekes writer of The Iron Bull, Cole, and Solas

For most of my writing in wilderness areas, and for the Iron Bull, I stuck to movie soundtracks. I generally cannot handle writing to anything with lyrics, but it fades into comfortable mood music quickly enough for me that I could handle the same several albums and be fine. My general playlist for writing music is:

In order to write Cole, a character who is essentially a raw nerve of sensitivity, I wanted to get music that was, well, sad is the easy way to put it, but I also needed a certain level of bare honest emotion. And specifically, it had to be songs that felt sad to me. Many people suggested songs that were sad to them, or about sad topics, but they didn’t give me the right sort of feel.

For me, a good lonely piano with vocals kills me in a way other things can’t. And so what I ended up with was my list of “14 Feels-Inducing, Piano-Heavy Sarah McLachlan Songs.” I listened to these songs for the entirety of the time I was writing and revising Cole’s plot and character dialog. According to friends, writing Cole all day to this music apparently made me act strangely. I’m sure I was fine.

[Editor’s note: Because Patrick had explained his musical inspiration for Cole, I would also listen to Sarah McLachlan (all of her music on random, not just a select few songs) while editing him. There may have been days when I listened to ‘When She Loved Me’ over and over again. And wept.]

And finally, there was Solas. I used the general list for a lot of him, but his thoughtful voice needed something more in some parts. I did a lot of writing to the soundtrack to the movie “Once”, which captured the kind of melancholy wisdom Solas needed.

However, for a few specific parts, even that wasn’t quite right for me. When Solas talks about things that he saw in the Fade, things that speak to a distant past, I needed him to sound ever so slightly otherworldly and wistful – someone remembering a dream with a sense of both sadness and inevitability.

So I took k.d. lang’s cover of “Hallelujah”, and I wrote key scenes to that single song on loop.

If you follow that link and look at some of Solas’s lines, you may notice a familiar rhythm come out. It would have been forcing it to give lines the same rhyme scheme, but giving the words the meter captured some of that wistfulness and made Solas sound ever so slightly otherworldly:

At Haven:

“I’ve journeyed deep into the Fade in ancient ruins and battlefields to see the dreams of lost civilizations.

I’ve watched as hosts of spirits clash to reenact the bloody past in ancient wars both famous and forgotten.

Every great war has its heroes. I’m just curious what kind you’ll be.”

On very rare occasions, the player’s voice would actually play along with this:

Solas: The Chantry says that demons hate the natural world and seek to bring their chaos and destruction to the living.

Solas: But such simplistic labels misconstrue their motivations and, in so doing, do all a great disservice.

Solas: Spirits wish to join the living, and a demon is that wish gone wrong.

Player: Is there a way to coexist? To live with them, if not in peace, at least without such active confrontation?

Solas: Not in the world we know today. The Veil creates a barrier that makes true understanding most unlikely.

Solas: But the question is a good one, and it matters that you thought to ask.

(In the rare cases the player got into the same rhythm, there was always an approval bump from Solas. For that brief period, it was like the player was thinking like he did.)

I used this a few times over the game, and I love what it did to his voice. Also, Cori (who edited Solas) is exceedingly kind for putting up with my request that changes to those lines keep this surreptitious rhythm.

[Editor’s note: Yes, yes I am.]

 

Lukas Kristjanson, writer of Sera, In Your Heart Shall Burn, and countless Codex entries

There were moods to what I was writing, and at the highest level it was really about whether or not stuff was on fire – both thematically and/or due to deadlines.

Main story missions like In Your Heart Shall Burn always juggle heavy topics, but they are really about the player coming into their own – how is their strength growing or changing? Sacrifice/ascendance/wonder etc. Guitars and sudden silence. Stuff is on fire.

Sera is all about the energy of the moment. She’s frustrating and fun at the same time. You have to meet her at her level, not drag her to yours. Her music was loud, silly, and mean, except when suddenly sweet. Stuff may or may not be on fire, but odds are good it will be soon.

Skyhold and Val Royeaux are spaces where characters decompress. Relatively quiet but still epic in scope, these places are a nexus where the player’s efforts quietly weave through many background lives. There’s a ton of short stories about heroes, hope, and sadness in the codex entries and simple ambient pairings. Music was lighter with lots of variance, because it’s about individuals. Stuff is not on fire. The deadline is.

I tend to loop a single song until it’s almost white noise. I don’t switch around much, because for me, lyrics I’m not used to mess with the rhythm of dialogue. Yet I don’t go to instrumentals. Go figure. The songs below drifted to the top of my playlist by the end of the project, more or less. It isn’t much of a mix, because each song was played dozens of times – hundreds over the development cycle. That probably says more about my mental process during crunch than it does about any one moment.

I also pulled the soundtrack from our Leliana’s Song DLC. A different flavor of DA that is fun to visit.

 

David Gaider, writer of Dorian, Cassandra, and much of the main plot

I’m not sure I could give an answer as complex as Luke does – when I’m writing I only listen to music on occasion, and when I do I’m not that picky about it. I have two playlists: my Classical playlist for when I’m writing complex dialogue (which is mostly Chopin, but has some other orchestral pieces in there) and my Dance playlist for when I’m writing action scenes (anything with a beat will do, and I’m not about to name the tunes).

Aaaand that’s about it.

 

Karin Weekes, editor of Cassandra, Josephine, and much of the main plot

When I edit dialogue, I can’t listen to music with words, so I have a couple classical/movie score playlists.

For general editing, I listen to things like Ferde Grofé’s Grand Canyon and Mississippi Suites, a bunch of John Williams (Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, etc.), Carter Burwell’s score from Rob Roy, and various Celtic songs.

For Dragon Age, there was Rob Roy, Klaus Badelt’s Pirates of the Carribean score, Ramin Djawadi’s Game of Thrones Score, and Hans Zimmer’s Hunt for Red October score.

When I’m not editing dialogue and can listen to music with words, my love of all kinds of music takes over. Random songs on my main playlist include:

Then, I have my Very Special Working Late playlist for when it’s late at night and I feel myself lagging. I’ll crank up the ABBA and start a Twitter “sing-along” (Shout-out to all my fellow #DancingQueens!). I won’t list songs; it’s pretty much ALL the ABBA.

 

Cori May editor of Cole, Cullen, Solas, and Dorian, and Vivienne’s caretaker

When I’m editing dialogue, I say every word out loud in order to get a sense of the voice and character, to make sure the line flows. I can’t listen to music while I’m doing that (except for Cole, as noted above). I even try to get the accent right whenever possible. I’ve tried desperately to pick up a Welsh accent (it’s the most beautiful voice in the world) and can’t, but I do a mean Morrigan (and really, is there any other kind?) and a passable Vivienne.

 

Mary Kirby, writer of Vivienne, Varric, and In Hushed Whispers

I have to match my music to the character, plot, and scene I’m writing.

Vivienne’s playlist was heavily instrumental. She had a lot of music from the soundtracks of Inception, Cloud Atlas, and Doctor Who, lightly seasoned with Lorde’s version of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” because why not.

Varric got a lot of soulful strings and alternative. And words. Tracy Chapman, Don Henley, Pearl Jam, Radical Face. If someone has written a top 40 song about being regretful and/or lying, it is probably on that playlist somewhere.

When I worked on the plot “In Hushed Whispers,” I listened to a lot of Gershwin. I am not sure what that says about Alexius. “Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts,” and I guess just Orlais in general, required Cellos, so I put 2CELLOS album on repeat. Gaspard got “Smooth Criminal.” Celene got “With or Without You,” and Briala got “Use Somebody.” I am not actually sure why.

Dragon Age: Inquisition – Patch 2 Notes

For patch notes in other languages, click here

From Pat LaBine, producer for Dragon Age: Inquisition

We have a patch for PC, Ps3, Ps4, and Xbox 360 coming out today to address some of the issues players have been having. Here’s a list of the upcoming changes:

Release date: December 9, 2014

Singleplayer

  • Fixed case where game would incorrectly think the player has more than one race/class/gender
  • Fixed case where users who changed their voice off of default, would have their voice set back to default when interacting with Hawke’s chargen settings.
  • Increased duration that search highlights things, and added highlighted items to radar while they are highlighted.
  • Fixed several conversation lines which would take a very long time to advance to the next line unless they were manually skipped.
  • Fixed case where followers could float above the ground after extended periods of play
  • [PC] Fixed some hitching in conversations.
  • [PC] Pressing the interact key (default “F”) will take everything from containers.
  • [PC] Hair should be less shiny on lower quality settings.
  • [PC] Added ability to rotate character models with the mouse in UI’s that show character models
  • [PC] Added an option to enable / disable tactical camera on mouse wheel scroll out.
  • [PC] Hiding the HUD on the PC will now hide all UI elements
  • [PC] Fixed being able to drag abilities from a tree that was not selected onto the quickbar
  • [PC] Fixed being able to toggle UI state for the tactical camera on the quickbar when the tactical camera is unusable
  • [PC] Fixed case where clicking quickbar elements in Eyefinity would trigger attacks
  • [PC] fixed case where extra mouse-up events were triggering in UIs
  • [PC] Fixed issue where mouse-up events were missed when dragging off of UI elements and then releasing the mouse button
  • [PC] Fixed loading Icon not animating while Mantle creates shaders during load screens.
  • [PC] Fixed mouse cursor flashing while targeting AOEs
  • [PC] Fixed situation that could result in a hang on the start menu.
  • [PC] Fixed situation where war table could become non-interactive until users right clicked on it.
  • [PC] Fixed situation which could cause mouse-look to snap to a facing rather than turning smoothly
  • [PC] Holding right click and pressing the camera turn buttons in tactical camera will cause the cursor to strafe in the same manner the camera behaves outside tactical camera
  • [PC] Made some changes that should improve Mantle performance
  • [PC] quickbar indicator for pause state should no longer remain highlighted when game is not paused
  • [PS3] Increased number of save slots to 30
  • [PS4] Improved conversation performance during fast install
  • [PS4] Increased number of save slots to 50
  • [360] Fixed case where movies sometimes decoded incorrectly
  • [360] Fixed Crash when selecting storage device when select storage device warning is present
  • [360] Fixed the online connection error being displayed twice when attempting to login to Origin with no Xbox live connection.
  • Assorted stability improvements
  • Fixed crash that could occur after some conversations
  • Certain boss creatures are now immune to Disruption Field
  • Creatures in rag doll will now pause when the game is paused
  • Fix to Spirit Blade so it no longer triggers combos
  • Fixed a couple focus abilities to be weapon agnostic
  • Fixed a few DA Keep world state import reactivity checks.
  • Fixed a few situations that could result in there being no conversation selection indicator during conversations
  • Fixed an issue caused by changing characters at the same as targeting an AOE ability
  • Fixed Audio cutting out when using AOE abilities while radial menu is open.
  • Fixed being unable to finish quest “Safe Keeping” if the user places key fragments in the forger, then leaves the zone without getting the finished key.
  • Fixed camera shaking when making small camera adjustments during character creation
  • Fixed case where blizzard would pause the game when it turns off
  • Fixed case where controller rumble would get permanently disabled
  • Fixed case where Imshael could end up in a location where players could not fight him.
  • Fixed case where interaction text would not update in tactical camera
  • Fixed case where mana or stamina was incorrectly displayed on mounted character’s portraits
  • Fixed case where users could get stuck loading a save in a certain dragon combat area
  • Fixed case where users could get stuck on an infinite “Connecting to Dragon Age Servers”
  • Fixed Crippling Blows to have a 15% damage bonus instead of .15%
  • Fixed Cullen’s hair having some strange shadows during cinematics
  • Fixed exploit that would allow bypassing ability cool-downs in certain circumstances
  • Fixed exploit that would allow users to take no damage.
  • Fixed issue where orders to interact with trebuchets made in tactical mode were un-interruptable.
  • Fixed issue where user loses control of the party if he enters tactical camera at the same time as a cinematic triggers
  • Fixed issue which could cause potion counts to be reset due to party member changes.
  • Fixed issue which could result in an infinite “Connecting to Dragon Age Servers” on the main menu.
  • Fixed issue which could result in the Radial menu not staying open
  • Fixed issue which could result in the screen re-sizing UI to stop working until exiting and re-entering the screen re-sizing UI.
  • Fixed scripted autosave in the western approach which was made which if loaded could result in certain NPCs to not show up until after leaving the area and coming back.
  • Fixed situation where followers could get stuck while pathfinding to the player.
  • Fixed some of the collectible books being non-interactive in Skyhold
  • Fixed slot types on several crafted items
  • Fixed some item names getting cut off in stores
  • Fixed weapon type on several crafted weapon parts.
  • Ground rings scale on Dragons in Tactical Camera
  • Radar will be shown during radar tutorial, even if the UI is set to be hidden
  • Radar will show way points immediately after coming out of UIs, no longer requires player to move first.
  • Target lock is cleared when entering tactical mode.
  • Unified sort order for stat listings during item modification

 

Multiplayer

  • [PC] Improved push-to-talk functionality when using keyboard and mouse
  • Fixed issue which could result in negative XP being granted in some multiplayer matches
  • Fixed crash that could occur while switching characters in some multiplayer menus
  • Cursed chests in multiplayer no longer look different from un-cursed ones
  • Fixed some missing information on end of match screens when servers are slow in Multiplayer.
  • Fixed Players losing their ability to target when dying while recovering object in multiplayer
  • Fixed situation where host migration after end of match would fail to show end of match details for the remaining players
  • Fixed issue with players being interrupted while interacting with objects in Multiplayer
  • Fixed issue where host can be returned to an empty lobby after quitting out of a match while in the operation failed state
  • Improved appearance of ledge drop-downs in multiplayer.
  • Fixed case which could cause keys to not drop in Multiplayer
  • Fixed case in Multiplayer where players could attempt to use abilities while dead.

Upcoming Patches and Features for Dragon Age

Breach_shotFrom Scylla Costa, producer on Dragon Age: Inquisition

Hi everyone,

On November 18, we released Dragon Age: Inquisition to the world. Since then, the team has listened to feedback and is working towards the first of an ongoing series of patches and feature/content updates in an effort to support your DAI experience.

As a live service, we wanted to let you know about our strategy moving forward. Here’s a brief outline of two initiatives we’re working on, in order of priority.

Priority 1 – Patches

We’re committed to providing long-term gameplay and stability improvements. We have already released a Day 1 Patch, and in December we will release our second patch. We expect the patch to roll out on PC, PS3, PS4, and Xbox 360 on December 9, 2014. We are working hard to get Patch 2 out on Xbox One as soon as possible.

Patch 2 is focused on stability, but does include numerous improvements and fixes across the board. Full patch notes will be available soon, but generally Patch 2 includes fixes to:

  • Stability – Various crashes, freezes, audio/voice glitches, and many stability improvements.
  • Gameplay – Conversations, quests, plot states, combat, UI, camera, controls, follower/enemy AI and path finding, exploits, radar, and search.
  • Multiplayer – In addition to some of the gameplay improvements listed above, multiplayer fixes also cover areas such as animations, game mode bugs, stat reporting, and stability/crash fixes.
  • PC – Numerous control & UI fixes, fixes to some hitching, improved Mantle performance, graphical glitches.

Beyond Patch 2 we’ll continue to release patches that focus on gameplay improvements. We’ve already lined up a number of improvements and fixes we’d like to include in Patch 3, and of course we’ll continue listening to you to make sure we’re addressing your concerns.

I wanted to call out a few specific topics as well, as they relate to patches:

  • Keyboard & Mouse controls – Patch 2 includes the first range of fixes towards addressing the feedback we’ve received on the PC controls; it cleans things up so you’ll see fewer problems with the current layout. This gives us a more stable base upon which to work. After Patch 2 goes out, our next priority is to improve the PC mouse/keyboard controls further. We’re investigating how to expand on PC usability and functionality to address specific requests from the community. Keep an eye on this thread by Mark Darrah for more updates.
  • Some people have reported problems with party banter firing. To find out more about how the Banter System works please go here. We have also identified that in some edge scenarios, banter isn’t firing as often as we’d like, so we’ll be increasing the percentage chance of it happening. This increase will come after Patch 2.

Priority 2 – Features and content

As massive as Dragon Age: Inquisition already is, there were some things the team wanted to get in at launch, but we just ran out of time. We’ll be creating these new features and content and adding them into your game over time because we love our DAI players. Multiplayer will also be receiving regular content updates.

In closing, I’d like to thank you for your patience. We appreciate your feedback, so keep it coming! We’re going to keep working on these patches and content while you’re off adventuring in the world of Dragon Age. In the meantime, please visit EA’s help website for the latest workarounds and updates.

If you encounter any technical issues, you can also find help from our community over on AHQ.

Traipsing Through the Countryside Punching Dragons: How Banter and Music Work in Inquisition

avengers-parody-enWe wanted to clear up some of the confusion surrounding the banter and music systems in Dragon Age: Inquisition by giving you some insight into how they work. By now we’re sure many of you’ve seen the wide variety of supposed “fixes” out there, which range from a few simple steps to borderline blood magic. Hopefully detailing how these systems were designed to work will put a few minds at ease.

Before we get into the details, please know that we are continuing to look into player concerns on both fronts.

What follows is a quick guide to let you know what’s going on behind the scenes.

Banter

The way banter works in Inquisition is quite different from what you encountered in previous Dragon Age games. In Origins, all of the banter you heard occurred at scripted moments in the game, firing when you passed Point A in Level A on your way to Point B.

For Inquisition, this sort of scripted banter still exists. As you play through missions, you will hear your party comment on the plot at specific points. However, when you are running around in the wilderness, there are additional kinds of banter at work.

We built Inquisition to be an expansive, immersive experience, giving players plenty of reasons to keep coming back, hour after hour. Part of this is the random banter that now occurs in the wild. Your party may chat (or bicker) among themselves about all kinds of topics: getting to know each other, working through issues, or even just commenting on the surrounding scenery. All this works quite differently to the scripted plot-related banter you may be used to.

Behind the scenes, this is one of many ways that the game creates opportunities to experience procedural content at regular intervals. Sometimes this means combat encounters. Sometimes this means NPCs acting out ambient scenes or simply living in a space, as people will. More rarely, this means banter.

On average, you have an opportunity to hear banter every 10-15 minutes. But the frequency is largely left up to chance. It’s a lot like flips of a coin. Just because you flipped heads this time, or the previous five times, doesn’t mean you’ll flip tails next. Because of this, it’s perfectly normal to hear more or less banter at different points in the game.

The element of chance is also influenced by what you are doing and what is going on around you at any given time. How you play the game can and does affect how often you hear banter.

A number of things can interrupt banter, such as:

  • A conversation starting, both simple or fully cinematic
  • A level transition
  • Combat
  • Getting on a mount

There are also things that will prevent banter from firing entirely:

  • Riding a mount
  • Participating in a conversation
  • Being in combat or close proximity to enemies (if you are seeing red on your mini-map, you may be blocked from hearing banter)

There are also areas where this kind of banter will not fire at all. These include Skyhold, Haven, and Val Royeaux.

It’s also possible to exhaust all of the random banter for an area or for a certain set of party members. Additional banter can be unlocked by talking to your party members, playing through their personal plots, and advancing the main story.

Redcliffe_WM_01Music

Ambient music is unrelated to banter, but works in a similar fashion. We wanted each area to have its own unique character and flavor. When you are running around the Storm Coast, or the Hinterlands, or the Hissing Wastes, the ambient sound of animals, wind, and weather evoke a living, breathing world. In order to achieve this, we chose to use music more sparingly to occasionally enhance the mood. These brief music cues of about 10-30 seconds in length will fire on average every 1-3 minutes.

In areas like Skyhold and Val Royeaux, apart from bards or scripted plot-specific moments, there is likewise no music, as we wanted to make these spaces feel real.

You may have heard of a workaround players are using in order to get music playing in Val Royeaux and Skyhold. The only time that music should be playing in these places is during certain cinematic scenes, conversations, or at the war table. If music is playing outside of these situations, it may actually be a bug. We are currently investigating this issue.

When it comes to combat, whether or not you hear music is very much dependent on the threat you are facing. Fight a nug and all you hear is the wind—and your soul chipping away for harvesting a poor, defenseless creature. Fight a dragon, and the drums and horns kick in, underlining that what you’re doing is bad ass.

WarTable_WM_webAll of these systems together are intended to give you a more immersive environment in which to play, while rewarding you for advancing the central plots and engaging with your party members. For a game the size of Inquisition, it also gives you a reason to keep coming back, ensuring you continue to have a great time long after the main plot is done.

We are continuing to look into player concerns about the banter and music systems, and have reached out to several members of the community to learn more about their particular experiences. We’re also looking into how we might reduce any perceived disparity between what you and your friends are hearing.

We appreciate all of the feedback that’s been provided on this and will continue working to ensure your time in Thedas is as fun and rewarding as possible.

Building a Character: Cremisius “Krem” Aclassi

Krem

(Note: This article contains spoilers for the Iron Bull’s character arc up to his personal plot, but not including it. If you’ve already had drinks with the Bull’s Chargers, nothing in here should be spoiled for you.)

The Idea
A couple years ago, BioWare did a BioWare Base panel on LGBTQ representation in our games at PAX. We heard concerns, praise, and a lot of heartfelt discussion about how we present characters from the LGBTQ community. One of the most repeated requests was for representation of transgender and/or genderqueer characters in a way that did not make them either a monster or a joke. When the panel was over, some of us kicked around ideas about what we could do.

Talking over drinks at the bar later, we hit two major challenges. First, any conversation about the subject had to come up naturally in-game. A minor character like a shopkeeper would have no reason to explain that she is trans, so either the conversation would never come up or it would come up because her voice was clearly masculine, at which point it would look like a joke to most players, no matter how we tried to write it. Second, the character had to serve a purpose beyond “being there to be a genderqueer person.” Every character in our game serves a purpose—reinforcing the theme of a plot, character, or area—and we do not have the budget for someone who is just there to tick off a box.

As we discussed ideas, the possibility came up of Iron Bull’s lieutenant being such a character. Bull needed a lieutenant. He’s a mercenary commander, and even if we didn’t have the memory budget to have his entire company around all the time, I needed to be able to remind players that Bull has a history of command. In addition, Bull’s loyalty is pulled between life under the Qun and a life of freedom, and I needed a character on each side who could represent that pull.

Cremisius “Krem” Aclassi met both challenges. His conversation could come up naturally, along with discussions of life as a mercenary, and he could serve a vital role in the story as a grounding force who would remind the player that Bull is more than just hired muscle. Krem’s status as a trans man, rather than being just tacked on, could emphasize Bull’s character by opening up discussions of Qunari gender roles.

The Execution
Once we had decided what we wanted to do, we tackled the concept of Krem with other departments to figure out how to do it correctly. In doing so, we saw how much of our game’s engine was based on set gender assignments, from voice to face to animation set to localization plan for foreign languages. Every single department stepped up enthusiastically to make sure that Krem was created with respect. Colleen Perman gave Krem his fantastic face using the character art team’s head-morph system, John Epler nailed his animation and body language, Caroline Livingstone and Jennifer Hale found a great voice for a trans man in a world without access to transitional procedures, and Melanie Fleming made absolutely certain that Krem was gendered appropriately in all languages.

On the writing side, I wrote Krem as best I could, and the editing team looked at every line and cleaned up dialogue and paraphrases that could give the wrong impression. I then passed him to two friends in the GQ community… at which point they showed me where I was absolutely messing things up and gave me constructive feedback on how to improve. In the first draft, Bull was the one who brought up Krem’s binding as a friendly joke. My friends pointed out how incredibly hurtful such a callout was for many trans people in real life (“Hey, by the way, you’re actually a woman, just wanted to remind you!”) and that it made Bull into an incredibly offensive jerk. This was not at all what I wanted—people playing now will note that Bull and Krem give each other grief about little things all the time, but never attack truly sore spots—and I rewrote the scene so that Krem is the one who brings it up first. This makes it clear that Krem is comfortable discussing being trans, and the player will not be offending Krem by asking questions about it.

In the investigate hub where you can ask Krem about his past in Tevinter, the first draft had him deserting after fighting off someone who discovered his secret and tried to assault him. My friends noted that this played directly into the sad “attacked trans person” cliché, and while it was plausible, it was an ugly event that could well trigger trans people who have experienced harassment in real life. The goal was for Krem to be a positive character who was living his life happily now, and I revised his departure from Tevinter accordingly.

(Very few writers enjoy talking about things they messed up in their first drafts, and I am no exception. That said, I am hugely grateful to my friends for helping me avoid some obvious-in-retrospect mistakes. Their help was amazing, and any stuff that still bothers people is on me and me alone.)

The Reception
We are all proud to have brought Krem to life in the game, and seeing people in the genderqueer community respond positively to him has been wonderful. We are also listening to feedback on how we can improve with characters in the future. (For example, some trans folks feel I wrote the player choices to be too clueless or uninformed, and wished for options to speak from more personal experience. I’ve heard the feedback, and I intend to do better next time.) It would be a lie to say that this was as easy as creating any other human character—it was uncharted territory for all of us on both the technical and the artistic side—but it was worth the extra effort. The world of Dragon Age has room for people of all backgrounds and identities, and it was a pleasure to show that in one more way.