Introduction to Vivienne

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Referred to as Madame de Fer, “the Lady of Iron”, Vivienne lives up to her title. A leader among the mages and official enchanter to the Imperial court, she is renowned as a fearsome woman who achieved her position through guile and deft political maneuvering. Vivienne allows nothing to stand in the way of what she desires—not those who claim she is a social climber, not those who seek to restrict her power, not even her fellow mages who would conscript her into a rebellion with which she disagrees. Vivienne fights to restore order in a world gone mad…so long as that leaves her among those left standing, once all is said and done.

Check back Wednesday for the next update on Vivienne!

Do you cosplay? Take a look at Vivienne’s character guide here.

The Way of the Gunsword

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In the question of how best to destroy your enemies, there are no wrong answers.

Mass Effect 3 Lead Combat Designer Corey Gaspur has a virtual armory list full of wild and impractical weapon ideas. Some describe how the weapon should work, such as the one-shot, high-powered, extremely accurate rifle that would eventually become the Mattock. And some—like the shotgun pitchfork—are delightfully blunt.

“Literally anything goes (during brainstorming),” Gaspur says. “The shotgun pitchfork sounds silly, but it could work. If you throw on an Omni-tool with a three-pronged bayonet, I could totally see it working.”

The combat team then refines the mountain of gunchucks, spike grenades, and lightning swords, picking out their favorites and discussing how they can and should function. As the Mass Effect trilogy evolved and more lore was established, they began to design weapons based around each faction’s composition was and how it fought.

The brutal krogan enjoy getting up close and personal in fights to take advantage of their hardened bodies and ferocious strength. As a result, their weapons were envisioned as power tools, Gaspur says: heavy, blunt, and efficient. “We wanted them to feel like chainsaws or jackhammers,” he says.

“For Cerberus, our central idea was high-tech, clean, and streamlined. The important thing is making sure each faction has a coherent theme.”

Our VFX team considers a faction's history and combat style when designing weapons.

Our VFX team considers a faction’s history and combat style when designing weapons.

From there, the art and visual effects teams step in to breathe life into tools of death. They shape the look and feel of a weapon based on its intended used and who’ll be carrying it. These core ideas affect everything from barrel color to how the camera reacts when a gun is fired, Gaspur says. As a result, the weapons feel more grounded in reality, creating a more immersive experience. It’s easier to believe that science-oriented salarians would fire sleek, high-tech weaponry with precise sounds than smoke-belching, cast-iron cannons from a floating pirate fortress.

For a character-specific weapon like Varric’s Bianca, the effect of backstory on design is even more extreme. Bianca is a purely mechanical repeating crossbow capable of firing three bolts at once, says Matt Goldman, Art Director for Dragon Age II and Dragon Age: Inquisition. A shotgun aficionado, Goldman decided Varric’s one true love would work best as a pump-action, break-breach loader, multi-shot bolt and grenade thrower.

To convince himself that such a weapon was even possible, Goldman spent hours working mechanisms for trigger, safety, and spring-loaded bayonets. He even figured out different forms of flechette and sabot ammunition that could make the “rhyming triplet” possible. As a result, Bianca isn’t just the only working weapon of her kind in Thedas, she’s an example of something that could actually exist there.

“Normally weapons must conform to established game specifications to meet performance requirements, so you’re limited by things like scale, the number of parts, grip location, and the number of polygons,” Goldman says. “For Bianca, we ignored all that because she’s special. This caused an incredible amount of work for the animation tree, because they had to make and maintain a special animation tree just for Varric. Sorry about that, guys.”

Even when the design is done, the work’s still not finished, Gaspur says. You can only start seeing whether your idea works when the weapon is dropped into the game. For the Krysae sniper rifle, the original idea was to have a scope that auto-zoomed on targets for easier aiming; good in theory, but less so in practice.

“It ended up making people motion sick,” Gaspur says. “If you were aiming at six guys, it was going in and out and in and out, and it made people nauseous.”

Balance is also a constant struggle, especially after a game is released, he says. No matter how you originally intended a weapon to work, players always find new ways to exploit them, and a little ingenuity can transform a back-up pistol into a game changer.

In the earlier days of ME3’s multiplayer, the combat team noticed that the Acolyte was being used in 90% of matches. Players had learned how to increase the rate of fire and were using the sidearm to decimate wave after wave.

“You could go watch videos of people just smashing enemies,” Gaspur says. “It was ridiculous.”
In such cases, the team examines how the weapon is being used, and by whom, then decides whether or not the way the gun works is healthy for the game. Certain weapons can frustrate the combat designers when a skilled players get their hands on them, says Gaspur, but the key is making sure that the weapon itself isn’t game-breaking.

“It’s tough, because you want people to feel overpowered while they are using it, and you want them to feel bad ass and like they’re destroying things, but you want that to happen when the weapon is actually working as intended,” he says. “The big challenge is making sure people are still having fun, because you don’t want to swing the pendulum too far the other way and nerf it.”

Warming Up with Claudia Black

Ever wonder how the pros get ready for voice acting? Claudia Black took us behind the scenes to show us how she warms up for her role as Morrigan.

It’s invaluable advice for any aspiring actors out there—especially if you’re planning on entering our contest to voice a character in Dragon Age: Inquisition. It’s not too late for all you golden-voiced procrastinators.

Check out this post, then dust off your microphone and get to it!

International Women’s Day 2014

International Women’s Day is celebrated across the world on March 8th. The date is observed in many different ways, but at its core, it’s an occasion to show appreciation and respect to women, as well as honor their achievements.

To celebrate, we asked a few female BioWarians to share their favorite moments from 2013 and offer suggestions for women looking to break into the industry.

Happy International Women’s Day from all of us at BioWare!

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[BW]: What was your personal highlight of 2013?

[Melanie Fleming, Development Manager]: My highlight was going on the Internet one night and seeing this article written by a teacher friend of mine. That was a surprise and pretty nice! I personally love business-to-school outreach programs like this, and one of the things I love most about BioWare is that our company also does a lot with local elementary schools, as well as the University of Alberta, Grant MacEwan, and the Telus World of Science computer summer camps.

[Melanie Faulknor, Associate Producer]: Attending Gamescom for Dragon Age: Inquisition to meet with press and fans. It was my first opportunity to be at a fan event, and it was such an overwhelmingly positive experience. Seeing firsthand how much our fans love our stories and characters is one of the highlights of my BioWare experience so far.

[Varden Schwake, Senior Tester]: In 2013, I attended my first comic expo/convention. The experience was amazing and very rewarding! It was an honour to meet and greet the multitude of fans, to interact with the people we do it all for, to hear their stories, and how our stories have changed their lives. Signing posters and books, giving away swag, and answering questions left me feeling somewhat like a celebrity. I was mesmerized by the fantastical cosplay. The level of craftsmanship, ingenuity, and talent was astounding!

[Karin Weekes, Lead Editor]: The thing I’ve been most proud of this past year is the work of our Editing team. With the help of our Design Department leaders, our small-but-mighty squad of editors reorganized into a centralized cross-studio group at the beginning of the year. Now, not only do we edit and organize in-game text and support our VO and Localization teams, we also formally support a variety of in-house, marketing, communications, and external partner teams.

BioWare editors have to be flexible, proactive, and able to keep a dozen plates spinning while working on multiple games and projects simultaneously. It’s such a gratifying honor to work with Ben Gelinas, Cameron Harris, and Cori May as they slay the evil comma splices and defend the complex halls of BioWare IP.

[BW]: What advice would you give to other women looking to work within the video game industry?

[Schwake]: I would advise any young woman who is passionate about a career in the gaming industry to be aware that there are a plethora of disciplines involved in the creation and distribution of a game, such as Art, Writing, Programming, Design, Audio, Production, and Quality Assurance. There are also many different paths that can be travelled to reach the goal of working in this exciting field, whether that be higher education, sheer determination, or the merits of raw talent. Chase your dreams and own your future!

[Weekes]: Constantly hone your skills and keep being really good at what you do—your craft is more important than anything else. Work to be a good communicator and listener. Connect with other women in the industry for support and problem solving. If game development is your passion, you deserve to be here, and there is a place for you. If someone tells you otherwise, they’re wrong.

[Fleming]: We live in times where corporations must be something more than a place for people to work or an entity that sells products. We have a responsibility to respond not only to how the world is now, but also show what we want the world to be like in the future.

This is especially true of women in STEM fields or the video game industry, where it is true we are a scarce resource, and only through education and connection with others will we overcome that.

[Faulknor]: I work with some of the most talented people in the industry, and that includes women who are Level Designers, Cinematic Designers, Directors, Editors, Writers, Programmers, and Producers. Tons of our fans are women too. Women in the industry provide a very valuable perspective, so don’t let anything stop you from pursuing a career in games if it’s something you love.

Dragon Age Inquisition Character Kit #3 – Vivienne

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To Vivienne, there are no impractical clothes, only impractical people. Her magnificent attire is a sign of her station, the jewel of the high court of Orlais where wealth, power, and beauty are inextricably linked.
A thousand arrows would pierce her breast before Vivienne would don beaten steel for so base an urge as protection. If one must wear armor, then have it flatter the form. Hide it beneath fine fabrics more becoming of one’s status, for steel alone will not protect you from the barbed tongues of Orlais.
To dress for comfort or purpose is a scandal—fashion and splendor are all that matter to Vivienne. Shower yourself in gold, let only the finest silks grace your skin, and wear a king’s ransom in pearls and silver upon your feet. Leave the stained tunics and rough cloaks to the commoners and their mud farms–a proper Orlesian climbs mountains in her evening gown, standing taller at the summit in her formidable high-heeled shoes.

Download the guide here

Reference
Vivienne Front
Vivienne Back
Vivienne Head (front)
Vivienne Head (profile)
Vivienne Back (details)
Vivienne Waist
Vivienne Boot
Vivienne Hand

Looking for other kits? Find them here:
Varric and Cassandra
Morrigan