BioWare Needs to Look to Mass Effect 2 to Revitalize Dragon Age

You can’t please everyone. That’s one of the harsher realities faced within the gaming industry. In many ways, gamers treat developers and the games they create with a very Goldilocks and the Three Bears- type attitude; “This one is too streamlined!”, “These character models are pathetic!” And, of course…”This one is just right.”

Like virtually every other developer on the planet, BioWare has had to face this over the years with their own standout franchises. Mass Effect 3 came under fire for implementing a multiplayer mode in a game that was traditionally sinlge-player. Dragon Age II was accused of being dumbed-down and too different from the original that it became a less-than-stellar addition to the series. And we all know the saga behind Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Yesterday, BioWare officially announced that Dragon Age III is in the works. And of course, everyone had something to say about it. Will it return to the conventions that made the original such a strong addition to the fantasy genre? Or, like Dragon Age II, will it be met with mixed feelings?

In a Gamasutra report released today, developers have cited their desire to bring fans in on the creative process and encourage a more open development process that will “continue to have a dialogue” with fans and “answer what questions” they possibly can. Essentially, they’re calling for direct user feedback to help guide the development process and ultimately create a product that meets the expectations of fans worldwide.

This is a genius strategy, and one that they’ve used before to create what is arguably one of the most influential and certainly one of the best games of this generation: Mass Effect 2.

The first Mass Effect was an amazing game that approached the RPG genre in such a different way that it really was something unique and special. But, like any other game, it was not without its flaws. Bugs were an issue, players frequently complain about its user interface and leveling system…once again, it comes down to this; without developing a million different versions of the game to appease to all players, you can’t make everyone happy.

But BioWare proved that they value the opinion of fans with Mass Effect 2 by listening to feedback and giving us the perfect storm for a good sequel; it builds on the great parts of the original, improves the design, tightens controls, and ultimately creates a more solid and accessible experience that met the needs and expectations of a majority of fans. You want better shooting? Done. You want a cleaner user interface? Done. You want more impact to your choices? Half of your crew just died in the suicide mission because of your choices. DONE.

It should also be noted that they responded directly to player criticism of the Mass Effect 3 ending with a DLC package that extended the endings of the game in order to fill in the accused plot holes and appease the disgruntled fans, thus proving once again that the company is not averse to taking criticism from its core fan base.

Now, it’s way, way too early to know for sure exactly what “a dialogue” with fans means, or how far they’re willing to go to appeal to the hardest of hardcore Dragon Age fans. Maybe it’s just a veiled way to restore faith in the series. Or, more likely, maybe this really is their peace offering to make amends for their accused trespasses in the past. Only time will tell on this one. But ultimately, I’d like to argue that it was their interest in and use of feedback that played into the creation of such a fantastic game in Mass Effect 2. And if they want to recapture the appeal and value in the Dragon Age franchise, this seems like a fantastic way to do it.