Dragon Age: Origins caused quite a stir at E3 last month. With a Marilyn Manson soundtrack, a screen splattered with blood and an emphasis on shagging party members in tents, developer BioWare was clearly trying to send a message: here is a game not just for fantasy fans, but for all video game fans. But is it all in good taste, or is the game pandering to adolescent titillation? We sat down with Dr. Greg Zeschuk, vice president of BioWare and Electronic Arts, to quiz him on that, the PS3 and, wait for it… Baldur’s Gate 3.
VideoGamer.com: You've called Dragon Age: Origins the spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate. Does that mean there will never be a Baldur's Gate 3?
Greg Zeschuk: Probably not by us. You can never say never. The Baldur's Gate and Dungeons and Dragons property is of course controlled by Atari, and owned originally by Hasbro, so it's a complicated, convoluted way of getting there. For us it's more a function of... because we weren't in a position to do Baldur's Gate... hey well let's create our own! That's effectively what this is. It's funny, we took a page from Fallout, not Fallout 3 but Fallout 1. Fallout 1 was basically a game called Wasteland - that was the spiritual successor to Wasteland.
VideoGamer.com: Would you have liked to have made Baldur's 3 if you'd had the opportunity?
GZ: Maybe. The things we miss more than anything else are some of the characters we created. It's frustrating – like Minsc and some of the other characters we built over the years – not being able to continue to stem that is a bit frustrating. Though, to be fair, we feel like we closed the series. There are a lot of video games that – like the original Wasteland never had a sequel – but there are a lot of games that never actually end. Whatever happens, they're left hanging and fans are like, ah I wish I'd finished it. But because we were able to finish the sequence of games in Baldur's Gate: Throne of Bhaal... it's funny, we were satisfied that we were able to deliver that entire arc. Go, ‘there it is and that's the story of Baldur's Gate’. We feel like we finished our work at that time.
VideoGamer.com: So no regrets then?
GZ: No we don't have regrets.
VideoGamer.com: I saw Dragon Age: Origins at E3, and it seemed as if the marketing pitch changed. The trailer pushed the Marilyn Manson hard rock sound track and blood and sex. The behind-closed-doors presentation was pretty much all about shagging a party member in a tent. Why have you decided to push that angle?
GZ: A large part of it was to show a different dimension of the game. The challenge of showing something like this is how broad it is. There are elements that are very hardcore, but other elements are wildly appealing. So what we're aiming to do is, someone will be in that presentation and say hey look, and the guy who's talking or whatever's like, whoa whoa what's going on? Part of it is just to say, hey this is in the game, this is stuff that's there. Having people realise that there's things in the game that maybe they weren't expecting, and to try and appeal to fans who may not look at this typically. In no way is it meant to disrespect our existing fans, I mean hey, they're our lifeblood. Part of the tour that we're doing this week is to emphasise that this still is the deep, rich RPG that you think it is, but there's other things in it. There are things that appeal to RPG fans, but there's stuff in this game that'll appeal to a whole bunch of other folks too. That was the main focus behind it. The thing that was interesting was that people were worried it meant a change in the game itself. The game's the same, it's just this was a part of it. People just weren't realising that.
VideoGamer.com: BioWare's games have always had a mature leaning, in terms of narrative. The very brief sex scene in Mass Effect was done in good taste. Does the sex in Dragon Age follow that same model, or is it supposed to be a more adolescent view of fantasy?
GZ: No, I think it'll be more mature and sophisticated. From our perspective that's just how we always want to portray it. It's not meant to be adolescent titillation kind of stuff. What we're always trying to do is have an accurate reflection of human relationships, and to reflect, if there's intimacy between people, what that might be like, given this context and the situation. That's the approach we tend to take, and that doesn't change here. We create some of the concern, perhaps, in certain people – oh there's sex in the game. It's tasteful, and frankly you see worse things on evening television (laughs).
VideoGamer.com: With specific regard to Dragon Age: Origins, the concern is that it might be a teenage view of fantasy as opposed to a mature view like we saw in Mass Effect.
GZ: Yeah, it'll be like that. There's another interesting dimension to games that, I think there's a couple funny things in play in gaming that the general populace still thinks games are played by young people. They are, but they're also played by older people. In fact, the typical target for our games is more into the 20s and 30s, so they're very sophisticated. So whenever they have any hint of sex in-game, people feel, oh my goodness! They're trying to pollute the minds of these children. We're like, well people's children shouldn't be playing anyway. It's a mature product, in the same way the most serious movies have serious scenes, kids shouldn't be watching that either. In some sense it's the lack of credit we get as an industry for having the broad appeal to a wider age group. There's a mistaken assumption that these are things for kids. Clearly they're not. That's where we get some of the guff from more mainstream press. They just don't understand. They're still so out of touch with what games are that they're held back by their preconceptions.
VideoGamer.com: It'll change eventually...
GZ: It is changing... as we all take over! As people grow up and take everything over!