The future of the Dragon Age series remains uncertain, with limited information available about the upcoming sequel, Dragon Age: Dreadwolf. BioWare’s recent layoffs, which included the writer of Dragon Age’s beloved character, have further clouded the outlook. In light of these developments, Aaryn Flynn, former studio lead of BioWare, has expressed his disappointment that the series did not maintain a more “PC-centric, Neverwinter-like identity.”
Flynn reflects on his time at BioWare, from joining as a developer to eventually becoming the general manager. He later left BioWare to establish Inflexion Games, where he is currently working on an upcoming crafting survival game called Nightingale. Flynn recalls his early work at BioWare, specifically developing a toolset for Neverwinter Nights that allowed modders to create content on par with the developers themselves.
The intention behind this toolset was to enable modders to build the same things BioWare did, fostering a strong relationship between the studio and its modding community. This approach presented challenges, as Flynn describes it as building the train and the tracks simultaneously. Nevertheless, the toolset in Neverwinter Nights served as both a recruiting tool and a means of collaboration between the studio and the modding community.
With the success of Neverwinter Nights, BioWare embarked on the development of Dragon Age: Origins. However, the team faced uncertainty regarding the game’s vision. Flynn highlights the debate over whether it should be a modding-driven game like Neverwinter Nights or a large single-player RPG akin to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
Ultimately, Dragon Age: Origins shipped with a toolset for modders on PC, helping to establish a modding community that contributed new content, such as party members, hairstyles, armor sets, and combat mods. However, the modding support diminished with Dragon Age 2, and further declined when BioWare switched to DICE’s Frostbite Engine for Dragon Age: Inquisition, which notoriously lacked official tools for modding.
According to Flynn, he regrets the shift away from the “PC-centric, Neverwinter-like identity” for Dragon Age. He attributes this change to BioWare’s desire to standardize tools internally across its growing studios, resulting in the loss of the thriving modding community that Dragon Age had cultivated.
As fans eagerly await details about the fourth installment in the Dragon Age series, it is unlikely that the game will return to the “PC-centric” roots of the early 2000s. Despite this, Flynn’s comments spark contemplation about the missed opportunity to embrace the modding community and the unique experiences it could have brought to the franchise.
– Edge Magazine issue 389