Disclaimer: I do not count myself among the mob of haters who make petitions, threaten Bioware employees, and are just assholes in general whenever a new ME3 or DA2 topic pops up. If you are one of these people, then please restrain yourself and try to be constructive, or just leave, please. I don't want to talk about indoctrination theories, star children or how gaming is doomed and creatively bankrupt, I just want to talk Dragon Age. Everything at the panel is "unofficial", by the way.
So I just watched a few videos of the Bioware panel at PAX East. While DA3 has not been announced yet, it's not exactly a big secret that it's coming. Hell, they even say "Dragon Age 3" several times during the panel. What I did find surprising is the large amount of self-deprecating humour going on here, and I like it a lot. To me it shows that they're listening, and that they are all too aware of the many missteps they made with Dragon Age 2. This in turn makes me more confident about the future of the franchise.
Videos can be found here. If anyone finds Youtube versions, please embed them for our slightly lazier fellow Bombers.
Now the main points highlighted during the panel are as follows:
1. Decisions that matter
After the ME3 and DA2 outrages I don't find it difficult to believe that they will at least try to have meaningful, ending impacting, decisions this time around. Even if it's only to spare themselves some petitions and death threats. Whether they will actually deliver on this front, only time will tell. Also, importing saves from the two previous games has now been confirmed. Again, I think they'll have learned a couple of things from ME3 about importing saves into the third instalment of a franchise. They also talk about re-evaluating the whole thing with Hawke, and how they might hand back a bit of control to the players. Personally, I really liked Hawke, and thought that having a strong, identifiable central character was one of the few things that DA2 did better than Origins.
Another big one here is that they want specializations to have some story impact. The thing that always bugged me is that many people within the games view Blood Mages as more evil, and as a bigger threat than even the Darkspawn, but they never acknowledged the fact that my Hawke or Warden Commander was in fact the most powerful Blood Mage in all of Ferelden. To facilitate this impact, they would have to limit the number of specializations per character to 1, though.
2. Stop reusing levels
This one is pretty obvious. I don't think that anyone (even at Bioware) thought this was ever a good idea. It's just something they did because of time constraints and for budgetary reasons. Boy, have they learned their freaking lesson. I mean, wow, how terrible were those dungeons? Also, being in Kirkwall the whole time was a bad idea. Anyway, I highly doubt they'd be cheeky enough to try it ever again. Finally, the "somewhere French" remark confirms that Orlais will be one of the locales, possibly the main setting, of the next game. Bring on the French accents and luxurious cheeses!
3. Equipment for followers
This one's a little subjective. Origins didn't offer any unique appearances for your followers aside from their faces, Morrigan being the obvious exception, of course. DAII, on the other hand, went in the complete opposite direction, by not allowing you to give any armour to your companions. The compromise they have come up with is incredibly interesting, though costly. The idea of giving every character a unique look, and having each piece of armour look different on each follower (this article explains it a lot better with high-res images), sounds kind of awesome. It allows them to give everyone a very distinct look, and still gives us the ability to give them the items we want. It's the best of both worlds. Aside from these points, it's interesting to hear about the motivations behind some of their design decisions, especially the things that changed between 1 and 2.
4. Art design
This is not something they actually touched on very much, but it's my biggest concern as of now. I thought that DA2 looked absolutely horrendous when compared to Origins. Part of this is because of the fact that we stayed in Kirkwall, which severely limited the opportunity for visual diversity, of course. However, the redesign of the Darkspawn, and especially the Ogre, was a big mistake in my opinion. And the lighting, Origins had some great lighting, 2 had none of it. Not all of it was bad, though. The Qunari, for example, were much improved, and so was the Genlock from the DLC.
Overall, this panel has made me more confident about the future of Dragon Age, a franchise I love dearly (I've read the novels). Of course, we should not dismiss the past, and we would all do well to maintain a healthy level of caution.
This is S0ndor signing off.