Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dream Game - Dragon Age

The game for me that came closest to the “Dream Game” with some of the desired elements of a dream game as described by Richard Rouse in Game Design: Theory & Practice (2nd Edition) would have to be Dragon Age: Origins. Dragon Age is is a single-player third-person role-playing fantasy game created by the company Bioware. And yes like every other role-playing fantasy game, Dragon Age had a main story that guided the player through it until the ultimate set ending. But I think it has a key elements that I would consider part of the “Dream Game”, which is it's interactive story.



Official Description:
You are a Grey Warden, one of the last of a legendary order of guardians. With the return of an ancient foe and the kingdom engulfed in civil war, you have been chosen by fate to unite the shattered lands and slay an archdemon once and for all. Start your adventure by picking your race as a Human, Elf, or Dwarf, then your class as a Warrior, Mage, or Rogue. Then after that, it is all up to you. The choices you make guide the path you take through the Ninth Age: The Dragon Age.

You choose a race, group up with companions, journey into dungeons, and kill ogres, demons, dragons and other fantastical creatures saving the world and claiming wonderful rewards. It's rinse and repeat from the many RPG games over the years, Dragon Age is no different in that aspect. But what sets it apart to be the "Dream Game" is that ability to choose different story paths based on your choices. "The choices you  make guide the path you take..." holds true as you make plot altering decisions by deciding your adventures and your social actions and then those decisions continuing to affect the gameplay as the story continues.

Interactive Story?
An element to me Dragon Age had, was the feeling of interactive developing story through the player choices. An example is at one point in the story you have the choice to go to a Castle seeking help from the Bann, or to go to the Magister’s Circle seeking help from the mages. If you go to the castle first, you will be presented with the situation that the Castle is being controlled by a little boy being possessed by a demon. Continue the story from here, and you will get to a point where in order to cleanse the boy, you need a Mage or to sacrifice the boy’s mother. Now at this point you can go to the Circle and after cleansing the tower seek a mage for help cleansing the boy. Or if you went to the Circle first, and then the castle, you could simply return to Circle and return to the castle for cleansing. Being able to decide what plot developments to take care of first, who lives and who dies, gives players more interaction with their own story.

Interactive Relationships?
The other element would be the relationships the player’s character has on her comrades and other NPCs in the game. The relationships allow for different options thru interaction and with the story as the game plays on. Example is that if the main character is close to a character named Morrigan, she will ask his aid for creating a demon god baby with him. Or she could be influenced to have this with another one of their comrades. Or she could be ultimately denied and the player will have to decide another way around this plot altering decision. The social options, although limited to the available options, allow the player the freedom of love interests, best friends, and rivals. But more so, it gives the player a deeper sense of their own story by deciding who their companions are and not just by choosing dedicated party members.
Continuing Story?
And the final element, which actually just em composes the aforementioned points, is the continuing personal story a player is granted into the following additions, expansions, and games. Since Dragon Age: Origins, there have been downloadable content additions, expansions, and even a sequel. And if the player has played the previous content, Bioware allows the major plot choices to have impact on the newer content, creating an even deeper sense of personal story.
...or this? You decide...

Now can this really be "Dream Game" material with its slow pause-capable battle system and many cut-scenes? Maybe not it's entirety, especially considering its sequel Dragon Age 2 became more linear in story seemingly in hopes of developing a more dynamic battle system. But I do believe the ability to make choices through playing the game and deciding plot paths, social options, and continuing story, and allowing the player to have their own personal story, is definitely a step toward the “Dream Game”.

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