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The Future of Dragon Age: A Former Studio Lead’s Alternate Universe

The future of Dragon Age, a popular video game series developed by BioWare, is currently uncertain. With limited information available about the sequel, Dragon Age: Dreadwolf, and the recent layoffs at BioWare, including the departure of the writer behind one of Dragon Age's most beloved characters, fans are left wondering what lies ahead for the franchise. Former studio lead, Aaryn Flynn, has shared his own vision for the series, expressing a desire for a more “PC-centric, Neverwinter-like identity” for Dragon Age.

In an interview with Edge, Flynn discussed his journey at BioWare, from joining as a developer to eventually becoming general manager. He then left the company to become the CEO and founder of Inflexion Games, working on an upcoming crafting survival game called Nightingale. Flynn reflected on his early work at BioWare, specifically mentioning his development of a toolset for the game Neverwinter Nights.

The toolset was intended to empower modders and allow them to create content on par with BioWare's own creations. Flynn wanted to eliminate any barriers between the studio and its modding community, ensuring that anyone could build the same quality of content. Neverwinter Nights became a recruiting tool, bridging the gap between the studio and aspiring developers.

After the success of Neverwinter Nights, BioWare embarked on the creation of Dragon Age: Origins. However, the development of the game presented challenges in terms of its identity. Flynn grappled with deciding whether Dragon Age should follow the modding-driven approach of Neverwinter Nights or adopt a more traditional single-player RPG format like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

Ultimately, Dragon Age: Origins shipped with a toolset, embracing the modding community. This decision led to a prolific modding community that created new party members, hairstyles, armor sets, and various gameplay modifications. However, with the release of Dragon Age 2, the modding output decreased significantly.

The subsequent shift to DICE's Frostbite Engine created further difficulties for modders, as the engine lacked official tools and was challenging to use. Dragon Age: Inquisition suffered from a hamstrung modding community as a result. Flynn expressed his regret about moving away from the modding-centric approach and homogenizing the Dragon Age series with Mass Effect.

The transition to Frostbite was initiated to standardize tools across BioWare's expanding studios, allowing for greater collaboration and knowledge sharing. However, the casualty of this decision was the vibrant modding community that had flourished around Dragon Age.

As for the future of the series, little is known about the fourth Dragon Age game. While fans may wish for a return to the “PC-centric” days of the early 2000s, it seems unlikely given BioWare's recent direction. Nonetheless, the alternate universe imagined by Aaryn Flynn provides a glimpse into what could have been.

Sources: Edge Magazine, Aaryn Flynn