Sunday, January 17, 2010

Add-In/DLC Integration: Part 1

So in designing an Add-In for Dragon Age, one of the questions I asked myself at the start was: "How can this be integrated into the main campaign?" Given I'm currently having a closed beta for Alley of Murders, which means release is very close, I might add, I thought I'd offer my thoughts on how I did this.

I was not about to change a major part of the story for Alley of Murders, but I still wanted to have it so that it felt like a cohesive part of the game as a whole. So, the question remained of how to achieve that. I am sure this is something that the developers themselves wrangle with for DLC releases, as they want them to add to the whole story of Dragon Age Origins, while at the same time avoiding a "tacked on" feel that you get from some DLCs.

So over the next few days, I'm going to raise a few points I feel I'm going to list a few things that feel are required to make a DLC great, here are a few thoughts to help it mesh with the entire game. Some of these points are more generally applicable in RPG games in general, but I feel that an extra effort might need to be made for DLCs.

Reference the main story.
The Grey Warden makes many decisions during their adventures in Ferelden. The fact that these are remembered by NPCs in the world is a big part of what makes the storytelling in Dragon Age so rich. If NPCs in a DLC also know about major events (or events to which they would be privy), then it helps reinforce that feeling that their decisions have a real impact.

Anyone who has played the game knows there are a number of meaty decisions the player makes that have some serious ramifications for the future. NPCs know about these, and in some cases, will judge the player for them. Some NPCs might support the player's actions, whereas others will dislike them. You don't necessarily have to present both angles, but at least presenting one will make the player's experience more immersive.

Remember that this doesn't just have to be major decisions. Perhaps a relative of one of the people involved in a small sidequest might become involved in another plot. depending upon how the player solved the sidequest (or even if you didn't do it at all) might affect how that person interacts with the player... Perhaps one of the most obvious is to refer to the player's origin story - a Dalish is going to be treated quite differently to a human noble.

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