Former BioWare general manager Aaron Flynn recently revealed why The Witcher 3 was “better” than Dragon Age: Inquisition. According to the developer, the reason was mainly due to the project pipeline. While the game was praised by critics and gamers alike, Dragon Age: Inquisition was often compared unfavorably to The Witcher 3, which came out just months later.
The news comes from an interview with USA Today. Flynn left the company in 2017, but has been with BioWare from the start, working on titles such as Baldur’s Gate 2, Neverwinter Nights and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic before taking on leading roles on the games Mass Effect and Dragon Age .
Flynn pointed out that while the studio behind The Witcher 3, CD Projekt, decided to focus on what were then the latest consoles, BioWare had to extrapolate its resources not only to PS4 and Xbox One, but also to Xbox 360 and PS3 to the PC. “I would say the biggest compromise was that we had to ship it for the Xbox 360 and PS3 at the same time as we did for PS4 and Xbox One,” Flynn explained.
The developer compared the production cycles for The Witcher 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, saying that the focus on current-gen and previous-gen consoles “destroyed so many ambitions because we didn’t have the team size or time to differentiate those things.” . Flynn continued, “You kind of had to come up with the lowest common denominator, and when that came out it certainly exceeded some of the expectations and ambitions we had for certain fun gameplay features. In contrast, CD Projekt didn’t do that a few months later with The Witcher 3, and I think their game was better for that.”
Flynn also detailed how BioWare struggled to get Dragon Age: Inquisition to run on Frostbite, its parent company EA’s proprietary engine. Apparently, since the engine was being developed for the Battlefield games, completing the task required a “Herculean effort”. The developer said that “bending it to create RPG elements was certainly a challenge,” before adding that “it led to compromises and things like that. We certainly didn’t want to do that if it weren’t for the technological constraints.” . But the team found incredibly clever and sensible ways around this whenever they could. I haven’t touched it in five years so I can’t tell you where it is now but I still see the bugs being recorded by players and other games.
BioWare apparently had to create a number of tools from scratch to use Frostbite for Dragon Age: Inquisition. “As a programmer, I underestimated the difficulties that Frostbite posed for our development teams, and I wish I had communicated that better to the top of EA,” Flynn observed. “I wish I understood the friction the engine created for us to create a very different kind of game. I see it on the news and in the press now, so I kind of get it, but I think I could have done it better. I could have used the fact that I have a history as an engineer to communicate things better, rather than believing and trusting that engineers are smart, we’ll find out like we’ve sometimes done in the past.
Flynn founded Inflexion Games in 2021 with several other former BioWare developers. The studio is currently working on a survival game called Nightingale, set in an alternate universe of sorts. “There is the magical city of Nightingale, which is the center of all magical study in the western world,” Flynn said during an exclusive interview. “At the turn of the 19th century and through some sort of cataclysm or apocalypse, the portal network that Nightingale helped build collapsed, sadly leaving many stranded. Many people who are unfamiliar with this stuff but were a part of it are now lost in these areas and need to start surviving. That’s the setup and the mystery behind it that will come out as part of our initial storytelling.” Nightingale is slated to release into Early Access sometime in 2022.
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