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Dragon Age 2 Updates & Same-Sex Romances

Dragons do not like it when you force fire in their faces.

Recently BioWare invited all manner of international (read: non-North American) sites to get a hands-on with Dragon Age 2. Naturally, they have given various impressions. Furthermore, some questions have been asked and answered. RPG France recently asked Mike Laidlaw, a lead designer for the game, about romances and if they would be available for both the female and male Hawke among the companions. His response?

Not every follower is interested romantically in Hawke, though there are options for players of all genders and orientations.

I know there has been some fair amount of concern regarding this issue among you all, largely because of this year's release of Mass Effect 2 and its exclusion of male-male romances (very arguably, the female-female options are rather lacking as well). While I've had a fair amount of confidence in the Dragon Age team, I know this will set some minds at ease.

As to who those romanceable companions might be? We don't yet know, but the male companions thus far revealed are Fenris and Varric. Dawdle highlighted the former this past weekend, and Varric is a dwarf rogue who has a rather lengthy thread in the BioWare forums concerning just his chest hair (in a tongue-in-cheek manner). For females we have Isabela, who was in the first game and could teach the player the duelist specialization (and was notably bisexual, allowing for threesomes if one so desired) and Aveline (who shares the name of the first female knight in the Dragon Age universe--though she was knighted posthumously). I would put my bet on the pirate captain.

Concerning reactions to it, many have been asking about it in the forums for a while, and David Gaider has answered in bits and pieces neither confirming nor denying. However, he responded in this thread, concerning people who might be offended by same-sex romance inclusion:

So long as romances of any kind are optional and need to be actively pursued by the player in order to be experienced, they simply don't have a leg to stand on. Advocating that nobody should be able to have content you don't intend to personally use is largely pointless-- outside of a vague notion that such efforts should go towards other things, instead. Personally, it's not a lot of effort to include them. The resources we can devote to a minority of players isn't great, but I imagine to those players it's quite worth it... and I would hope that some folks could be sensitive enough to be happy for those players, at the very least out of the selfish notion that they may one day end up in the minority of some content issue and receive the same consideration if nothing else.

I may just have that ready to copy and paste in response to persnickety people in the future.

Other news that might be of interest in the RPG France interview? Most of the action will center around Kirkwall and its close environs. RPG France draws a comparison to Baldur's Gate II and the city of Athkatla. David Gaider (who was involved with that particular game) mentioned they wanted to craft a city that you could explore--a city that felt real and living, as opposed to Denerim in Dragon Age: Origins. Also, while Morrigan will reappear in the Dragon Age universe, her story is not a focus of the sequel.

The other piece of news I found while romping about in the forums is that Chris Priestly, in a separate thread, (edit: originally attributed to the wrong person) confirmed the Signature Edition (basically a pre-order bonus) will not see a presence on Steam. This largely just means you will not be able to pre-order it on Steam before January 11, 2011, which is the cut-off date for pre-orders receiving the bonus. Said bonus was detailed here a while ago, but there are still plenty of other retailers through which you could purchase and be eligible before said date, and this only concerns PC gamers with an interest in Steam. While I'm interested in the extra character, I think I'll just pay extra and wait for its release on Steam anyway. C'est la vie.

While the very first link is to the English translation in the BioWare forums, the original article, in French, is available here.

13 Comments

Gamescook said:

With Bioware taking another stab at gay romances in what looks to be an overall better game than the original, I can see myself finally getting into this series.

Limeade said:

I was very elated and relieved to hear this news over on the forums. The inclusion of same-sex romances, that is. DAO knocked BG2 off my favorite game top spot; it's a game I will love for many reasons (among them being a world theme and game that is progressive#. But even though I am not thrilled about many things in DA2 and how some decisions were cast, I am compelled to support the game for same-sex relationships and LGB#and perhaps T without turning them into a Pearl joke) character re[resentation.

Raphael said:

"Advocating that nobody should be able to have content you don't intend to personally use is largely pointless"

Oh my god. That quote is perfect. Not just about same-sex relationships in videogames, but gay issues in general, like same-sex marriage: If it doesn't affect you directly, you have no business getting offended by it.

Maximillian said:

I wish Morrigan was playable once again.

Not even Zevran could convince my supposedly gay Warden to break up with her. Morrigan's just that awesome.

Nexus said:

I'm not too sure about the romance possibilities in this one.
So far we have an IMO not particularly handsome dwarf and another elf (even if this one looks more interesting visually than Zevran).
I'm sure they might be interesting characters, but they just don't really appeal to me as romance options.
After the first, masses of people asked for an Alistair-like same sex romancable option. Doesn't look like we're getting that.
Early days I hope.

Also, probably not gonna happen, but it would be nice for an actual gay character this time. If homosexuals only get one romance option, I don't see why they need to be bisexual to give the straight gamers two options.

Atma said:

Oh thank ye kindly BioWare for giving me the lady I was hoping for! Joyest of joys! I am extremely on board with this now. I got stuck in DA1 and now I want to finish it so I can get 2 soon after it comes out.

What a seriously cool dev team. I totally mean it, this is badass for all of us.

David Gaider said:

@Nexus: I'd love to do a character that is gay instead of bisexual, but I'm afraid the best you could hope for on that front is a character with subjective sexuality-- meaning that if you're playing a character of the same gender, they're gay and have always been gay. If you're of the opposite gender, they're straight and have always been straight.

Me, I'm a bit leery of going down that path as I think it dilutes the character. Maybe that's just me speaking as a writer, but I've never wanted to think of sexuality as being so divorced from someone's personality. That's not the way I see other people, or myself.

The reason that we aren't likely to do an exclusive gay romance is mainly one of economics. A full romance is a fairly large undertaking, thanks to all the VO and cinematics required. That expense is easier to justify when the audience that will experience the content is large-- and while there's quite a few people that will play a gay romance (which we now know thanks to DAO telemetry) it's still smaller than the other user groups. So piggy-backing on the back of those romances seems the sensible way to go, at least for now, as I'm afraid the alternative is probably nothing.

Purplerose said:

So, I'm curious...Why in Dragon Age is it "Personally, it's not a lot of effort to include them.", but the Mass Effect devs made it sound like a huge undertaking?

g_whiz said:

I'm not sure if I enjoy the subtext of that reality, but I understand what you're saying Mr. Gaider. That said, if more people in the audience are straight, white and male, why bother telling any stories that deviate from their perspective at all? On the one hand you want to be able to craft a world/universe that is as diverse and unique as possible. On the other you can only be so diverse as to not alienate the larger marketshare. Ah the joys of minority presentation. It seems particularly alienating as far as I'm concerned, to be interesting enough to be considered but never important enough to be anything other than a side story. All the while hegdemony rules the day.

David Gaider said:

@Purplerose: Did they say it's a huge undertaking? I suppose it really depends on how divergent you want to make them. I have no idea why the ME team makes the decisions it does, but considering there's always a question of whether to offer more options to the larger audience (ME2 had three options for each gender, for instance) or less options to everyone (DA2 had only one same-sex romance for each gender, and two opposite-sex romances) it's not a simple matter as to which gives you the greatest dividends.

@g-whiz: Why tell any stories that deviate from the straight, white, male audience? Because we do include content that is for a smaller portion of the audience-- and that applies to more than just romances. Not everyone needs to see every single piece of content. The less people who are going to see some content, however, the less resources you can really justify putting into it. That's simple economics. The part where it becomes a bit uncomfortable for developers is when people start bringing up things like having the "right" to content. I think we'd like to be fair to everyone, but fairness is neither the point nor the only issue here. That said, my personal take on it is once we as developers cross that line we are not absent of responsibility for the message we send out with our product. If one's take on that, however, is it should be all or nothing (as in "complete and equal content for gay players compared to the rest of the audience, or don't even bother") then as I said the answer would likely be nothing. I wish it were otherwise, but in this case economics really is king.

Limeade said:

The candid responses are appreciated, Mr. Gaider. :) T'would be nice if everything was capable of 'being fair,' rather than depending on economics and business profits and marketability etc. Content that is for content's sake and interest and writer's intrigue rather than anything else having to factor in.

Regardless, the same-sex content (and world theme inclusion in DA) is still something that I will always be grateful to the writing team for. I'd rather have some content, visibility, and options rather than none at all. And with each game with such content that comes out, I feel it helps more and more teams and companies see it as something worthy of being included within their games as well. Rather than something taboo to write for, or something that is purely for stereotyping, or simply included to be the butt of offensive jokes. Every bit helps, and perhaps the industry at large will continue to change. Which can only be a very good thing for us all as gamers -- enriching worlds and content with more varied characters and #more inclusive# stories.

Jonathan said:

Great comments and thanks for the feedback Mr. Gaider.

I am on the side that I would much rather have some content than no content. Small steps is better than no steps and the whole balance of resources (getting the most bang for your romance bucks) makes a lot of sense.

Jonathan said:

Great comments and thanks for the feedback Mr. Gaider.

I am on the side that I would much rather have some content than no content. Small steps is better than no steps and the whole balance of resources (getting the most bang for your romance bucks) makes a lot of sense.

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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Jonathan on Dragon Age 2 Updates & Same-Sex Romances: Great comments and thanks for the feedback Mr. Gaider. I am on the side that I would much rather have...

Jonathan on Dragon Age 2 Updates & Same-Sex Romances: Great comments and thanks for the feedback Mr. Gaider. I am on the side that I would much rather have...

Limeade on Dragon Age 2 Updates & Same-Sex Romances: The candid responses are appreciated, Mr. Gaider. :) T'would be nice if everything was capable of 'being fair,' rather than...

David Gaider on Dragon Age 2 Updates & Same-Sex Romances: @Purplerose: Did they say it's a huge undertaking? I suppose it really depends on how divergent you want to make...

g_whiz on Dragon Age 2 Updates & Same-Sex Romances: I'm not sure if I enjoy the subtext of that reality, but I understand what you're saying Mr. Gaider. That...

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