Tuesday, December 3, 2019

26 Burning Questions with BioWare's John Epler... (Dragon Age Day 2019)

This year for Dragon Age Day, we've been so lucky to have the support and input of the BioWare team, and when we shared a goofy questionnaire with them, we got some amazing responses!

Here was the reply from the intrepid John Epler, Narrative Director for the Dragon Age series...

What's your current mood?
JOHN: Hungry. Is hungry a mood?

What was your role (or roles) in working on the Dragon Age games?
I was a term tester on Origins, an Associate Cinematic Designer on "Witch Hunt," a Cinematic Designer on Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the Lead Cinematic Designer on DAI’s DLC.

What part of your work was most exciting for you?
The first time I saw something I built make its way into the public eye – which is to say, when I worked on Witch Hunt. I’d been doing QA up until that point, which was still a great job, but I didn’t get to create anything specific in a game.

Who are some of the unsung heroes in terms of game development jobs/tasks?
QA. I did two years in QA and it’s an incredibly challenging job. But honestly, support staff in general. So much of our job wouldn’t be possible without the people keeping the studio from falling apart.

What challenge was most scary or daunting?
Shipping DA2. It was a tremendous task and it was also my first project as a full Cinematic Designer. I learned a lot about myself, and about my work, on that project.

What was your most satisfying moment or contribution to Dragon Age?
"Trespasser." Specifically, the end scene with Solas. I worked very closely with Patrick Weekes on it, and I think it’s one of the best scenes I’ve ever been involved with. And it resonated with fans, which I always love to see.

What was a favorite team or collaboration moment for you?
Also "Trespasser." From beginning to end, it remains the highlight of my time on Dragon Age. Incredibly talented and passionate group of people, and we pulled off something incredible.

What did you like to listen to while you worked on Dragon Age?
A weird mix of hip hop and instrumental soundtracks. Lately, it’s been FFXIV and "Stranger Things," but previously I listened to a lot of the "Fringe" soundtrack.

Which team member(s) did you always want to call out as deserving of special praise?
I’m gonna take the cheat option and say ‘everyone who isn’t a lead or on Twitter.' There’s always this weird perception that the game is made by those of us with a social media presence, but everyone who works on a game deserves as much credit as anyone else.

What do you wish fans better understood about your job?
The number of people in the games industry who are paid to be ‘idea people’ is vanishingly small. Nearly everyone has something practical that they do in addition.

What question do you wish we fans would stop asking you? (LOVINGLY!)
"Is (Character Name) in the next game?" Or those kinds of questions. Y’all, I’m not going to spill the beans on anything.

What does Dragon Age mean to you?
Dragon Age is the franchise I came to BioWare to work on. That I got to be a part of its growth, no matter how small, is still pretty incredible to me.

How did Dragon Age change you?
Dragon Age marked the biggest decade of my life. I got married, had two kids, not to mention everything else that has happened over the past ten years. And through it all, I was on Dragon Age.

Who is your personal favorite Dragon Age character?
I don’t know if I have a ‘favorite,’ per se. There are some easy answers like Varric or Iron Bull, of course, but I’m going to go with Nathaniel Howe. I liked his arc.

Does your canon Warden do the Dark Ritual or ultimate sacrifice?
Dark Ritual. My Warden didn’t deserve to die.

What do you name your mabari?
Spike, after my (sadly deceased) cat who thought he was a dog.

What alignment is your canon Hawke (purple, red, blue etc)?
Purple, all the way.

Which character do you feel is most misunderstood?
Orsino. Kirkwall was a pretty terrible place, I can get where ‘screw it, monster time’ is an appealing option.

Who's your favorite villain?
Meredith. She was just the right mix of ‘understandable’ and ‘completely irredeemable.’

Who's your personal canon Inquisitor (race, faith, etc.)?
Male Elf Agnostic Rogue. I think even more so, now that he knows Solas is the Dread Wolf. Turns out ‘god’ is a lot of marketing.

If you could live anywhere in Thedas, where would you live?
Antiva. I feel like, if I were in Thedas, I’d be one of those people who gets killed by some world-ending catastrophe or another, so I’d want to be somewhere with a lot of wine.

Who's your favorite Dragon Age romance and why?
I’m always going to be biased towards Iron Bull. I’m proud of what we accomplished with his romance.

Mage or Templar?

Is there cake at the party... or is the cake a lie?
There is always cake. Preferably a poppyseed cake with lemon glaze.

How did your work as narrative director make a difference in the game story?
I’m the person who has the bird's-eye view on not only the story, but how the story interacts with every other part of the game. Beyond that, though, I work with an incredibly talented team, which makes my job pretty easy a lot of the time.

Last but not least, is there anything I haven't asked that you always wished someone would ask you about working on Dragon Age?
"Why do you keep working on Dragon Age?" To which my answer would be – because of the people it inspires and who inspire it. I get to work with some of the most incredible people in the world, and make games that mean so much to so many. I can’t imagine ever doing anything else for a living.

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