Tuesday, December 3, 2019

'Managing the Words': Interview with Patrick Weekes and Karin Weekes, Part 1 (Dragon Age Day 2019)



Happy Dragon Age Day 2019, everyone!

It was a huge privilege for me this past weekend to interview Karin Weekes, Lead Editor at BioWare, and Patrick Weekes, Lead Writer on the Dragon Age franchise at BioWare. Karin has been involved with Dragon Age since Dragon Age: Origins (as well as on other BioWare properties), while Patrick did some work on Origins, then returned as a senior writer for Dragon Age: Inquisition after work on other BioWare properties, and moved into the lead writer position after Inquisition for the DLCs that followed.

Both of the Weekeses took time out of their busy schedules to talk to me, and they had some terrific insights to share in celebration of Dragon Age Day 2019. I'm so excited to share their thoughts and comments in the transcribed interview below (and in additional installments to follow)!

ANGELA: Patrick and Karin, greetings to both of you! As you hopefully already know from my walls of text, I'm so privileged and proud to be talking to you both. Thank you for taking part this Dragon Age Day to benefit Able Gamers.

I love all of Dragon Age, but wow, Inquisition is such an achievement—over a million words, right? And it's so gorgeously written, presented and rendered! It's kind of the writer's writer RPG to me.

KARIN: It’s almost a million.

PATRICK: It’s pretty close.

And I swear, I think I’ve heard or read all of them! And enjoyed every one.

Aside from the considerations of lore, graphics, voice acting, animation, direction, rendering and more, what's it like for the two of you, as wordsmiths, managing a million words of pure content?

KARIN: It takes a lot of people. It takes hundreds of us to manage the whole game. And a smaller but not insignificant number to wrangle the word parts.

PATRICK: Does one actually manage a very fast-flowing, slightly flooded river?

KARIN: Yes, with desperate dam-building!

PATRICK: And with hopes that it goes mostly in the right direction…?               

KARIN: And of getting it vaguely to follow the course you want it to take!

PATRICK: Yeah, I mean, these games are huge. And on Inquisition, I was a senior writer but not the lead, and so for my part, writing the followers, for me it was an experience of getting to see Cole, Bull and Solas from start to finish, and that by itself was huge. Being able to shepherd that many storylines, that many words, on top of “Hey, this line you wrote a year ago, now contradicts something that’s changed on level, we need a quick revision on that…” 

And when you move from doing that, to doing all of the DLC – we did "Jaws of Hakkon," and "The Descent," and "Trespasser" – it only gets bigger and harder to manage.

And, hypothetically, were we working on something that someday in the future may be 'A Thing,' that would be an even greater learning experience. That would show exactly how difficult this stuff is to manage and it would show how much it relies upon and really depends upon large groups of people all working with the same goal in good faith.

Right.

KARIN: Yeah, and for me, because Inquisition was my third Dragon Age game, when I went to work on Origins, it was to do exactly what you’re talking about – I always say that my first task was to try to get all of the lore out of David Gaider’s head and onto a Wiki where the rest of the team could experience it and know what was going on. 

And so by the time you’re on the third game into a series, there is a lot of stuff to wrangle, so just from a technical standpoint, it’s trying to remember, to – you know, to write down everyone’s names, to go and get it again and tease Dave and figure out which of the five characters he’s named the same thing because he really likes that name… 

And then just... remembering and tracking what could have happened to different characters because when you’re making choices, you have to be keeping track of different possible scenarios. So we kind of – I’ll just say we do our best. We do have to have big, very large, share points or conflict pages or Wikis to try and remember all of the things that we do, and that works most of the time. And some of us remember things, but… it’s tricky! (laughs)

PATRICK: We’ll let you know when we succeed, is I think the real answer.

KARIN: Yeah, and I mean, honestly, a lot of it, there is such an active community – people like you all definitely keep us on our toes, and occasionally remember things that we can’t remember ourselves! (laughs) I’ve been grateful for that on more than one occasion.

And that was very diplomatically put, considering the assortment of potential reactions on the Internet… (I mean it with love!)

(laughter)

After a decade since Origins, and 5 years since Inquisition, what's the most satisfying thing for each of you that fans are still passionately celebrating Dragon Age through events like Dragon Age Day?

KARIN: It’s kind of phenomenal! You know, when you think about it—when you’re thanking us for being here and doing this, but we’re really thankful for all of you, the Dragon Age Day founders and fans, because without people who care about these characters, who are invested in these characters, we wouldn’t really have a reason, beyond self-entertainment, to do any of this. Creating these games and these characters and these stories – it means a lot to us personally, and we put a lot of ourselves into it, and it’s really… it’s hard for me to find the right word for what it means when the people who are playing the games do the same thing. 

It’s a really neat way to connect with people. Like, we love when we go to conventions somewhere, and we see people – a visual evidence, somehow, of people liking Dragon Age – a cosplayer, for instance – and you automatically have a thing to talk about. 

You have a shared knowledge and backstory, that you can cut through some of the social niceties that you have to move through to get to know people, and just – to have people that immersed in the story that we’re making is really cool, and it’s really humbling. And it’s an experience I’ve never had in any other job I’ve had.

That’s wonderful. You know, I would imagine, if you’re at a convention, and someone walks in, and they’re the most magnificent Flemeth, or Bull, or Dorian that you’ve ever seen, you already know that you’ve got something to talk about.

KARIN: It’s amazing. It’s hard to describe. But I think Patrick wants to describe it too, so I’m going to let him.

PATRICK (laughs): So I agree with everything you said. But I have an additional answer that is a tiny thing… For me, the thing I love most… I mean, I love all of it. But in addition, a thing I love is that I am not a great artist. I make really good stick figures when I attempt to illustrate something. Hands remain a mystery to me. Faces are not very good. So for me, I am always touched when I see art of characters.

KARIN: Yeah.

PATRICK: Because that is someone showing that they care about the characters we helped make in a way that I’m not capable of doing myself, so that always means a lot to me. The thing in particular – there’s a banter between Bull and Sera in Inquisition, and Bull suggests throwing Sera – I don’t know if you know it –

Oh, I know it well! (laughs)

PATRICK: So – I wrote this banter. We had no ability to support that in-game ourselves. That was not something – we didn’t have the two-person animations for that, we didn’t have art for that, all I could do was this little banter. But every time I see someone has drawn that as fan art, what that – for me, that means, is that they were with us. They helped us make the game right there. I don’t know if that makes sense.

KARIN: Yeah, exactly.

PATRICK: For me, it always – it’s okay, great, we’re all in this together. We’re all seeing the same vision and moving forward.

KARIN: A collective consciousness.

Yes! It really is. And the other thing is – I mean, I’m sure you’ve seen the GIF of that moment as well –

PATRICK: Oh, I love it.

It’s the best thing in the world. And I think the other thing is that – speaking as one of the fans, I would actually throw this back to you guys and say, even though for you it’s just a banter, I am a passionate advocate of the banters, I think they're so important, and you make us see it in our minds. 

So to me you’re describing something that you may not have been able to animate at the time, but for us it happened. We saw it in our heads. The same goes with Krem and the catapults and nugs with wings, right? 

So you guys helped us see it, and then the amazing Dragon Age fan artist community – and they are unbelievable – they take it even further and give us something even more amazing than those mental images you gave us. It’s pretty great.

KARIN: It’s pretty cool, too, in-house, as the ideas for the characters are created, to be working with our art teams… 

I mean, much like Patrick, I can’t even draw stick figures, so all of the artists and everything they do is just the most amazing magic from my perspective. And so, working with them, they’ll have ideas as the characters in the back and forth gain physical form, too, and it’s really exciting.

The thing that’s so amazing about fan artists – alongside the fanfiction writers, the bloggers, etc., is all of these people taking this incredible amount of time just to celebrate something purely for the joy of it.

PATRICK: Yes.

I wanted to ask you guys… what's your own message to Dragon Age fans for Dragon Age Day 2019?

KARIN: Okay, we’re smiling right now. Because we had a run at this a bit earlier, the two of us. People will see in a couple of days!  (laughs, to PATRICK) Do you know yours?

PATRICK: Well, yeah.

KARIN: So do you want to say it?

PATRICK: You mean, me first? Okay.

KARIN (laughs)

PATRICK: I just want to say thank you. Thank you for sticking with us across three games. I was on Origins, but everything I wrote was cut. I wasn’t on Dragon Age II, except for occasionally tossing advice to people at lunch. And then Inquisition.

But the Dragon Age franchise has been so different across the three games, and the one thing that has remained the same has been our commitment to telling stories about flawed but lovable characters finding each other and kind of becoming a found family. And not solving the world, but making the world a little better for their efforts. 

And the fact that that has resonated with people means so much to us. And whatever comes in the future, that’s something that we are passionate about and so, so grateful that others are passionate about as well.

KARIN: That was very well said. You know, you should be a writer! That was very well done!

I know! I think he should take a stab at that, don’t you?

KARIN: I mean yes, thank you, obviously, would be my message as well. It’s harder to say words than write them!

Well, wait, Karin, I can pause here so you can write them down… and then edit them!

KARIN: Well, and that way I know I can sound like I know what I’m talking about. See, for me, for instance – look, I like cosplay. I just like cosplay. I’m not particularly good at it, but it’s really fun, and I enjoy it, and it’s my silly fan thing.

PATRICK: She is good at it!

I can’t believe you said that, Karin, you’re great at cosplay, I’ve seen some of the tweets and pictures.

KARIN: That’s my fan thing. That’s my nerd thing. And so when I see other people cosplaying, I know how much work it takes to create something. 

And one of the things I love about cosplay is seeing how people can portray one character in so many different ways. And part of the fun conversation is, what did you use for the feathers, or how did you make this or that thing? And seeing all the different ways people creatively tackle the challenge of bringing this character to life. 

To me, that’s kind of representative of the way people take these characters – and this found family, as Patrick said – and find parts of themselves in them, and find parts of other people they know. And ideally, roleplaying and RPGs are about exploring parts of the world that you can’t in real life. And exploring parts of yourself that you can’t in real life. 

And so just seeing all the different ways that people embrace that setting and situation and support each other. Like, the Dragon Age community is a family like I’ve never seen in any other community of people. They prop each other up, they help each other out, they have amazingly geektastic Dragon Age weddings… the commonality of it that brings people together is just heartwarming and really amazing to see.

Karin, you were talking about cosplay earlier, so I have to ask you – I remember from one of your previous interviews that you had cosplayed Celene from The Masked Empire, and one of my favorite things was that you were calling the artist to ask “What’s this thing she’s wearing here? What is it? What does it do? Is it a shawl?” and the artist was like, “I don’t know!”

KARIN (laughs): Yeah, they said, “I don’t know what it is, I just did it for the visuals!" 

And that has been something that has been really fascinating, that community involvement has really affected a lot of the ways in which the outfits that the characters wear evolve in the games themselves. 

For instance, Matt Rhodes has talked about this multiple times, but we did a BioWare Base at Pax this one time, and he talked about how seeing people in cosplay affected the way he designs character clothes, so that people can actually wear them. For instance, one of my favorite things is that, in Inquisition, all of the default Inquisitor class outfits have some kind of pouch or bag or something in which cosplayers can hold their cell phones, because that was what people asked for (we need a place to put our stuff!)

That’s great!

PATRICK: Yeah, because Matt Rhodes did a lot of Mass Effect, and you’ll notice, as part of his growth as an artist, after watching all of the Commander Shepards earlier… I believe most Inquisitors… can actually sit.

KARIN: That’s right, because the Shepards couldn’t before.

PATRICK: Yeah, a lot of the Shepards couldn’t sit in accurate cosplays, so at conventions Matt saw this and described it and said, “There’s this lean they all do. So we have to make sure – we have to make sure that for Inquisition, they can all sit!” (laughter)

What's most exciting for each of you about supporting Able Gamers, our charity this year for Dragon Age Day?

KARIN: I’m personally very excited about it because I’ve become friends with Steve Spohn, and we’ve gotten to know each other over Twitter. And, just the work that he’s done and that the organization has done is just heartwarming and so impressive. 

It's also changed how I think about games and how we make our games – and making sure we are reaching the widest audience that we possibly can. Because like you were just saying, one of the best things about roleplaying games is transporting yourself somewhere else, so anything we can do to support as many gamers as possible so that everyone can have that experience is really important. 

So thank you all for picking Able Gamers to support this year! We’re really excited about that.

PATRICK: I think Karin said it better than I could.

KARIN: What, you mean, you don’t want to just ramble on like me?

PATRICK (laughter): Well, if you want a three-hour interview…

I would happily sit here for three hours! But I do think games give us such an opportunity to escape – like the best books or the best movies – but even better, they’re immersive and they let us kind of – look, for me, y’all, on a really bad day, sometimes I just start up Inquisition and go into the tavern and listen to Maryden for awhile. Because it truly feels like an escape. 

PATRICK: And you know, Karin and I, through other… through donations and charitable giving, we try to support people with disabilities and accessibility for things they need – for healthcare, for workplace accessibility, other things like that. 

But. There is an easy temptation in modern society for us to think of entertainment as just entertainment – as the light, silly thing you’re doing when you’re not doing something important. But entertainment is how you stay sane sometimes.

KARIN: Or how you forget about pain for awhile.

PATRICK: Exactly. It allows you to forget the fact that you’re hurting, or how you process emotions that you’re not ready to process directly or consciously that you need a kind of metaphor to get through. And so if we can make our games more accessible, that is important. So for us that’s a major issue.

That’s beautifully put. It’s kind of like… we all need sleep. But we also all need dreams.

KARIN: Well, that was beautifully said too.

Thank you! You guys inspired me. (laughter)

I’d imagine the fact that you both work together as spouses long-term must be both wonderful, satisfying, and challenging. What's the most fun part about that for you guys?

PATRICK: Well, Karin is a great editor, and at least on my end, I’m really grateful because there are times when I don’t know how to explain what I’m trying to do, and Karin as a benefit of 19 years of marriage, will turn to me and say “Are you trying to do this?”

KARIN: (laughs)

PATRICK: And it’s funny. I think a lot of people have asked questions assuming that, “Oh, I bet Karin doesn’t edit you very hard,” or...

KARIN: Yeah, or they assume that it’s super-awkward, but it’s really the opposite.

PATRICK: She’s edited every short story and every novel I’ve ever written before it’s gone off to agents and editors. She’s comfortable with calling BS on anything I’ve said, and probably with a lot more comfort than with other writers, because she doesn’t have to dance around the issue. She can just come in and say, “Okay, you’re doing a ‘you’ thing right now.”

KARIN (laughs): Yeah. You know that thing you do? You’re doing it.

PATRICK: So that part is amazing and I really – look, no character I’ve written on any game would have been as strong without me being able to bounce stuff off her sometimes. 

Or sometimes it’s outside work hours, and I’ll be at home, and I’ll say, “So okay, I’m up, and I’m wondering about this, but if I do something like this, would this work?” and then she’ll answer, “Okay, but have you thought about this?” and all of that just – for me, that is a little intangible that always brings benefits.

KARIN:  And I feel like I’ve gotten better at that. Part of the craft of editing by having that relationship is, because when you’re an editor, there’s the physical fixing and making suggestions, but we editors also kind of say that it’s 50% the editing, and 50% your relationship with that person. 

Because (to Patrick) living with you, watching you write, I see how much of yourself you put into it, and I see how potentially painful it is to have your words harshed upon. So it helps me figure out how to phrase things in ways that aren’t unnecessarily hurtful. 

There are an unfortunate number of editors out their who feel like that position makes them the boss, and that’s not how it should be. As an editor, with Patrick or with any of the writers, my favorite thing is when I edit something, and they say “Yes! That’s what I was trying to say!” 

It’s my responsibility not to write my own stuff, but to get into their heads and try to figure out where they’re going, and that’s why it’s so important that we have the documentation, and we have a lot of meetings figuring things out – themes, and goals, and issues – so that anyone working on this project – not just the writers and editors – but anyone else who’s doing anything related to that character, can all be moving in the same direction.

And then there were a couple of times with David Gaider, particularly, I was always so proud when he’d get back to me and go, “Did you do anything? Did you change anything?” and I’d go, “YES!” because I’d cut twenty percent and he hadn’t even noticed. That’s where you know you’ve gotten it right.

So your job is actually helping the writers get where they want to be.

KARIN: I need to buy into what they’re trying to do. And sometimes, part of that buy-in is to say, “This is the goal, but I don’t think this part is quite getting there,” or on the other hand, “Yes, this is where you want to be – don’t change a word of that.” 

A good editor is there to support them and help get them there. Because, you know, when you’re writing, you are very in your own head, and you know what you want it to be, and sometimes, especially if you’ve had to work on something several times for new iterations or changes, you can sometimes lose a little bit of sight of the objective placed, and how other people coming into it for the first time will be viewing it, as opposed to the view in your head.

You’re there to help with the forest view, when a lot of them may just be focused on the trees.

KARIN: Essentially. We call it that "second set of eyes"  to just come in and see something. But as far as Patrick, it makes things weird very rarely.

PATRICK: For me, the biggest drawback is what happens when both of us are dealing with home or deadlines at the same time…

KARIN: It’s easier now that our kids are older – they’re 12 and 15 now – but when they were younger, that was trickier if we had to go in, then someone comes home for dinner, then has to go back, and in those moments, keeping things on the rails is not always possible. 

We do try really hard to remove ourselves, and to not talk about work all the time. We have to kind of force ourselves to let go of it, as we can get too caught up in it.

PATRICK: Depending on the state of the project, sometimes the bedroom becomes a “We don’t talk about work” zone. So once we are in the bedroom, there’s time for chat about family stuff, and about how frustrating the level of this game you’re playing on your phone is, and stuff like that. It becomes a no-work zone.

KARIN: Yeah, I think the benefits, at least for me, definitely outweigh the negatives. And with things like working late, or when a project’s in a particular phase, you really get it, and you know what’s going on. So even though we may be tired, we can also really empathize with each other, and go, “Okay, what do you need? Do you need food, do you need me to do laundry? Do you need to talk? Do you need to be alone?” etc.

PATRICK: Yesterday, John Epler and I gave an hour and a half presentation about some narrative stuff. And I was told it went fairly well...

KARIN: It did go very well!

PATRICK: ...And then I worked for the rest of the day and I got home and I was just kind of on the edge of not being able to form coherent sentences anymore, and Karin, just incredibly politely and supportively, said, “Do you just want to go back to the bedroom, and just kind of ‘cave time’ for awhile?” 

And I went, “Is that okay?” And she said yes, because she knows. She knows what an hour and a half presentation to a roomful of people does to most people, and to me.

So it sounds to me like it’s very unforced and organic. It’s just something that really works for both of you.

PATRICK: Yeah, it’s not something I would recommend that everyone try…

KARIN: No.

PATRICK: But it works well for us.

KARIN: And, too, because we’re not always on the same project. At those moments, it can get a little… for instance, we were both on Mass Effect 3 together, and we were in the same office, and that was a little bit…

PATRICK: Yeah.

KARIN: That was… (laughs)

You possibly got a little sick of each other at certain points?

KARIN: Oh, no. For example – I just remember, this time when he got rear-ended by a bus one day… and (to Patrick) I can’t even remember what you told me, but you left out…

PATRICK: I said I got rear-ended. That I braked, and that I got rear-ended, and that it wasn’t a big deal. I was trying not to make a big thing out of it… and I may have neglected to mention that it was by a bus.

KARIN: And apparently the rest of the room knew. And there we were, IMing, and he says, “When the bus hit me,” so I stand up and say, “You got HIT BY A BUS?!” and everyone else was, like, “Dude, you didn’t tell her about the bus?”

PATRICK: And I was watching the entire rest of the room go, “Yeah, Karin has a point, man. You really should’ve mentioned the bus.”

You buried the lede!

KARIN: Yeah, it was pretty funny. The whole rest of the room scooted their chairs back from the table all at once.

Patrick, can you share any fun little moment or detail you were surprised that players either caught  or missed  when it came to Bull, Solas, or Cole?

KARIN: Nothing. There’s not going to be anything. Fans catch everything and they are amazing.

PATRICK: Yeah, I used to think “They’ll never get this, and it’ll be our little secret!” And then I'd realize they found it right away.

KARIN: Yeah, we think we’re so clever, but you’re all so much smarter than we are.

PATRICK: Ooh, but okay! I have one. I have one. I can’t remember if I’ve told this one already, and if so I apologize. But if I’m remembering from one of your articles talking about the Solas cadence.


PATRICK: Have I shared with you the fact that… let’s see… but when Solas in the Prologue has you close the first rift, and then says “It seems you hold the key to our salvation…”

(Here, I gasped so dramatically – realizing what he was about to say – that somewhere, the ghost of Agatha Christie rolled her eyes, Patrick and Karin started giggling, and it was really pretty funny AND embarrassing…)

PATRICK: Did I tell you about this already?

No, I’m just so tickled to realize this. It’s a new thing I didn’t know!

(more laughter)

PATRICK: Well, see, that one is in cadence, BUT –  it’s in cadence specifically not for inside the Prologue, but so that when you go back and have the dream talk with Solas in Haven, the branch where Solas goes and says how it seemed to him – if you go back and do his explanation including “It seems you hold the key to our salvation” – that bit reappears, and it is in “Hallelujah” cadence, too.

So I actually… Dave was kind of mystified, but incredibly tolerant of me going, “Hey, Dave, I have this line, and I’m going to call back to it later, and I need this line to have this particular style because it’s going to be incredibly poetic for the few people who ever see it in this cadence when they get to this part and recognize what it’s doing.”

KARIN: Dave was incredibly tolerant of that.

I never caught the foreshadowing aspect of that, when he says it in the Prologue. That’s wonderful.

PATRICK: Dave was incredibly tolerant of my nerditude overall.

KARIN: And I have to credit Cori May, our editor, with editing all of that, because… I just could not. (laughter) And well, Cori was our resident Solasmancer.

Cori's fabulous! I always call Cori Solasmancer Prime, ever since I found out about how involved she was in his character (like, with the "I agree with your goals" option in "Trespasser").

KARIN: She really is!

PATRICK: Cori’s great, and Cori is the person who when I explain, “Here’s this ridiculous thing I’m doing,” she’ll give me an incredibly intense look, and I’ll think, “Oh, no, she’s preparing to tell me it’s stupid,” and then she'll say, “Well, okay, but then you need to change this word so that it works correctly in the rhythm.” And I’ll go, “You’re right!”

I love how diabolical you were with that, so that in the epilogue of a Solas-romanced Lavellan, even the end caption titles are in that same "Hallelujah" cadence again. It’s so great, you guys. Also, sorry, I’ll stop plotzing all the time. Really. I’ll calm down and be normal.

KARIN: No, but it’s so exciting! Because we’re sitting up in the cold and the snow doing this, and feeling like giant nerds, so when other people get it, it’s the coolest thing.

PATRICK: Because the other part of it is, we’re looking at it now with the benefit of hindsight…

KARIN: Yeah.

PATRICK: Because, at the time, it was 2012 or 2013, and when I worked on Solas, and I didn’t know.

KARIN: And you’d had to take Solas over from Dave (David Gaider).

PATRICK: Right.

KARIN: Solas as a character, and Cole, both.

PATRICK: That’s right, yes.  And I didn’t know. I didn’t know if people were going to hate Solas, I didn’t know how it was going to come across… in reality, it is performance art, but it’s performance art that you perform one to two years in advance, and that you simply hope people eventually like.

KARIN: And there are so many people – like the voice actors – who have to buy in, and our VO department has to buy in… so many people. Everyone needs to understand what it is and embrace it enough to make the character work. And when it does, it’s incredible.

PATRICK: I’ve been very lucky. And it’s also funny because it’s been a learning experience for me so often as well. I do have an English degree, but I was fortunate that I had people willing to trust me at the time, because, talking about it with Dave or with Mike Laidlaw, I’d just basically said, “Okay, I can’t tell you exactly why this needs to happen, but when Solas is talking about the Fade or about memories, I want him to do this thing. He’s gonna talk like this because it’s gonna make it sound sadder, and it’s gonna make it sound a little mystical. Like, not full-on Lord of the Rings voice, but a little bit different in a way that – some people won’t actually know why they’re feeling it – but if I do it right, it’ll make people feel it a little bit more.”

And that was about the level I could explain it at, and then they were willing to go with me on it. And then here in-game, I still remember the time when both Mike and Dave both responded the first time they heard it, and they just went, “Yes, it makes him sound a little bit more – it makes you believe later and understand that ‘Yep, that was an elven god, and I kind of got a hint of that there,’ even though at the time, I just went ‘Huh, that’s a little bit more than a normal person would say.’”

In the time since Inquisition shipped, I’ve tried to get better at coming up with reasons for the ridiculous things I try to do like that, rather than, “I don’t know, this will make people feel more,” which maybe isn’t the best explanation when you’re trying to explain something.

KARIN: When one works, you can then say, “Well, it’s going to be like the Solas ‘Hallelujah’ thing,” and people will go, “Oh, okay, got it!”

I do think it adds a kind of hidden musicality and poetry to that dialogue. It adds a formality as well. And all of these little elements that you’re talking about add a literary quality, and I would apply that to the writing across all of the games. There are so many beautiful dialogue moments across the trilogy – not just from you, Patrick, but from so many of the writers.

PATRICK: I love that we have so many writers with different styles, and all of them in their own ways are as nerdy as I am about stuff. For instance, every time Sheryl does a character – Sheryl Chee has a degree in Philosophy – and every time she writes a character, she’s always trying to answer a question for herself with that character.

KARIN: And Sheryl’s equal parts that philosophical aspect, mixed in with as many dirty puns as possible too. And that is what the magnificent thing about Sheryl’s writing is, honestly, because it has both of those components, and they’re both so real. And she words them in a way that just super resonates with me. It’s just great.

PATRICK: And then you take someone like Luke – Lukas Kristjanson – who for Sera invented his own slang, using Cockney as a basis, but it’s not actually Cockney, and he would get actively annoyed when people called it Cockney, correcting them that it’s actually 17th Century slang terms... and we were like, “Write it down,” and he’d answer, “Oh, yes, yes, I’ve gotten it written down, here’s what everything means…”

And that is – it’s not a thing that I would do, but it’s awesome that he could do that. And let’s face it, not all characters need to be written by me.

KARIN (laughs): And so when I would go in and edit Sera, there was a lot of “Okay, I’m just assuming Luke knows what’s going on there…” 

And what’s fun is that the other part of my job is to liaise between us and the translators that work on our games, in EA Madrid, for example. Our games get translated into a lot of different languages which requires not only fairly copious explanations of all the weird crap that we make up, but also, you know, having to explain things like English puns.

(to Patrick) And I always feel like you and Luke, the two of you, usually – and Sheryl – are the ones…

PATRICK (laughs): Well, I talked about this on Twitter recently – on just what it's like having to try to explain your dirty jokes to the foreign language team, and it is both hilarious and mortifying, because no joke survives being explained.

And it goes from feeling “This is great,” to “I am the dumbest, most sophomoric writer who has ever existed, because I have to tell France, the country in its entirety, that I was referring to oral sex in this scene.”

You’re talking about the “Loosening the lid” banter between Bull and Sera, right?

PATRICK: Yeah, that whole “I loosened the lid for ya.” And both France and Germany come back with, “What does this mean?” and I’m going, “Um…”

KARIN: And Patrick has done this multiple times, in multiple games. (laughter)

A lot of times, the editors can answer questions if we know what they are, so we’ll do that. But we do refer all of the oral sex questions back to the writers! (laughter)

But yeah, here, I get, “What’s Sera talking about here? We don’t know what Sera’s talking about!” and I just write back, “Neither do I! I have no clue what she’s talking about, and I don’t think we’re supposed to! Good luck!”

PATRICK: Yeah, it was that for Sera, while Solas they usually got, but Cole was another one they had trouble with sometimes. About half the time, they’d go, “What’s going on here? Who is the ‘they’ Cole is talking about here?” And I would go, “Oh, that would be a spoiler. And also, I may have been referencing a television show from the Eighties that involved angels.”

KARIN: Luckily, I am a very, very hardy and patient woman.

(laughter)

End of Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2 to follow shortly! 


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