So, as you know, we've been sharing a fun questionnaire with the BioWare team for Dragon Age Day 2019, and were gifted with this fabulous combined response from Dragon Age writers Mary Kirby and Brianne Battye!
In addition to their work on the Dragon Age games, Mary helped Varric Tethras bring Hard in Hightown to the world in 2019, while Brianne has contributed multiple stories to the upcoming Dragon Age story compilation Tevinter Nights.
Check out their answers, below!
What's your current mood?
MARY: My mood is always the same: slightly chilly and in need of coffee.
BRIANNE: Right now? Pretty good. And vaguely nervous.
MARY: Wait, is this asking our mood at the time of answering, or whenever this gets published? Also, my answer will be exactly the same.
BRIANNE: When am I not vaguely nervous?
What was your role (or roles) in working on the Dragon Age games?
MARY: I’ve been a writer on almost all of the Dragon Age titles. Most of them, anyway? (Except for "Awakening" and "Witch Hunt.")
BRIANNE: I was a writer on Dragon Age: Inquisition (including "Jaws of Hakkon" and Cullen’s conversation with the dog in "Trespasser"). Also, I know this question says “games,” but Mary also co-wrote Hard in Hightown with Varric, so I’m calling that out.
MARY: Ghostwrote? Or edited? I was more of a consultant on that one.
What part of your work was most exciting for you?
MARY: Writing the dance with Duchess Florianne in the Dragon Age: Inquisition plot “Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts.” We’d never done a conversation with branching in the middle of an action scene before, and the player’s dance moves depended on their conversation choices. It required a lot of coordination with Frank Gordon, the awesome cinematic designer for that plot. I sent him probably half a dozen rewrites of that one conversation for feedback to get the timing of the branches right on each choice.
BRIANNE: Dragon Age: Inquisition was my first full-length game. Being part of something so big, with so many moving pieces, and then watching those pieces come together… it was very exciting! I’d been a fan of the first two games, so actually contributing to this world was surreal.
What challenge was most scary or daunting?
MARY: The Landsmeet. The very first thing I ever worked on as a newbie writer was the most complicated plot in Dragon Age: Origins.
BRIANNE: Remember when I said Dragon Age: Inquisition was my first full-length game and I was contributing to a world I love? That’s also terrifying! I was learning a lot and I definitely fell down a few times. But we all fall down, and I had a great team supporting me.
MARY: One of the great things about the Dragon Age writers is that you can call a megamind at any time. You can be super-stuck trying to get something to work, and all these great people will stop whatever they’re doing to help you figure out how to make that one line 20% funnier, or the knife twist a little harder, or to get your plot to go from point A to point B without collapsing like a sad souffle in the middle.
What was your most satisfying moment or contribution to Dragon Age?
MARY: Oooh, it’s either got to be “Fine Dwarven crafts!” or the ladder in the Western Approach with the description text that just says, “Can I get you a ladder to get off my back?”
BRIANNE: I wrote a couple songs in the codex entries. Later, I saw that people on YouTube had put them to music. That was pretty cool.
MARY: Wait, which ones? I haven’t seen that.
BRIANNE: "The Girl in Red Crossing" and "Shred of Blue." I was so amazed! Music, artwork, cosplay, crafts… Dragon Age fans make such cool art!
What was a favorite team or collaboration moment for you?
MARY: In Dragon Age: Origins, there is this optional plot which most people missed called “Captured!” which has an entirely different series of events unfold depending on whether you choose to have the player escape from prison themselves or wait for their friends to rescue them… and also based on which combination of your companions come to your rescue. It was the sort of plot with a stupid number of permutations that no sane level designer would agree to do, so of course my husband Craig was the one working on it with me. And he’s the opposite of a voice of reason. He’s more like, “What if we also had half a dozen different ways for the player to escape by themselves, and one involved making friends with all the guards?”
BRIANNE: Oh yeah, you worked on “Captured!” My favorite pairing was Alistair and the mabari. Then you let the mabari run the con. ANYWAY… brainstorm sessions with the other writers are always fun. Generating lots of ideas, seeing what sticks, seeing which weird errant thought might spark something. I also had a lot of fun collaborating with Cullen’s cinematic designer, Sarah Hayward. We’d think up scenarios based on these little moments we wanted Cullen to have.
MARY: Okay, so Brianne is the one person on Earth who played it. And yes, the dog is a super con artist.
What did you like to listen to while you worked on Dragon Age?
MARY: I usually have a different playlist for whatever plot or character I’m working on. Varric has a lot of cellos, for instance.
BRIANNE: Same! I have different playlists for different plots and characters. I listen to them on loop as I work.
Which team member(s) did you always want to call out as deserving of special praise?
MARY: The editors. I don’t even know how many vital things they do in order to ship a game. They make literally all the things work in our pipeline.
BRIANNE: Agreed! Definitely the editors. They put so much heart and hard work into every single game. They deserve more praise than I can put down here. I’d also like to give a shout-out to Quality Assurance and the narrative-tools programmers—they are hardworking, patient, and awesome!
What do you wish fans better understood about your job?
MARY: We writers don’t always get what we want. I have written SO MANY MURDER MYSTERY PLOTS, YOU GUYS! And they never make it to ship! There are many, many reasons why the things we wanted to put in the game don’t make it in.
BRIANNE: Along the same lines, games are complicated. There’s a lot of moving pieces and a lot of people involved.
What question do you wish we fans would stop asking you? (LOVINGLY!)
MARY: Why Varric is not romanceable. See above.
BRIANNE: Lovingly, I can’t answer questions like “Can you make X happen?” or “Can X character return/be a love interest/die/etc.?” Even if I know the answers, I couldn’t say anyway.
MARY: Or you do it, and it doesn’t make it to ship. Or it gets changed beyond recognition in the course of game development. On Dragon Age: Inquisition, I started out writing one plot about a siege in the Nahashin Marshes, and by the time the game launched had instead written two unrelated plots about time travel and a dance battle. I’m not even sure we had the Nahashin Marshes anymore? We had some completely different swamp?
BRIANNE: We had the Fallow Mire, which was in a completely different part of the world. I wrote a spooky plot for a ruined castle that also no longer exists in the game.
What does Dragon Age mean to you?
BRIANNE: Dragon Age is a world I can escape to and I have so much affection for the characters who live there.
MARY: I worked on this series for longer than I ever held any other job. “Dragon Age Writer” is probably going to be etched on my tombstone.
Who is your favorite Dragon Age character?
MARY: This question is a trap. It’s like asking me to pick a favorite child. Whatever I say, Merrill is going to wind up crying and that is NOT OKAY.
BRIANNE: Don’t cry, Merrill! I love all of you!
Does your canon Warden do the Dark Ritual or ultimate sacrifice?
MARY: Ultimate sacrifice.
BRIANNE: Dark Ritual.
MARY: And that’s how you know Brianne is the evil one.
What do you name your mabari?
MARY: Rabbit. Because that’s the “canon” name we came up with for the dog in Dragon Age: Origins for the brief period when we might not get a GUI to name him.
BRIANNE: Biscuit, after one of my childhood dogs.
What alignment is your canon Hawke (purple, red, blue, etc.)?
MARY: Purple is the only correct answer to this question, I’m sorry.
BRIANNE: Yeah, I’m Purple Hawke.
Which character do you feel is most misunderstood?
BRIANNE: Can mere mortals truly understand the Nug King?
MARY: I’ve got to say Lord Trifles Minutiae. There are probably perfectly valid, non-horrifying reasons he might be hanging out silently in your bedroom closet in Skyhold wielding a giant spoon. Probably.
Who's your favorite villain?
MARY: Or wait, can I change my answer to, “Red lyrium?”
Who's your personal canon Inquisitor (race, faith, etc.)?
MARY: Human female. Sword and shield warrior. Doesn’t think she’s chosen by Andraste.
BRIANNE: Human female. She’s an archer and Andrastian, but doesn’t believe she was chosen.
If you could live anywhere in Thedas, where would you live?
MARY: The Black Emporium. They’ve got that whole basket of free socks!
BRIANNE: The Storm Coast! The rocky shore, the grey sea… and it’s always overcast. I like overcast weather.
Who's your favorite Dragon Age romance and why?
BRIANNE: Honestly, I’ve liked a lot of them! Alistair was my first romance and he’s so sweet. He’s my main Warden’s romance (and I keep him a Warden… which makes the choice in Dragon Age: Inquisition extra tragic!). My main Hawke goes with Fenris. I love his voice. I’ve always enjoyed the romance aspect of BioWare games, so getting to write one myself for Dragon Age: Inquisition was exciting.
MARY: I don’t usually play the romances in games I’ve worked on. I could only answer this question about Mass Effect. Or maybe Star Wars: The Old Republic.
BRIANNE: Wait, who is your Mass Effect romance?
MARY: Garrus, of course. I thought everyone was required to romance Garrus.
Mage or Templar?
MARY: Neither? I vote pirates.
BRIANNE: Oh no! Hey, Mary – would you and the pirates like to visit me on the Storm Coast?
MARY: I mean, where else are we going to hang out? We’re retiring there to open a tavern or something, right?
BRIANNE: Will it have Sing-quisition open mic nights?
MARY: I don’t think we could stop that from happening if we wanted to.
Is there cake at the party... or is the cake a lie?
MARY: There’s cake. Why wouldn’t there be cake? Who told you there was no cake?
BRIANNE: Oh, but I was hoping for pie.