Saturday, April 18, 2020

Chatting with the Weekeses, Part 3: Romances, Life in Thedas, and Talkative Felines

Hello, all!


Karin Weekes (right), and my inadvertent third
 interview participant, Smokey Weekes (left). Who
I can attest has a very fine, melodious mew
.
Apologies for the delay, but finally—disgracefully late—I've moved forward with a further installment of my in-depth conversation with Patrick Weekes and Karin Weekes, originally a part of our celebrations of Dragon Age Day 2019, from last December, thanks to them (and the BioWare team) providing us with an incredible amount of time and access.

As you know, I interviewed the dynamic duo just before Dragon Age Day 2019 (and it was everything I hoped it could be). You can read Part 1 here, or Part 2 here.

A New World

But goodness, has the world changed since I posted that last interview, or what?! I mean, pandemics. Face masks. Social isolation. Scary economies. So much is crazy (Hey, where's Loghain?! Or surely Corypants is behind this?!). 

I mean, I'd probably be looking for a Breach in the sky... If I could see the sky right now.

Sigh. Or, hey, let's go with a Cassandra-noise.

So, oof.

Here There Be Dragons

What a terrifying and strange world we're finding ourselves in. And it is sadly not fictional and all too real. They're certainly times that require fortitude, courage, and also, for me, essential trust in science, medicine, and fact. It's been challenging for me, especially as someone who already navigates the world at an anxiety level of 11 (fellow anxiety sufferers, I know you feel my pain!). 

But also, I believe, these times require faith in less tangible things, too—like magic, joy, and imagination (and faith or belief, if those are part of your life). Those things are soul-sustenance when times are tough. Art feeds us, makes the walls of our quarantines disappear, brings us infinite horizons, and helps us to escape grief and fear, too. I'm grateful that so many stories, books, shows, and games do that for me—Dragon Age, first and foremost.

Which brings me back to this interview, a privilege that gave me the chance to talk to two of my favorite artists in the Dragon Age world, who are also openly really good, kind people who have remained accessible to the fandom despite the occasional toxicity and backlash that comes with that openness and transparency.

Emerging from the Deep Roads

So, this interview gave me so much joy—both at the time, of course, just before Dragon Age Day (I was euphoric for a week, seriously)... but even more again, recently, returning to that conversation in a changed world after over three months in which I'd been dealing with a lot of life and work turmoil. It was a lovely surprise to return to this conversation only to realize that it was exactly what I needed right now—a lovely, supportive talk with two very smart, talented and creative artists who helped to build one of the fictional worlds I love more than anything in the world—and it was also a welcome escape in this time of strangeness and uncertainty. 

I just hope that it provides you with a similar escape in these crazy times.

So onward, intrepid Companions! Part 3 follows below... and it was just as much fun as it sounds. There will be one final (extra-fabulous) piece to follow this one, a lightning-round on Patrick and Karin's responses to an assortment of silly questions from me (and you won't want to miss it—it's so much fun).

Here we go...


Karin and Patrick deftly taking the spotlight away from the Inky (Varric
looks ambivalent...)
Patrick, I know from legend and lore that David Gaider was actually the one who suggested that Solas be romanceable... is that right? 

PATRICK: So... Dave denies this... 

Laughter.

PATRICK: But Dave also has an interesting memory that many people—not just me—have compared to a goldfish. Because yes, then David will blame me for the romance when I distinctly recall him saying—

Here's what happened. I said, "Okay, other people are putting in flirts for their characters. What should I do with that?" 

And he went, "Sure! Put in a flirt or two. Or do a little romance!" And I went, "Uh, okay!" and put in... something... 

And then the group at large went, "Well, that's not enough—if you're putting in that, you need to have more of a real romance!" 

KARIN: I just have to say, in Dave's defense, Patrick does not do 'a little' when it comes to anything. That gauntlet has been laid down.

PATRICK (teasing): Hey, when you let the Fey into your house... you make decisions...

KARIN: I'm just saying!

PATRICK: So... perhaps... if Dave didn't understand what he was doing by saying, "Sure, you can have a little romance," then Dave learned a valuable lesson.

KARIN (laughing): It was a definite learning moment, wasn't it?

Patrick, have you been surprised at the intense reactions of fans? Of course, I'm also speaking here for Solasmancers and inhabitants of Solavellan Hell... but were you surprised at the level of emotion that people have invested in Solas as a character and romance? 

PATRICK: I was. I think it's very easy for all writers, or rather, it was easy for me... to forget that every romance is some player's first romance. Because at the time, once Dave agreed that Solas was going to be a full-ish romance... 

KARIN (laughing): Or, um, reluctantly accepted...

PATRICK: Then, you know, the question became, "What flavor is it?" because we wanted to make sure the romances have different flavors... so Bull was a little bit more "50 Shades of Bull," and Josephine was very consciously, you know, romancing a Disney princess... 

Right.

Their cat (whom Karin later informs me is Smokey) meows again loudly. The cat is not only revealed to be insanely cute, but also, obviously gives itself away here as a Josie romance fan.

PATRICK: Josie's is very cute, very sweet, very wholesome. But on Solas, I said, "Well, I kind of want to do—I want to do star-crossed lovers. I want to do that combined with, like... Okay, so, Phantom of the Opera is not my favorite musical, but I do kind of get the whole, "We mustn't!" "We must!" thing...

Er... Yeah, I'm a sucker for it.

PATRICK: There's that kind of tragic 'emotions worn on the sleeve' nature to it. So I said, "Okay, I'm just gonna do something like that." And I went off and wrote it, and... kind of when I wrote it, I went, "I'm gonna make it fairly clear that pretty much every time you take a step forward with Solas, he's going to tell you—"

"We shouldn't!"

I basically say it at the same time as Patrick, which is awesome. Laughter from all of us.

PATRICK (dramatically): "We shouldn't do this! We mustn't! The consequences will be horrible! It can only lead to pain!"

You say that like it's a bad thing.

(More laughter)

PATRICK: But so... in my mind, if you say yes anyway, then yeah, you're going to take that next step to... 

Pain! A world of pain!

PATRICK (laughing): But see, again, in my mind, at the time, I was thinking that I was being pretty straightforward about that. I'm thinking, well, I think that the people who get that, who take that option to move forward, are going to be the ones who absolutely wanted the 'star-crossed lovers'/Phantom of the Opera-style 'Rose and the Doctor'-style romance. 

Here, honestly, I admit it, I make another 'oof' sound, as if I'm Cassandra Pentaghast at a really heartbreaking moment of Swords & Shields. I was a pretty big Phantom fan (flaws and all) in college, and once took a Greyhound bus 24 hours from Tallahassee, Florida to NYC to see it on Broadway the year it openedbut I'm an even bigger Rose and Ten shipper, so this is all catnip to me in the best, most embarrassing way. And so much fun.

Karin and Patrick laugh (but kindly) at my mortification.

PATRICK: And so... like I said, it's very easy for ME from the perspective of "person who knows how everything is going to go," to have that perspective as the person who wrote it in their thirties, having seen Phantom of the Opera, and Rose and the Doctor, and every other tragic, star-crossed, age difference-type of romance that "can't possibly be, but is nevertheless..."

Smokey Weekes meows again, insistently.

PATRICK: But having done all that, and having forgotten that playing this game, like I said, for many, this was their first-time encounter with that kind of a romance...

Yeah, but also, I still think it caught even more people unaware who may have been experienced gamers or more jaded, too. Like, I think for a lot of us, we just thought we could change him, dammit!

Laughter.

Wait, wait, not change him, seriously—I should clarify. I never wanted to change Solas, just his goals. Meaning, rather—just... to persuade him away from this one specific goal that's tearing him apart.


Allegra Clark (Voice actress for Josephine),
adorably demonstrating Josie's immortal
leg-pop to celebrate Dragon Age Day.
Photo courtesy of Allegra Clark
.
PATRICK: Yeah. So yes, it was a surprise to me, the reaction and emotion of many responses. Like I said, we do the best we can, and we see what sticks and what doesn't... and what people really, really emotionally engage with... and what resonates with folks. 

And well, I was pleasantly surprised that people were that taken with it, you know... And that meant a lot to me because for one thing, it's a very mental romance as opposed to a physical one.

Yes. And if people react that strongly, you did something right. I mean, that's the whole point. That the players felt something.

PATRICK (chuckling): Not something good, but something right.

Well, you know, just speaking for myself, I mean, I went back and played every single choice in the breakup scene just to make sure I wasn't missing something. I was just going, "Wait a minute! Obviously I'm doing this wrong!" 

And then I shut the game down and called my best friend about the fact that I had now reached the lowest point of my lifethat even my digital boyfriends were dumping me, so, you know, not that I'm blaming you or anything, but... 

Karin and Patrick laugh, and I contemplate my life choices.

I got over it eventually! (No, I didn't...) Although, yeah, I'm staring into the middle distance even as I say this... 

Karin and Patrick are still laughing, which is the best thing ever right now.

PATRICK: Um...


Oh, Solas, stop looking at me like that. STAHP.
But reallyit's so much fun. And I really just do love how big, emotional and operatic it is, and how, you know... Trevor Morris was NOT HELPFUL. Because then we get to "Trespasser," and our little hearts are all stomped as it is, and that music comes up and it's just over. I mean, ouch. 

KARIN: Trevor is really, really good at what he does.

He really is.

I mentally return (with an effort) from my tearful "Trespasser" "Lost Elf Theme" reveries.

Meanwhile... speaking of which, I did want to ask you bothas closely involved as you both have been, especially in Inquisition, are you able to kind of distance yourselves enough to enjoy the game as a game? And if so, are there things that even you will not allow yourself as a player to ever do in the game?

KARIN: It gets hard, because like Patrick was talking about earlier, once the dialogue writing and other writing and all of that is done... then the writers sort of move into play testing mode, because they're the ones who will know if something is broken, if something isn't firing the way it should, if something isn't working the way it's supposed to work... 

So we have these charts we put together of who's doing what kind of playthrough, and which choices... so, for instance, for one playthrough I'll be going, "I will do the female Qunari Inquisitor..."

What a shock!

PATRICK (laughing): No kidding.

KARIN: So I'll be like, "Okay, so I'll romance this person, kill that person, and then do this or do that..." So, for me, that is the time when I try to do the things that I don't want to do in my "IRL" playthrough... 

PATRICK: The home one...

KARIN: Yeah.

PATRICK: Yeah, it's funny because I can still enjoy playing Inquisition at home, and hitting, like, a moment and going, "Oh, I'm not sure I've heard that before!" or, on the other hand, "Oh, I remember that line! Man, Sylvia (Fekekutuky) had so much fun writing that line!" And oh, God, I love—I love Sera's random lines. 

But I'd say that... a difference is that, like Karin said, when we have to do these playthroughs, we have to do playthroughs that involve making these choices we would never have made...

Smokey, the Weekes kitty, speaks loudly again. As it does.

... and eventually, in those playthroughs as writers, we'd get into a kind of gallows humor situation about it, we get into what out of context would sound very, very harsh—as if we hate the characters or don't care about them—but it's because we're in this mode where we're testing, and...

KARIN: Honestly, you just kind of have to play yourself at that point. You've been so emotionally engaged that you have to pull yourself out of it, to not get totally overwhelmed...

PATRICK: I had a playthrough—one of my last playthroughs before the game came out, and before my "for reals" home playthrough—was, I called her the "Assquisitor," and I was just making every loathsome choice just to make sure stuff worked, and I did find a few bugs. So it was worth it. 

And it was funny, because the writers were laughing with me 95% of the time, and I'd be like, "Yep! Got the Chargers killed! And now there's nobody for Bull to care about but ME!" 

He laughs. It's a pretty good Evil Villain laugh. Meanwhile, I make an involuntary 'ow' noise.

PATRICK: But one thing... I remember that Brianne (Battye), who sat fairly close to me in the writer pit, was laughing along with me on all this stuff, and then the one day, I was, like, "Yeah, Cullen seemed pretty grumpy, but it's okay, I got him back on the sauce..." and Brianne just went, very coldly... "Wow." 

Laughter from all.

PATRICK: Like, there it was. That was the "too far for Brianne" moment.

KARIN: Everyone has those moments. 

And what's great is that they're all different. Like, we have a pretty wide spectrum of people here. And one of the most interesting things I've learned from that is that we all have this inherent "the way I play games is the way games should be played" mindset—then realizing how many different kinds of people and preferences there are, and that, yes, there are people who would super-enjoy this or that playthrough, and who would do that. Or who, you know, might do it for funsies, and it's good if it works... 

And we do run a pretty wide spectrum of people who enjoy, you know, various choices that I would personally find distasteful, because, like, my personal preferences would be different.... I've already talked about my love of axes and things, but I am also a giant sucker who wants to save everyone and have everyone be a big happy paragon by the end.

I'm a Paragon baseline. It's so hard for me to do anything else...

PATRICK: And I think most of us are... which is why those series of playthroughs sometimes became such a 'dark humor' time for the writers' pit.

KARIN: Yeah. And—and yet—not always necessarily though. Sure, it makes us play a lot of choices that are different than you would or I would...

PATRICK: That's true...

KARIN: As with my "Courtney Woods, we haven't talked about it" approaches (and who is, by the way, partially responsible for making the Nug King happen)... 

Oh, that's genius! I love the Nug King so much.

KARIN: So... yeah.

I just can't throw anybody out. That's my thing, because I'm such a big fan of the 'found family' aspect. I can't throw Sera out. I can't make Cole leave...

KARIN: Nope.

Or anyone, honestly. I can't do it. I can't send Dorian away.

KARIN: No, those are tough.

Meanwhile, I wanted to ask you about inclusivity, because it's such a huge and amazingly wonderful thing throughout Dragon Age. From Day One, you guys have been consistently inclusive, from gay, bi, ace, to trans characters, Bull's BDSM romance in Inquisition, which was so respectfully handled... so many others... 

I was wondering, moving forward, is there a chance, whether it's in written form on the page, or um, I'm not speaking in terms of any potential development in game form in the future, I mean... (coughs)

They humor me but of course, do not answer.

But just in a general sense, is there a chance that we might experience trans, nonbinary or even poly romances in the future?

PATRICK: Um...

KARIN (brightly, laughing): There's always a chance!

PATRICK: I would say that, to answer in parts...  for things like trans, nonbinary and—I'd also throw out ace—

Yes, of course...

PATRICK: Each of those is specifically just a question of, "Is there a writer on the team who is passionate about tackling this issue? And to the point where they are prepared to be—not a leader in the sense that they get to tell everyone what to do—but a leader in the sense of, they're going to be the one who goes to other departments and says, "Okay, this character is ace, here's what that means in this cutscene...?" Those are the big questions.

Yeah.

PATRICK: Or "Okay, this character is trans, here's how we have to handle their VO casting..." 

Right.

PATRICK: So, it's a question of... yes, we would absolutely support that. But also knowing, each time we take steps forward, that is almost always driven by, like I said—a writer who is prepared to make that one of the things that they spend a lot of extra effort on, because it is something that the company has not done before.

You know, at this point, I would say—a new romance is—while still something that takes us extra time, and still something we look at carefully to make sure that we are avoiding specifically harmful tropes—

The Weekes's kitty meows again. It evidently has opinions about the Dragon Age writing team and romances and is obviously, like me, in favor of as many as possible.

PATRICK (mock-sternly): Hi, 'The Cat'... (to me) Yes, that's our cat Smokey on the microphone...

We all laugh. Within a few minutes, Patrick e-mails me the picture of Smokey snuggling on Karin's shoulder.

PATRICK: But, um, at this point, you know, that is something that we just assume we're going to do. That if one of our games has romances in it, it's going to have gay romances in it...  

Right. In the best way.

KARIN: Gay and bi romances... 

PATRICK: Right. Now, in talking about the trans and nonbinary content, that's something where someone would have to be ready to help the company take those steps. 

Karin sneezes politely.

KARIN: Sorry, I didn't realize that was going to be so loud.

I laugh, because, seriously, it's the politest, smallest sneeze ever. Meanwhile, as someone still struggling with the [regular old] flu, I've sneezed and coughed my way through this entire interview like Typhoid Mary...

PATRICK: Now, the last one—

KARIN: Wait, I want to jump in a little more here, too. Because a lot of this does change. I mean, we are very lucky to work where we work because at BioWare, we have a history from way back before Patrick and I even started working there of an environment that supported that kind of exploration. And so that has remained consistent throughout the time—what, fifteen years?

PATRICK: Yep, fifteen years in March.

KARIN: And so you have to have that kind of buy-in from the people who are providing the money, who are allowing you to make this game. Important when it's sort of expected that we will work together to keep being more inclusive.

And it is sometimes smaller steps. And so, you know, we'll try this—we'll try, first, a bi romance, then we'll do a gay romance. Then we'll do a couple of gay romances, and it builds and builds. And there's a lot of responsibility in that...


Krem is one of the best characters in Dragon Age, and I suspect that
many, many people would romance him next game if given the chance.
So, for instance, working on a Krem romance or a trans romance... none of the writers are trans. And so that comes with a responsibility of doing it right. 

And that's the good thing about that environment of inclusivity—that you want to represent characters in the right way, and it involves great care. And understanding that even if you do have friends or fellow staff members who are trans, their experiences won't be universal—the experiences of everyone. Understanding this, it will still be challenging and frustrating to make a character that is going to be satisfyingly representative of people. 

And so unfortunately, at this point, it does require some extra work. So we'll do our best to put in the extra work and then like Patrick said, the gay romance—the first time the gay romance happened, it was "Oh my God, it's a gay romance!" but now it's just expected.

Mmhmm.

KARIN: So it's one of those little steps to open the doors and keep things moving, and making sure that we don't rest on those laurels and keep moving forward.

PATRICK: The one that we are hesitant on is poly. 

Because of the game mechanics, right?

PATRICK and KARIN: Yes.

KARIN: Yep. We've been talking about that for years.

PATRICK: It's not a moral stance, it's not prudishness—it is purely that our romances as they stand are a giant spiderweb of pain that inevitably creates more story-based bugs than any other part of our stories. 

Laughter from everyone. I think even Smokey the Cat laughs.

PATRICK: So, we already have issues like, "Hey, I romanced this person, but I'm getting romanced dialogue from this other person. Or, "Hey, I'm at stage two of this romance that should lock off stage one of this other romance..." I mean, I've told stories about my experiences as a player in Dragon Age Origins, getting Leliana to a point where she was— 

I chuckle because I already know where this is going.

PATRICK: Um, well, actually it was really sad, because first I got Leliana to soulmates—accidentally getting her approval level too high, too fast—passing the romance threshold...

Right... Been there.

PATRICK: So I couldn't romance her. And then I found out that the only legal way for me to start romancing her was to 'neg' her—for instance, saying that being a bard was being a spy and dishonest—that kind of thing, whatever would get the approval lower—to the point where it would get me back down into the dialogue tree where I could start a romance...?

This is so wrong, right?

KARIN: I know!

PATRICK: Yeah, I mean, I was going... "Aw, no, I have to trash talk her?" 

And then I gave Alistair a rose... like a BUDDY... and then Alistair was like, "Hey, thanks, this means a whole lot to me..." and then I walked over to Leliana, who opens with (Orlesian accent) "You are in love weeth Aleestair!"

(Laughter)

PATRICK: And I was like... "Nooooo... noooo... uh-uh..." and my dialogue options were "It's complicated," "I love both of you," "Why do I have to choose?" and meanwhile I'm just looking for the one that says, "Hey, babe, hold on—let me just go break this off. I'll be back in TWO MINUTES..." 

That happened to me with Zevran. And I was like, "I just gotta run across the campsite — I'll be right back, swear!"

PATRICK: So. A poly romance is a romance that, just from a technical standpoint is one that we are hesitant on, because of that kind of stuff. But if we can figure out a way to do that respectfully—without killing ourselves on the fractal spiderweb of scripting pain—that's absolutely something that would be on the table. It's just that that's the only one that we look at and go... "That's not a question of how well could we write this, but of, rather...

Of, "How does that work mechanically?"

PATRICK: Yeah. Of, "Can we make this work in a game that isn't a dating sim?"

(Me, silently and mentally: Dragon Age is TOTALLY a dating sim...)

PATRICK: So, yeah. Trying to make the romances work in the context of a game that is, in theory, mostly about saving the world and having adventures, so... a poly romance would be, just, so big from a scripting standpoint—at least, if handled the way we've handled all of our other romances—

KARIN: I was going to say—and doing it right. Because we could do it, sure, and maybe it would sort of be hasty and weird, and—not—just by nature, not really keep up with it...

PATRICK: Oh, yeah, we could—sure, we could half-ass it, but we probably wouldn't want to do that.

KARIN: Yeah. That would suck.

Right. That makes sense to me. 

And heyspeaking of the different romances, I always assumed that Josie was an ace romance. So I always thought you'd already done the ace romance... 

PATRICK: Well, I think Sylvia Feketekuty, if I remember—I'd have to ask Sylvia to be certain—but if I'm remembering right, she wanted that to be a romance where that interpretation was absolutely valid. And if you wanted to headcanon it, that it had been an intimate romance, then cool... but if you wanted it to be an ace romance, also cool.

KARIN: Yep. And yay! So I'm glad that worked for you.

Yeah, and it's the most adorable thing ever, I mean, come on... it's Josie.

KARIN: Yeah, that was one of my favorite parts of Inquisition... I edited Sylvia's Josephine stuff, and it was just so much fun working on that. 

Well, and the entire duel is just so delightful and funny. And every time, I just love Josie's surprised reaction to the Inky's declaration that they love her, when she's like, "You do?!" She's just so shocked that the Inky loves her that much.

PATRICK: It's that, and her leg going up at the end.

The leg-pop!

(Laughter)

Last year, when Allegra Clarke was taking part in Dragon Age Day, she actually signed a leg-pop photo for charity... 

KARIN: So good!

It was really just as ridiculously adorable as you would think it was.

So I wanted to ask you... moving on, of your work across Dragon Age... what was your favorite moment of failure? Something that didn't work out for you, but that you valued for the experience? 

KARIN: I don't think anyone has ever asked me that. That's a great question.

Thank you!

PATRICK: It's very difficult because I've failed so, so rarely...

Karin laughs.

PATRICK: Wow.

KARIN: I'm sorry—I mean, yes, absolutely.

PATRICK:  Where have I completely fallen flat? Um... I think for me—I would... 

KARIN: Well, first off, hopefully a lot of the big ones don't actually make it into the game... 

PATRICK: Yeah, oh, yeah—sorry...  

KARIN: We call each other out on stuff a LOT.

PATRICK: I was trying to go with stuff that shipped. If we're gonna go with first drafts, where people pulled us back from the brink of disaster, I've got a NUMBER of stories... 

Like?

PATRICK: Like, one of the things that I think might be most instructive, is to talk about the fact that people might give me a compliment where they say, "I could never write Solas, you did such an amazing job," and they're comparing my version of Solas that shipped, to their first draft of something. Which is unfair to themselves.

I don't think I've told it often enough, but the story of my first draft of Solas—the one that got peer-reviewed by all the writers—was that Solas answers every single question with, er, this one thing. 

For example—"Hey, Solas, what do you think about cheese?" Solas: "Oh, the ancient elves LOVED cheese... and specifically, Ghilan'nain preferred more of a gouda... and Andruil liked a nice brie," etc.

And then, like, every time, the Inky would ask next, "Um, Solas, you seem to know a lot about the ancient elves...?" 

And Solas would look shocked and go, "WHAAAAT?"

Laughter from everyone.

PATRICK (still as Solas): "What? What?! Who said anything about ancient elves?! Oh, no, no, no!"

And it was the most shoehorned, all-he-cares-about-is-ancient-elves thing. And then it was more of the same. He'd talk about ancient elves all the time, but anything you'd actually ask him about ancient elves, he'd just say, "What?! Don't be silly!" 

He didn't have the hook of the Fade at that point.

Right.

PATRICK: It took that initial draft to realize, "Well, I guess he probably needs a hook beyond, 'I can't talk to you about ancient elves, which I'm still going to talk to you about all the time.'" 

And so then this meant getting into, "Okay, look, we're gonna make him a Fade Nerd. He's gonna be—at least, until you reach the end of the game, the guy who lucid-dreams, who explores the Fade, can talk about all of the history stuff with that as his plausible deniability. So—that thing he talks about? Instead now it was, "Oh, no, I saw that in the Fade!"

I love that that's his answer for everything. Just in hindsight, that whole, "Oh, yeah, (cough), I saw it in the Fade!"

PATRICK: So that was one example for me. And the Fade aspect—that may have been Jennifer Hepler's suggestion, actually... her suggestion was definitely, "He needs a hook beyond "I can't talk to you about ancient elves..." She was also actually one of eight people probably saying that around the table.

But I do think Jennifer was the one who suggested, "Hey, maybe the Fade..." and I went, "Oh, yeah, yeah—he can talk about the Fade!" Because—in the final version of him that ships in Inquisition, he does care about the Fade. He thinks it's neat; he thinks it's cool. He is absolutely the person who would look into the vast reaches of space and see something that's impossible and go, "That's amazing! Let's get closer and look at it!" 

And so... for me, that was the failure that led to a success.

That's wonderful (and that's also very Doctorish of him). And I like how it ended up because you give us this character who has perhaps the widest view of history that it's possible to imagine, and yet he's still limited and trapped, to a degree, by his own imagination... his whole mission and point of view is so confined and set in stone

That's really great to hear. Karin, what about you?

KARIN: So mine are going to be more boring things, because it's more—just, a lot of my work is, you know—the processes and the behind-the-scenes stuff. 

So mine are going to be along the lines of, "Wow, doing this kind of content at this particular time didn't work very well and caused this kind of kerfuffle and stress downstream, so we'll need to do some streamlining..." 

I'm trying to think of anything particular. First, there are always the typos that I let slip... (she chuckles) and then, globally, there are things that I don't think are abject failures, but which are things we try, and then go, "Aw, okay, let's see how we can make that better," like with the Hinterlands, or...

PATRICK: Yeah, like, the Hinterlands... 

I love the Hinterlands. I'm gonna admit that. And like most of us players, I spent a lot of time there!

PATRICK: Or, there are so many times that I remember when insisting that a line couldn't get cut any shorter than it already is, and then the line shifts, and I look at it and go, "Yeah, that could've been cut..."

(Laughter)

I mean, we may not have needed that line at all—much less, the full line... but those are—I mean, I don't even count those as failures, so much as... "I hope I can do better next time..."

KARIN: Yeah, exactly.

So, Patrick... How much time does Solas spend on Netflix... and do he and Cole ever actually watch something together? Or... they've just both already seen everything?

PATRICK (as if this explains everything): Well, they've journeyed deep into the Fade...

I make a frustrated noise, kind of an oof. Cassandra would not be happy with this. Patrick and Karin laugh.

Dammit. Okay, I knew it. I knew I was a goner on that one...

Laughter.


[Squeaks judgmentally]
Moving on (ahem), was there potential that the Nug King would judge us and find us wanting?

KARIN: So that—I worked with Courtney (Woods) on that, and (hesitates) I—I don't think so. I think it was mostly, one of those that happened when people were, um, a little tired, and yeah, due to my memory, I can definitely ask Courtney to correct me on this if I'm not—but I think it was more the fact that he was judging you, period. 

And curiously, in any event—so that it didn't necessarily matter if you failed or not. He was just so unimpressed with you altogether... 

I love it so much. It's kind of wrong how much I love it.

KARIN: It's great. And yeah, we were having entirely too much fun... and that was one of those where we went, "Okay, if we're having this much fun, then hopefully somebody else in the game will enjoy this as much as we are!"

Oh, definitely, they were!

KARIN: Because there's that side where we then have to get everyone else to jump in, and then get art—yes!—and then...

It's wonderful.

I have to bring up something from Trespasser that many of us are still recovering from (I can already tell Patrick is cringing at the prospect of yet another Solas question, so I'm enjoying the moment...), which is...

What happened to my poor beautiful Teagan from Origins? I mean, I can't even... not just outside, but inside!

More general laughter.

KARIN: Um... 

Look. I saved him in Origins every single time. I want you to know, I spent that final battle against the Archdemon in DAO less worried about the fate of the universe than in frantically healing Hot Young Teagan's little butt the entire time... and then... we get to Trespasser... and... it was all for naught. I mean, something happened to that man... 

PATRICK: Well, he went through... a difficult rebuilding period.

(Laughter)

PATRICK: I would say that this time after the war has been different for him than the time during the war...

It was Isolde!

PATRICK: One of my favorites was someone saying, "He looks worse than Loghain, and Loghain is Blighted!" Let's face it... tough but fair.

Yes it is. It's harsh but true... (cries silently)

MEANWHILE... if you could live anywhere in Thedas, where would you live?

PATRICK: I would live in Rivain. Because Rivain is not as hung up on magic, because they have seers who let themselves get possessed... they also have a relatively peaceful relationship with the Qun. And they're kind of a melting pot and multicultural... they're a place where a lot of different cultures come together. And also? Beachfront property.

KARIN: I was just gonna say... if you need further justification, they get to say, "I want to live on the beach."

I'm a sucker for the Storm Coast. With maybe a summer condo in Val Royeaux. How about you, Karin?

KARIN: I was hoping you'd have the option to winter in Rivain...

PATRICK: Cool.

KARIN: ...and I'd hopefully summer somewhere else. Because I grew up in the mountains, so I want to be, like, "I don't want to be in the super-Arctic types of mountains, but somewhere that would be..."

PATRICK: Like, Avvar-like mountains?

KARIN: Kinda?!

PATRICK: Okay.

That's a nice area, actually. (Speaking as someone who would live forever at Skyhold...)

KARIN: Okay, then yeah, let's say that.

PATRICK: So we could do springs and summers in the Frostback Mountains.

KARIN: Perfect. 

And then I was gonna ask, because I always think this is really fun to imagine. So, if you ended up, that you're BEAMED INTO THEDAS as yourselfand the Breach is open, the Conclave is toast, what would be your fate? What would you end up doing?

KARIN: You know, we've actually talked about this...

Knowing that makes me so happy.

PATRICK: I don't know... My initial reaction is to treat this like "What would you do in the zombie apocalypse?" Which is, "Well, I would die on the third day, because they don't have acid reflux medication or inhalers," BUT... since there's magic and stuff...

KARIN: And magic asthma inhalers!

PATRICK (laughing): I mean, am I the Inquisitor, or am I joining the fight or...?

You can be anything you want. You can be the Inquisitor. You can be the person who dies in hour three, you can, you know, be the Divine... it's all good. Anything goes.

KARIN: There's a space between who I would think I would be and who I would like to be or who I would probably be.

Patrick chuckles.

PATRICK: Although I would love to... Yeah, I don't see myself as having the necessary heroic attributes to be the Inquisitor, but, um...

KARIN: I just want to note that as per our earlier conversation, I would be running around whapping people with a really big axe...

Which would be, of course, amazing.

KARIN: And establishing myself as the biggest, most awesome badass ever!

Perfect casting! (Alsowhy don't I have these fantasies? It's not fair. I'm always, like, the cleric with the Holy Hand Grenade... or the person everyone wants in their party in case bears show up. Oh, and of course, I'm definitely the slow person the bear catches first...).

PATRICK: Still, hmmm... I can see myself joining Charter on Leliana's spy network, maybe?

Oh, that would be fun.

PATRICK: I actually feel like doing the scouting, the actual going around, bringing back information people are using for War Table decisions—it would be fascinating. And that was a part of Inquisition that I really thought was cool, and interesting—part of which is, because of writing Bull, I ended up having to do a little bit of research on espionage and and how all of that stuff works...

That makes sense. Also, I am a total War Table nerd (I would play an entire Thedas War Table DLC). So you'd be your own version of the Ben-Hassrath?

PATRICK (laughs): I mean, not realistically, maybe, but just to figure out which flavor of 'unrealistic' I was doing, right? And I really—I could see doing that. Just going around, traveling, and just bringing back information.

KARIN: Meanwhile, I would honestly be in the USO version of the Inquisition...

That would be so perfect! Especially you being a singer, too!

KARIN: Where I would just be, like perking up the troops and working at a pub or something, and trying to keep everybody fed, and entertained, and feeling like there's something good.

And, like, also, possibly using that as a front for whatever Patrick's doing, or whatever kind of underground moving of information is required. Maybe not actually doing all of that but providing a space where those people are safe.

That's lovely. I'd probably be writing Cabot's biography and helping Josie with PR (cough) propaganda, and, y'know, trying not to die, I think basically.

And of course, gazing adoringly at basically everyoneall of our companions, of course, so... 

Laughter.

KARIN: Oh, please, I would not be cool enough to hang out with any of them.

Oh, please! Karin, you would be singing, drinking, and slinging an ax. Come on! You'd be a Charger in 15.1 seconds tops.

PATRICK: I want to note that joining the intelligence agency means that I'd get to have time at least looking at Leliana...

KARIN just chuckles.

Well, yeah, which is time well spent. She's amazing. She's scary, but she's amazing. I also love her character design across the trilogy. She's stunning in Inquisition (as in Origins) but it's a harder exterior.

PATRICK: Oh, yes.

KARIN: In the game, I always know when she walks by, just from the involuntary shiver.

This! I always headcanon that if there's a chill, my Inky looks up and goes, "Oh, hi, Leliana!" I mean, I love her so much, but she. Is. Terrifying.

KARIN: Yes! Like, okay, byeeee!


Our beautiful, enigmatic, and terrifying spymaster. Her journey from sweet
bard and believer to cold assassin is for me one of the most
heartbreaking in the trilogy
.
This. Yeah. But talk about an underrated character, though. Her arc across the trilogy is so good, I think. I mean, we go from this sweetheart with deep faith, who has a dark side, obviouslyto the ruthless, hidden person she becomes in Inquisition who is, I think, just so interesting. 

PATRICK: Yeah, Sheryl (Chee) did an amazing job with her, and again, like I said, asking a question each time, in Origins, Sheryl was going—she wanted to challenge herself with, "Okay look, so many times in fantasy games, we make it so that all of the heroes are atheistic or agnostic—and that anyone who believes in the deity or the fantasy world is either insane, or an evil zealot, or something like that... So, is it possible to make someone who is grounded, positive, lovable—but also, a believer in a fantasy game?" 

And that was the task she set for herself. And it worked for me.

Oh, it's gorgeous. Leliana's arc is absolutely one of the richest across the game trilogy or any series.

PATRICK: And then posing herself the challenging question of, "What do I want to say now?" 

See, one of the best things is that Sheryl works within the boundaries of the game, and she'll say, "Okay, well, within the boundaries of the game, the Divine has just died, she was important to Leliana—I want to put Leliana through a crisis of faith. I want to see what that's like. I want to see what happens when you are this incredibly devout person who has actually done a lot of dark stuff in the name of a cause she really believed in, and now she's questioning all of that, questioning that faith. What does that mean?" 

And, like you said—I just think that's a fascinating character arc—and not one that we get to see very often.


Leliana's faith is absolute, as anyone knows who's played
"In Hushed Whispers" in Inquisition.
No. And it's one of the reasons why I'm always telling everyone to choose "In Hushed Whispers" and to support the mages at least once, just becauseit's all about Leliana there. All about that final two or three minutes.

Because Leliana, after a year of torture, is unbroken. Her belief is whole, unshaken and shining even when she's been physically destroyed, even when she faces death. It's really all there. That faith is who she is. 

That quest and those final scenes changed my view of her forever, and in the best way. Just the shock for me that, "Wow, there wasn't a moment of hesitation. She really meant all of it!" Her faith was just absolute. It gave her this extra richness for me. She was willing to kill, but just as willing to die. We don't see that very often in that way, and it was beautifully, done, I thought.

KARIN: It really was.

PATRICK: Well, yeah. And that's a great reaction, I can pass that on to Sheryl...

Please do! She did exquisite work with Leliana.

So that's part 3 of 4 of my neverending interview with Patrick and Karin Weekes! Thank you for bearing with me, and I hope you enjoyed it... I'll have the rest posted within the next week (no, really). 

Meanwhile, please stay safe out there, and hope this cheered and inspired you as much as it did me. I'll see you in the Fade!

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