Sunday, May 10, 2020

Castles, Fennecs, and Player Engagement (Talking with the Weekses, Part 4)

Karin and Patrick Weekes sat down to talk to me for three glorious hours just before Dragon Age Day 2019,
and this is the fourth and final transcription segment! (Image courtesy of Patrick and Karin Weekes)

Hello, you beautiful Thedosians!

I hope you're all well and safe and happy out there, despite pandemics and social isolation and our weird, scary world.

In hopes that it will provide a little fun and sunshine, here's—AT LAST!—that fourth and final transcribed part of my interview with Karin Weekes (Lead Editor at BioWare) and Patrick Weekes (Lead Writer on the Dragon Age franchise), from way back for Dragon Age Day this past December 4! (Seriously, I'm so sorry again that this took me so long.)

For the other previous interview segments, please check out Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here

Here in this last interview segment, we get into some really fun final questions, as well as a lightning round that I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed discussing it with Patrick and Karin. It was ridiculously fun, and you'll learn some of their own personal favorite game choices, who they'd romance (and, fabulously, whether or not they would say katoh), and much more.

So here goes! (And please do be prepared for MASSIVE spoilers, as always, on game plots, choices, and outcomes!)

ME: So I've prepared a silly little lightning round for you guys if you want to play—and answer some really stupid questions...

PATRICK: Sure!

Yay! Okay, here we go... Mages or Templars?

KARIN: Wait! Wait, okay, before we do that—so can we extend this even further? 

Because there was one question that you sent us that we talked about that Patrick and I were really excited about...

Oh, good! And of course!

PATRICK: Also, you should probably check your mail...

I click over and sure enough, Patrick has e-mailed me the picture of Smokey the cat climbing on Karin's shoulder. Best day ever!

Aw, kitty and Karin alert! Thank you for sending that.

PATRICK: Our other interview participant.

Smokey meows again, and Karin laughs.

That's a good one. My Batty has run for the wilds of the living room, meanwhile, because I'm laughing too much.

Meanwhile, which was the question that I skipped that you wanted to answer?

KARIN: The one about tabletop gaming?

Oh, good! I loved that one, I was just afraid of monopolizing your time... 

KARIN: We were excited about that one!

So was I! Okay, so you're both vocal tabletop gamers on social media, and other BioWare folks have talked about its advantages for those looking to go into game development. How do you feel tabletop gaming can hone valuable skills there?

KARIN: So I came to tabletop gaming a bit later in life than a lot of people. The first time I played was Vampire: The Gathering when I was in university, and it was with a bunch of theatre friends. And so I was just, "Yay! I'm gonna dress up like a vampire and drink wine and pretend it's blood, and hit people and wear leather and it's gonna be awesome!" 

I love this. I had a really big Anne Rice phase for 3 or 4 years after college, so you're painting a picture I know very well...

KARIN: It was great. And so my boyfriend, who was DMing for us, did my whole character sheet and tried to explain all the stuff to me, but I was, just, "Oh, numbers, numbers, numbers!" 

Patrick chuckles.

KARIN: So I came into it just, from a purely theatrical, "all about the character" point of view at first.

But as I gradually learned the whole "numbers, numbers, numbers" thing, I started appreciating that element as well. And I eventually realized that what's unique about character development in games is that they are gameplay pieces as well. So getting into tabletop gaming—in addition to the fabulous characters that, obviously, I had fun making up—it also got my brain to really realize how mechanics played into what was happening in the story as well.

I came into it from a more theatre perspective too, and only just this past few years.

KARIN: Really? 

Yeah. I was always too shy to play. But it's been amazing. First D&D (5e), then the Dragon Age RPG.


KARIN: I really loved the mechanics. Not just creating a cool character, but creating a cool character who would be a decent rogue, or a great mage. And then sort of fleshing out who they are as a character-slash-person, and how that also plays into the mechanics of the game. I found that kind of fun, and I just kept playing from there.

Excellent.

PATRICK: So my perspective... I've been gaming... I was a tabletop gamer for a long time, including Vampire: The Masquerade, D&D, and other stuff. But for me, I think that one skill that's really useful is, for me, recognizing that difference between when you are the DM, the GM, or the storyteller in a tabletop game, and when you are a narrative designer or a level designer in a video game.

In a video game, it's really easy to know where the rails are. To tell the player, "You can't go here." Because, in a video game, the character literally cannot go there. That door does not open. And if they try to keep running in that direction, they will just keep running against the shin-high wall that for some reason their character can't get over.

Right.

PATRICK: And so it's really easy to establish boundaries, and to let the player know, "Look, the only thing you for you to do right now, is to go attack the undead in that haunted castle."

But as a tabletop player, um, what I would encounter a lot as a DM, GM or storyteller, is that I'd go in and say, "Okay, people in the town are really worried, and in fact, some of them have fallen ill, and they say it's a curse placed by the undead in the castle..."

And what I'm expecting is that everyone then goes, "Great, then we go and attack the castle!" because that's what I have planned for. And instead, because it's a tabletop game with a much more inherently open-ended narrative, I have people saying, "You said people are sick? Can we go heal some of those people?"

And I'd be going, "Oof, uh... I guess?"

Everyone laughs.

PATRICK: Or they would say, "Hmmm, do we think the undead are doing it on purpose? Maybe we can go talk to them!" And I'd be, again, going, "Um, well, historically, undead don't really talk that much..." 

And they'd go, "Well, okay, do we maybe think that this is a curse caused by the undead? Or are the undead affected by the same curse? Maybe there's someone else doing this!" 

And it causes all of these things where, you know, I had to account for a lot of different player choices. And as a DM, what I've learned is, if I want the players to assault the castle full of undead, then what I have to do is make assaulting that castle of undead the most intuitive—and coolest!—thing that they can possibly do. 

Right.

PATRICK: But, as a video game designer, I don't necessarily—I don't have to do that—but if you don't do it, you run into players going, "Well, I guess I'm going to go assault the castle full of undead, since I guess that's the only direction I can run in..." But in doing that, they're not necessarily as emotionally engaged, because they just spent thirty seconds trying to go see if they could heal the sick people, or if they could investigate the origins of the curse, and instead they found out they couldn't do that. So they've realized they're in a game, and their suspension of disbelief is broken...


Which you don't want.

PATRICK: Yeah. And they're kind of going forward because that's the only thing they can do...? And they're not as "in the moment."

So if you want players to be more emotionally engaged in a video game, the two things you can do are, first, explain the situation well enough. And don't explain it like I explained it ("go here and do that"), but say something like, "Undead are attacking every night. They hurt and kill people. And there are people who have been hurt badly by the illness, too, and every night has been worse. Now people are afraid that tonight, the undead are going to wipe them all out."

At which point, a lot of people—and hopefully, most people—will go, "Well, I think I'm gonna go and fight those undead, since it seems like the most heroic and cool thing to do."

But also, as a video game designer, understand that some people are gonna want to do more, to go see the sick people. And so, if you can do so without breaking the bank, add a room that says, "Yep, this is where the healer is dealing with the sick people." And where the sick people are saying, "I fought the undead to protect my family, but they injured me badly—I hope someone goes and kills them!"

So I'm still pointing players at the thing I want them to do, but now... if all they had before was a tactical reason to take action, now they have a personal reason... 

Right. So it's that much more powerful.

PATRICK: Exactly. So give them things like... "Those undead killed my husband!" or, "I think my daughter might be one of those undead, and I need to give her peace."

This way, now I've got more hooks. So it's a question of work I have to do, to engage the players—and also work I can do, that's going to get them more excited about playing the game.

So just as tabletop gaming actually opens you up to maximize choice within the game universe, you can bring some of that into video games and open things up for players, both literally and figuratively.

PATRICK: Yeah.

By the way, I was totally picturing the classic situation with the DM where, you know, you've come up with this great dungeon for that castle with the undead, you've got everything mapped, and all the minis prepped, and then the players go, "Well, I dunno, maybe we just shouldn't go there."

PATRICK (faux-casually): First? That sounds bad...

And then you as the DM, you pick your dungeon map and quietly scoot it aside... weeping internally... 

KARIN: And meanwhile have a couple of rounds of going, "No, but it's a really cool dungeon!"

PATRICK: Yeah, I've found if you actually take the minis out, that usually signals to the players that "Hey, you should really go there..." 

KARIN: It's not subtle, but it's effective.

PATRICK: Yeah.

And then I would imagine that also, this kind of approach where you provide players with multiple hooks to take action, that it conditions playersespecially people who may also be working to become developersthat it conditions them to examine choices, and then to maximize choices, maybe, even with limitations?

KARIN: And you're teaching them the limitations that are built into the process too. It's kind of like figuring out where to put your choice money, because it's a game, and we have so much stuff to build, but only so many resources. So it really helps you learn to work within what we're talking about here, to work within constraints. 

And it helps you learn how to make cool things within those constraints. Or, hopefully cool things. Or, um, at least somewhat cool things.

Everyone laughs.

And it alsoI would imaginewould signal to you guys that, "Yes, this person is a serious gamer at heart." It's all about gaming. It's all about emotion. So I love those concepts and have been fascinated by the idea and by the growing realization that one form of gaming can make you better at another, completely different, form of gaming.

PATRICK: It definitely does.

KARIN: Definitely does.

There is a funny rumbling sound on the audio, just as Patrick says...

PATRICK: So is the purring loud enough that you can actually hear it in your audio?

Yes! I was just wondering what that was. Is that the furry person from the e-mail you sent? And which of your cats is that? 


KARIN: This is Smokey. 

PATRICK: Yeah, that's Smokey.

Oh, wait, that's right! You shared pictures ofI think it was, Smokey, and... Inky? On Twitter!

KARIN: Yep!

PATRICK: Smokey and Inky are the two younger ones. 

Aw... I'm a sucker for cats.

PATRICK: He's the doofus who...

KARIN: He basically exists on this planet for people to be super-excited about seeing him. 

PATRICK: He's NOT shy...

KARIN: And he's got the loudest purr in existence...

I love cats. I lost one of mine very suddenly about a month or so agoFrodoand I'm still not over it. 

KARIN: Oh, no!

PATRICK: That's so difficult.

Yeah, I know it's part of life as a pet owner, but it's such a gut punch. I still have Batty, his sweet tiny littermate. But yeah, if Frodo was still with me, let's just say he would have challenged Smokey's purr on whose was loudest. 

Meanwhile, as I look back, I want to make sure I didn't skip anymore fun questionswas there anything else that you were looking forward to talking about that I skipped over?

KARIN: Thank you for letting us talk about tabletop.

I'm so glad that you did! Because I didn't want to, you know, be repetitive or boring, so I just went, "You know, I've talked to them an awful lot today at this point, so they'd probably like for me to skip a few here..." 

KARIN: No, don't skip them!

In that case, I do have one other surprise question. Who came up with Corypants's striped Wicked Witch of the West stockings? Because that is so amazing and fabulous. I mean, come on... it was genius.


KARIN: Let's see, that was an artist... I don't remember who came up with it, but it was gorgeous.

It's the best thing ever. Those screen shots when he's flying through the air and we can really see not just the stockings, but the heels too! Cory's a diva at heart. He's got a sense of style, darn it.

KARIN: Yeah.

PATRICK: It's great.

KARIN: I hate that I don't remember. They definitely deserve credit. 

Can I ask one more lore question, y'all? OKAY... So. About dying in the Fade...

PATRICK: Yeees?

It's very funny.

Historically, death in the Fade seems to cause Tranquility, not death. But yet... Felassan died in the Fade... and some of us are, let's just say, hoping against hope that we might, er, see him again. Are we... stupid? (Wait, you don't have to answer that one!)

But, seriously, was that something by the way that was mysteriously more expanded on or more defined in Inquisition? It seemed clear to me that Felassan died in the Fade and that Cole even confirmed it. You know what I'm talking about...

PATRICK: (happily) Mmm-hmm?

Karin laughs (and pretty much just giggles through the next 5 minutes, which just makes it funnier).

I mean, yeah, at the end of, like, a certain, book, maybe... I don't know why I'm keeping it vague, this entire conversation is full of spoilers!

PATRICK: Wait, what? A character died in the FADE? What??

I know! So, fine, go ahead and laugh... 

PATRICK: The hilarious part is that this question did take me a second, because we've never said his name out loud, in the game, and...

Oh no! Did I say it wrong? (I cringe inwardly, because, honestly, I have been saying "Fel-ASS-an" this entire time...)


PATRICK (trying to be kind): Um, well, yes, I do say "Fel-ass-AHN," but my way is NO BETTER than your way! 

Oh my God.

PATRICK: No, really, there is no canonical way to say it.

No, not at all, I've just been saying the name of an ancient elf like he's some guy from Georgia who used to fix my Mom's truck... not that there's anything wrong with that.

KARIN (even more kindly than Patrick): I think your way is easier to say.

No, it's much prettier y'all's way. (I realize with dawning horror that the accent has kicked in and now it will not leave.)

KARIN: I mean, Fel-ASS-an? I'd totally tell the actress or actor to say it that way.

PATRICK (finally sounding a little pained): Noooo...

See?

PATRICK: Okay. So—yes. The canonical answer is that there IS no canonical answer, at least in the case of one particular Slow Arrow. If we—hmm. Okay, I would say—because we can give a glimpse behind the scenes... hmm... let me think of how much to say here.

They think for a second, then speak slowly and carefully.

PATRICK: All right. By the rules, as written, of the world as we understand it, yes, Felassan, would have been rendered Tranquil, and not killed... 

Okay...

PATRICK: However... if there is one person currently operating in Thedas today who would be able to break that rule and flat-out kill him, rather than just rendering him Tranquil (from the Fade), it would be, of course, Solas.

Which totally makes logical sense to me, as well.

PATRICK: So... 

And yet, behind the curtain... If we decide, "Hey, very few people really remember Felassan, we're probably not gonna bring him up again," then he would probably have just died. 

But—we could also go, "You know, he would be the perfect person to reveal this mole or to serve as an important character for this or that," and then in that case, well, we do have the way out of, "Yep! So maybe he's just Tranquil, and we've now got a potential way to reverse Tranquility, so we can actually undo that, anytime we need..."

KARIN: It may be one of those hooks that we were talking about where we try to leave ourselves a little bit of leeway...

Right.

PATRICK: So what it really can come down to is, like, "If enough people care about this, then this is a hook. If not, then the problem takes care of itself."

I mentally launch a massive worldwide #SAVEFELASSAN campaign (in which I also help people pronounce it right)... 

Thank you for thatand it's great to get that peek behind the curtain, seeing some of those discussions and possibilities. 

PATRICK: It's always fun to do that.

And so now I thought I'd go to my incredibly silly lightning round of questions, if that's okay? 

PATRICK: Lightning round!

Are you guys ready?

KARIN: Go for it.

Yay! Okay... SO... What's your current mood?

TOTAL, total silence. 

Like, 5 seconds of silence.

Then we all crack up.

Wow! You know, I admit it, I didn't anticipate that that question would be the tough one!

PATRICK: All hail the slowest lightning round in world history.

KARIN: It's so true! But... In our defense, it's really cold up here. 

(This conversation took place in late November in Edmonton, to remind readers...)

And you're probably tired, too. It's the weekend!

KARIN: Honestly, my current mood is enjoyment. I'm having a great time, and enjoying doing this. This is so fun. 

Aw, man. Thank you!

KARIN: And grateful—for the chance to talk about this stuff.

PATRICK: I just... that was mine. That was my mood.

KARIN: I just stole Patrick's mood!

PATRICK: Wow.

They laugh.

PATRICK: Fine.

Next! What's the word out there?

KARIN: What's the word?

(Sheepishly) Like, how the Inky always asks Cabot "What's the word?" and then he gives them an actual word.

PATRICK: Lugubrious.

Good one.

KARIN: I'm going to say the same word.

Yeah, that was a really good one. Okay, moving on: Mages or Templars?


PATRICK and KARIN (in unison): Mages.

Oh, thank you. (No judgment to those who choose Templars...)

I am not biased in any way.

Okay. Dark ritual or Ultimate Sacrifice?

PATRICK (almost instantly): Ultimate sacrifice. For me.

KARIN (more slowly): Yeah... 

(I'm shocked, and also possibly reveal that I am a secret Slytherin...) Really??

KARIN: Yeah, no, I do have to really pause and think about it, and go, "You know, but... yes. Ultimate sacrifice.

PATRICK: Okay. So. 

KARIN: Because, yeah.

PATRICK: But, for me, Origins... See, there's this thing, of "Here's what I was supposed to do as a Grey Warden," but there's a cheat, a way around it... 

Which was why I did it so fast! I didn't want to die!

PATRICK: And, let's be honest, the kind-of-untrustworthy witch tells me to do it? It just seemed really suspicious.

It did. It totally did.

PATRICK: It just seemed really, really shady. 

And, well, and you guys know better than anybodywe still don't know the outcome of that, and that everything's okay. I mean, hey, BAD THINGS COULD STILL HAPPEN...


PATRICK: Er, yeah.

Right?

PATRICK: Ultimately, I am just a sucker for the Noble Sacrifice.

KARIN (chuckling): Just a little bit!

PATRICK: So that's not... it's not a difficult question for me.

KARIN: I always have to contemplate if it's the right decision, even though it's always the noble sacrifice, though...

I did do it once. I did the noble sacrifice after Alistair dumped my Warden, and I was, like, "Really? I am gonna make you suffer, bro," and so...

I do love Alistair, and I also played outcomes where he married my Warden and became King or stayed a Grey Warden. Yet still, it was very satisfying. He looked so sad. One of my favorite gaming moments. Just imagining his guilt forever and ever after that.

Although, looking back... I think now that I must have been preparing myself for the future and a certain elf...

They both snicker as unsympathetically as ever.

Moving on: So... Live Zevran or Dead Zevran?

PATRICK: Live!

KARIN (very unhappy): How can you even ASK that?!

I know! But... it's a choice, it's out there... And yeah. I know it's evil.

KARIN: Just for interim talks, if nothing else, because...

Yeah, and Jon Curry is amazing in that part, too.


Image courtesy of Jon Curry
KARIN: Yeah, he's so good!

Jon participated with us in Dragon Age Day last year, and for 2019 took part once again by donating some signed photos and greetings—he's really funny and personable. And when I reached out last year for our first Dragon Age Day, I'd e-mailed asking him to take part in any way he'd want, and congratulating him on his work as the Inquisitor. Just... the Inquisitor.

KARIN: Oops.

Yeah. It was embarrassing. Because of course, he then sent me back a two-line e-mail, which said, one, "Hey, what about Zevran!?" and two, "Of course I'll help." I was mortified, but he was a really good sport. And of course, all the people who won his signed photo charity auctions, they all wanted Zevran quotes on them, because come on... it's Zevran.

ONWARD! Okay. Favorite animal in Thedas?

PATRICK: Fennec!

KARIN: Yeah! Because fennecs are... just the cutest.

They are. But it's also horrible. Because I love playing mages, so I'm always firing off fireballs right left and center, accidentally exterminating poor innocent fennecs, rams, and nugs... sigh.

KARIN: We've all been there. Yeah.

Next. What color is your Hawke?

PATRICK: Purple.

KARIN: I think—we were talking about this earlier, and I think that ALL of the writers picked purple.

PATRICK: Every single one.

All hail Purple Hawke! Meanwhile, sorogues, mages, or warriors?

PATRICK: I really love the idea of rogue. And then I die constantly as a rogue. 

I'm okay if I'm ranged, like an archer. But I can't do daggers or dual wielding.

PATRICK: I am much better as a mage. I actually have a really good ability to be a support character in games—

KARIN: Which is good, because I'm a WARRIOR!

Patrick chuckles.

Right! Because you're out there with an ax!

KARIN: Yep.

PATRICK: Okay, so I'm super not good at some stuff...

KARIN: He needs to be rescued all the time!

PATRICK: Yep. I do.

I do sympathize. I mean, I can't do melee at all.

KARIN: I do try to play rogue but then, I'm just—I'm just terrified.

I'm the worst in the world. I actually wince for my character's companions if I have to play warrior or tank. Because they are not surviving.

Next! Qun or Tal-Vashoth?

PATRICK and KARIN (in unison): Tal-Vashoth...

I admit it, that was a bad question. But I had to do it. Even if it probably wasn't a mystery. Let's redeem this: Favorite mount!

KARIN: I'm just going to go with the halla just for the noises alone. Just imagining riding along on the halla and listening to it go (she imitates the squeaky whinnying noise)... 

PATRICK: For me it would be a griffon.

Oh, that would be...


KARIN: Well, obviously if there were griffons... 

PATRICK (teasing her): Well, she didn't specify within the GAME, so...

KARIN: Well, fuck, then—(she pauses) Oh, God, oops, I'm sorry!

Karin, hey, we've all said it!

KARIN: Let me just say, that IF GRIFFONS WERE AN OPTION, I would have picked a griffon!

Patrick is laughing at her through all of this.

KARIN: I was attempting to work within a narrow set of ...

PATRICK: Working within Inquisition's set of options...

You were staying lore-appropriate!

KARIN: Although... Luke [Kristjanson] was telling me the other day that there were six different nuggalope mounts... SIX.

PATRICK: Why?

KARIN: I just didn't realize there were six different nuggalopes!

PATRICK: Wow. And yeah, we did do that... See, when I'm talking about non-VO text and stuff? See, that is where Luke was just like, going, "Oh, yeah, see, I CARE about this!"

They both laugh.

PATRICK: And then, if I'm remembering right... the reason we have the nuggalope mount [in Inquisition] is that he made a deal with Matt Goldman, who was the art director at the time, and who is now our creative director on the franchise going forward—he made a deal with Matt, who wanted the "Quizquisition..."

Oh, that's perfect.

PATRICK: So the deal was...

KARIN: I did not know that. I did not know that!

PATRICK: The deal was, that Luke made Trifles Minutiae... 

Yeah, we've met, Trifles and me... 

PATRICK: And Luke was like, "Sure! I'll make that!" and then... in return... we got the nuggalope...

KARIN: That is amazing. That is amazing. And it was a pretty good deal.

That's an amazing detail. I love that. 



Meanwhile, for me, as far as mounts go, I'd like a dragon if we're going off-lore, but otherwise, the war nug. Meanwhile... what do you name your Mabari?

PATRICK: I prefer ridiculous names, so...I always go with something like, "Grimfang...?"

That's a good one. It's a very Farmer Maggot name.

KARIN: Mine are ridiculous too, but... 

PATRICK: Yours are more... fluffy?

KARIN: Yeah. I want to say that mine was Ser Schmooples or something? Something along those lines. 

Mine's always Barkwise. 

PATRICK: Nice.

KARIN: I remember when we were testing them, that we were all making as many terrible puns as we could...

As you do...

KARIN: And pretty soon the consensus was Barkspawn.

Barkspawn! Everybody loves the Barkspawn moniker. That's definitely canon.

KARIN: See.

Moving on, who's your favorite Dragon Age NPC?

KARIN: Oh, that's an incredibly hard question to answer. I mean, I'm personally... I'm partial to Flemeth, because... 

Oh, I love Flemeth...  

KARIN: ... I am starting to identify with old ladies who get angry enough to turn into dragons... and that is also honestly life goals for me...

Patrick is audibly chuckling through all of this, which is really fun.


As it should be for all of us.

KARIN: Yeah. And... also Varric. Wait, is that okay?

Sure.

PATRICK: Well, then if we can include followers [game companions], can we...?

Yeah, go for it.

KARIN (teasing): No! We're not including followers!

PATRICK: Okay, first off, Minaeve. I was blanking on her name for a second.

Minaeve (my pronunciation: Min-AVE)! I love her. She has the most beautiful voice and accent.

PATRICK: No, MIN-aeve. This time the accent's on the first syllable.

Oh, no, I did it again! I'm not a very good elf so far, dammit. 

Okay. MIN-aeve. Anyway, I love her. I'm always sorry to lose her as a daily contact after Skyhold.

PATRICK: Mostly because she led to the quests beyond. 

Because, I was working on Minaeve. And I came home, and Karin asked how my day was, and I said, "Oh, it was really great! You know, I've been working with David, and doing all these kind of, flavor, smaller, characters, and I got a chance to write a character that just really worked for me!"

And then Karin says, without missing a beat, "What, let me guess, she's a lore-slash-tech expert with a cute accent?"

And I went, "You suck."

Karin laughs gleefully.

PATRICK: And I went, "No, she doesn't have an accent!" Then, "Uh, no wait, she's Dalish, she does have an accent..."

The best burn I've ever received. It was amazing.

KARIN: Well... I thought you did it really well, but it needed pointing out...

Laughter from all.

PATRICK: See, that part of home, it can be an extension of the writer's pit, in the best way... I mean, when someone delivers a burn that good, you just have to go, "Yep, okay, point carried..."

All right, then moving on, let's talk about it: Cheese. I mean, what's the deal? Just... so many cheese wheels... what's up with that? I mean, yes, there can never be too much cheese, but... 


KARIN: We don't even know how that got started.

PATRICK: Right. I'm not sure either! And now that the cheese is indelibly attached to the core underpinnings of our IP...

KARIN: Yep...

PATRICK: There would be a loss... a total collapse... if you took that cheese out.

There would. I agree.

KARIN: We were at an expo a few years ago, and... a woman showed up dressed up in character, a perfect cosplay, and with a giant cheese wheel that she had lovingly crafted. And it was BEAUTIFUL...

Aw... did it have a wedge taken out of it and everything?

KARIN: Oh, yeah.

PATRICK: Yep!

Oh, man. That's the best.

KARIN: Amazing.

That's awesome.

Onward... do you kill nugs or not kill nugs? Some people do farm them...

KARIN: No! No! Not on purpose!

PATRICK: Who would kill NUGS?


Look, I mean... I had to ask!

KARIN: Okay, so you know when they added the Golden Nug for Inquisition? Because of my love for nugs, I want you to know that I was not okay with that...

See, I just thought it was an appropriate tribute to a superior life form... 

PATRICK: The saddest part of Inquisition is... is when you cast Chain Lightning or something... and... you know... 

Yeah. And I still feel guilt about it, every time.

PATRICK: But I'm not done. That's not the saddest part... The saddest part is where it doesn't kill the nug, it just hits them for a tiny amount, and then you have sweet, gentle Cole, who would never, ever, actually do this...

I know where this is going...

PATRICK: ...but who is triggered by party AI to attack whoever the Inquisitor attacks... and then...

Karin is giggling out loud through this entire thing...

PATRICK: And who then... well, let's just say that sweet, gentle Cole launches a full Ninja Death on the wounded nug, and... then you're left going, "WHAT HAVE I DONE?"

And, yeah, I always feel bad when it happens.

PATRICK: You? What about ME? I turned my little baby into a murderer!

And then he gives the death blow to the poor hapless nug or fennec or ram and goes, "You cahn't hurt meee!" And I'm like, "Oh, Cole. We need to talk."

Then Dorian just triumphantly screams at a crispy defenseless nug-shaped piece of charcoal: "DIE!"

KARIN: It's not right. But... can I just confess? When it comes to the multiplayer characters, meanwhile? Zither is the absolute best.

Oh, I love Zither. Zither is honestly the whole reason to multiplayer, for me.

KARIN: Yeah. And Zither really gets me. I love Zither.


Next question: Wine, ale, or maraas-lok?

KARIN: Wine.

PATRICK: I mean...

KARIN: Patrick doesn't drink alcohol, so... but look, I'm old enough that in my twenties, right, I might've... given maraas-lok a try...?

Right?

KARIN: But... like, I don't think that would be a good idea in my current place in life.

Um, I'm with you. And I play the Dragon Age RPG tabletopand, um, because of my blog and stuff, all of my friends in the group keep thinking that my character is just going to be this badass when it comes to marass-lok, and I'm like, dudes, she's an elf. She has little itty bitty stick arms. She's never gonna imbibe like a Qunari.

So every once in awhile, I'm always like, "Can she just have some WATER?"

KARIN: Talk about living through your fictional destiny...

Yeah, but I'm okay with that, and hey, she's funny... and building up a tolerance...

Onward! Now here's a fun one: So, Katoh? Yes or No?

PATRICK (very formally, and it's very funny): So... WE think it's vitally important that safe words exist. And that they're an essential part of safe and consensual relationships.

I agree.

PATRICK: But also...

They pause dramatically.

PATRICK: "Katoh" is for wussies.

KARIN: What Patrick said. Also... we should probably ask, "in-game or out of game...?"

Everyone snickers.


You know what I wonder? Is, how many people out there have now made "katoh" their actual safe word? That's what I wonder. 

Because you know it's a thing. It's a thing I'm sure has already happened.

KARIN: You know, it would be a really good safe word!

I know, right? Because it's so specific! It's not like you're gonna just blurt that out. You're more likely to blurt out "amaretto" than "katoh."

KARIN: It depends on your feelings about liqueurs...

I still crack up meanwhile over the idea that Varric's was "Bianca," or Solas's was "Fade." Like Bull says in that scene, nobody would ever get anywhere...

KARIN: But you know what? I'm with you. I would like to hope that that has been a weirdly inspiring thing... 

Oh, I'm totally convinced of it. 

So... moving on... 'Human' or 'Spirit'?

PATRICK: For Cole?

Um (cough) possibly?

PATRICK and KARIN (in unison): Spirit.

That's me too.

KARIN: See, that's what, for me, makes Cole... inherently Cole...

So much.

PATRICK: Yeah.

KARIN: I mean, well, the combination.


PATRICK: Yeah. So he gets... it's definitely... yeah, that the... bad news... is that, well, definitely him being a 'spirit' makes him relate to YOU a little bit less...? 

Yes. Yeah, that's noticeable.

PATRICK: And his last conversation with you is a little bit... 

It's slightly remote.

PATRICK: It is. And that's sad, but even so, it works... in the same way that—well, for example, here's a situation. Something I did in my at-home playthrough... See, accidentally, like a dumbass, I did this thing...

They laugh.

PATRICK: I romanced Cassandra—and I LOVE Cassandra... 

Because she's amazing.

PATRICK: But I guess the choices that I made accidentally started putting Cassandra into the running for Divine... 

Uh-oh.

PATRICK: And then the worst thing in the world happened. Cassandra asked me my opinion, on whether I thought she should try for it, and whether I thought she would make a good Divine. 

And I knew that, logically, from outside the game, the correct thing for me to say for long-term happiness was "No, babe, you'd be a terrible Divine, let's you and me just go off and be happy!" 

But Cassandra was real enough to me as a person that I couldn't...

You couldn't do it!

PATRICK: I couldn't do it. I couldn't not support her in something that was important to her. So I swallowed my heart and—while still romancing her—said, "You'd be a really good Divine, and I support you in the things that are important to you."

And goddamn it, even though I did the War Table operation to make it NOT happen, she still freaking became Divine anyway. And somehow it still felt right for that to happen.

And so, to me, in the same way... yes, Cole becoming Spirit does make him relate to you a little bit less...

KARIN: But it's the best thing for him.

PATRICK: Yeah. To me, it's the best thing for him. 

Or, at least—just to be clear, that is—we are clearly in opinion territory here...

Right, absolutely.

KARIN: We're assuming all this is just our personal opinion territory here. 

We're totally just discussing your personal playthroughs and choices now.

PATRICK: Unlike, for instance, where I have certain opinions relating to the Chargers, where it's not opinion, it's just, "Someone is just objectively wrong if they pick this..."

Yep. Also this.

PATRICK: That's just important for me to say.

For me, I thought that 'Spirit' Cole was sadderpalpably sadderin that you feel a sense of loss at the end of "Trespasser," of actual loss.

KARIN: Yeah.

But to me it still felt more complicated and right. And I didn't like that he suffers, and how he suffersif he goes 'Human.' I feel like he's suffering pain that isn't his, for something that he didn't deserve to suffer for. 


And also, on the lighter side, I really love Krem with Maryden, because they're so cute together.

PATRICK: That is also true. Maryden, who has the most complex quantum romance state in the entire game! 

Because of all the different choices you have to make?

PATRICK: Because depending on your choices, she could be dating—okay, she could technically be dating no one, she could be dating Krem, she could be dating Cole, or she could be dating Zither.

Oh, that's right! I feel bad for forgetting about her dating Zither. I hadn't remembered that.

PATRICK: So with four different potential outcomes, Maryden has the most complex dating life in the entire Dragon Age IP.

I think she's actually an interesting character in her own right. I love that she's not quite the little sweetheart that she appears to be. She's got a little edge to her. 

PATRICK: Hey, she is an Orlesian bard...

Yeah.

PATRICK: You don't get to be an Orlesian bard just by collecting stamps.

Karin laughs.

And... segue to our next question! Kill? Or... Redeem?

PATRICK: Hmm...

KARIN: I mean, there's so many people you could kill!


Karin, see, you've already got the ax out. You're all ready!

KARIN: Well, it depends! Do they deserve it or not?

PATRICK: I mean, are we talking...?

Specifically, Solas. And also, anybody else.

PATRICK: Okay.

KARIN: Um...

PATRICK: Well, Solas, I would redeem. Anybody else?

I mean, what do you think my answer is? Nobody's gonna be shocked at my answer. I mean, I wrote a whole blog about it, so...

PATRICK: You... did write a whole blog about it.

I think I'm at about 200,000 words at this point... my point of view is basically, the more words I write, the better our chances of saving Solas! Um. Yeah.

KARIN: Well, if we're talking about Solas, then, you need to have a third option, which is "Punch?"

Patrick laughs out loud.

Wait, Karin, do you punch Solas? Every time?

KARIN (happily): I do!

PATRICK: Wait. What? I didn't think you got low enough approval in your test to punch Solas...?

KARIN: Oh, I played MANY tests...

I can't do it! I can't punch Solas.

KARIN: I... enjoy punching Solas. When he's smarmy and condescending, I want very much to punch him.

PATRICK (grumbling): Oh, all right. Fine.


That is awesome. Oh, and what about Blackwall, you guys? What do you usually decide with him?

PATRICK: So, for Blackwall... when I said that Sheryl [Chee] was asking philosophical questions each time? The philosophical question for Blackwall is, "How big a mistake can someone make—how far into the darkness can someone go—and still come back and be redeemed?"

And for me, the answer was, "Less far than Blackwall goes." 

Interesting.

PATRICK: So... I still pick "Redeem" in most playthroughs because I'm a softie, but he would be—let's just say that in the playthroughs where I have done the "Kill" option with Blackwall, I don't feel bad about it.

I find this one the toughest in the game to some degree because there is no obvious right answer.

KARIN: I think I am on the legit "Redeem" side on this one. 

PATRICK: But SOLAS you want to punch? Okay.

KARIN: This is MY lightning round.

PATRICK: That's fair. This is your lightning round.

You know what sent me over the edge on Blackwall? I'd done a few playthroughs, and I had always given him the chance for atonement. Then I heard his banter with Cole, and realized that Blackwall was actually there on-site, he knew what was happening, he heard the children's voices... and he did nothing to stop it. That's when I just said, "Nope." I couldn't forgive him after that.

KARIN: That's fair.

PATRICK: Yep.

Next! So is the cake truly a lie?

PATRICK: I don't think cake can ever be a lie.

KARIN: I like cake too much for it to ever be a lie. So even if it is, I don't want to believe it is.

PATRICK: Yeah. That.

By the way, I always love that Sten has that hidden little decadent side, or sweet side. I always think it's so moving in a way, that he loves cookies, and kittens, and flowers. He really is a softie.

KARIN: Speaking of cookies, Mary makes the BEST cookies. It's just, like, "Oh my God." 

PATRICK: Mary makes amazing cookies.

KARIN: She's a baker extraordinaire. 

PATRICK: Like, she'll just come in and be like, "Hey, I made fudge!" But it's not just fudge, it's mint fudge, and I'm going, "There's such a thing as mint fudge? Really?" 

KARIN: And it's so good. Always.

So she basically makes things that you didn't even know could exist, and they're even more delicious.

PATRICK: Yep.

KARIN: Yes. She does.


And here's the last one... here goes... Enchantment?

KARIN and PATRICK (yelling in unison): ENCHANTMENT!

Everyone laughs.

And that is the end of my incredibly long list of questions! 

KARIN: And that was a good one to end on!

I just want to thank both of you so much, not just for taking part in Dragon Age Day this year, but also for all of the hard work that you and your team have put in. I hope you guys are starting to be aware of how much it means to so many people—including myself. 

We've been so delighted to celebrate you this year—to celebrate your work, your team, and to celebrate this great beautiful thing that you have all created, and that gives us so much joy. We love it so much that, er, some of us practically live there... And we wouldn't have it any other way.

KARIN: Well, again, it is our honor. 

PATRICK: We're a part of a very large team...

KARIN: Yes.

PATRICK: And getting the chance to represent them has been our privilege.

KARIN: Absolutely.

Well, you are all loved by many, many people across our world (as well as Thedas). And thank you both so much, this has been one of my favorite conversations of my life. I'm so grateful.

KARIN: Well, this has been really fun. I just hope the 15 hours of interview weren't too much...

Actually, it's two hours and forty-nine minutes and fifty one seconds of pure awesomeness.

And it could've been worse! I just want to remind you that I did actually have other Bull and Solas questions on the list, and no, I did not ask all of them.

KARIN (laughing): Well, it was funny, because when we got your questions, we were talking about, like, "Who would you romance?" and I actually had to note that I wouldn't romance Dorian or Bull anyway, because the two of them are so cute together, right?

They're adorable! (cough) Adoribull.

KARIN: I can't take them away from each other!

You know, though, I'm an optimist, and I still think my Bullmancer Inky, that she can make him happy. Or he can make him happyI've played them all. But I do love Dorian and Bull together, too. 

Speaking of which, I would love more of that in the futurelike, I also love that little Blackwall flirtation with Josie as well. I love all the little side stories that aren't always just about my character.

KARIN: Yeah.

Any hint that we have that these characters are living other lives...

KARIN: Lives outside of the main hero's! Yeah. That's been something that we're conscious of and that we would like to try to do a little bit better. 


It makes it more immersive. Meanwhile, Patrick, who would you romance?

PATRICK: Leliana.

KARIN: It's always Leliana.

PATRICK: Yeah. Leliana. And I really, really like Cassandra too.

I was really bummed, by the way, that my female Inky could not romance Cass.

PATRICK: Fair. And also maybe not the first time that we have heard this expressed.

I thought it might've come up once or twice for you guys.

KARIN: Really?

PATRICK: Not at all.

I mean, even in the prologue, she's leading us through the prologue, and I was just gazing at her. She's a gorgeous character and also a gorgeously designed character too.


KARIN: Yeah.

PATRICK: Yeah. I was like, "I know I'm your prisoner, but do you like tapas?"

Everyone chuckles.

PATRICK: Or, "Hey, I know a really good tapas place, it's not far from here!"

Now, see, that's me in the big Arishok fight. I'm running figure eights around pillars shrieking, "We could still have dinner! How do you feel about Chianti?"

PATRICK: Or, like, "Hey, how do you feel about a hugging contest?"

Right! "Surely we can resolve this in another, more positive, way?!"

KARIN: I have one more thing to tell you—an Arishok story. So—in the old building, at some point, they got these really cool, big vinyls, that they put up in all the different conference rooms. And there's a conference room called "Dreadnought," and it's a smaller conference room. And the vinyl they put up was the picture of the Arishok, and he's kind of sitting there, and his legs are akimbo, and he's got his big sword. 

Yeah. I've got the mental picture. It's a good mental picture... (sigh)

KARIN: And this was also a videoconference room. 

Oh, dear...

KARIN: Yeah. And I was working on SWOTOR, and I was having to do a vidcon with people in Austin, and I walked in, and they had set the camera up... And the camera is sitting... smack in the middle of the Arishok's crotch.

And me... I'm trying to have a coherent meeting with this producer, but I keep looking up, and I end up blushing, because of what I'm focusing on

So then I took a picture of it and shared it, and from then on, informally, we called that conference room "Arishok's Junk," for the rest of the time we were in that building. 

And the best part is, it was one of those big, um, Cannon cameras? With the big... lenses?

Oh, no!

KARIN: Oh, yes! 

Anyway, I know you like the Arishok, so I thought you might like that.

That's a great story. Let's just say that I would have not been at my best in that particular meeting! But I would have LOVED it! Thanks for that. (NOTE: I searched endlessly trying to find this tweeted image from Karin because it would have been amazing, but unfortunately I think the Internet ate it.)

And yeah, I don't know what it is about the Qunari, because while I'm not such a fan of the actual culture, I would date basically any of them at any time, so... 

PATRICK: Yep.

KARIN: Yep.

Right? Throughout the entire trilogy, I'm basically just gazing helplessly at every Qunari onscreen. And of course the hilarious part is that, I would just be a nug to them. They'd just be like, "Go away, strange bas..."

KARIN: Well, it doesn't mean you can't keep looking at them.

Right? 

Okay, so I swear I'm actually done now. Thank you both!

PATRICK: Thank you so much!

KARIN: Thanks so much to you and Dragon Age Day for making this happen, and for the money you're raising for people at Able Gamers? It is incredible.


PATRICK: Yes.

KARIN: We know the kinds of logistics this thing takes, and the fact that you're all doing it on your own time is just astounding, so just know that your team is remarkable and amazing, and we are so grateful to be even a teensy little part of it. 

Thank you very much for that—I will pass it along to the wonderful Dragon Age Day team and I know how much it will mean to them. And I have to call out T, who is our official founder. This was her idea, and she assembled us. I am a happy and proud co-founder, but she made it happen, so I really want to give credit where it's due. 

Last year, we raised over $7,000 for Child's Play, but we're really gonna try this year to exceed that for Able Gamers (NOTE: WE DID! Almost $8500!). And having you guys on board, and BioWare's support this year, is a huge help. 

KARIN: It's such a privilege.

PATRICK: Yes.

KARIN: We hope we can help you get there.

That's a great note to end on. Ma serannas to both of you again!

Then we all hung up, and I was delighted for 24 hours straight, and Dragon Age Day was amazing thanks to their further support (and that of so many across the BioWare team, past and present, as well as from BioWare itself), and it was wonderful in every way. 

Until, of course, I then took 6 months to transcribe it all. But in a good way... but now, at last, you were there too!

And truly, readers, thanks for bearing with me on the transcription delays. But this conversation was so much fun, and so meaningful to me, as it gave me the chance to talk to two of the people in the Dragon Age community I have respected for so long (and I wasn't disappointed, they're a fantastic duo, and are also visibly kind, smart, and generous people).

Thanks for reading, and hope you enjoyed the conversation as well!

Next up... I'll be taking a look at the lore we get from John Epler's contribution to Tevinter Nights, in my next analysis installment on "The Horror of Hormak." 

See you then! And take care out there.

1 comment:

  1. Transcribing is _hard_, so I entirely get it. And of course pandemic.

    Thank you for sharing this!

    ReplyDelete

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