The former General Manager at BioWare Aaron Flynn recently revealed why The Witcher 3 “was better” than Dragon Age: Inquisition. According to the developer, the reason mostly had to do with their project pipelines. While the game was praised by critics and players alike, Dragon Age: Inquisition has often been unfavorably compared to The Witcher 3 which came out only a few months later.
The news comes from an interview by USA Today. Flynn left the company in 2017, but had been with BioWare from the beginning, working on titles including Baldur’s Gate 2, Neverwinter Nights, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic before taking a leading role on the Mass Effect and Dragon Age games.
Flynn pointed out that while the studio behind The Witcher 3, CD Projekt, decided to focus on the latest consoles at the time, BioWare not only had to spend its resources on the PS4 and Xbox One, but also the Xbox 360 and PS3 in addition to PC. "I'd say the biggest compromise came from the fact that we had to ship it on the Xbox 360 and PS3 at the same time as we did on the PS4 and Xbox One," Flynn explained.
The developer compared the production cycles for The Witcher 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, saying that focusing on both current and previous generation consoles “crushed so much ambition because we didn’t have the team size or the time to differentiate those things.” Flynn went on to say that “you had to kind of develop the lowest common denominator and as that came in, that certainly beat out some expectations and ambitions we had for certain fun features in gameplay. In contrast, CD Projekt didn't do that with The Witcher 3 a few months later and I think their game was better for it."
Flynn also described how BioWare struggled to make Dragon Age: Inquisition work on Frostbite, the proprietary engine owned by its parent company EA. Because the engine was designed for the Battlefield games, the task apparently required a “Herculean effort" to manage. The developer said that “to bend it to make RPG elements was certainly a challenge" before adding that “it resulted in compromises and things that we certainly didn't want to do if it weren’t for the technology limitations. But the team found incredibly clever and reasonable ways around that whenever they could. I haven't touched it in five years, so I can’t tell you where it’s at now, but I still see the bugs being recorded by players and other games.”
BioWare apparently had to create a series of tools from scratch in order to use Frostbite for Dragon Age: Inquisition. "Being a programmer, I underestimated the difficulty that Frostbite was presenting to our development teams and I wish I'd have done a better job of communicating that to the top brass at EA," Flynn remarked. "I wish I'd been understanding of the friction the engine created for us building a very different kind of game. I see it now in the news reports and in the press, so I kind of get it, but I think I could have done a better job. I could have used the fact that I had a history of engineering to better communicate things rather than believing and trusting the way engineers are smart, we'll figure it out as we sometimes have in the past."
Flynn founded Inflexion Games with several other former BioWare developers in 2021. The studio is currently working on a survival game known as Nightingale which takes place in a sort of alternate universe. “There’s the magical city of Nightingale which is the center of all magical study in the Western world,” Flynn said during an exclusive interview. “At the turn of the nineteenth century and through a sort of cataclysm or apocalypse, the portal network that Nightingale helped construct collapsed and unfortunately left many stranded. Loads of people who are not proficient at using this stuff but have been a part of it are now lost in these realms and they have to start to survive. That’s the setup and the mystery behind that will come out as part of our initial storytelling.” Nightingale has been scheduled to release into Early Access at some point in 2022.
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