Dragon Age as an MMORPG: How Would It Work?

With gamers enamored with BioWare's latest RPG epic, Dragon Age: Origins, we here at ZAM imagined how well Dragon Age would make the transition from offline RPG to online MMO.

It's been a couple of weeks since the release of BioWare's Dragon Age: Origins, and while gamers and reviewers alike are still picking up their collective jaws off the ground regarding this terribly addictive RPG, you can always trust that there will be people who have beaten the game (twice!) and are already imagining just how much potential lies in the vast world of Thedas.

In particular, the first thing that popped into our minds here at ZAM was pretty much what we're always thinking of: MMORPGs. Of course, you could expect nothing less from a team that's devoted to the genre, so today we decided to imagine just what BioWare could do to transform Dragon Age to be one of the most potentially innovative MMOs in the industry (please note that this is pure speculation!).

A World Second in Multi-unit MMOs

If there's one thing that BioWare is mastering, it's the concept of the multi-unit combat style of RPG gaming. What I mean by multi-unit combat is when one user is able to control three to four characters at a time, giving commands to each unit and tactically fighting battles while micro-managing all of his party members. While it's obvious that pausing the game will be taken out in an MMO version of DA:O, BioWare will certainly have to make sure that the responsiveness of their controls is top notch if they want to succeed.

As noted above, BioWare would actually not be the first developer of a multi-unit MMO, as developer IMC Games has already claimed this achievement in the form of their free to play MMO, Sword of the New World. Dragon Age, however, has obviously made huge improvements over Sword of the New World's dated and somewhat clunky controls. As well, characters in Dragon Age would have much more depth and customization over SotNW's playable characters.

One of the coolest things about multi-unit MMOs, of course, is the fact that you can make some very interesting teams to go out mashing baddies. Unless BioWare makes some serious balance tweaks, the most obvious 3x Blood Mage + a tank would probably be able to take on everything without breaking a sweat. Alternatively, if players teamed up to go dungeon running, it would definitely be interesting to create a "tank" group with a magic resistant Templar, a physically resistant Reaver and a hardy Arcane Warrior for tanking in any situation, backed up by a legion of Spirit Healer groups.

Pre-established PvP Factions

Fereldans versus Orlesians! Hellspawn taking on everyone! The Chantry versus the Circle! One of the most prevalent features of any EA MMO title (ok, so we've got… two) is the concept of faction versus faction PvP. Mythic's Warhammer Online was built around the concept of Order versus Destruction, and SW:TOR is also confirmed to have Jedi versus Sith. As well, if BioWare is suitably impressed by Aion's attempts at PvPvE (the Abyss), then it's quite easy to visualize a widespread Fereldan versus Orlesian campaign with Hellspawn popping up to beat on both of them.

Either way, Dragon Age has set up some very distinct factions and cultures for players to experience, so you can see why PvP and, by extension, PvP factions would be one of the easiest transition points for a Dragon Age MMORPG.

More Voice Acting!

Voice acting has definitely been both a blessing and a curse for BioWare. While it does make the game incredibly immersive, having so much voice acting in an MMORPG that's full of power gamers who constantly skip forward to get to the dialogue options (sometimes it's even difficult in an offline game!) may ultimately translate into thousands of work hours for a lost cause. On the other hand (and this completely applies to Star Wars: TOR), if their voice actors are anywhere near as good as Claudia Black's bitingly sarcastic Morrigan, a Dragon Age MMO might be the first game where players actually want to listen to their quest text.

And finally… a Dragon Age MMO Would Build on a Massive Foundation

One of the greatest features of Dragon Age: Origins is the sheer amount of history that the team has built up for the world and the races that inhabit it. BioWare has already made it abundantly clear that Dragon Age was intended to be their franchise foundation, and, much like World of Warcraft developed from the lore of Warcraft I, II and III, it's easy to see how a Dragon Age MMORPG could spin itself off from its offline parent. In addition to this, since the team has developed such an incredibly rich history for the game already, they can easily slip backward or forward in time to choose the perfect setting for a Dragon Age MMO that's rife with conflict.

The best choice, thus far, would definitely be the Tevinter Imperium: they had to deal with several of the Chantry's "Exalted Marches" (think Crusades), the first Blight, and Andraste marching on their capitals with an army that would eventually become the Fereldans. That's four factions right there, each with a massive amount of premade history stuffed into the Dragon Age: Origins' codex.

So readers, what do you think? Would a Dragon Age MMORPG developed in the same theme as Origins sink or swim in our current MMO industry?


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# Nov 18 2009 at 7:58 AM Rating: Decent
Consider that many (if not most) of the remaining original EQ players box additional characters to balance out their adventuring, I'm surprised that there isn't a multi character MMORPG that has gone mainstream.
# Nov 17 2009 at 4:29 PM Rating: Excellent
111 posts
I think a multi-unit based MMO would be awesome. Seems like you could come up with a vast system of features to enhance and develop your characters that way. Perhaps even giving people the option to create any number of heros and pick and choose a different party makeup depending on what you are doing in a given play session.
# Nov 17 2009 at 6:32 PM Rating: Excellent
Just thinking about it makes me sad that nobody's doing it :( I'm guessing one of the biggest things holding a proper multi-unit MMO back would be the high skill cap. I can only begin to imagine some of the awesome things that Starcraft, Warcraft and DotA pros can pull out - and if a game isn't conducive to that level of skill, then I find it hard to imagine what sort of "hard caps" they'd have to put in in order to prevent the skill level from getting too high.
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