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Default BioWare - David Gaider on narrative design

December 2nd, 2012, 18:26
I keep forgetting to catch up with David Gaider's personal blog on tumblr, The Bitterweetest Thing. A couple of days ago he posted Part 5 of a series on Narrative Design (the previous part is linked from this one, so work back if you want) and offers some amusing anecdotes on the design of Dragon Age - specifically, naming things:
These are laws that, since I created them, have yet to fail me.
Gaider’s Laws of Naming Things
1) If the name is a made-up word for something, everyone will have different connotations and immediately dislike it.
2) Within 3-6 months, people will begin to associate that made-up word with the thing… and they will forget that they ever had an objection. Of course it’s that name. What else could it be called?
You think I’m kidding? I am not kidding.
“Qunari” was initially despised. Some people thought it sounded too much like canary. Some people thought “the Qun” was difficult to pronounce, and sounded too much like a bad word (seriously?). It was allowed to remain as a temp name, and we would look at it later for what it would actually be. Lo and behold, when we turned around 6 months later, suddenly nobody wanted to change it. That’s what they were. What else could they be?
The Dragon Age world was not initially called “Thedas”. There was a name that existed, but I didn’t like it and refused to use it in the documentation or in conversation… so, when we had to refer to it at all, we called it “the Dragon Age world” or “the Dragon Age setting” (with the understanding that eventually we would have to give it a real name).
It amused us to find on our forums that, lacking a provided alternative, someone had begun using the acronym “TheDAS” (The Dragon Age Setting) …and it stuck. Funny! So we started calling it Thedas in conversation, mostly because that was shorter. Then, lo and behold, when we sat down for the meeting to give the world its real name, we couldn’t settle on anything. Every option didn’t seem right. Nothing fit. Sheryl asked, “Can’t we just call it Thedas?”… and we realized the truth. For good or ill, Law #2 had already taken hold.
“Grey Wardens”. What else could they be called? Plenty! The oldest name I recall (it may not be the first) was the “White Rangers”. First we had to change the word ‘rangers’ because that was felt to be too close to the Tolkien group. There was, oh, about twenty different iterations. My frustration began to mount as each was was countered with, “Oh, I don’t know… I just don’t like it.” No suggestions, just concern about how important this group would be for DAO and how the name had to really sparkle. Ugh. I eventually threw out ‘wardens’ in desperation, and was surprised it stuck. Then the conversation turned to whether ‘White’ made them sound too much like good guys. Cue me losing more hair.
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