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Fans who can’t get enough of Dragon Age have the chance to return to Thedas today and revisit three of the characters they got to know over the course of the original video game and its sequel, as Dark Horse Comics and BioWare team up for a new story starring the saucy pirate Isabela, wisecracking Varric and the king of Ferelden himself, Alistar Therein. The bi-weekly series is available through Dark Horse’s digital comics store starting today, with a collection due from the publisher in July.
The other piece of good news for fans is that the comic is written by David Gaider, BioWare’s lead writer for both Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II, as well as the author of the three Dragon Age novels that have been released. Gaider teams up with Alexander Freed, who is writing the script, and artist Chad Hardin to bring the characters from your Playstation 3, X-Box 360 or PC to the comic page.
Gaider was kind enough to answer a few questions about his background, the comic and his work on the Dragon Age franchise in general. My thanks for his time.
JK Parkin: I hear you were a comic fan and even a budding comic artist back in the day. What were some of your favorite comics, and do you still read them today?
David Gaider: I don’t read any of the comics today that I used to follow—which were mostly superhero titles like the X-Men, though I doubt that’s surprising. The comics I read today are almost exclusively collected editions: The Walking Dead and Fables being current examples.
JK: Tell me a little bit about your day job writing video games — what does it entail? And what else have you worked on besides Dragon Age?
David Gaider: As a writer, it’s my job to help set up the narrative structure of the game… which is to say I’ll create the story and the quests, and work with the other teams to get them implemented in the game engine. It’s also a writer’s job to create all the dialogue, which (for BioWare games) is a hefty proposition. I started with the company back when they started work on “Baldur’s Gate II”, and went on to write for “Knights of the Old Republic” and “Neverwinter Nights” before we moved onto the Dragon Age series.
JK Parkin: You’ve written for three different media now in regards to Dragon Age. How has the transition from writing games to novels, and now comics, been? What have you found challenging and rewarding about working on the new comic series?
David Gaider: Every medium has its pros and cons, obviously. Games have a heavy resource demand, but offer interactivity. Novels offer the freedom of using narrative, but have no visual element. Comics are a nice middle ground, though I think I found it hardest to structure the story so that the arc fit into the pages we had available. Not as easy to wrap your head around telling a story in that manner as one might think.
JK Parkin: The series will be released “digital first” via Dark Horse’s webstore and comics app. Did the format and frequency affect how you approached the story?
David Gaider: Only insofar as the first six issues being broken up in 12 pages each—which affected how you pace the story. Instead of having one long arc over 22-24 pages, you need a story that has many smaller arcs.
JK Parkin: The comic features three of my favorites characters from the game, and although I was never so cruel and heartless in my multiple playings to ever deny Alistar the throne or turn Isabela over to the Qunari, it is possible that some players sent these two characters down different, perhaps even fatal, paths. How do you decide what’s “canon” for the comics and novels when the game has divergent paths and sometimes multiple endings for each of the characters?
David Gaider: There’s no way that a novel or a comic book can take into account player choices—you can’t “upload” your ending and get the comic story personalized to your experience, after all. While I could have written something that went out of its way to avoid using any existing characters or any mention of plots that occurred, that seemed like it would be a waste. So for some players, this is a “what if” type of alternate world, and assumes these characters followed a particular path after the first two games. As for how we chose which path that would be? The one that led to the best dialogue, of course.
JK Parkin: What do you like about these three characters in particular? And how do they end up together on this adventure?
David Gaider: You wouldn’t expect to find Alistair (especially when he’s a king) associating with Varric and Isabela, would you? Alistair has recruited them for a personal mission—for reasons that will be explained in the comic. As for why I used them, primarily it was because I enjoy them so much… but also because they still had room for me to explore.
JK Parkin: One of the great things about the Dragon Age novels you wrote is that they aren’t just set in the world of Dragon Age, but they actually tie into events referenced in the game and even reveal some pretty big secrets about some of the characters (I’m thinking of the end of the second novel in particular here). Can we expect that from the comics as well?
David Gaider: Yes. I mean, we could just present you an adventure that was completely unrelated to anything going on in the rest of Dragon Age… but what would be the fun in that?
JK Parkin: The solicitations for the print collection of the series have already hit, and it mentions that a certain “Witch of the Wild” will make an appearance. Will we learn any more about her bigger agenda? And can we expect any other cameos or guest stars from DA favorites along the way?
David Gaider: Possibly, and yes—though not necessarily right away.
JK Parkin: Are there plans for more comics after this one, maybe featuring other characters, locations or plotlines you haven’t had a chance to flesh out yet?
David Gaider: Ideally there would be. I guess it depends on how much interest there is in the series.
JK Parkin: And finally, what are you guys working on in terms of the game — will there be more DLC for Dragon Age 2, or are you already working on the third installment?
David Gaider: Ahh, I wish I could tell you this stuff. Projects which haven’t been announced are strictly verboten, however. Sorry!