What shall we use to fill the empty spaces?

Some Twittering about Dragon Age: Origins caught my eye last night:

Shuttler: I doubt I’ll finish DA:O it feels old & environmental limitations just shouldn’t happen anymore.
Zonk: What do you mean by environmental limitations?
Shuttler: not being able to walk in water, swim, freely run down a hill. Invisible barriers, that sort of thing. Hope that makes sense?

The debate flows around many contributors with lots of interesting points and counterpoints within 140 characters, and I was going to chip in on Twitter but it didn’t seem happy about the idea of 1,400 characters, so…

I know where Shuttler’s coming from. For the first hour or two of Dragon Age I kept hitting space, expecting to jump, and getting a bit confused when the game paused. Back in the day (when it was all fields around here) the top-down party-RPG style of the Baldur’s Gate series looked and played quite differently to, say, Tomb Raider. Dragon Age, though, with third person view, right-click mouselook, WASD movement etc. is thematically consistent with many MMOGs, Grand Theft Auto III and IV, Mass Effect etc, so when I’m running around I expect to vault effortlessly into the air with a tap of the space key. It’s really more like Baldur’s Gate in gameplay, though, and it took a little while to get back into the groove of zooming out for a more tactical view, click-to-move as well as WASD, pausing to order the party around in combat etc., stuff that was second nature before I got ensconced in MMOGs.

It’s not the jumping in itself, that’s a symptom, like the swimming that Shuttler mentioned; Dragon Age wouldn’t be magically improved with a wider range of athletic activities, it’s just a little jarring the first time you stop dead at the edge of a lake rather than diving into it and merrily doggy paddling (which seldom makes sense when you’re wearing a couple of tonnes of cast iron, but still), or you’re stymied by a fallen tree that doesn’t look particularly difficult to scramble over or under. Having adjusted, it’s really not a problem now. I can see where fans of open worlds could find it restrictive, but for me it’s getting to the point; the Korcari Wilds could have been ten times bigger and allowed you to explore every inch of them, but with the same amount of content in there it would just mean a lot more, rather boring, running around. They could box everything in, sending you to dungeons all the time so the barriers are far more concrete (either figuratively or literally), but unless roleplaying an agoraphobe that might get a bit repetitive, so I’ll take the invisible walls. Gives a great opportunity for Marcel Marceau impressions too: next, walking against the wind…

2 thoughts on “What shall we use to fill the empty spaces?

  1. br3ntbr0

    I realized these were some things I’d have to come to grips with very quickly if I was going to enjoy DA:O. It seemed pretty clear that exploration is not a part of the game design, you are very much on rails as far as the environment goes. You can’t jump because you could jump over small rocks put there to keep you from exploring undeveloped areas. You can’s swim because it saves the animators the time of making water react with your character, etc.

    I never realized how trained I am by games like EQ, WoW and the like. I still can’t shake the space bar to jump thing. Its like swinging your weapon in DDO because left click swings a weapon and doesn’t select objects like it does in MMO’s.

    Perhaps this is why so many MMO’s adopt that control style as the standard default? The game becomes less fun since the user has to learn a new scheme…

  2. Bronte

    Oh I know. That drives me up the wall.

    For a game with such an epic scale that does so much right, it baffles me they they left out simpler things like jumping, wading through water, swimming etc. Hell water doesn’t even react to your presence when you stand it in. There are no ripples, no splashes.

    Fight a foe and get covered in copious amounts of blood. Walk through water and not a drop drips off of you.

    Even Champions Online got the water part right!

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