BioWare heads Dr. Greg Zeschuk and Dr. Ray Muzyka kicked off their GDC Canada keynote with a narrative about narratives.
In the talk, Zeschuk expounded on the many types of narrative that BioWare has experimented with over their long history. From the voice-acting in a Baldur's Gate II torture scene to a Mass Effect 2 teaser suggesting that Commander Shepard is dead, there are all kinds of ways developers can tell stories or let stories evolve around their characters.
This is the thought process that went into deciding whether or not to voice the main characters in Dragon Age: Origins. Gamasutra reports:
...in Dragon Age, players simply choose responses and the NPC responds, without the player character being voiced, and the actual conversation is "filmed" in more of a first-person style; that style is more reminiscent of some past BioWare games like Baldur's Gate II.
In Mass Effect, "You mold Shepard, but you don't know what he's going to do. It's Shepard speaking," said Zeschuk. "You're participating in the conversation as the director, not the actor.
"When we were making Dragon Age, we had a big conversation about this, because halfway through development, Mass Effect came out and it was a big success. But no, it's a different experience. We want a broad portfolio... with different experiences for different people."
Zeschuk also talked about the power of online interactions creating narrative by adding an active ingredient to gameplay. For example, the beta toolset for Dragon Age that's already in the hands of users will generate all kinds of content before the game is even out; and Muzyka says that in Star Wars: The Old Republic, "Manipulation of world server data based on a broad range of user activities can actually change the game world."
I like the way they're going with narratives at BioWare because I'm a control freak who likes to tell her own stories. But on the other hand, I really wish the main character in Dragon Age could speak.