Are you a gamer who prefers Dragon Age: Inquisition over The Witcher 3? Strangely enough, the guy responsible for overseeing the development of BioWare’s critically acclaimed 2014 action RPG would be unlikely to agree with you. Aaryn Flynn, who served as Studio General Manager for BioWare at the time, told GLHF in a new interview about how he thought The Witcher 3 was a better game than what his own company came up with for the third installment of Dragon Age. Flynn suggests that Inquisition could have been even better if it weren’t for Frostbite, an engine that seemingly made developing the game more difficult than it had to be.
The Witcher 3 ‘was better’ than Dragon Age: Inquisition, admits BioWare’s Aaryn Flynn (FTW)
“To bend it to make RPG elements was certainly a challenge,” Flynn says. “It resulted in compromises and things that we certainly didn’t want to do if it weren’t for the technology limitations. But the team found incredibly clever and reasonable ways around that whenever they could. I haven’t touched it in five years, so I can’t tell you where it’s at now, but I still see the bugs being recorded by players and other games and go, ‘Ah, that’s too bad.’
“Mark Darrah, the former executive producer, had a famous line: ‘Frostbite has no notion of player or health,’ or something like that. There are just things that make you like, ‘Oh, my God, what? Okay, we’ve got to do that.’ But I’d say the biggest compromise came from the fact that we had to ship Inquisition on the Xbox 360 and PS3 at the same time as we did on the PS4 and Xbox One. That crushed so much ambition because we didn’t have the team size or the time to differentiate those things, truly. So you had to kind of develop the lowest common denominator. And as that came in, that certainly beat out some expectations and ambitions we had for certain fun features in gameplay. In contrast, CD Projekt didn’t do that with The Witcher 3, a few months later, and I think their game was better for it.”
Looking back over his time at BioWare, Flynn’s biggest regret also comes back to Dragon Age: Inquisition and Frostbite. While he’s proud of the team and what they achieved under difficult circumstances, he wishes he’d been better at communicating the issues to the higher-ups.
“Being a programmer, I underestimated the difficulty that Frostbite was presenting to our dev teams, and I wish I wish I’ve done a better job of communicating that to the top brass at EA,” he explains. “I wish I’d been understanding of the friction the engine created for us building a very different kind of game. I see it now in the news reports and in the press, so I kind of get it, but I think I could have done a better job. I could have used the fact that I had a history of engineering to better communicate things rather than believing and trusting the way engineers are smart, we’ll figure it out as we sometimes have in the past.”