Part of the magic of Bioware game is continuing your story from one game to the next. It feels like your choices matter, even when those choices boil down to picking between three different colors. The backlash against the original ending of Mass Effect 3 is partially because fans were passionate about their previous choices mattering in the grand scheme of things. The problem Bioware faces in allowing you carry your choices forward is logisitics: how do you get your save data from one platform to another?
The company already faced this issue in releasing Mass Effect 2 for PlayStation 3 and Mass Effect 3 for Wii U. Neither platform benefited from having the previous games in the series so Bioware included digital graphic novels with each title, allowing players to experience the major story beats and make decisions as if they had played those games. Even on PC, modders have created save game editors and creators, so players aren't forced to play the first Mass Effect in order to jump into the series.
With Dragon Age: Inquisition releasing on two platforms, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, that won't benefit from previous iterations, Bioware has announced a new fix that should help moving forward. Dragon Age Keep is the cloud-based tool that will let you customize the world of Dragon Age heading into Inquisition.
"Very early in the planning of DAI, we began to think about how we were going to address the issue of importing save game files," wrote Dragon Age executive producer Mark Darrah. "We were dealing with a brand new game engine, plus the next generation of consoles. It was a priority that our fans be able to have their decisions carry forward, regardless of their past or future platform."
"Moving to the cloud allows players to take their unique world state into any platform (present or future) and even other media. For existing fans, an advantage of being in the cloud is that (if you are ok with spoilers) you can fully explore what-if scenarios, and become aware of events and consequences in our past games that you may not have known were possible. You can then fire up the previous games and go exploring for those moments."
"Even if you don't go back and re-play the previous games, you can still establish that scenario as part of your world state, and import it at the start of a new DAI game to see the consequences of your actions," he added.
The team at Bioware is still looking into actually importing your existing save game files and will provide more details "in the months to come." The reason Bioware is announcing Keep today is they need people to sign up for the service's beta. Why? Because importing all that data is hard and could break something.
"An import from DAO to DA2 brought across something in the order of 600 different data points, most requiring complex logic solving to answer correctly the question of 'how did the player settle this choice at the end of the game.' As a result, some current save imports are buggy, which is our fault, and something we're committed to fixing. Permanently. The Keep allows us to do just that. Users of the Keep won't have to suffer with these types of logic inconsistencies any longer," said Darrah.
As a player of both Dragon Age and Mass Effect, I'm glad Bioware is thinking farther in the future. Yes, I might have made one choice in my 50+ hour game of Dragon Age: Origins, but maybe I don't want to carry those choices into the Inquisition. It'd be nice to make slightly different decisions without having to play through the whole game again. Perhaps I'd like for Inquisition to start in a darker world than the one my Hawke left in Dragon Age II.
I'm hoping Bioware carries the idea forward into a 'Mass Effect Citadel' or whatever they want to call it. The company's always been about player choice, and I think this just adds another layer onto those choices: being able to start at the newest title or the very beginning.