Yesterday at GDC, I spoke with a dev about team morale, which she was having trouble with.
I’m no expert, but I mentioned my writing team consistently had high morale on Bio’s team surveys - even during difficult project periods.
She asked me what I believed my “secret” was, and to be honest I’d never really thought about articulating it before. But I tried.
Empower them: I always believed my role was to help the writers tell THEIR stories, not for them to help tell MY story.
If there was something they felt passionate about, I let them do it…even if I might have done it differently myself.
Sometimes it meant letting them work on parts of the story I would have liked to do myself. (*cough*Cole*cough*) I valued their engagement.
Level with them: yes, there are Management Things you can’t share, but they deserve to know WHY decisions are made.
Don’t treat your team members like cogs. They care about the project being good as much as you do.
This was especially important during the hard times: I shared my frustrations, I asked for their help. We were in this together.
Later on I learned there were also some problems you shouldn’t share, though. If your morale is low, don’t drag them down with you.
It’s so easy for a team to become poisonous, and it only takes one to do it. Don’t be that guy. Focus on productive solutions.
When a really bad decision came down: “Look, I know this is bad. What can WE do to make this better?"
Lastly: Protect them. You have power they do not, when it comes to dealing with the other teams on the project.
You are their ombudsman. No, our team won’t always win, but it’s your place to fight for their babies.
I had managers who, when it was my stuff up against an issue of another team, would immediately let the other team have their way.
If there was a fight, I never saw it. I swore I wouldn’t be that guy. I went to bat for my team like their stuff was my own.
And that’s it. Is it a secret? I don’t know…but it saw us through some tough moments, and I got better work out of my team in the end.
Case in point: DA2. Tough project, and we had only a year to write a big game. Very little time for proper review.
It’s a project I’ll always be proud of, however, because my team pulled together and did stellar work. I trusted them, and they earned it.
We wrote faster than I thought humanly possible, yet we were in it together and I think DA2 had some of our best work to date.
What do you think of the Awakening companions? And I believe a while back there was a Gaider interview where he mentioned Velanna but I can't remember what he said about her.
I know which interview you are talking about! David Gaider actually spoke about how the Awakening characters never became as important and in-depth to the writers because of how short the expansion was, they didn’t get enough time for the writers and players to really get attached to the characters. For that reason Velanna specifically suffered the most, becoming a disliked character even among her writers.
I personally love the Awakening companions, though I do agree with Gaider that there wasn’t enough time to really seep into who they were.
The thing I really loved was that they were very different people, they were characters who came from completely different backgrounds with completely different goals and reasons. It wasn’t like in Origins where they all wanted to stop the Blight or Inquisition where Corypheus was the common enemy. Awakening was much more like Dragon Age 2 and I love DA2 as well, circumstances where people who usually wouldn’t be seen together are. A surface Dwarf, a loyal Legionnaire, a Dalish Elf First, a Circle Mage looking to be free, a Spirit caught in physical form, and a fallen, confused Noble. It was great.
Of course, as far as returning in future games? I can’t see more beyond Nathaniel, Oghren, Anders, and maybe Sigrun returning. Kristoff can’t for obvious reasons, Velanna was essentially replaced by Merrill, and technically Sigrun would have walked off to fulfill her role as a Legionnaire by now.
Which Velanna is the saddest to me, because she basically ended up as a character no one wanted to write. None of the writers enjoyed Velanna as a continuing character, her story being rather straightforward with little to work with. So Bioware has pretty much scraped her and took what they did like in her (Exiled Dalish First), and added it into building out Merrill’s character. Which worked out great, but it is still a sad string of circumstances.
But yes, Dragon Age Awakening companions were an A+ for me, even though it did leave me wishing for much more time with them.
There’s a lot of speculation surrounding DA4 and what it will entail. Will it contain Solas? Will it not? How connected will it be to DAI?
Given the views on the interview, I’m not sure how many people know this, but the plot of DAI was originally twice as long. The team felt it was too bogged down, and David Gaider suggested cutting it in half with two separate story arcs, the first half/arc being what we know as DAI.