One of the exclusive Dragon Age Origins screenshots from PCGZine #25

One of the exclusive Dragon Age Origins screenshots from PCGZine #25

Bioware has started taking applications for the beta version of the toolset for Dragon Age: Origins. For those that don’t know, the toolset will allow you to create levels and adventures of your own using the Dragon Age engine, and game assets, which you’ll then be able to share with the community.

At first, I was about to sign up so that I could get a look at it, and have a play around. But then, I stopped myself and here’s why. People often ask me whether I still enjoy actually playing games, given that I write about them, spend my day looking at them, see them in unfinished states, etc. Now, I have been playing games since Phoenix stole all my money at my local petrol station. I grew up coding rubbish games with my best mate on the ZX Spectrum. I went to university and spent my time playing hundreds of games on the Amiga, rather than writing about French poetry as I should have been doing. My first job was writing games reviews, etc. You get the picture. Throughout all of this, I have loved playing games, and nothing has ever taken the shine off them, except one thing: the Aurora Toolset for Neverwinter Nights.

I loved Baldur’s Gate and I enjoyed Neverwinter Nights, so when I completed it, I started looking at the mods and then at the Aurora Toolset. This basically gave you the keys to the game, and it’s the forerunner to the toolset for Dragon Age: Origins. I spent weeks crafting a 4-5 hour single player campaign that spanned masses of areas, included new monsters, new dimensions and even added some gameplay features. All this was possible because Aurora was so fantastic – it basically used a modified scripting language a little like Javascript together with a UI that allowed you to draw out areas. Aurora was brilliant at enabling you to create pretty much anything Bioware had created in the original game. But when I reached 0.98 of my mod, I abandoned it, just because I couldn’t be bothered to do the final round of testing to ensure everything worked. I’d learnt everything I wanted to about how the game worked, and this is where the problem for me, as a gamer, came in. When I played any expansions for Neverwinter Nights, I knew exactly how they had been done, why monsters were triggered in certain places, and I found I wasn’t seeing the game, but the script behind the game.

So, much as I want to get the new Dragon Age: Origins toolset, I know it would allow me to see a lot of what is behind the gameplay of the game, and that would allow me to write all sorts of info about the upcoming game, but I’m not going to, because I have been looking forward to the next Bioware dungeon romp for so long. I’ll wait and play the game through, before I smash the mirror of illusion that all games require to work and start looking under the hood. For those who do go looking, I’m sure you will find a wealth of tools. If this is a step foward from Aurora, it will be amazing, but remember, with great power comes great responsibility.