I was lucky enough to have been invited to Beta test the Dragon Age Keep. Bioware has been very kind in allowing me to write about the amount of fun I'm having doing so - within the parameters of the NDA, of course :)Also, stop by the Dragon Age Keep Frequently Asked Questions page if you haven't yet.
Diary of a Dragon Age Keep Beta Tester
I can't wait to hear what everyone thinks about it! Huge congratulations to the Dragon Age Keep team - some long, long hours and boat-loads of work have been put into this project and now they're opening their creation to the world.
My fellow beta testers are a mix of new players and old hands at Dragon Age. Many don't know too much about how to use online features, and some are computer whizzes. So there is a very good mix of types who are testing. If someone out there has applied but is worried that they won't be invited because they are not an advanced player, have no fear - they will need all sorts of players to test.The last wave of invites went out this week for everyone who had applied for the beta. If you didn't get an email, just try to log in to the Keep at http://www.dragonagekeep.com, and sign the NDA. You should be in the next day, but keep an eye on their Twitter account because they do announce daily when the latest NDA-signers have been let in. As far as I know, the date for Open Beta is still October 29, so I hope everyone enjoys!
That being said, this is also one of the nicest bunch of people I've had the pleasure of speaking with. Everyone is calm (well, relatively, unless we're talking about how excited we are about the Keep and Inquisition) and respectful, even when having dissenting opinions.
I wrote the above before the date for Open Beta was announced but it still applies. I'm very happy to have beta'd alongside the other testers; they're a great group of people. Now that everyone will be able to test coming up next week, I hope we get a ton more good people using the Keep :)
[Cross posting from All News]
According to the Keep team's Twitch livestream on Friday, October 17, the last wave of beta invites is going out this coming Monday (the 20th) and will consist of nearly 50,000 people, and open beta will be October 29!
Updates from tonight's Keep Twitch stream:You can watch it in its entirety here: http://www.twitch.tv/bioware/b/576825017
I'm really enjoying the team's Friday evening Twitch streams and hope they keep doing them! If you missed this one, you can catch the next one and/or watch the past streams at the URL above. They are doing them (or trying to do them) every Friday at 4pm MST.
One thing that stands out to me is how complete the Keep feels while testing. Sure, there are a few things that are not final, but running across them is actually a surprise sometimes. It's funny when it feels like you're testing a complete and solid product, then see something that brings you up short - "oh yeah, we're still in beta!" It's fun.. with the occasional reminder that it's still not a "final" product, even though it feels like one.Everyone will be able to experience the Keep soon. Many thousands of beta invites have gone out recently, and the Keep will be coming out into open beta very soon, as announced by the team through the Dragon Age Twitter account.
One thing I like is that the ability to give feedback is simple - there's no need to jump through hoops to reach someone. They've made it easy to either report a bug or just send some feedback, and that's a treat.
Dragon Age @dragonage
Join us on a journey through the series over the next few weeks and share the choices that shaped your path to #DAI.
Beta testers are helpful in more ways than one. Not only do they provide more hands for testing, but the larger the pool, the more varied the opinions are and the more suggestions the team gets.
One thing specifically is that sometimes a dev team is so close to a product that they can't see it from anything but a certain perspective. They are sometimes surprised by the opinions presented by their testers because they never thought of something in that way; fresh eyes are needed to "see" something properly and that's where the testers come in. We can point out that something doesn't make sense, or that something would be improved by presenting it differently, or that something is perfect the way it is and don't change it.
The continual influx of fresh eyes needed is probably one of the reasons that invites go out in waves, rather than inviting a bunch of people all at once. So if you haven't been invited yet, don't give up hope - keep an eye on @DragonAgeKeep for notices of when the invites go out. And don't forget to check your spam folders :) They've recently said that they are trying to get everyone in who wanted to be in prior to going live, so definitely keep checking (no pun intended :)).
As seen during the Gamescom trailer, Hawke, at the very least, is going to put in an appearance in Inquisition. This makes it even more important to recreate our world states prior to going into Inquisition, as we will definitely want our Hawke seen in-game to be as close as possible to the one we played in Dragon Age 2. This is with regard to our Hawke's race, gender, and class. If Hawke and the Warden do put in an appearance we'll be able to customize their look at some point other than in the Keep (this was stated via some tweets during Gamescom), so I'm wondering how that will be accomplished. There will not be a character creator in the Keep, so customization won't happen there - it'll have to be in-game somewhere, either during character creation or some other time, maybe when we're being told about the Warden and/or Hawke during one of Varric's infamous stories, or maybe even right after they show up ("no, no, I remember from Varric's tale that they looked like _____" then taking you to an in-game customization screen). This is all conjecture, of course.. thinking about no character creator for our Warden and Hawke in the Keep brought it all to mind.
In any case, the point remains that it's now even more important to get our details straight in the Keep about the Warden and Hawke we want to import. Make sure to set these up, as you don't want a male mage Hawke showing up in the place of your Lady warrior Hawke :D
I'm seeing a lot of articles out there, especially recently, with some mis-information that I'd like to help clear up.
First up: The Keep is not going to be "bundled" with the game. It's a stand-alone web site on the internet that will be opened to the public around a month before the game is released. At that time people can start setting up their world states. It is unknown how many world state slots we'll have available when it's released, but it should be at least the current maximum of 5, and that will allow us all to get started so we'll be ready to import when we are able to log into the game.
Secondly, the world states we create have a LOT of choices in them, but not all of those choices or decisions will be reflected or remarked upon in Inquisition. How could they be? Like I said, there are a lot of them. One of the main points of the Keep is to have a complete world state - what our Warden and Hawke did, all the choices they made, the friends and enemies they made, who they romanced, who they murder-knifed, and so on. If some part of Inquisition needs to know what choice the Warden made at a particular time, then that data will be used - otherwise it won't be.
For example, using a random quest, let's say the Warden had great fun with Slim's crime spree in Denerim. If this is a choice in the Keep, we'd say what our Warden did accordingly. In Inquisition, someone that was stolen from during that crime spree may make an appearance and comment that xxx was taken from them. However, that person may not show until Dragon Age 4, and make the comment then.
The Keep is a means of storage of our world state in its entirety for usage in any future games. There is absolutely no guarantee that a given choice will be used or remarked upon in Inquisition. It could be used in Dragon Age 4, or 5, or never. Something from Dragon Age 2 could be a branching point in Dragon Age 4 - you just never know.
By all means, have fun entering all your world state information and make it as complete as you can, but do not expect to see every little thing reflected in Inquisition. We hopefully have many Dragon Age games to come, and that information will be needed for all of them.
I got to thinking about this while testing some functions in the Keep. Currently there are 5 save slots available, as the team behind the Keep has stated. People on the forums and on twitter have asked about being able to delete those states after importing to DA:I, and while that is possible to do I am wondering why people would do that. It also shows how potentially limiting 5 may be.
For example, let's say we have created 5 import-ready world states built from the first 5 of the 6 origin stories in Origins. We *could* import the first then delete it to make room for the 6th origin story, but since the Keep is going to be used for future titles, we really need to keep it so we can update it later with our play-through details from Inquisition. If we delete it now, we'll have to remake it in its entirety later for Dragon Age 4. This won't matter much for people who do not do multiple play-throughs of games - and there are many who don't - but for those who do, this may be fairly limiting.
Even with a modest number of world states to import into Inquisition, this number could blossom quickly, especially with the way Inquisition looks like it will encourage multiple play-throughs in order to see all the content (even more so than the previous titles). It looks like there is a lot of content that is branched based on the player's decisions, and it will be harder to just reload and make a different decision this time with the way some of the timed missions look like they will work (this is only supposition from how things look right now). Content will branch even without the timed missions, though.
An example of only 2 play-throughs of Origins and 5 of DA:2 (WS=World State), if you set up your first 5 world states prior to playing Inquisition:
So.. from the above, unless you didn't want to save a certain Inquisition play-through for some reason, you'd have to delete something after the 1st play-through if you wanted a second Inquisitor using that first world state. This is just an example.
Based on the current limitation, we should probably plan on only having one Inquisition character per world state, or only enter our first couple of beginning world states to keep some open slots so we can have multiple Inquisitors per world state.
I hope the total of slots available is increased later.. perhaps it is just a limitation imposed for Beta. The ideal, of course, would be to have unlimited slots, although I'm sure they have to think about the strain on the server at some point. Not only could someone have the above scenario with wanting one world state per origin, but someone may have used an Origin play-through in multiple DA 2 play-throughs, resulting in a multitude of world states from only one Origins origin. Have I lost you yet? :) Carry that forward to Inquisition and you're looking at *many* world state permutations, so pre-planning our world states might be a good idea.
I'm definitely not bashing the five-slot limit, as I'm sure there will be a ton of people on the web site creating their world states and this will require a boat load of server space to accommodate. Upping that limit to 10 doubles that boat-load, and making them unlimited might be impossible (especially with the number of play-throughs some people have done in both games - I've heard of people running through Origins over 25 times). I'm sure they'll find a happy medium number before launch, but it still applies that we'll need to pre-plan a bit in order to get the most Inquisition play-throughs possible.
Then again, if you only played through the first 2 once and don't plan on playing Inquisition more than once, then you're golden :)
Some of you who follow me on Twitter may notice that I've changed my avatar there. It used to be my daughter's drawing of me killing darkspawn in Dragon Age: Origins, but since the latest Keep update at PAX we're able to show off a few pieces of the art, I changed it to one of my favorites in there.
I love all the art, so it was really hard to choose just one. The art team has been doing a lovely job - all of it is very evocative of the Dragon Age world and conveys so much emotion. I can't wait for everyone to be able to see it.
Those who have recently received beta codes at PAX should be in the next wave of invites - the keys basically gave a ticket to the front of the line. So if you did get a code, it won't be too much longer now!
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