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Originally, Dragon Age was envisioned as a game in a post-dragon, post-high-fantasy realm, where the age of dragons had already been and gone. In fact, over a year into development, there wasn’t a single dragon to be seen.
“Early on, Dragon Age didn’t have a name,” lead environmental artist Ian Stubbington told TheGamer. “There were some ideas but nothing concrete, so it was decided that one of the coders would make a quick random name generator. They knocked something together and added a whole bunch of fantasy words to the list. It was fired up and produced some names and the one that got the final vote by the team at the time was of course ‘Dragon Age.’ David Gaider (lead writer) responded [with] something like, ‘Hmm, we better add some dragons to the story then…’.”
“Oh, that,” Gaider responded. “Yes, originally Dragon Age was a fantasy world that was kind of… past its ‘high fantasy’ stage. Magic was on the decline and dragons had been hunted to extinction. The big story in Dragon Age: Origins was not only that the darkspawn were returning but that this was the unexpected return of a fantastical past the setting had thought it’d left behind.”
Before being known as “Dragon Age”, the game was originally titled “Chronicles” but Gaider admits that the team wasn’t really fond of that name.
Although “Dragon Age” felt “pretty generic” at first, the name eventually stuck… but there was a problem – there were still no dragons.
“That, of course, prompted me to go to James Ohlen and complain,” Gaider explained. “Why would you call it ‘Dragon Age’ when the actual age of dragons was centuries previous? You didn’t even see or fight a dragon!”
“James said ‘good point’… but what he then directed me to do was to change the story and setting to accommodate the new title. So suddenly we had dragons returning to the world, the Archdemon changed into a dragon, and – best of all – I created a calendar system with named ‘ages’ so that the current age could be, you guessed it, the Dragon Age. All to make the name of the game look very deliberate and tied into the rest, though in this case it was very much the tail wagging the dog. I probably sound like I was unhappy about that – I was, for a while, but, in the end, I got used to the idea. Dragons were also damn fun to fight.”
And so, Dragon Age eventually got its dragons. But that made making a few big changes – namely, the game’s big bad was turned into a dragon, too.
“The Archdemon was this big, freaky, anime-villain sort of thing that felt like Lovecraft does Final Fantasy,” said managing editor Daniel Erickson. “First David tried to say the time period was the ‘Dragon Age’ – kinda like year of the Ox – but nobody was buying it… so insert dragons.”
These changes occurred surprisingly late in development – even the addition of smaller drakes and dragonlings were added later.
“Dragon Age was more a reference to the Iron Age or the Bronze Age,” said Origins creative director Dan Tudge. “In naming it Dragon Age, I guess I could just skip by everybody that they needed dragons – like that insinuated it was full of dragons, right? I think it just kind of got lost on people. So a little farther into the game we started adding you know, the smaller dragons and things like that. And of course the Archdemon. We added that towards the end.”
Elsewhere, Diablo II: Resurrected is getting an open beta this weekend.