A Random Name Generator Brought Dragons to Dragon Age

The series was originally completely devoid of the flying, fire-breathing lizards.

Considering how integral a dragon became to Dragon Age: Origins’ story, it’s surprising to hear the game didn’t have a dragon in sight for much of its early development. It’s not usually a surprise to find out that larger portions of a game in its infancy look nothing like what actually ships, but Dragon Age’s title was what actually pushed the team at BioWare to finally include a dragon as the main antagonistic force of the game that finally was in 2009.

TheGamer wrote up an extensive report on the matter after talking with developers from the time and learned Dragon Age still didn’t have a name a year into development. So what the team ended up doing was creating a random name generator with fantasy terms, and the name BioWare ended up voting on was Dragon Age, which was all well and good, but the game didn’t have any dragons in it. Which the team decided it had to rectify.

“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…’”

Gaider explained to TheGamer that the original draft of Origins had the “Dragon Age” as a time of the past, and that the world would be far and away from having to worry about dragons in any meaningful way. As such, the antagonistic darkspawn, which are led by a dragon called the Archdemon in the final game, would have been returning without a flying lizard.

“Yes, originally Dragon Age was a fantasy world that was kind of… past its ‘high fantasy’ stage,” Gaider said. “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.”

Rather than just pick a different name that wouldn’t have required the team to come up with an entirely new story, Designer James Ohlen directed the writing team to make some changes so they could keep the Dragon Age name.

“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,” Gaider said. “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.”

Since the Archdemon was going to be a dragon, we never saw what Dragon Age: Origins’ big bad was going to look like before. But Managing Editor Daniel Erickson described the character’s appearance to TheGamer as “big, freaky, anime-villain sort of thing that felt like Lovecraft does Final Fantasy.”

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As the series went on, dragons had a fluctuating place in the series’ universe. Dragon Age II had a boss fight with a dragon, but it didn’t play into the story the same way it did in OriginsDragon Age: Inquisition had multiple dragon boss fights across its many open-world locations, but the game’s main villain Corypheus also had a dragon pet the player had to fight at the end.
The Dragon Age series has been in a weird place lately, as a new game is in the works over at BioWare, but seven years on, we’ve still not seen the game in motion. Though it does look to be leaning into some of the series’ worst narrative tendencies already.
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Kenneth Shepard

Kenneth is a Staff Writer at Fanbyte. He still periodically cries about the Mass Effect trilogy years after it concluded.

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