A few early years of releasing outstanding RPGs has set a dangerous standard for Bioware, one that both helps move their titles off the shelves while at the same time opening them up to quite a bit of backlash should they not meet expectations. Bioware fans simple expect more from them. Fans may not always know exactly what they want, but that's because time and again Bioware's development team has shown intuition into developing realistic universes, characters and emotional storylines. That doesn't mean they never make mistakes, nor try to make radical adjustments to their already proven games. Whether or not Dragon Age II should be considered a mistake or a success can be up to debate, but the fact that there was any kind of fan disappointment at all has shown Bioware that there is most definitely room for improvement. They've already admitted it.
So what should we expect from a Dragon Age III development team that's closely listening to the complaints of fans? If we had to settle on a single unanimous point, a little more character customization would be welcome. While I think most would be able to understand that combat adjustments should always be encouraged (to an extent) there's no excuse in having a fantasy epic RPG that isolates its audience featuring a main character that has no real customization options. It's a staple of western fantasy gameplay that has been around from the very beginning. If Bioware wanted us to empathize with Hawke in the same way that we followed Commander Shepard then they should have removed the expectation of customizable characters in Dragon Age: Origins.
It was violating that expectation that led to so much resistance in the first place, and it would do wonders for Bioware to simply go back to what gamers expected Dragon Age 2 to do; give players an epic story that their unique avatar could engage in, combat, graphical, and artistic changes aside. Regardless of the impressive amount of control that Bioware is giving players in designing this upcoming game I like to think they've already learned this lesson. If they haven't, it's hard to have any hope for Dragon Age's third entry.
In fact, most of DA2's major criticism's were oriented around character and world design. Over the course of a series gamers don't simply want new fancy ways to kill monsters (although that is a major plus), but have relied on storytelling and environments to set the stage for their excitement. Having sprawling locations to care about (or loathe entering) creates a particular tone for any RPG, and if FFXIII was any example most gamers expect a particular degree of exploration in their gameplay. Likewise developing a cast of characters isn't simply a matter of creating a badass with a sword, or a rogue with a conscience, but taking the time to create a world that those characters can realistically inhabit. That includes a wide variety of enemies with potentially varying motivations
Combat can often be a major point of resistance for developers, and it will be interesting to see what kind of middle ground Bioware can reach with their extremely opinionated fanbase. Often times the vocal majority is the sales minority when it comes to the internet, and though there were many who criticized DA2 as being a more watered down "˜console friendly' version of DA:O it can be argued that DA2's combat made it a more accessible game to the masses. How Bioware decides to handle this split in the community will be interesting to track, especially since they'll only be taking community feedback for a short period of time before taking any major steps in development.
Taking part in the creation of a game is an incredibly exciting prospect that I don't imagine many Bioware fans are going to turn down, particularly since they're so genuine in trying to "˜fix' the "˜damage' that was done to their reputation from the mixed sales of DA2 and the controversy caused by Mass Effect 3's ending. But whether or not DA3 is going to succeed will largely depend on how well Bioware's developers and Bioware's fans are willing to work together. If they can bridge the gap between what a game needs and what an audience wants Bioware may not just be onto creating a better Dragon Age, but really setting a new standard in creating a better franchise.