So I’ll get back to work in a minute here, but I was thinking about why I didn’t watch Korra tonight. The kid was here. There are new episodes. We’ve watched Avatar: The Last Airbender about a gajillion times start to finish. And Korra . . . yeah. It’s pretty good. I love the aesthetics of it. I love the new Avatar who is totally not Ang. I love having something with a strong female lead that I can show to the kiddo.
But I’m just not feeling it.
The thing about Last Airbender is that is had a story that went from the first episode to the last one. I knew by twenty minutes in that the basic problem was that the Fire Nation had thrown the world out of balance, and that Ang was going to have to put things right. Three seasons later, he did.
In Korra, the basic problem is . . . well, shit. I don’t know. There was the equalist thing in the first season, and now we’re talking about the spirit world, I guess. And I figure there’ll be something else after that. But honestly, it feels like one damn thing after another, and that’s my real life. I don’t go to my stories for that.
Which brought me to Dragon Age.
If you aren’t a console gamer, I respect that. I, apparently, am. I played Dragon Age a *lot*. Seriously, I went through the whole story five or six times. My wife played it more than that. We played the snot out of that game.
Dragon Age II, I played through once and gave the disks to a friend. The problem was a lot like watching Korra. In the first game, there was a Blight, and we were going to stop it. And fifty hours later, four major side quests, and a massive decision tree later, we did it in one of maybe a half a dozen different variations.
And then Dragon Age II came and we . . . well we got Mom a house, and we dealt with the crazy dwarf thing, and there was a big fight with the Arishok, whose position I kind of agreed with by the time I got to him. And then the Magi and the Templars got weird at the end, and Anders turned into an utter dickhead. But that first promise — that *simple* promise of restoring the balance of the world from the Fire Nation or defeating the Blight or whatever was never made, so it was never paid off, so I didn’t invest in the ride.
Writing series is a pain. I know, because it turns out that’s almost all I’ve done. The Long Price Quartet was four books, with the problem I laid out in the prologue of the first book informing everything that came after and coming to the best conclusion I could manage at the end of book 4. The Black Sun’s Daughter was built so deep with secrets I could pull out in later volumes that by the time you hit book 5, book 1 looks like a totally different story than the first time through. The Expanse books were designed so that the scale and scope keep getting bigger and wider and cooler without ever turning away from the questions we asked about humanity in the first book. And Dragon Age…
Dragon Age III is in production. I’m going to buy it when it comes out. Probably the week it comes out. Maybe I’ll regret it, maybe I won’t. But I realized that, in my world, I’d already plotted out the series the way I wanted it to build. It’s not going to be like this, because it’s not my project, but what I saw was that the first game had actually made two promises to me, and had only resolved one. I’m thinking now that’s the way I’ve built a lot of my series work too. In the Black Sun’s Daughter, the first book was about Jayne Heller exacting vengeance for the death of her uncle, but it also set up a wider arc about what exactly her uncle did and was. A Shadow in Summer told the story of Seedless and Heshai and Saraykeht, but it also set up a world where the power structures were unstable and the people who held the power were complaisant and short-sighted. Leviathan Wakes asked what happened to Julie Mao, and it also set up the long arc of humanity’s expansion into the universe.
Dragon Age was the story of defeating the BLight. But the Blight came about because the Magi had stormed and corrupted heaven. So, structurally speaking, the Dragon Age series ought to be a series of games each of which is a complete story with a satisfying conclusion, that ends in the last scene of the last game with redeeming, recreating, and refounding Heaven.
Because *that* would be cool, and the promise has already been made.