Dragon Age II: BioWare Interview
Would you say your main focus on Dragon Age II is to make it more appealing and intuitive for console gamers to play?
Close, but I’d take it a step further and say easier for everyone to play. Deep down, the changes are all about responsiveness. Knowing that your character will react quickly to the orders you give moves the game from one that feels like it’s rolling dice and looking up results on tables to a game that feels like it’s presenting responsive and fast-paced combat. That said we haven’t lost our tactical depth. You’re still able to coordinate a four-person party, learn new spells and abilities and so on.
What lessons did you learn from the development of Origins, particularly with regards to multiplatform development?
The biggest lesson was that hackery is always a bad idea if you need to use your engine in the future. Luckily, we spotted that particular truism early, and made sure that our engine was ready to simultaneously develop on three platforms for DA II.
Beyond that, we learned a lot about how our engine plays well with consoles, and the visuals on consoles are much stronger now that we’re building assets that work well with the engine.
Did you get a lot of informative feedback from players of Origins?
Tons! Forums, focus testing, direct feedback from trade shows, chatting to friends, reading reviews, you name it, we tried to absorb it. There was a lot of positive feedback, but we also saw recurring trends in negativity, including visual fidelity and the “feel” of combat, and that’s why we’ve made changes to address those concerns specifically.
Do you feel as if you’ve got to grips with the PS3 hardware now?
Absolutely. We’re running builds daily on PS3 and it is looking great.
The idea of a framed narrative is an interesting new way of telling your story. How did that idea come about?
Part of me suspects it’s just a burning urge to validate my English degree, but it actually came out of a desire to do a story that wasn’t about saving the world. We just finished one of those, and something fresh seemed in order, but we recognise the need to have a driving element in the game. Something that made you feel like the end was important. Significant.
Thus, the idea came about that a narrative where you know your character is going to be involved in major events, but you don’t know the how or the why you would do just that. Rather than tasking you with saving the world, Dragon Age II asks you a question: “Who was the Champion of Kirkwall?”
Enter Cassandra and Varric, our storytellers, who dig into the decade-long story behind one of the most important moments in the Dragon Age. They’re the ones asking the questions, but it’s the player who provides the answers.
We understand that Origins is actually BioWare’s best selling game to date. Does it annoy you then that many still refer to it as a ‘niche’ game?
Not really, since I think that Origins was a bit niche in its overall presentation. You were hit pretty early on with a lot of statistics, and I think there were number of people who were a little turned off by that element of the game. Trying to figure out if you need a high dexterity or not is a little daunting when you’ve seen nothing of the game so far.
We have done a lot of work to make the entry into DA II be smoother and friendlier. You can literally start fighting within 15 seconds of pressing the start button, and then the complexity slowly unfolds, easing you into the experience over the first bits of the game. Will that make it less niche? Hard to say, but I think it’s a better experience overall.
if you're looking for more, take a look at our Dragon Age II preview.