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Default Dragon Age 2 - Mike Laidlaw Interview

February 25th, 2011, 22:52
Dragon Age 2 Lead Designer Mike Laidlaw has been interviewed at Gamasutra, with partiular emphasis on "how the team arrived at the decision to change core elements of the game" and building the world:
You talked about the three main points that you wanted to address with Dragon Age II. You said "combat is a big one." People were scared to hear that you were mucking about with combat.
ML: Yup. I think so. It's not specifically just that we're changing combat. It's that the combat has become responsive and faster. I think that from a certain point of view that means ‑‑ to use internet parlance ‑‑ "OMG you are dumbs down like action game!"
And of course, RPGs, people are pretty protective of them. They liked elements of Origins that were very tactical, that were very methodical. So when they hear that now I can jump and attack guys, well, that must be! That is an action trope, therefore it must now be an action game.
That's not true, but I understand how you can make that jump there, because what it represents to me is people saying, "I really like that thing you did. Could you not take it away?" Which I love. I love that.
So for us, it became very careful to be, I guess, protective of the elements of Origins that did work really well, that resonated with the people that like the tactical gameplay, because controlling a party is increasingly rare.
To keep DA2 stuff in one place, there's also a Mage update a the BioWare site.
More information.
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February 25th, 2011, 22:52
Even then you won't get it perfect, I think that personally Dragon Age II is more responsive. It's a more satisfying experience, and yet it still retains the stuff that I love. Being a long‑term Baldur's Gate and frigging Gold Box fan, it's got the stuff that I like out of my fantasy RPGs, but it feels like a modern game.
That's how I see it, it's the same core part-based tactical combat only hidden in a modern action veneer.

Which I think generally, for what Bioware like to make and create, is a good thing.

Then you level up and you start spending points, and the RPG mechanics are introduced in a way that's gradual, in a way that welcomes someone who would otherwise maybe go, "Whoa! Too complex!" and shut it off immediately, and lets them slide into it without even recognizing it ‑‑ which frankly, ideally increases the overall RPG customer base, which means we can make more RPGs, which means I can play more RPGs that I don't know the ending to. I like that.
On the other hand this is stupid. You can't force people to like a genre they don't like by "easing them into it" with deception or by filtering the genre to a point it isn't that genre anymore. That's just silly. My wife only likes casual and puzzle games and no matter how much you try and make an RPG feel like a casual game she won't want to play it.
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February 25th, 2011, 23:14
Originally Posted by DoctorNarrative View Post
On the other hand this is stupid. You can't force people to like a genre they don't like by "easing them into it"
I think they're just over thinking it too much. Maybe a bit delusional too. Weed addiction perhaps?
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February 25th, 2011, 23:27
Originally Posted by DoctorNarrative View Post
On the other hand this is stupid. You can't force people to like a genre they don't like by "easing them into it" with deception or by filtering the genre to a point it isn't that genre anymore. That's just silly. My wife only likes casual and puzzle games and no matter how much you try and make an RPG feel like a casual game she won't want to play it.
I dont mind this all that much on the first playthrough, but I want to be able to skip the "easing into" part on a replay much like I wanted a no-chateau-irenicus mod for BG2.
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February 26th, 2011, 08:10
I'd be happy to hear this if I hadn't played the demo. It's exactly what I feared, and it does feel like a dumbed down action game.
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February 26th, 2011, 09:52
There are words and then there is reality.

Based on the demo, Laidlaw can talk - but he can't walk.
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February 26th, 2011, 10:32
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
There are words and then there is reality.

Based on the demo, Laidlaw can talk - but he can't walk.
You think you get a good picture of the game from the demo?
  • Inventory, equipments and items, character management, crafting has been disabled I hope you realize how this can change a vague feeling?
  • You really think you get a good picture of what will be the various area in the full game? DAO1 doesn't shine on this aspect but it worked overall I doubt a lot DAO2 won't do as well on this point.
  • Is really the new dialog system didn't work for you? For me in the demo it worked very well because each option are well summarized by few words. For sure I won't say it's the best system for any RPG, but it would have match well DAO1 dialogs, I think.
  • So you are one of those fans of those dialogs in camp hugely disconnected to all other parts of the gameplay? For me what I have seen in the demo let me hope something much better and closer to Awakening.
  • For the fights, I played the three classes in the demo but no all trees. The fights pace is fine and very close to DAO1 for mage and warrior. For the rogue it's a bit too fast, but well I can't say I didn't like what I have seen in the demo. Not to mention it's still a party system and, for me, fights in FO3 or FNV are very far to sustain the comparison and it's totally out of my understanding that players find them deeper and more interesting.
  • Still for the fights I noticed a huge improvement from DAO1 and it's help making the pace much better, you can pause, give an order to a member, then give an order to another member, and so on and then unpause. In DAO1 it didn't worked well at all because tactics would override an action not already started.
  • For the graphic style, it's since a long time I'm thinking that many video game get dated because of graphics because they gave up using a strong graphic style. At first I'm not a fan of this style and that's the danger of having a strong graphic style, but I'm sure I'll get used to it and at ends it will pay back.

The demo let unknown many points, exploration of tactics, the area and exploration design, the linearity level, how the fights will really be at a higher difficulty level, the companions, the items design (another rather brilliant point of DAO1 that I doubt it will be less good in DAO2, ie the talent of designing unique items you don't forget, what a change with all those RPG with generic items you can't remember), the crafting, and many more.

Jump onto a conclusion about the full game and spite on the design team, it's quite fast and superficial.
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February 26th, 2011, 10:39
That about sums it up for me.

I find that games tend to "play" a certain way, and based on the demo Dragon Age 2 is meant to be played from an action game perspective. The feedback necessary for making tactical gameplay decisions in the demo is either reduced (small enemy status bars) or eliminated entirely (no floating numbers so you can't see exactly how much damage you're doing), the mechanics by which tactical game play are made easier have been neutered (I'm looking right back at you, Mr. Camera), and the necessity for tactics in the first place was pretty much nonexistant: out of all of the fights in the demo, I found myself switching to another character precisely once, during the Hayden fight at the end, and that was more out of curiosity than necessity.

Sure, I could choose to pause the game, wrestle with the camera to line up a few specific shots more tactically, but to me that's like having my fighters flank an enemy in BG2, have my rogue quaff a potion of invisibility and sneak around behind it, have my mage dispel a few combat and spell protections, and then backstab… only to find that the enemy I'm going to all this trouble for is a gibberling. There's no flippin' point when I could have just had my mage waltz up to the stupid thing and one-shot it with his staff. DA2 looks to be the same: the options are there — buried and made inconvenient by the game's design itself, but they're there — and I COULD play it that way if I wanted, but… why bother? I want to fight with the enemies, not the software designers.

It is quite remarkable, though; with this one game, Bioware has gone from a "Day 1 must buy" title to a "maybe I'll bother with it after an Ultimate Edition comes out in a year or two… maybe". I can't think of any game where I've done such a complete 180 regarding enthusiasm. In this, at least, Bioware really IS breaking new ground.
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February 26th, 2011, 10:47
The demo doesn't allow difficulty setup, for sure if the fights are easy and you can let them run automatically and even never pause, you'll do it.

But the full game will change that by providing higher difficulty level and then you'll use tactical combat depths from tactics to more pause and more precise control of the team. that's why check in the demo the possibilites is significant, what bother me is that you can't see this point and the links with difficulty setting.

But yeah you make a very good point about the Demo, it's more like a reversed effect and its overall design is weird. But that doesn't mean the full game will be a full linear game with constant fighting, no difficulty setting and too easy fights, and so on.
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February 26th, 2011, 12:04
Originally Posted by Dasale View Post
In DAO1 it didn't worked well at all because tactics would override an action not already started.
I suspect this may be one of the differences between people. I disabled Tactics altogether and managed each battle - that's what I want in a party system. This is too fast and too easy for me but turning up the difficulty, I think, will just exacerbate the excessive speed and not work for me.

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February 26th, 2011, 12:16
Originally Posted by Mithter Thibbs View Post
It is quite remarkable, though; with this one game, Bioware has gone from a "Day 1 must buy" title to a "maybe I'll bother with it after an Ultimate Edition comes out in a year or two… maybe". I can't think of any game where I've done such a complete 180 regarding enthusiasm. In this, at least, Bioware really IS breaking new ground.
My thoughts exactly. SW:TOR is still a Day 1 purchase for me (because of SW itself and a possible KotOR-like experience), but i've lost my interest in the Dragon Age saga (almost) completely.
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February 26th, 2011, 12:18
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
I suspect this may be one of the differences between people. I disabled Tactics altogether and managed each battle - that's what I want in a party system. This is too fast and too easy for me but turning up the difficulty, I think, will just exacerbate the excessive speed and not work for me.
Yeah I see your point and I agree that players choose different ways to play DAO1. Almost no pause but few for a main controlled character, but a constant tuning of tactics. Many pauses but using tactics too quite a lot (I choose that way). Constant pausing to control of every members.

So I could be wrong but I think the pace of fights didn't changed much for Mage and Warrior, alas it seems quite fast for Rogue.

But have you noticed the huge detail change that in my opinion will be a significant improvement for players that choose control all characters and no or almost no tactics? (you could at least use some tuned setup related to healing).

In DAO1 you couldn't pause the game and give orders to different characters. You could only do that with the selected character, and then need wait the action starts before to switch to another character, this multiplying the pauses a lot.

Now it works with DAO2. In my opinion it's a huge plus for fans of full controls and a lot of pauses. But well I do agree that despite this huge plus, with zero tactics the Rogue could be a problem and two rogues will be impossible, not sure as I just can't imagine play DAO without some effort put in tactics setup even if I use a lot of pauses.
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February 26th, 2011, 12:49
Sorry, but I'm not ready for an emotional relationship with Mass Dragonasty Warriors Age 2

Mike must be little anxious because DA2 has a strong competitor in the market called Knights Contract. Here watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRoaVWjPEo4&feature=fvst

Also this game has no stats. Who needs stats anyway. They are for nerds. It's not late Mike, maybe you can remove those annoyable stats with a patch or something. It's not cool and Awesome™(sorry I almost forgot) you know.

Anyway, have fun with your new 'hey look at me I can push the buttons on this gamepad' gamer fan base.
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February 26th, 2011, 12:53
Originally Posted by Gokyabgu View Post
Snip
No a single valid point, that's pathetic, and you behave like a kid.
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February 26th, 2011, 13:11
Originally Posted by Gokyabgu View Post
Mike must be little anxious because DA2 has a strong competitor in the market called Knights Contract.
I just read the plot in Wikipedia.

Urgh.

They call characters of this game actually "Gretchen" and "Heinrich" ???????

I have never seen a worse choice of names for any role-playing game … German gamers will *most definitively* laugh about these names, because "Gretchen" is so … so … so … BAD that the words escape me …

Elsewhere in this world, this game might become a success, though. And people might actually want to name their chldren after the 18th century name of Gretchen … HORRIBLE !!!

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February 26th, 2011, 14:05
Knights Contract is inspired by Goethe's Faust… and it's very, very japanese, sooo japanese…

The Germans are a cruel race. Their operas last for six hours and they have no word for "fluffy".

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February 26th, 2011, 14:22
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
I suspect this may be one of the differences between people. I disabled Tactics altogether and managed each battle - that's what I want in a party system. This is too fast and too easy for me but turning up the difficulty, I think, will just exacerbate the excessive speed and not work for me.
I turned off all the tactics in the demo and had a pretty good challenge at the second ogre fight.
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February 26th, 2011, 15:28
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
I just read the plot in Wikipedia.

Urgh.

They call characters of this game actually "Gretchen" and "Heinrich" ???????

I have never seen a worse choice of names for any role-playing game German gamers will *most definitively* laugh about these names, because "Gretchen" is so so so BAD that the words escape me

Elsewhere in this world, this game might become a success, though. And people might actually want to name their chldren after the 18th century name of Gretchen HORRIBLE !!!
There is nothing wrong with the name. It just reminds you of some fairy tale or name a book would use.

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February 26th, 2011, 15:41
Sieg heil mein Hawke! Ve vill eliminate ze darkjews!

am i doin' it rite?
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February 26th, 2011, 16:00
Originally Posted by DoctorNarrative View Post
On the other hand this is stupid. You can't force people to like a genre they don't like by "easing them into it" with deception or by filtering the genre to a point it isn't that genre anymore. That's just silly. My wife only likes casual and puzzle games and no matter how much you try and make an RPG feel like a casual game she won't want to play it.
Well, to be fair, he isn't talking about deceiving people or filtering RPG elements out until it's no longer an RPG. He's talking (at least in the part you quoted) about slowly introducing RPG elements, so as not to overwhelm people who are new to RPGs. Moderating the learning curve. Think of how you slowly introduce the letters of the alphabet to a child who's never written before, as opposed to asking them to write long paragraphs from scratch. That's an exaggerated example, but the same idea. You don't want to overwhelm and scare off people who are new to RPGs — or people who are of average IQ, or people who aren't paying razor sharp attention, etc. That's a description of the average gamer, after all, and a lot of potential customers. So he's making sense to me.

I think your criticism is apt if the RPG elements are simply removed or if the "moderated learning curve" never reaches a normal RPG height. But I don't hear him saying that (at least not in this clip). I have not played the demo, btw, so I'm not commenting on whether DA2 is a good or bad execution of this idea, just the idea itself.

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