Dragon Age: Inquisition Interview
While I was at Gamescom I had the opportunity to talk to Dragon Age: Inquisition Producer Melanie Faulknor and Cinematic Director Jonathan Perry. Unfortunately there was some mix-up with my appointment, but the friendly folks from World of Players had no issue with sharing their Dragon Age slot with me, so some of the questions are from them.
The interview started with Community manager Jessica Merizan telling that Bioware is working on a brand new IP, but could not tell what it was. Although interesting there was not more information to be had so I started with my questions.
My first interest was the combat in Dragon Age: Inquistion and what it would be like compared to its predecessors. Jonathan Perry (JP) started out with saying that they received a lot of feedback on combat and how it changed from Dragon Age: Origins to Dragon Age 2. They are taking all this feedback while developing Dragon Age: Inquisition to define what combat will be like in the game. Overall Dragon Age: Inquisition will be much more focused on tactical combat. Using your party members' unique abilities, you can get more strategic about how you are using your party in combat. For this purpose you can use what JP named Pause and Play (which sounds as Real-Time-with-Pause) to position your party members and give them commands for what they will use as attack or defense action once you continue to play, thus making full use of your party's abilities. This should accommodate the more strategic players, but Dragon Age: Inquisition will also keep the very fast reactive combat from Dragon Age 2 as they feel it worked very well for a lot of players too. These two styles will be meshed so you can decide for yourself which combat style you want to use.
Furthermore the enemy design has been changed and has become quite complex. They are not just going to drop from the sky and start hammering on you, but they are more intelligent and will work together against you, as well as using each other's strengths in combat.
My next interest was concerning some of the role playing elements and if there were any changes expected to Dragon Age 2. For this Melanie Faulknor (Mel) mentioned they got quite some feedback on how choices and consequences were handled in Dragon Age 2, resulting in improving Dragon Age: Inquisition such that your choices do matter. There is a lot more reactivity and there are more different scenarios possible depending on your choices.
JP adds to this that these choices can be made in conversations, but actions speak louder than words, so you could say to a person one thing, but if the situation changes and you feel you should have chosen differently, you can still do that and shape the future differently. Both your actions and inactions can and will result in different outcomes. In many of the situations that occur in the game there is no right answer and choosing one will not be that easy.
As to solving problems JP mentioned Dragon age: Inquisition will have several different approaches to a given problem, you could use force or you could blackmail someone or use even other options to achieve your goal.
Also in combat you can use different approaches to win a fight. It is however not possible to skip it. You can of course position your characters in certain positions by sneaking towards that position prior to the start of the fight to make optimal use of their abilities.
When talking about exploration JP tells that what he liked about Baldur's Gate was having areas that existed as a space just for you to go to and explore and where you did have a feeling it had a reason for you to be there, but they were still optional. With the exploration side of Dragon Age: Inquisition, they will be going above and beyond of anything they have ever done in the past. There will be huge areas to explore and some of these areas will be optional and thus need not to be visited for the main story. They did not know how long you can dwell in those areas but one of these areas they have now is bigger than all levels in Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2 combined, so there is quite some playing time to look forward to.
Your abilities in the game will be very depending on the class that was originally picked and each member of your party will have unique abilities but JP was not sure if there will be separate ability trees for each party member. Neither Mel nor JP knew if it would be possible to climb a wall but with the new Frostbite 3 engine they are using, there is more verticality allowing archers to be above you shooting down and fighting on multiple height levels.
What would actually be available in the area of save game imports could not be told yet, but they are working on something that would allow you to use the end-state of your Dragon Age 2 game, so that the world is modeled according to the state where you left it. As they are now developing for 5 platforms they have designed a new way of saving games, but as said did not want to explain what that new way was just yet. It was however mentioned that you will be able to import the results of a previous save game regardless of what platform you played the game on and on what platform you are importing it to.
Like the previous games, Dragon Age: Inquisition does not rely upon you having played the previous games, so there is a default state of the game
Upon my question what they had to change to the Frostbite 3 engine, the simple answer of Mel was "A lot". The Frostbite 3 engine has been made to be used for a first person shooter and a lot of changes were needed to make it suited for a RPG. There have been changes to how the conversations are done, support for the tens of thousands lines of dialog, the localization for the languages that will be supported, branching of the various choices, the consequences this has in the game, dynamics for the cinematics to fit the choices you have made and more. It is the first time that different projects in Bioware are using the same engine, such as the next Mass Effect game, which allows them to work together on changing the engine.
The Frostbite 3 engine has a lot of destructibility as well as the opportunity to build things, which can be used in combat too. This does allows using your environment to aid you in combat, like when your opponents are on a bridge, you might destroy the supports of that bridge resulting in your opponents to come crashing down or you could build a wall of crates sectioning a part of as an extra means of defense.
Some of the assets from Dragon Age 2 will be reused in the game, but this will be limited to small props or things like weapons, but even those will have to be optimized to make them look good in the new engine. Most of the assets in the game will be new.
Although it has not been explicitely discussed JP and Mel thought it was very unlikely that Dragon Age: Inquisition will allow mods to be created for the game.
That concluded my conversation with JP and Mel, which leaves me with thanking them for taking the time to talk to me.