Gamezone publie une interview intéressante de Mike Laidlaw le Lead Designer de Dragon Age 2. Il est question de l'expérience acquise sur Origins et ce qu'il en ont retiré, de sa vision des dlcs à venir, notamment avoir des histoires qui se concentrent plus sur Hawke. Quand on lui demande si Hawke sera conservé pour un hypothétique Dragon Age 3, ce qui compte le plus pour l'équipe c'est l'univers de Dragon Age plus que le personnage que l'on incarne dans les épisodes précédents même si ses actions auront une répercussion sur le monde.
Dakota Grabowski: Could you state your name and position?
Mike Laidlaw: Sure. It’s Mike Laidlaw, and I’m the lead designer for Dragon Age II.
DG: What have you learned from your experiences with Dragon Age: Origins that you’ve carried over to Dragon Age II?
ML: In a nutshell, I think it’s that people are positively in love with the story and the world of Dragon Age, and that the companions especially were a resounding success. So I think that the big thing you want to take away is “what did you do right?” What works really well - the party-based combat, the companions, the story, the setting - all of these elements were hugely successful. We went through the huge list of reviews, that was obvious. The other thing we learned is, somewhat unsurprisingly, that we are not perfect and certainly not on our first outing. There were obvious rooms for improvement. The biggies for us were visuals, especially trying to at least achieve a degree of parody between console and PC. PC always has more horsepower, but you want to make sure that you’re building art, assets and code that work well with the engine and platform you’re working on. Those were probably our takeaways, “Let’s make this look and play well, and let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
DG: When you guys determined that it was a success, and all the high scores were coming out and sales were great, what was the reflection on what you guys were doing with Dragon Age I to transfer to Dragon Age II?
ML: Well I think for us the world and storytelling approach were key for us to hold onto and make sure those translated, but at the same time to be brutally honest with ourselves and say, “We’ve got high review scores, but they’re not 10’s. What was the stuff that’s holding back?” The last thing I would want this team to do is become complacent, because it’s an incredibly driven, talented, and inspired group of individuals. You want to identify your weak spots and go after them ruthlessly. In our case, the voice protagonist certainly was one that, while not universal being that some people actually really dig the silent protagonist, came up a lot in terms of, “yeah, I don’t know, it wasn’t as good,” especially in light of Mass Effect. That’s one thing we went after: the visual fidelity. Overall, I think not so much even the visual distinctiveness, having its own character. It kind of hurts when you’re like, “well, it’s kind of like Lord of the Rings or something.” I want people to say, “It’s like Dragon Age,” and give it something that really stands out.
From more on my side, going after combat and saying, “We really liked the combat we’ve developed.” I love the team-based sets, the feeling that they’re all equally effective. It’s all about combining them, having a tank, and having an archer, because combat is something that we’ve increasingly seen less in team-based structures, and more single protagonist. Even Final Fantasy has recently moved to a leader you control, and everyone else is more like AI. To me, that’s a unique point of Dragon Age, or has become a unique point of Dragon Age. If so, let’s own that and do it right but make it so that when I give an order, it’s carried out like an order, not a suggestion. Get in there! Start kicking butt!
DG: This time last year, when the team was moving on from Dragon Age, you already had a team set up for DLC. Is that still going on right now, where you have team separate for DLC?
ML: I think for downloadable content for Dragon Age II, we actually are looking more at keeping the core team in there, not doing any kind of separate. To be fair, almost everyone on Dragon Age ended up on working on various parts of DLC. We’ve got some early thinkers, some people who are like Fernando Melo - one of our online producers - that certainly are laying the groundwork, “okay structurally, how does this work. How does this work in terms of integration,” etc. For Dragon Age II, we don’t want to tackle larger packs this time around. We want to do some stuff that’s a little more specific to Hawke, and that really includes your character. It’s important that we keep mostly the same core team on there, and, if anything, keeping our eyes to the future beyond that.
DG: Are you guys pursuing the same type of DLC where it was character-based, such as Leliana’s Song or Witch Hunt? Or are you focusing on an “Awakenings” type overarching expansion?
ML: I can’t tell you officially. I think the thing I can say with confidence is that I probably wouldn’t do another Leliana’s Song. I thought it was really cool, and a lot of other people really liked it, but I think Leliana could have been a stronger experience if it had been Leliana and your warden, right? The character you had invested so many hours into, simply because it helped tie things together. So Witch Hunt was a stronger experience in that respect. What I’d like to do is add into the story that you have, rather than adding on. It’s not like an adjunct, it’s more of an expansion of the experience. Regardless if whether that’s Awakening size or Leliana’s Song size, I would probably go a little bigger than a Leliana’s Song. Then, try to integrate something new. That’s part of telling a story that’s 10 years long is that there’s some dead space where it’s not as intriguing. We can say, “well, what was happening in year four,” and slot in anything that it was about. There was some stuff that was happening there that Varick just happened to leave out the first time.
DG: How long is the period from when Dragon Age II begins until it ends that the characters are going to be going through?
ML: It’s 10 years. Ten years is the period of time from Lothering’s destruction, which is the beginning of the game. Basically, during the events of Origins until Cassandra’s and Varick’s discussion.
DG: How do you address age, then? Characters getting older, etc.
ML: You set a character the right age so that our players don’t have to end up all wrinkly.
DG: Then you have no children running about?
ML: Actually, children isn’t something we wanted to pursue. There are some interesting family stuff that does occur, but with children I thought let’s not go there yet. The goal was kind of in the middle to late 20s and then there’s a period where you haven’t gone grey yet.
DG: With the first one, it was a silent protagonist: a Grey Warden that you can rename. The second one is Hawke. Would you want to pursue Hawk in the Dragon Age III, or will Dragon Age III be something totally different?
ML: I never rule anything out. Dragon Age III obviously is not confirmed, but on a philosophical level I like what Dragon Age II is saying to the players. It’s saying: this game is about the world. You’re not necessarily importing your character, because your character very likely might be dead from Origins? You’re not necessarily importing a corpse. What you are importing is the effect that they had. When you look at even something as fundamental as the naming, Dragon Age, which is literally 100 years of time in this world, (the Blessed Age was the one beforehand, just for the trivia buffs) it is essentially saying this is about how this world changes and evolves. This is what I find satisfying about Dragon Age II. Even if Hawke never made an appearance in it, it would be very easy to have Hawke’s role in the world have something that has repercussions in III.