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Dragon Age II Interview Bonanza
Interview - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Mon 24 January 2011, 19:25:22Tags: BioWare; Dragon Age II
GameZone continues churning out Dragon Age II interviews.
What exactly is happening to the RPG genre in modern gaming? Let lead designer Mike "Something Awesome" Laidlaw shed some light on it.
DG: Reflecting back to your past, Baldur’s Gate would offer a 100 hours of gameplay. When BioWare started going more towards consoles, the hours started dropping. Where do you see that in terms of the state of RPGs? Is the modern content becoming too much to produce? Or do users just want to have a more core experience and get it done given that some people don’t even finish their games? Some people are probably only half way through Dragon Age: Origins and never even got to the end. Where do you feel are the state of RPGs in terms of content and length of play?
ML: There are two angles to it. One is the resolution, or the density of the content. Baldur’s Gate had no voice; big blocks of text as someone wrote out, “he then does this and then he does this.” Before, we’re providing more and more expository text. What we’re finding is that while you could get a 100 hours of content like that reasonably easy, you could get the same emotional impact and investment in 40 hours of content if you increase the fidelity. I think that’s the approach we’ve been taking. Do we think the best game ever would be four hours? No, I don’t think so. I think that there comes a point that the returns are diminished. You’re putting so much effort that it’s like listening to a hi-fi stereo with that friend that everyone has that only listens to vinyl. Regular ears don’t hear that. It’s like an acquired taste. It’s like drinking a very fine scotch. Anything will get you drunk, but the fine scotch might do it in that smoother way. So I think in terms of the state of RPGs is that we’re faced with reality of other genres and platforms making huge strides in terms of presentation, fidelity, and - it sometimes is a dirty word for RPGs - but even accessibility. The sense that Call of Duty is close enough to being a black ops military shooter guy that even if I don’t know a whole lot I can get sighting down a barrel, and it feels like that. It’s not abstract in any way. Anyone can dive in with that. I get what I’m doing here and the story tells itself in a reasonable way. So for us, getting to the point where you don’t have to make that mental leap over, “that little sprite is me,” and get to the point where it’s like, “oh cool, sliders’ and all that stuff and the fidelity goes up,” it does engage more. If you get to the point where it’s super dense, then you’re putting way too much effort in it and you won’t engage as much.
Furthermore, how affectionate can you get? David Gaider reveals the stance on in-game romances and speaks about the decision to make the protagonist fully voiced.
GZ: What have you learned from the feedback on the romances from the first game that you’ve now taken to the second game?
DG: I don’t know, but there’s a lot of feedback for us. I’ve done a number of our romances, going back to Baldur’s Gate II. I always like to try something new. Origins was really quite in depth with the characters and the romances in particular. From what we get from the fans, there were a lot of people that the romances were more important to them than the story, which is great. It’s very gratifying to hear that. There’s only so much we can do, but I think trying out some different things like DAII takes place over a large span of time, and I always found that the romances can be a bit strange and that they don’t grow organically. It’s sort of a situation where you’re in this life-or-death adventure, you’re comrades that have been thrown together and passion springs out of that. It was nice to get the opportunity to have a romance that took place over years as opposed to a month at best. That was interesting to try, until I learned.
Yes. live and learn.
Last but not least, art director Matt Goldman gets quizzed as well.
DG: What is your specific role?
MG: My job is to create the vision and the philosophy for the art, and work with the concept team to flesh out all of the various different bits of the game: the visual effects, the UI, environments, characters, creature animation, and cinematics. I’ve worked with key members of all those teams - interviewing everybody on the entire team and trying to get the goals and the vision of the project to line up with what their aspirations are. By doing so, that empowers everybody on the team to make those decisions in full knowledge of what our objective is. Then what I basically do is go around and help critique the art, help people navigate problems, bring together teams to solve specific issues, etc.
DG: Could you speak on how you feel about the freedom of working on Dragon Age, the intellectual property of BioWare and KotOR, which was working with LucasArts? How much better does it feel to have that freedom working with IP rather than license?
MG: From the standpoint of a game artist, I would say working on Dragon Age is probably just about the best job you could have because you have very broad freedom to interact with the designers and create and explore a universe that is of your own design. That’s very satisfying, and I happen to like working on fantasy because you can really stretch your imagination a long way. There are a lot of different things that can exist within fantasy. I think if you’re constrained by an IP or by science fiction, trying to describe things in more scientific terms, it’s more difficult to be creative.