Dragon Age: Origins Interview (Xbox360)
Over the course of next few days, we will be bringing forth a handful of interviews with the development team from Bioware, a write-up on two demonstrations that included how choices made in the title can affect the end-game and the toolset for mods, a preview based on our hands-on time spent within the title, and an exclusive interview with the co-founders of Bioware, Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk.
Today, we are proud to present our sit-down interview with the Lead Designer of Dragon Age: Origins, Mike Laidlaw.
Dakota Grabowski: Why was “Origins” added on as a subtitle to Dragon Age?
Mike Laidlaw: Well “Origins” was actually the result of us sitting down, and we had already announced the game for a long time, and we wanted to figure out, “What was the heart it?” The nice thing about the word is that it goes to three key elements of the game. First off, it’s kind of a play on words for Bioware as Baldur’s Gate 1 and Baldur’s Gate 2 propelled us into the thinking [within the gaming industry], “Oh, these guys are premiere RPG developers.” So there’s a bit of wordplay there.
Dakota Grabowski: So it relates back to the foundation of Bioware?
Mike Laidlaw: Certainly, “Origins” goes to the idea that it’s the beginning of something, right? It was an intellectual property we invested years in and we wanted to see it do more. We already started the novels and the pen & paper RPG game, so we don’t separate it as a standalone product. And I think people can walk away with the word “Origins” and say, “Oh, this is the beginning of something.” This really was our intent and what we wanted people to understand. Then, of course, to my mind, the “Origins” storylines are six playable and customizable storylines that give a unique prospective on the world of Dragon Age. It’s one of the features that’s immediately apparent and affects the rest of the gameplay. So [“Origins”] really seemed fitting to be added into the title.
Dakota Grabowski: How long have the consoles versions been in production? Were the rumors correct that, from the upstart of the project, it had always been in development for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3?
Mike Laidlaw: We always had the intent to do the console versions. It’s been conceptually in production for a long time now. We’ve been pushing hard on it for the past calendar year. Maybe, a year and a half? You know, from initial development like memory profiling and similar kinds of development. To do develop it, we decided right off the bat to develop for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 side by side. So we had a team working very hard and they are putting long hours as we speak to finalize it. They are at the point they are working out all the crashes and pushing towards having the titles run smoothly.
Dakota Grabowski: What was the reasoning behind the decision to put forth so much blood in Dragon Age: Origins and how did the team come to the decision to keep blood on the faces of the characters while speaking with non-playable character or to teammates?
Mike Laidlaw: Well, from the very beginning we decided to create a game that was more mature. It spoke to the way and kind of culture of Bioware that has gone from the “young bucks that are 20-year-olds and are ready for anything and able to stay up till 4 a.m.” to “people with better scheduling so that they can live their lives and have kids.” You know, it’s a whole better quality of life. Also, the gaming industry itself is growing up as well. It’s basically moved from everyone that was in their 20’s ten or so years ago and are now in their 30’s and are still pretty hardcore gamers. People are staying passionate about it for much longer, you know?
Dakota Grabowski: Definitely, the gamers aren’t just moving on to another medium due to growing up.
Mike Laidlaw: Yeah, we feel like there’s a bigger audience for more mature content and titles. Part of that, making a fantasy-RPG as opposed to a first-person shooter or futuristic stuff is that they aren’t buddy-nature, or in other words distant. What’s more up close and personal than getting to see the blood splatter right on your character’s face? So keeping it within the dialogues and seeing it persist – even though it does disappear over time – to my mind, is a way to add one more level of urgency. Having come right out of a battle and, say you are playing a human noble, and there are bad guys breaking into your mom’s bedroom and she looks at you and screams, I would realize that this would be the same reaction I would have too.
Dakota Grabowski: Did the team ever try and implement multiplayer into Dragon Age: Origins?
Mike Laidlaw: It’s always considered. You always have to evaluate what your feature set is going to be when starting the project, so it was considered. When we sat down and specked out the story and the goals we were going to accomplish, we wanted to return to a massively single-player adventure that had levels of reactions that multiplayer titles can lose. That said, with Star Wars: The Old Republic, we are probably going to see a lot of that come back in, and I’m excited what they are doing down there [Bioware Austin], and I can’t talk about it. But for us, building up a new engine and a new IP, we decided to focus and create the best single-player experience we can.
Dakota Grabowski: What’s the next step for the Dragon Age: Origins team after the title hits store shelves on November 3rd? Will the team be assisting in the development of Star Wars; The Old Republic or Mass Effect 2?
Mike Laidlaw: Haha…whew! I imagine there’ll be a good couple of weeks where many of us fall over and pant for awhile.
Dakota Grabowski: I’m guessing it’s been pretty exhausting the last few weeks making sure the game is ready for its ship date then?
Mike Laidlaw: It’s always a hard push towards the end. It’s fairly stressful and we have to make a lot of tight decisions with certification. That’ll be step one. We really want to explore the Dragon Age franchise as we really want to expand it. But with that said, we do have Mass Effect 2 in the pipeline and it is coming fast. We will probably begin helping them to some sort of degree as well. We’ll see some people moving forward figuring out next projects and next steps for the DA franchise. That’s what Bioware has always done since we went multi-project with Jade Empire. The idea is that a project can swell up to finish and build up when they need, then contract back down to talk about, “What next can we do?” and then swell back up for the project.
Dakota Grabowski: Here’s a question you probably get a lot. You ready for it?
Mike Laidlaw: Sure, fire away.
Dakota Grabowski: When is Jade Empire 2 going to be announced?
Mike Laidlaw: Haha. Well… we haven’t announced anything on Jade Empire 2 yet.
Dakota Grabowski: Oh, so you aren’t going with everybody’s favourite “no comment” phrase?
Mike Laidlaw: It’s pretty much no comment. But, you know, we will certainly announce it if it’s going to be coming out. At this point, Jade Empire is a staff favorite and a lot of us love it, so we’d love to revisit it at some point. But right now, we are very focused on Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2.
Dakota Grabowski: Mike, thanks for your free time to sit down and conduct this interview with StrategyInformer.
Mike Laidlaw: It’s been my pleasure.Dragon Age: Origins releases on the PC and Xbox 360 on November 3rd in North America and November 6th in Europe. The PlayStation 3 version releases on November 17th in NA and November 20th in EU.
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