Dragon Age 2 Lead Dev Supports Decision to Make Games more Newb-Friendly

On the Bioware forums, lead designer of Dragon Age 2, Mike Laidlaw, has been discussing the most controversial changes made to the popular Dragon Age: Origins formula. Laidlaw claims, “We stripped some stuff out of DA because it was busted.”

Laidlaw went on to say:

If I’m going to piss you guys off, it’s going to be because I still firmly believe that RPGs do need to be more accessible to new players. Not diminished, but made less imposing and less terrifying to new players. In part because I want more people to play Dragon Age, and in part because there have been a lot of improvements in gameplay and UI design in the past 15 years, and we can learn from them.

PC Gamer mined the thread for Laidlaw’s comments and turned up this gold mine of info on some of Dragon Age 2′s biggest criticisms.

1. Area Re-use.

An obvious problem, and one we are keenly aware of. Not an intentional issue, and certainly not “by design” but something that happened and needs to be addressed. Players should not have to accept that Cave A is also Caves B through D. While -some- assets will be reused in the course of any game (and should be, otherwise games would simply be too expensive to create), they should be done so with considerably more discretion. In retrospect, I probably should have just cut content to reduce the re-use, but that’s a tough call to make in the moment.

2. “Wave” combats

When everyone talks about how it’s raining men in DAII, there’s clearly something wrong. Simple problem: waves were introduced as a mechanic and overused without enough time to tune them. Fan reaction prompted us to start making adjustments to the system pretty much immediately, and Legacy demonstrates the start of the result. I am amused when people note that waves are “gone” from Legacy. They’re actually there, just done much better. So, yes, the bad waves are gone. Still more work to do, but a good start.

3. Impact of choice

We knew we were taking a risk making a story about a major event in Thedas that was pretty much going to happen, and reaction has been very mixed. While some folks love the “sound of inevitability” that pervades DAII, there are a number of weak spots in the impact they feel they should have on the world. Fair point. If we’re going to offer you a decision, it should matter. Easy fix would be to cut decisions, but that’s not what DA is about, so we’re going to have to get better about clear impact of those decisions within the same game you’re currently playing. Addressable, but not within a DLC, as they are pretty self-contained items.

4. Follower customization

A mixed bag. Lots of folks liked unique looks for followers. Many more hated losing the ability to put new platemail on Aveline. Completely understandable, and likely aggravated by finding platemail that your mage character would likely never be able to equip. Needs to change, but we’ll cement how before talking in detail. Also not really addressable in a DLC, as there would be fundamental changes to the core game needed, which goes beyond the scope of what a DLC can deliver.

In my opinion, the Legacy DLC was a major step toward making DA2 the game it should have been at launch. Read my Dragon Age 2: Legacy review and let me know if you agree.

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2 Comments on Dragon Age 2 Lead Dev Supports Decision to Make Games more Newb-Friendly


On August 5, 2011 at 8:12 pm

How ing out of touch can a lead designer be with his supposed audience? THE WHOLE POINT of Dragon Age was to be unrepentantly old-school! You wanna make some “modern, streamlined” steaming p.o.s.? Name it something else ffs!


On August 6, 2011 at 10:09 pm

i completely agree with heru, if you want to go completely the opposite direction you were going for with DA 1, make a new game with a new name.. dragon age 2 was already made completely “newb-friendly”.. if you make it any more newb friendly you are going to lose your hardcore dragon age fans and get new players that will play it once and shelve it. STICK WITH THE PROGRAM.