Published on February 8th, 2011 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Q&A With Dragon Age II Gameplay Producer, Dan Lazin
Here are three very important questions when it comes to players wanting to know about Dragon Age II. What Dan Lazin’s job entails, the decision behind the gameplay speed, and finally the clarification in the dialogue tree. Get ready, cause this is only the first Q & A that we have with Dan. Enjoy!
Cam: So, what makes your job really important when it comes to Dragon Age II? What do you do sir?
Dan: I do a little bit of everything. Um, I used to work with Mike Laidlaw on a different project at BioWare. That was uh… we never got around to finishing. Um, but I started with Mike, and the lead designer on that project had a theory on excess capacity. Where we would have a few people who didn’t have really have really defined tasks, who would sort of go around and make the game better in targeted ways. Um..so I mean, the short version [the short version] that’s my job. I just, I look for problems and I try to fix them. Ah, so for example, on Dragon Age II, um, I usually do a bunch of dailogue editing and that kind of thing. I did almost no dialogue editing on Dragon Age II. But, I wrote most of the spell descriptions for that example. I do fairly uninteresting, to player things like, I write the manual, I write the credits. I order dinner for guys (laughs).
Greg: The important stuff.
Dan: Um, the stuff someone has to do. Then I go looking for things that with minimal effort would work a lot better.
Cam: Question about the gameplay. I noticed it is a lot faster now, what was the decision behind making it faster instead of keeping the original pace?
Dan: Well, there’s not a lot of point in playing something that is slow for slows sake. The reason you wanna play a slow paced game, is because slow-generally means tactical. But, we said, with Dragon Age II, “we can make a game that’s just as tactical, but that plays much more responsibly.” The slowness in Dragon Age Origins didn’t come because the enemies were harder to kill than in Dragon Age II and it didn’t come cause there was an actual reason for things to be slow. It was because your character would kinda walk up to a guy and shuffle to the side a bit to try to target incorrectly-and then hit him with a slow swing. It does exactly the same thing if you just like dash up to him and smash him. And its a lot cooler to do.
Especially with a console game, you know, you feel like you press A and something ought to happen. And what would happen in Dragon Age Origins is you would press A and your guy would walk over there, and move to the side 30 degrees and then hit him. And then hit him again. [And then hit him again]. Now what we’d rather do, is have you hit A and you hit him instantly. You press A again and you hit him instantly again. And you don’t press A and nothing happens. Like, people are in much more control in of whats happening at any given moment. But, the tactical aspects of Dragon Age II are obviously very popular. There not just popular with gamers, but they’re popular with us. We made Dragon Age Origins because we wanted a tactical RPG. There was no way we were going to throw that away. But, Dragon Age II really allows you to play either way. It’s really like setting the difficulty setting is like setting a proxy for the type of game you want to play.
Cam: I noticed when I played the demo, that uh…the dialogue tree is a lot more expanded now. So is there more you can talk to about in certain conversations? Can you like investigate more? I noticed that was an option. So it’s kind of like the difference between Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, where you get a lot more options to talk to a person and get information?
Dan: Well, I think what it is is that it’s not so much expanded; it’s better organized. In Dragon Age Origins, quite often you’d have like eight responses. But because you couldn’t tell what was moving the dialogue forward and what was an “investigate”, um, sometimes you would pick an option, and you would lose an all those investigates because you picked the wrong one. It wasn’t like the top ones were the ones that moved forward and the bottom ones were the optional things. It was just completely random order. So, we said that “we want to be clear,” you know, how the dialogue was structured. So, when you go into an investigate, you always come back to the investigates. You never lose the investigates. When you pick something on that’s on the right side of the wheel, you always move the dialogue forward and your gonna lose those on the left side of the wheel. So people can make, much more, you know, if you want to really plumb a dialogue for all its options [Smurf Village ring tone goes off] [Dan smirks] “That’s my Smurf village going off, which proves how hardcore I am.”
If you want to really plumb the depths of a dialogue, then, it’s a lot clearer how to do that now. But I think the real improvement that we’ve made to dialogue, both versus Dragon Age Origins and versus Mass Effect, are the icons that are in the middle of the conversation. There are about probably 15 icons that we show throughout the game. And they are intended to give you the a sense of the intent of what Hawke is saying. So,there’s an icon for example for you being diplomatic, you being helpful, you being a jerk. Well, you’re being not so much of a jerk, as you are being-aggressive.
Cam: I really like the happy faced one.
Cam: That’s supposed to be like..
Dan: Smart ass.
Cam: Yeah that, the smart ass! Yeah that was hilarious.
Greg: “I want to be a dragon.” (One of the options at the demo screen for conversation choice)
Cam: I wanna be a dragon.
Dan: Yeah [laughs]
Some of the other things covered were items like the crossed swords dialogue. Meaning that there was going to be some sort of confrontation or that there was going to be a battle that ensues from the conversation. The plus side is that the game wont tell you whether or not the conversation will lead to some sort of confrontation. Leaving players to the exploration of the dialogue, as Dan was describing.
We’ve got more coming your way for Dragon Age II coverage. Make sure to check out the hands on impressions here!