CCC: I'm sure many BioWare fans have been waiting for the company to return to their fantasy roots for a long time now.MD: If you're familiar with BioWare's games, when you play this game we want you to feel what you felt when you played Baldur's Gate or Neverwinter Nights. Obviously the gameplay is more modern that that, but I think it's about evoking that emotional experience. There is something here for more mainstream gamers, people who aren't familiar with us, but this is a game designed specifically to evoke certain emotions in people who are familiar with our games.
CCC: What aspects of the game are going to appeal to those gamers who aren't as familiar BioWare's older games or those who know you from your more recent console games?
MD: One thing that I'm really proud of on the consoles is that because we took the user interface down to the ground and redid it, it actually does feel like a console game. It's fast-paced. It's less tactical, more action. But in the end, it's still got the same story, still got that same depth. For people who become our fans because they played Mass Effect, they'll get that same quality of story, that same depth. I think Dragon Age actually delivers more of that than they may have gotten from Mass Effect.
CCC: Does the high fantasy setting have as big of a pull as Mass Effect's sci-fi world for the modern console gamer?
MD: I think it can. I think that's one of the reasons that we've twisted it to a certain degree. There are the darker elements of a bloodier, grimmer fantasy introduced into a high fantasy world to create sort of a hybrid. You get the more visceral nature of the bloodiness and you've got the political aspects of something like a George R.R. Martin story. I think by having this darkness and these politics it makes it something more complicated and more interesting.
CCC: The fact that fantasy games are not as common as they once were could be considered a selling point in today's world of shooters and sports games.
MD: For whatever reason, and I think it's technology-based, we as the industry tend to cluster around certain genres. At the moment we're sort of clustering around the shooter space. And that absolutely does help set Dragon Age apart from the rest of the games. There aren't five other games like us coming out this year.
CCC: Do you think the success of the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion helped create some new potential fans for Dragon Age?
MD: Absolutely. Oblivion is a great game. It's a game of choice. But it doesn't really guide you through the story. It lets you find it on your own. I think Dragon Age has the advantage of telling a stronger story and giving you a little bit of guidance while still giving you that breadth of choice.
CCC: Everybody here [At the BioWare event] does seem to be having a very different experience. Everyone will go through Ostagar where they become a Grey Warden, but after that I think you'll see everyone diverge again once you get past that. What else would you like gamers to know about Dragon Age?
MD: If you've never played a role-playing game before but are interested in the direction that games are going with more storytelling, then this is a game that will introduce to you what storytelling truly can be in games. For fans of BioWare, who have been looking for something for a long time that harkens back to our roots, this is a game that does that. It brings back that feeling without being the same game. I hope we can bring in a lot of new people and make them into BioWare fans without alienating anyone along the way.
Mike LaidlawML: I'm Mike Laidlaw, and I'm the Lead Designer of Dragon Age.
CCC: With no pun intended, what was the origin of the Dragon Age project?
ML: It starts with a love of Dungeons & Dragons. I think most of the guys who were involved in BioWare's founding were in the same AD&D game. So you have this real culture of that. BioWare very practically decided after working on the D&D license and working on Knights of the Old Republic that we wanted to take a crack at building our own IP. We had top-notch writers, great creative minds, so we said that we think we can do this. You'll notice that the past few games - Jade Empire, Mass Effect, and now Dragon Age - are all unique IPs. We're not opposed to licensed games - look at Star Wars: The Old Republic. Mass Effect was really an extension of the question "What would a BioWare version of Star Wars look like?" And Dragon Age was really where the heart was - let's go back home to fantasy. Looking at the trend of darker fantasy, like George R.R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice as an obvious example, it seemed like fantasy is growing up. And the gaming base is growing up. The Baldur's Gate fans are now in their 30s with kids, including us. So we decided it was time to go back, time to make our own world, and out of that came Dragon Age.