Dragon Age 2 lead dev: "we stripped some stuff out of DA because it was busted"

Dragon Age 2 - bad ogre

Reader, Gavin points us towards an interesting discussion unfolding on the Bioware forums , where lead designer Mike Laidlaw, has been talking to fans about the most controversial changes made to the Dragon Age: Origins formula for Dragon Age 2, saying "I've said it before, and I will say it again: we stripped some stuff out of DA becuase it was busted"

"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," Laidlaw adds. "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."

At the same time, Laidlaw says that Bioware are listening carefully to fan feedback to Dragon Age 2. He points toward the recently released DLC pack, Legacy as an indication that the developers have been acting on some of the most controversial aspects of the sequel, including the use of repeated areas, respawning waves of enemies and the customisation of party followers.

"Legacy, I think, goes a long way towards demonstrating that we are listening, that we are aware of the weaknesses of DAII, and that we will continue to address them," writes Laidlaw. "Up until Legacy, though, I don't think anyone would have believed me if I'd said we were going to take it into account. A lot of people on this forum had built up a grand conspiracy theory where we were deliberately stripping RPG out of Dragon Age because we are MEAN."

The forum discussion was sparked by a video posted by Bioware forumite Kothoses Rothenkisal debating the positive effects that community feedback can have on a game in development. The thread quickly turned into a discussion about the possible changes Bioware would make for Dragon Age 3 based on the passionate backlash to the sequel from some Dragon Age fans. Mike Laidlaw then appeared to address a few of Dragon Age 2's most controversial points. Here are his comments on each of them:

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 even 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 aggrivated 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.

"There's more issues out there, for sure, but those are some that I'm comfortable talking about at this point," says Laidlaw, adding "there's a game out there that's better than both Origins and DAII, and I'll be damned if the talented folks of the DA team can't find it."

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.