PC Gamer: As an RPG specialist, do you ever yearn to try different settings beyond the really obvious sci-fi and high fantasy ones? I’ve always thought about an RPG set in World War 1 or modern office politics.
MD: Yeah, I mean we did Jade Empire obviously, so that’s different… But yeah I think there’s lots of opportunities, lots of places. You can basically tell a story anywhere. I think a modern setting is really interesting. I think it’s both an amazing opportunity because it’s so accessible. It’s so immediately understandable. It’s like ‘oh ok, I talk to people on my cellphone and I drive around in my car,” but that comes actually with a huge danger because I know how a cellphone works and I know how my car works, so I can pick up on slight inaccuracies easily.
I think that’s why Fallout works, because you understand all the stuff in it but there are no cellphones. Like, you can do modern day but with magic, like a Harry Potter setting or a Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe setting. One of the advantages of something like World War 1 is it’s understandable, there’s cars, but you don’t know everything about it. I mean Red Dead Redemption is essentially set just before World War 1.
PC Gamer: It’s just before the railroads, isn’t it?
MD: Yeah, it’s in that weird period of time where people don’t really realize that it’s actually all at the same time. It’s after 1900 but just before World War 1, and you’re like ‘oh really? That’s when there’s cowboys?’ There’s this little smooshed period of time where people don’t understand that these are actually basically the same time.
PC Gamer: That was one of the problems with Watch Dogs: it had such a rich premise but because, like you said, it’s now and it’s filled with cyber stuff, you expect to have this freedom which would be almost impossible to code properly.
MD: Yeah, that’s exactly right. So I think that’s why you see games like Prototype or Infamous, where they’re modern but it’s more about your overarching power.
PC Gamer: It’s still fantastical.
MD: It’s still fantastical, so you can have someone still talking to you in your head because you have a cellphone, but you’re not expecting to go to the hardware store and buy some rope to solve your problem because they’ve introduced a reason why that’s not possible.
PC Gamer: There was talk of a multiplayer component being shown off today, but now you’ve decided not to. Why?
MD: The only reason we didn’t was just purely logistical. We’re right in the middle of going through the finalling process and during that we change our matchmaking servers between and that’s literally happening right now. So it was purely from a setup perspective, that’s the only reason we decided not to do it.
PC Gamer: But is it a versus type thing?
MD: It’s a four player co-op. Actually a lot like Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer.
PC Gamer: I really liked that.
MD: Yeah, except that it’s a little bit more dungeon delving, a little bit less horde mode. A little bit more exploratory. But yeah, very much like that. If you’re familiar with Mass Effect 3, I think you’ll find it very familiar.
PC Gamer: Does it still have the structure where you spend dollars on getting crates of stuff.
MD: It is driven by reinforcement packs, which are not called reinforcement packs. You gather gold and items during the matches and use the gold to buy loot crates, and you can also take the items you find and equip, or melt those items down into components and use them for crafting. It’s very similar to the single-player crafting, only you can also buy loot crates through microtransactions.
PC Gamer: Was it a case of you thinking ‘oh, we want to have a multiplayer mode’ or was it EA saying ‘this is an important area’?
MD: The weird thing is that the first game we looked at for Frostbite was called, well it was codenamed Blackfoot, and it was a Dragon Age pure multiplayer game that we ultimately didn’t go forward with, but that set the stage for what’s now the multiplayer in Inquisition. So it’s actually the first thing we were looking at. It wasn’t coming from either the success of Mass Effect, though that certainly was influential, or EA at all.
PC Gamer: In an ideal world how do you think Dragon Age Inquisition will change the perception of the series?
MD: I would like people to think that Dragon Age is a game that, at its core, is ambitious and grand. That really has a story to tell and a big world to explore. That it basically strikes that balance between a strong narrative spine and a big open world.
PC Gamer: Now that Battlefield: Hardline got pushed back, is Dragon Age: Inquisition the most important title for EA this holiday?
MD: We’re a big one right now, because I mean Fifa is huge for EA, but between now and Christmas… We’re the big one, yeah.