Friday, September 27, 2013
BioWare made quite a few mistakes with Dragon Age II. Mistakes that it plans to rectify with Dragon Age: Inquisition, the next instalment in the series that aims to bring together the best of what made Dragon Age: Origins such an involving RPG and what made Dragon Age II entertaining, despite its shortcomings.
Having seen Dragon Age: Inquisition gameplay for the first time at next-gen spec, we were given the opportunity to talk more about the third game in the series, its new mechanics, new storyline and your role as new hero, The Inquisitor.
Sitting down to talk with Dragon Age: Inquisition's Cinematic Director Jonathan Perry, we asked about what we can expect in the way of familiarity and what else is new for the upcoming RPG on current and next-gen platforms. Can you ride a dragon? Who are you fighting? And most importantly of all, can you choose what kind of carpets you want for your keep?
Dragon Age: Inquisition picks up following the events of the first two games. How far along the timeline is it and what kind of state do we find Thedas in?
I can't put a number on exactly how long has passed, but I can say it's shortly after [Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II], so Varric and Cassandra are working together now, and there's certainly a story there, because they did interact during the story in Dragon Age II. But it is shortly after, and the state of the world, with this giant rift opening up in the sky - causing demons to spew out of the Fade into the real world - all of these organisations that you've met and worked with in the past, they're all so completely disorganised. They're still fighting against one another, so the Mage/Templar conflict is still unresolved, and the Chantry is in disorder as well as the Seekers. It's really chaos.
A lot of those conflicts that came up at the end of Dragon Age II have not been resolved, and so it's a little too perfectly organised, it's a little too synchronised to be coincidental. You have to form this Inquisition to get to the bottom of what's going on.
Yours is the role of The Inquisitor. Is he the leader of the Inquisition, or a cog in a bigger machine?
The Inquisitor is the leader. His ultimate goal is to return order to this world that's been plunged into chaos, and you do so through various means, one of which is managing the resources of the Inquisition. Over the course of the narrative, you'll grow the power, the resources and your influence over the Inquisition, and you're able to use your Inquisition troops and forces to have an effect on the world around you.
All of the areas you go through do have a reason for you as The Inquisitor to go through, as one of the guys in an earlier interview was asking: “So you poison a well. Do I have to go poison the well as The Inquisitor? Because it seems like something I'd send one of my guys to do.” You will have resources at your disposal to help you pursue your goals.
With these Fade tears popping up throughout the world, will closing them operate like they did in previous the Dragon Age games in which you have to actually enter the Fade and maybe close them from within?
I can't comment too much on that, because it touches on a little bit of the story. But one of the goals as The Inquisitor is to go and try to close these tears and seal them off, so there aren't all these demons spewing out into the world. The huge Fade tear in the sky and the Fade tears in the world, they certainly play a big part in the narrative of Dragon Age: Inquisition.
What kind of demons can we expect to see spilling through Fade tears then? Are they familiar Dragon Age creatures or are they all new monsters?
You will see some of the demons we've had in previous games, but the Fade is full of all sorts of demons, so there were a couple we revealed in the E3 trailer that people hadn't seen before. We do want to add several new creatures as well.
As your party is exclusively made up of human-sized members – dwarves, mages, elves etc. - does that limit the size of the demons you'll be fighting, or will you face some towering creatures?
No, I wouldn't say so. For example, the dragon we showed you in the gameplay demo is just massive. We wanted to create some very complex and challenging battles where you might have some little guys you have to fight, some enemies your size, but also some giant creatures where you'll just look up and think 'how am I going to do this?!' We're really creating some challenging and engaging battles, some including creatures that are way, way bigger than you.
You'll be capturing keeps in Dragon Age: Inquisition too. Do you start off with a keep? Once you capture a keep, what kind of customisation options will you have?
You won't necessarily start with a keep, but there'll be keeps out in the world, whether they're abandoned or occupied, and you'll have to go and take them over. It's something that we see as taking a bit of an effort for you to march through the front door and kill everybody. It'll take a bit of planning to take over these keeps, but once you do have possession of a keep, you have a lot of options, and some of them can be role-playing customisation, like what you want it to look like and what you want your Inquisition to represent.
This also opens up a lot of interesting gameplay opportunities, like being able to gain access to areas in a level that you didn't previously have access to, or new quests in the area, or possibly new resources at your disposal.
To what level can you cosmetically customise your keep? Can I put up wallpaper and lay some carpets?
(Laughs) I won't get into specifics, but we do want to give players a lot of customisation choices. We're doing more with customisation in your bases and with your appearance as a player, with your weapons, your armour. There's customisation for almost everything. We're doing a lot of customisation, but I can't go into specific details. We think you'll be quite pleased.
Using the Frostbite 3 Engine has introduced destructible scenery for Dragon Age: Inquisition. To what extent are the environments destructible? Will it be more obvious places like the wooden bridge we saw in the demo, or will most of the environment be destructible?
Well, it certainly won't go as far as the Battlefield games where you can effectively blow up anything. We want you to use [destruction] strategically, and so a lot of times you'll find destructible scenery on battlegrounds where you can be clever about destroying certain objects to have an impact on the environment and use it to your advantage.
One of the things that we didn't really talk about during the gameplay demo, was the opposite of destroying things: building things. There will be abilities that allow you to [rebuild scenery]. If you find a place you can't quite get up to, and you can find a shattered steps or a ladder, you'll be able to reconstruct them and gain access to that area you couldn't otherwise get to before. It's us thinking strategically about how we want you to be able to modify the environment to your advantage.
With Thedas being such a large world, will we see a lot of fast travel points? Will mounts be readily available when you need them?
You'll have pretty easy access to mounts, so you'll be able to grab a horse, if say you've found all the resources in an area and want to press on. It'll be quick to summon your horse. In terms of fast travel points, we haven't really mentioned anything about that, so unfortunately I can't go into much detail. But you will be able to jump between these large areas very easily using the world map to go from one open-world region to another if you like.
We're creating these huge worlds, and in a lot of ways we're still designing how we go about moving around them very quickly.
With the introduction of mounts, have you been toying with the idea of the dragon mount, like Skyrim had patched in post-launch?
(Laughs) A lot of people have asked about dragon mounts. Unfortunately we can't really comment on that. The horse is the only thing we're able to confirm at this point. Although I was going to tweet a cool image that I made in Dragon Age: Origins where there's a bunch of soldiers riding a spider, and a goat, and like these little baby dragons...
… I hadn't even though of that. I want a goat mount.
It's pretty funny. I made it as a joke in Dragon Age: Origins. But the only thing we've talked about as far as mounts go, is the horse.
Talking about locations for a second; are there going to be familiar places that you'll recognise from previous Dragon Age games in Dragon Age: Inquisition, like Denerim from Dragon Age II and places like that?
Unfortunately I can't confirm locations! (Laughs) I would hope we'll be able to find places that are familiar to players, while also exploring new areas. So, similar to the followers we have; we want to bring back some fan favourites, whether it's as NPCs or followers, and we'll travel to areas that you've been to before, as well as places that fans have always wanted to go to. We're trying to find that perfect blend of old and new.
Has it been challenging developing a game that's on both current-gen and next-gen platforms, while presumably having to ramp up for the next console cycle?
Absolutely. Development as a whole has been quite challenging, because as you know, we're working with a brand new engine, and it's something that didn't support out of the box the combat system and the branching dialogue that we wanted to do for an RPG. We've been building a lot of new functionality into the Frostbite 3 Engine, and the great thing about it is, it's so powerful and so it's really great for high-end PCs and next-gen consoles, but as we've seen with Battlefield 4, the engine is quite demanding on current-gen consoles.
It has been a challenge, but we're fully committed to providing a really awesome experience on current-gen consoles as well. And while we'll be looking to take advantage of next-gen features, we want that core gameplay experience to be the same, whether you're playing on next-gen or current-gen consoles.
In terms of Dragon Age: Inquisition's cinematics, have you been employing technology like performance capture? It seems to be something that's becoming increasingly prevalent in games.
We haven't really used any full performance capture. We've always done a lot of mo-cap and we've certainly explored a lot of these opportunities. I think using the facial capture; they did a little bit of that for Battlefield and other projects that have been using Frostbite 3, but because of the massive scale of the cinematics we have to create, we're utilising more traditional means. We have built a lot of really cool systems that allow us to use directive generation to create assets more quickly at a very basic level, and then spend our time maybe taking those from 70 percent to 100 percent quality, as opposed to building everything from scratch. We have had to build a lot of tools and have explored some new solutions, but for the most part we've come up with our own custom solutions for creating all of these cinematics in the game.
With a lot of new and returning characters promised for Dragon Age: Inquisition, were there internal arguments about which ones should come back as followers or play key roles in the game?
(Laughs) Not that I was privy to, no. I think there were a few fan favourites that we wanted to come back, and we had at one point planned a DLC for Dragon Age II called 'Exalted March' that we ended up not doing because we felt it was important to go ahead and switch over to new technology to really start focusing on Dragon Age: Inquisition. Some of the characters that are returning are ones we'd planned to bring back for that DLC, so we really wanted to bring them back for Inquisition. A lot of that was kind of driven by the writers, so it's possible that they had some arguments, because there are a lot of really passionate fans, and every follower has a group of people that really want to see them again. We try to accommodate that as much as possible.
Finally, how will romancing work in the game? Is it the same kind of deal as previous BioWare games, or can anyone romance anyone?
I wouldn't say that anyone can romance anyone, but there will certainly be characters who fancy a certain type of person more than another. We haven't really been able to comment on how many of your followers will be 'romance-able' or who will be 'romance-able', but we do have a whole lot of interesting combinations. Romance is a really important part of our storytelling, and we really want to give the player a lot of options there.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is out in fall 2014. Read our first-look preview here.
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