With the release of the Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC, Trespasser, a couple of weeks ago and the announcement of the definitive Game of the Year Edition earlier this week, it is clear that DA:I is a finished product. We had the opportunity to talk with Dragon Age Lead Designer Mike Laidlaw about Trespasser, the (possible) future of the franchise and more.
MMORPG: How long were the events of Dragon Age: Inquisition in the planning stages?
Mike Laidlaw: The way we approached DA, when we first built the world, we did a deep dive on lore. David Gaider went really hard core fleshing out nations with the idea of not building a game, but a world. We wanted it to have texture. We played with ideas and placed them, hinted at them, for almost 8 years throughout the series. Some of the nature of, for instance, Elven gods has always been there. We looked at the elements we wanted to feature most and we tried not to break our own rules and add resolution around whatever subject we’re dealing with. Jaws was an opportunity to look at the Avvar from their perspective. Trespasser let us jump out a lot of lore. It was part of that arc. Trespasser gave us the chance to explore the world and lore in ways we’d never done before.
MMORPG: Was DAI always planned to be the base game + 3 DLC with Trespasser bringing it to a definitive end?
Mike: No, not really. We wanted it to be built as its own distinct story. We hinted at future content with the arc based around Solas and his disappearance. We want to keep the story alive and filled with interesting elements for the future. It was about identity, a major theme in the game…a lot of that comes through – not everyone is or was who they said. When we started working on DLC, we wanted to demonstrate mastery over certain things. We wanted to do an exploration of the world with more story meshed in it. So when we got to Trespasser, we heard our fans. We wanted to provide more story. We didn’t expect Solas to get the fervor he did but he did and we followed. At the same time, we wanted Trespasser to feel it was its own set of narrative themes. It’s clearly a post-game epilogue and it stands on its own feet.
MMORPG: Is Trespasser designed with the franchise’s future in mind because there have been a lot of “if the series continues” statements in the last month or so. Has anything changed with Trespasser’s release? Will the series continue?
Mike: The thing about being part of EA, is something that changes the rules about what you promise. It creates responsibility around communication. It’s one of those things in the future. We haven’t made any statements or made promises we can’t keep with 100% certainty.
MMORPG: What have been the lessons, for good or bad, that the team has taken away from working on DAI and Trespasser and how will those lessons affect future development?
Mike: It’s hard to say. Off the top of my head, one thing that is intriguing to us is that this was the first time we’ve done content that required you to finish the game before you can play it. Seeing it be successful and recognizing that most saw it as a valuable addition rather than a negative was an incredible learning experience for us. Comparing the 3 DLCs, it reminds us, unsurprisingly to us, that story sinks in better and causes people to engage in it more deeply. It will be a great data point we’ll look at in the future. We’re going to look very hard at Trespasser for the future.
MMORPG: Will any future multiplayer DLC be released or is it also complete?
Mike: We’re continuing support with challenges, events and such, up to the new year and we’ll evaluate it from there. We’re wrapping up development on DAI for a while to focus on MEA. As far as big content drops, no, nothing else is planned.
MMORPG: Are there any unique new features or additions in it? Were some of the more noticeable bugs squashed for the GotY edition?
Mike: The GotY is a complete package that players before now could pick up along the way. It incorporates all patches, DLC but it doesn’t add anything that wasn’t already available. Id’ hate to be in a position where people felt they needed to buy something else in order to get something that wasn’t included from the start.
MMORPG: What are the team members doing now?
Mike: The studio is a multiproject studio where the majority of team members will move on to new projects with new skills. Most have moved on to Mass Effect.
MMORPG: Anything else you’d like to add for DA fans?
Mike: It’s been quite a ride. I’m proud of the game and the work that the team did. I’m exceptionally happy people played through the experience and I’m intrigued where we can go from here. There are huge opportunities to move forward. I really appreciate people’s support, enthusiasm and how they continue to tell stories within the IP.