Dragon Age II's Old School Influences

Destructoid offers another article-style interview with Dragon Age II lead designer Mike Laidlaw, this time talking about the old school influences that can be found in the RPG sequel.
"To me, the hallmarks of a classic role-playing game would be: story-driven, stat-based, and to some lesser degree, there's a bunch of ancillary baggage that comes with it. I have inventory, I have customization." Laidlaw happily places both Dragon Age: Origins and its sequel in the classic category. "I think Dragon Age II has all the hallmarks ... and those elements were really critical to, I think, Origins' success.

"But ..." There is always a but.

"I think [Dragon Age II] sidesteps what I see as almost like traditions. Traditional weak points of the classic RPG are ... they're daunting. High barrier to entry. They're hard to get into," he says. BioWare's own player-tracking statistics tell a similar tale: a significant portion of Origins players had their own mystifying "other" moments, dropping the game after only an hour.

"They weren't even getting an Achievement," Laidlaw continues. The team was tempted to chalk those dropped players up to rentals, but the stats made it clear that people simply dropped the game.

Those stats had a dramatic effect on Laidlaw and his team, prompting them to totally re-evaluate how Dragon Age II fits into the auspices of classic role playing. "So our goal with 2, I think, is to strip away a lot of that barrier to entry to let you ease into the game," says Laidlaw.

It is Laidlaw's hope that players will be able to gradually immerse themselves in the Dungeons and Dragons-based mechanics through a set of increasingly-complex stages. Deciding, for example, that "I'm pretty sure I'd like to play as a rogue who is male," is the first step, says Laidlaw. "And then I kind of ease into, 'Ok, cool, these are my starting abilities and do I want to go more archery, do I want to dual-wield, or do I want to ... use more bombs and poisons?" Laidlaw explains that the team was adamant about not moving away from it's Gygax-inspired bedrock, preferring to streamline the tutorial and user interface instead.