EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Heroes Of Dragon Age Producer Tim Lander

For fans of the Dragon Age games, having to wait until next fall for the next installment, Dragon Age: Inquisition, is unacceptable. Good thing they can get their fix, and portably, with Heroes Of Dragon Age, a new iOS and Android game from Capital Games and Electronic Arts. But as Producer Tim Lander explains it, while Heroes Of Dragon Age takes you back to Thedas, it isn’t a shrunken version of Dragon Age: Origins. Or Dragon Age II. Or even Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Heroes Of Dragon Age 01

For those unfamiliar with the game, what kind of game is Heroes Of Dragon Age?

Heroes Of Dragon Age is a squad-based strategy game in which players collect legendary Dragon Age heroes and monsters to battle their friends and fight through key historical events in the Dragon Age lore. H.O.D.A. has some parallels to such well-loved mobile CCGs [collectibe card games] as Blood Brothers, but with 3D visuals and deeply strategic combat.

Why did you decide to make this kind of game, as opposed to a puzzle game or something else?

Capital Games have a history of making deeply strategic experiences, and since fans of Dragon Age are also looking for a deeply strategic experience, it was a natural fit. Our focus then simply became creating an experience that was easy to play but hard to master, with accessible gameplay, visually stunning graphics, and an experience made for phones and tablets.

How much say did the good people at BioWare, who make the console and PC Dragon Age games, have in deciding what kind of game this would be?

We have a very strong relationship with BioWare, and worked with them from day one to ensure that we created the best possible experience for the Dragon Age series. As a studio, Capital Games have always had a deep respect for BioWare, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to work on this game.

One interesting aspect of Heroes Of Dragon Age is that you don’t actually do the fighting. Instead, you set your guys in motion and watch them go at it. Why did you decide to go this route as opposed to a more hands-on approach?

We made a very deliberate decision to not do interactivity in combat for two reasons. First, our game, at its core, is a strategy game where players assemble a squad of heroes that fight well together. Games with interactivity can be fun, but as twitch mechanics are added, strategy is removed.

Second, fighting against other players is a key part of mobile games, and the current combat system makes the game fair. You’re not always going to be logged in when you’re attacked and you want your squad’s strategy to be just as strong when you’re offline as when you’re attacking.

Heroes Of Dragon Age combat

How does Heroes Of Dragon Age’s story connect to the other Dragon Age games?

H.O.D.A. is not a story-based game. We chose to put our resources into making a mobile strategy game set in the Dragon Age universe.

The benefit of that approach is that we had the freedom to explore any time or place in the lore — including the comics, the animated movie, the books, etc. — without any linear or narrative constraints. The game we’ve created allows you to build almost any party you can imagine using characters or creatures in the Dragon Age universe, and play through the history of Thedas.

The game is coming out for both smart phones and tablets. Besides having a bigger screen, and thus a bigger picture, is there any difference between the smart phone version and the tablet one?

In addition to a bigger screen, many tablets also allow for a higher fidelity visual experience due to stronger hardware. But for gameplay, the experience on smart phones and tablets is uniform. Though with the addition of Apple’s Game Center and Google’s Game Services, players can actually play their game on multiple devices.

Heroes Of Dragon Age is free-to-play. How much of the game is actually free to play, and what kinds of things can you buy?

Everything in Heroes Of Dragon Age can be earned through gameplay. When we were making the game, we did so under the guideline that we didn’t want people to feel like they have to pay to get to content. There are over a hundred characters to collect at launch, and every character can be obtained through winning quests and battling against other players to earn gold. In-game purchases are available to simply increase the chances of a rare drop character, but all characters are available through gameplay. In addition, there are many opportunities to earn the premium currency through gameplay such as completing mastery of quests.

Heroes Of Dragon Age grind

But my understanding is that, among people who played the game before it came out, some felt that you have to buy stuff to get ahead, otherwise you have to really grind for a long time. Is this something you’ll be fixing before the game comes out?

Players can currently receive every unit in the game from any pack, and have multiple ways to earn gems to get the best packs all without paying. In addition, there are more features on the roadmap to continue to give free players opportunities to get high rarity drops and earn gold and gems. We will continue to tune the game to make the best possible experience for all our players.

Are there any plans to bring the game to consoles when Dragon Age: Inquisition comes out?

Heroes Of Dragon Age was made for phones and tablets; we have no plans of porting it to a console.

Given how much Sony and Microsoft are pushing connectivity between the PS4 and Xbox One with tablets and smart phones, will there be any connectivity between Heroes Of Dragon Age and Dragon Age: Inquisition?

It’s a stand alone title but, as I mentioned before, we have a very strong relationship with BioWare and are always looking for areas in which we can collaborate.

If you do end up having it connect to Dragon Age: Inquisition, will the sound your game makes when the connection is established be take off of the line from Monty Python’s Flying Circus — “No one expects Dragon Age: Inquisition!” — or the “Inquisition” song from Mel Brook’s History Of The World Part I?

[smiles]

Heroes Of Dragon Age mel brooks

Alright then. Moving on. Do you think this kind of game could work for any other EA franchises?

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Dragon Age, and am really excited to be working on this game. But I could see several other EA titles also having a similar focus of deeply strategic combat, highly accessible gameplay, and stunning graphics.

That said, I’m most excited about making Heroes Of Dragon Age continue to be an incredible experience for our players. These games have long life spans, and we’re dedicated to providing additional content, both in terms of new features and additional characters after launch. We want to give them lots of reasons to come back to the game and keep playing for years to come.

Finally, the shorthand for Heroes Of Dragon Age — as you know because you’ve used it — is H.O.D.A. What’s the best Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford joke anyone’s made about your game?

Ha, you’re the first person I’ve heard make that association. But they should try out the game. We have many female Dragon Age fans.

 

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