By Liana Ruppert
– March 22, 2018
The BioWare community says a tearful goodbye to the man behind some of the most iconic franchises in gaming history. Mike Laidlaw has been paramount to works such as the Mass Effect trilogy, the Dragon Age franchise, and the infamous Jade Empire title.
When he bade his farewells back in October, he even penned his goodbye letter with “Ma serannas,” a popular Elven endearment from the Dragon Age series that means “my thanks.” Many were sad to see him leave, but we did at least have a sense of closure because he has been very open about his departure. For the most part, he was looking at the future for an extensive amount of time and was just looking for the “perfect time” to make his exit to pursue other ventures. In a recent panel at GDC however, the topic of Dragon Age 4 came up and the latest upset has many fans worried it will be Andromeda’d.
When we say Andromeda’d, we don’t mean it as a slight to the title or those that enjoyed it. It’s an unfortunate fact that the latest in the Mass Effect series underperformed because its staff was stripped away of its Mass Effect veterans to work on their upcoming title, Anthem. In the place of seasoned space RPG developers, a huge chunk of the team was comprised of newbies to the franchise, and newbies to using the Frostbite engine as well. Pair that with the developer team cuts made by EA, and Andromeda was set up to fail.
During a panel at GDC, Mike Laidlaw mentioned something that could very well mean a repetition in behavior. When discussing why that time to leave, Laidlaw said:
“I wanted to try a new challenge, and I knew that [the staff reassignments] would change the date,” he says. “I was going to have a very small skeleton crew, and I’m lucky because Patrick Weekes is an exceptional lead writer, Daniel Kading is an exceptional lead designer. There were two very veteran designers who could hold a vision, and it was going to move down to a very small team.
“I thought if I’m ever gonna go, this is the least disruptive time for me to leave. So I would be stunned if whatever plan I had remained completely unchanged.”
But before you panic, he did also add:
The creative leads need to be present and guiding, and the team needs to do whatever they’re passionate about,” he says. “I don’t have any fear that they’ll change the world because there’s a pretty deep respect for what it’s done.” He also went on about his interest in the future of the franchise and what a potential ‘reboot’ means for the franchise, “Very likely they went through a redesign phase, that’s pretty normal. And I’ve heard reboot, but I’m not sure what that means contextually,” he says. “I would find it unlikely to be a new Star Trek kind of thing. It’s more likely that the existing plans will be re-examined in light of existing leadership.”
“There are so many more stories to tell. I don’t think [Inquisition] was a perfect game. I think it was a game that taught us some really good lessons,” he says. “However, I would be happy and proud to have been involved in all of the Dragon Ages at that point. I think it would be a shame to set the world aside at this point.
“Whenever it’s finished, it’s going to be weird. It’s going to be very strange because that was a significant part of my identity for the better of a decade. And yet I’m really enjoying what I’m doing now.”