If only weapons and loot were as available in real life as in the video game universe, falling out of the cabinets and desk drawers we open throughout the day, hidden in the catacombs of our white-collar office supply rooms...And if this thinking appears a bit excessive, that's only because we've been raised on games like Dungeon Siege. With the third chapter of this epic franchise currently on the way, we sat down with Chris Taylor, CEO/Founder of Gas Powered Games, and Nathaniel Chapman, Lead Designer at Obsidian, to talk about the highly anticipated title.
G4: What's new about Dungeon Siege 3 that you're showing here at Gamescom?
Chris Taylor: What's new is we're showing an improved version of the game from the one we showed at E3. We are showing co-op multiplayer, our drop-in / drop-out co-op multiplayer. We're showing our ability system, where every character class has two stances they can swap between, each of which has three different abilities. There's also a defensive stance, which also gives you access to other abilities, so you've got nine different abilities on top of all your attacks.
We're showing off the Causeway, which is our fast travel solution. It's kind of a cool interplanetary road network that was built by the 10th Legion. So that's what you'll use to get between the distant locations in the game. We have a seamless, no load screen experience, just like Dungeon Siege 1, so you go from beginning to end without a single load screen. That's the majority of what we're showing here.
G4: How has working with Square Enix changed development of the game?
Chris: My experience, because I worked with Square Enix on Supreme Commander 2, is that they have the utmost respect for the vision holder. It's a tremendous experience and something I've not come across to the same degree previously in the business. It feels like if you're making a decision it wasn't going to get overturned or reversed or modified heavily. I think that comes from the cultural foundation of the company, working with Final Fantasy where those guys hold a lot of value and respect.
Nathaniel Chapman: You've got a publisher who has a lot of respect for developers and that's really special.
G4: For Deus Ex 3, Square Enix is helping those guys out with the pre-rendered cutscenes. Is that something you were given the opportunity to take advantage of?
Nathaniel: That's not something that is happening for Dungeon Siege.
G4: How important is story to the game?
Nathaniel: Story is very important to the game. Story's kind of what Obsidian is known for, story and dialogue and companions and things like that. And that's something I see Obsidian bringing to the franchise. So, we have our trademark dialogue system, the dialogue trees with decision making, which has impact on the story. We have our companions that the player goes through the game with and you can gain influence with them. If you say certain things in dialogue that they like, they can gain special abilities or give you different story options.
So story and character development is a big part of what makes Dungeon Siege 3 special.
G4: So is this the typical silent protagonist thing where you're meant to impose your personality onto the main character, or are they a fully fleshed out main character within the story?
Nathaniel: You do select dialogue options as you play through the game, but he is fully voiced. We didn't want to load the player with too much back-story, because we didn't want the player to not be able to find their role in the game. There is some back-story based on which character class you pick at the beginning of the game, but it's more about what the player chooses to do during the game.
G4: How does the story fit into the Dungeon Siege series?
Nathaniel: Our game takes place 150 years after Dungeon Siege 1 and 2. We wanted people who played the first two games to get a little extra out of the story, but we didn't want you to have to play the first two games to understand what was going on. So we took the story of the first two games, and Chris actually gave us a lot of great feedback on the lore and the setting and the world, and from there we pulled out some threads which we took forward 150 years...
The big one is the 10th Legion, who founded the nation of Ehb and protected it. Through the past 150 years, they've been defending it, but unfortunately some events have happened that have caused them to fall into disfavour. That's caused a lot of political chaos, a lot of turmoil, and monsters are not being controlled because the Legion isn't there to protect people again. So you play a descendant of the Legion who is trying to bring the Legion back so that they can help reunite the Kingdoms of Ehb and keep people safe again.
G4: What prompted this return to the Dungeon Siege franchise?
Chris: Yoichi Wada, CEO of Square Enix Japan, he set down a mandate to expand into the West. So they set up the LA office and David Hoffman, our producer and business development guy, went out and visited all the studios. He talked to us about our IPs and what we might be interested in doing with it and we made Supreme Commander 2.
Further to that he said to us, "I was wondering if you guys would be interested in doing something with Dungeon Siege with another developer...At the top of the list is Obsidian." And I said "Well, look no further. They are the right partner for this and, if they're available, that's wonderful." So the rest is history.
Nathaniel: From Obsidian's perspective, we've always wanted to work with Square and Dungeon Siege is a great franchise to work on, so it was very fortuitous and we were very excited.
G4: So when you got access to the franchise, was there anything you were desperate to add or take away right from the start?
Nathaniel: I think the thing that felt very natural for us to add was what we're doing with story and companion and choice and consequence of dialogue. That felt like something that would bring a lot of value and the trick was to figure out how to do that without breaking what made Dungeon Siege great: the fast paced combat. So, that's been one of the bigger additions and something we've been excited to add to the game.
There have been a lot of other things that we've thought about keeping or changing, but really it's been very important to us that we stay true to what made Dungeon Siege great, like fast paced, fun gameplay with a lot of loot.
G4: What lessons did you learn from fan feedback from previous Dungeon Siege games?
Nathaniel: One of the biggest things we learned was that fans care a lot about loot. There's a thread that's like twelve pages long on our forums just talking about how great loot was in Dungeon Siege, telling us we'd better not screw that up. Also, looking at how people play the game and that experience of just dropping in and having fun and getting loot and feeling like you're growing in power is something that resonates with a lot of people. So that's one of the things that is very important to us as we continue to develop Dungeon Siege.
G4: I noticed as I watched the demonstration that the way loot is presented to the player is very rooted in the game world, rather than a box popping up listing what's in a chest, or loot falling out of enemies as they die. How did that come about?
Nathaniel: We have a goofy term for it on the team, we call it "Pow!" It's basically the idea that when loot comes out of a monster it shouldn't just appear on the ground; it should explode out of them with, like, sparkles and a million particle effects. Just the idea that whenever you do something in the game, it should be awesome. With the loot, we didn't want it to feel like, "Okay, I'm opening up a window and clicking buttons to get my loot."
You see in the demo that when you attack a skeleton, bones fly off them. We just wanted to have that feeling that everything is visceral and in the world, that was really important to us.
G4: How has co-op implementation changed from previous Dungeon Siege games?
Nathaniel: Something that was really cool in Dungeon Siege 1, but didn't fit into the story of Dungeon Siege 3, was this cool multiplayer world that you could explore separately from the main story. What we wanted to focus on was keeping the story in our single player game and the multiplayer game the same. So we wanted to have you go through that cool story experience with your friends in multiplayer and that's where we've focused our energy...
G4: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Nathaniel: This is the first game using the Onyx engine. It's an internally developed engine at Obsidian and we're really happy with how visually it looks. We think it's going to let us achieve a really immersive, moody... we've got a lot of great feedback on the lighting at this show. That's been something that's really exciting for us, to finally be able to show off our new tech.