Hack-and-slash role-playing games such as the original Dungeon Siege and Diablo take on whole new lives when you play them online. It's one thing to battle against dozens of monsters alone, but when you team up with other human beings, these battles can turn into fast-paced, frenetic battle royals as each member of the team struggles to keep up his or her end. The upcoming Dungeon Siege II, due out this summer, promises to expand upon the multiplayer formula even further by letting players control a party of characters within their own parties. Confused? Let designer Daniel Achterman explain.
GameSpot: Could you give us a brief overview of Dungeon Siege II's multiplayer game? How will it differ from the original?
Daniel Achterman: There are three big new features in Dungeon Siege II multiplayer. The first is that each player can control multiple characters, so it feels like you and your friends are each controlling part of a single, large party. The second is that you can save multiplayer games and pick up right where you left off. And the third is that everyone gets his or her own quest rewards, so there's less arguing about who gets the rare "Bloodletter" sword.
Dungeon Siege II multiplayer has a really cool feel to it. It's fast, and there's always a ton going on. There are spells flinging fire and lightning around, mobs of monsters running about, and special powers doing all kinds of crazy things. On one level, you're doing everything you can to screw over the monsters as quickly as possible, but you're going to be most successful if you're working with the other players, which is pretty fun to do with everything that's going on.
GS: What were some of the most commonly requested multiplayer features from the fan community? How is the team turning this feedback into specific improvements in multiplayer?
DA: Without a doubt, the biggest request was for there to be more for players to do. Dungeon Siege was a party-based game, but you could only control one character in multiplayer, so it was a much simpler dynamic. Dungeon Siege II does two things on this front. First, it lets each player control multiple characters, so it brings that party-based dynamic in to multiplayer. Second, it gives players a lot more to do with each character. Players have a long list of spells to choose from at any given moment, and they have to use powers intelligently to keep up with their enemies. So Dungeon Siege II multiplayer really pulls them into the game.
GS: How will the expanded character development and skill systems play out online? What kinds of new strategies will be available for both beginners and veterans of online multiplayer games?
DA: Since everyone's controlling two or three characters, it feels like you and your friends are guiding one big party through the adventure. Personally, I like to use the character development system to create a couple of focused characters that work well together to do something specific for the party. For example, I'll make a defensive fighter and a buffing/healing nature mage, and I'll make it my job to keep everyone else alive. (That makes me a lot of friends.) That lets other people make focused hyperdamage-inflicting death-killer characters, and the cooperative aspect really sets it apart from single-player, where you do it all yourself. To succeed on the higher levels, your party really needs to be a well-oiled machine, with coordinated power use and stuff, which is a lot of fun considering how frantic the action is.
GS: How will the multiplayer game be structured? Will it, like the original Dungeon Siege, offer up the entire single-player campaign to play with other people online? Any plans for any multiplayer-specific areas or other content, like a competitive player-versus-player arena?
DA: Rather than shipping with a fully separate multiplayer world like we did with Dungeon Siege, we're focusing on making the single-player world huge and giving it a lot of depth. It's much less linear than Dungeon Siege's world, with lots of secret nooks and crannies, and the player can travel around it much more easily. All of the story and scripted sequences work the same way in multiplayer as they do in single-player, so it feels more like you're on this world-shaking quest with your friends.
GS: Though it may be too early to comment, could you discuss Gas Powered Games' own plans for post-release support? Any plans for the in-house team to put together new custom content, like new weapons, characters, spells, or areas, to release for download? Any thoughts on a possible expansion pack?
DA: We have nothing to announce at this time.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Dungeon Siege II's multiplayer or about the game in general?
DA: Every time I look at this game, I am amazed by how much stuff there is in it. There are things you can do that a lot of people may not even notice until their second time through. If you're just focused on killing monsters, you might miss things like enchanting items, or pets, or incantation shrines. There's something for everyone, and I'm excited for people to dig in to it.
GS: Thank you, Daniel.