Space Siege Impressions

We sat down with Gas Powered Games' Chris Taylor to discuss his sci-fi follow-up to Dungeon Siege.

Like many artists, Chris Taylor's something of a perfectionist. It doesn't matter how much critical acclaim he's won for his work, he's always thinking about what he could have done better. Almost half of his presentation for the upcoming Space Siege is spent describing how he wants to rectify some of those mistakes in his latest game. Like Dungeon Siege before it, Space Siege will be an action role-playing game, but this time, it transports its action out of the underground and into outer space for a full-on sci-fi makeover. Spending some time away from his Seattle headquarters to come to London, we caught up with Taylor to see if he's set to release next year's definitive action RPG.

As is evident from the name, Space Siege will take place in space. Naturally, it follows that it will take place in the future, during a time when humans have expanded beyond earth and begun to inhabit other planets in the solar system. The trouble is that some of the neighbours don't take kindly to this intergalactic expansion, and the Kerak race decides to strike an attack on Earth to eradicate it. As the Kerak deliver the final crushing blow to the battered planet, a small number of evacuation ships are manned and sent into space, one of which is carrying a soldier called Seth Walker, the character you play in the game. The game starts as the Kerak are infiltrating the ship; thus, it's your job to protect the thousands of crew and passengers on board.

You play as Seth Walker, a highly trained soldier who can employ cybernetic enhancements to upgrade his skills.

One of the key dynamics behind the game will be Walker's humanity and how it can be compromised by using cybernetic upgrades. Upgrades, such as improved vision or strength, will not only alter his physical appearance, but they'll make Walker a more effective force against the invading army. These alterations will consequently make the game easier, but they will reduce the soldier's "humanity" rating. Consequently, the more upgrades you go for, the less human your character will become, with the game's storyline changing accordingly.

The developers want the humanity level to not only measure a player's skill, but also drastically change the way that the game plays. It's theoretically possible to complete the game while fully retaining your humanity, and if you choose this route, then you're promised something special toward the end. However, you'll probably still want to play it through again as a cyborg--just to see what it's like.

The focus on just one character is very different from previous games by Chris Taylor, particularly Dungeon Siege II, which offered control of up to eight players at any one time. Taylor says that having so many characters was an open option in his previous game, but it was one that players always took advantage of for fear of missing out on something. The result was that things became unmanageable, especially when it came to managing inventories. This time, he wants to place the focus on one character, which he hopes will not only strengthen the narrative (comparing the hero to John McClane in Die Hard), but also simplify things for novice and advanced players alike. Having said that, Taylor introduced a robotic sidekick named Harvey that can be called upon to help deal with multiple enemy attacks. In the demo we saw, Harvey was fairly autonomous, attacking enemies automatically if no specific orders had been dished out, and thankfully, even if he does die, he can be reconstructed again.

Though the build that we saw was still in early stages, it's beginning to come together nicely. The graphics are fairly basic right now, although the team has just implemented high dynamic range lighting and plenty more detail is promised in the run up to release. The enemy artificial intelligence is also developing, and some of the smaller baddies that we saw would jump back to regenerate their health if they were under attack. However, they are still pretty dumb at the beginning of the game and would happily run into a set of mines just to hunt the player down.

Aside from speaking specifically about the game, Chris Taylor spent much of the presentation talking about his revised ethos behind game design. Influenced by recent successes, such as Half-Life 2 and specifically BioShock, Taylor says his thinking has done a full U-turn since Dungeon Siege II. His previous opinion on the importance of game design over storyline has now been reassessed, with a much greater emphasis on narrative and character development. He also made the point that modern game design has moved away from creating ways of punishing players to developing a model that rewards them as regularly as possible. This means eradicating the old "game over" screens, removing manual save/load systems, and allowing regeneration points that allow players to carry on where they were even when they've died. All of the above will apply to Space Siege.

The action all takes place onboard the Armstrong, one of the last evacuation ships to leave the ravaged Earth.

While the game won't be short, with a 15 to 20 hour single-player campaign and a multiplayer mode, the game is still designed to be as accessible as possible. The game will not feature a tutorial, you won't have to read the manual to pick up the controls, and the difficulty level is user-changeable thanks to the cybernetic upgrade system. The game's point-and-click interface will be explained during the opening levels, while the dialogue that you get throughout the game can be absorbed if you're interested in the wider story or ignored if you simply want to plough on through.

Space Siege comes from a studio with a great heritage in action RPGs and is shaping up to be one of next year's big hits in the genre. It looks like it will take the principles laid down in the Dungeon Siege, make them more accessible, and then plant them in an intriguing science-fiction universe. There's plenty of time to go until the slated summer 2008 release, so expect more on Space Siege in the coming months.

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53 comments
Decardcain
Decardcain

this game must called etrom:the astral essence 2... horrible ... the gameplay is awful... nothing relative with dungeon siege 1 or 2 its a cobination of the game space hack with terminator issues

VXCOM
VXCOM

15-20 hour????....its like the most shortest RPG game ever....out of idea maybe???......and *dungeon siege* we get to controlled about 3 character party* in one time....... what i think abt this game is...its just an upgrade from the last Dungeon Siege to the modern space age with some new implemented feature.....and the good old features been removed.....its just sad...and the demo got some bugs* ..i hope all of it fixed when its release

bloodystump
bloodystump

Funny how goal posts move... Unreal 2, a FPS, was classed as short at 15 hrs in 2003 (on this very website).

vortex_gw
vortex_gw

OMG! 15-20 hours. Noooooo! Come on! Dungeon Siege 2 was 50 hours. I am disappointed.

Snifbask
Snifbask

Phemox is absolutely right... that's why I never used 'shock's regeneration. When I died I loaded the last save... Might sound a bit crazy but It really was much more satisfying when you actually managed to take down that elite rosie...

WulfenMortys
WulfenMortys

I agree with KayHangman - 15-20 hours of gameplay is horribly short :(

KayHangman
KayHangman

This'll be one I intend on picking up, but the description "...the game won't be short, with a 15 to 20 hour single-player campaign..." is wrong. For me, aside from Adventure genre games, a 15-20 hour RPG is incredibly short, one of the shortest RPGs I'd ever have played. The shortest up to now has been JE:SE or TQ (without the expansion) coming in at about 25 hours. A game that I can finish in a weekend isn't very fulfilling. I hope it has lots of replay, but without a party system, that might be limited to two runs (humanity or cybernetic).

frog154
frog154

The only reason I wouldn't knock it is because of how the Dungeon Sieges turned out

MontyBurns
MontyBurns

this looks pretty lame. those models look atrocious, like 3d GI Joes.

Stingray86
Stingray86

I have to agree with mateuderos. Pretty much everything I have seen from ChrisTaylor has been overrated. I wouldn't say he is particularly bad...but I don't think he has done anything particularly amazing or exciting. That and CT had nothing to do with Fable, dude.

Ben-e
Ben-e

15 to 10 hours is not lengthy...

mateuderos
mateuderos

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

foggy666
foggy666

sounds like another game for the masses, too bad the industry is moving in that direction

Xeuton_Mojukai
Xeuton_Mojukai

Wow, this game looks really pathetic, honestly. Nothing original, nothing interesting... It's a short-length action-RPG, or as I like to call them, "wastes of money". If it's supposed to be an action-RPG, it should focus on its traditional bread-and-butter: addictive, deep, rewarding, but difficult gameplay that keeps us happy with our fix of hack-slashiness until the next game comes out. The reason Diablo 2 is still played online by people (and it is) is that the gameplay is so plain kickass that no game has yet met its excellence. The story? it's crap! But no one cares, since the game is good enough to keep our interest. Anyway, rant off. ~XM

KayHangman
KayHangman

Wait a moment...did that really say "the game won't be short, with a 15 to 20 hour single-player campaign"? That'd be the single shortest RPG (whether action or story-based) that I have ever played. Suffice to say, a game that I can complete over a weekend isn't a big selling point, unless it's an Adventure genre game. *sigh* Perhaps they are just gearing it towards a different crowd who have short attention spans.

beckoflight
beckoflight

Gas powrred games ...is super tallented studio when it comes to story plot & gameplay but when it comes to "titles" welll .... !

Goliathvv
Goliathvv

They should try adding two control schematics, like point n' click and WASD, just think how frustrating it might be to finally get the "Dual Pulse Ultra Plasma Gun" and have to keep running in circles so the enemies won't get near you, I mean, why using a gun at a sword's distance? This happens a lot in those action RPG games and it's something that most people find boring(Try playing Titan Quest with an Archer, unless you have the best bow in the game, you'll have to run in circles all the time to shot the enemies form a distance). With WASD controls you'll at least be able to shoot while walking, and one action will not interrupt the other, and for those who like to play it the old way, just switch back to point n' click. Well, having another option is better than just having one, and it may even make the game last a little longer, after all, why not try playing the other way?

dryden555
dryden555

sounds like its for folks who like easy games

Death_Masta187
Death_Masta187

I also enjoyed DS1 but not DS2... I have been waiting for a action RTS game like diablo 2 but set in a Si-fi world... Hellgate demo didnt do it for me... maybe this one will...

neatfeatguy
neatfeatguy

I enjoyed Dungeon Siege...Dungeon Siege II on the other hand, don't even get my started with what was wrong with that game. If Space Siege turns out to be anything like Dungeon Siege II, then the developers are just wasting their time and money. Now, if they can take what was so good about Dungeon Siege and expand upon it and correct the skill/level system, they can have something really good. Only time will tell...

PHeMoX
PHeMoX

[quote="Chris Taylor"]This means eradicating the old "game over" screens, removing manual save/load systems, and allowing regeneration points that allow players to carry on where they were even when they've died. All of the above will apply to Space Siege.[/quote] Which boils down to them making it less and less hardcore gamer orientated... Why of why do developers want this?? It's money I guess, but it ruins the experience. It's NOT rewarding if you die without getting 'punished' for it. No offense, but the regeneration in Bioshock was a joke. Sure... some stats changed, inventory changed a bit, but hell if you wanted you could knock on a big daddy with your melee weapon probably dying just about everytime you managed to hit it once and still beat the sucker after regenerating so many times.... Where's the reward in that???? It soxx bigtime if you ask me, and although I do like checkpoints in games, regenerating points is just silly and wrong. If dying isn't an issue, games will become boring as hell, just watch and learn as "soon" to be released games will probably try a similar approach.

neventhade
neventhade

I really like the idea but a 15-20 hour single player campaign?? Not worth the money imo.

bodylotion
bodylotion

Chris Taylor did help creating games like Fallout but if this game is going to be Dungeon Siege in Space i don't really feel it's going to be a game with a lot of depth in it. I will wait for the reviews and then maybe i will buy this game.

ssta
ssta

All Dungeon Siege I played. So this should be just on the run. I'll get it, and play it. I sense 200hrs of gameplay(not straight to the story, just for trying all the classes end etc.)... :D

teirdome
teirdome

I don't think it's quite as black and white as Taylor makes it out to be. In my eyes a game can be a smash hit because of its story (Bioshock) or gameplay (World in Conflict). The key is pulling that focus off well, not focusing on one or the other. Other posters have made the point that games are becoming more appealing towards the "casual" gamer. This is something that gamers should start being concerned about imo, because it's a market trend that I feel like is being spurred along by the success of the Wii.

Wezker619
Wezker619

Dungeon Siege 1 was the best back in the day. I remember all hyper when I got that game. I think the only thing that made me mad was the cheaters on multiplayer.

mors_x70
mors_x70

I completed Dungeon Siege I and II but not their expansions.. Gameplay was too repetitive for me which bored me sometimes.. Hope they do a better job of making their next game "SPACE SIEGE" more interesting storyline and gameplay. .

Henyo2k_basic
Henyo2k_basic

Hopefully, unlike the dumb bioshock, the difficulty ACTUALLY changes when you choose different paths for upgrades, and there are more than TWO endings. Bioshock was so overhyped, what the hell is happening to games these days?

tig1979
tig1979

I quite liked DS and tbh the gfx were crap for that when it came out, long as the game plays good and has a good story, graphics are not an important issue for me, of course the lower the gfx the more people will be able to run it so more sales for the publishers too...

Vasot
Vasot

The Graphics look like old crap Reminds me some games from the year 2001 Not a big surprise from a company that made Supcom and also looks a bit dated

Lightzy
Lightzy

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

MegaWang
MegaWang

Hey nszo go play some more games before you make bias and unecessary comments that are just a fools opinion ok.

londonrider
londonrider

I hope he will reassess importance of game graphics as well, because right now it looks like a game for Nintendo Wii :D

everson_rm
everson_rm

well, looks for the guy's face... he's kind pathetic...

megadisc
megadisc

seems like anotehr 3rd person shooter all over again ... i'd prefer a booby babe running all over the place

Ba0ng89
Ba0ng89

It doesnt look really catching to me...but well see though.

nszo
nszo

"Taylor says that having so many characters was an open option in his previous game, but it was one that players always took advantage of for fear of missing out on something. The result was that things became unmanageable, especially when it came to managing inventories." In other words the game will be yet another series that is dumbed down for the casual gamer. The inventory situation itself was not the problem. The way it was implemented was the problem. "While the game won't be short, with a 15 to 20 hour single-player campaign and a multiplayer mode, the game is still designed to be as accessible as possible." WAY to short. Another example of catering to the casual gamer. "This time, he wants to place the focus on one character, which he hopes will not only strengthen the narrative (comparing the hero to John McClane in Die Hard), but also simplify things for novice and advanced players alike." Simplifying things does not add to good gameplay in all situations especially for the "Advanced" player. Simplicity should be left to FPS games.

Lord_Mordja
Lord_Mordja

About the graphics: Look at the early screens of SupCom. Look at the game now. There you go.

Citan76
Citan76

The game is gonna suck but Uwe Boll's adaptation of it into film is going to rock.

pooyanh
pooyanh

I doubt it's gonna be something really good...

infoboth
infoboth

Augustoc2001, you should of paid more attention to the text as it was stated right off the bat that the graphics are in initiall stages and being worked on to improve them significantly.

thanatose
thanatose

I'll have to put this one on my watch list, I hope it turns out better than Dungeon Seige II did.