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Dungeon Siege II Q&A

We talk to lead designer Kevin Lambert about the new features and enhancements that we can expect in Dungeon Siege II.


After scoring a hit with Dungeon Siege in 2002, Microsoft and developer Gas Powered Games are readying a sequel to the action role-playing game. In Dungeon Siege II, you'll once again have the opportunity to pick up a sword, staff, bow, or other weapon; gather a party around you; and hack and slash your way across a vast fantasy world. As expected, many of the original game's enjoyable features will reappear in Dungeon Siege II, such as pack mules to carry the prodigious amount of loot you'll pick up, but Gas Powered Games is including a lot of new features and enhancements based on feedback from fans. We caught up with lead designer Kevin Lambert to ask him what's up with Dungeon Siege II.

The world of Dungeon Siege II is more lush and detailed than that of the original.
The world of Dungeon Siege II is more lush and detailed than that of the original.

GameSpot: In a few sentences, how would you summarize Dungeon Siege II? What should our readers know about the game?

Kevin Lambert: I would summarize Dungeon Siege II as a party-based action role-playing game set in a dark fantasy world that features exciting combat, awesome loot, compelling characters, and a story that you can play either by yourself or with a group of friends or strangers.

GS: The first Dungeon Siege was released in 2002, and was later supplemented with Legends of Aranna, so the team is now familiar with the game's engine, its gameplay, and how the fans have reacted. What lessons would you say the team took from the development of Dungeon Siege and the expansion? And how are these lessons being applied to Dungeon Siege II?

KL: The biggest lesson we learned was that players who enjoyed playing Dungeon Siege and Legends of Aranna were still craving a deeper experience. And that's exactly what we're delivering for Dungeon Siege II, in the form of an overhauled story and quest system, character skill trees, powers, pets, enchantable items, and much more.

GS: Tell us about the top three most important improvements that the sequel will make to what we saw in the original game and the expansion pack.

KL: There are a lot of improvements to choose from, but if I had to choose three I would say the addition of powers, a revised loot system with more than twice as many rare and unique items, and a stronger storyline with compelling main characters.

GS: We understand that the team solicited the opinions of its fans about the previous games, and that one of the most popular requests was for a more-compelling story to tie the sequel together. How are you going about creating this story and keeping it compelling? Are there any specific influences you'd care to cite--specific authors, television shows, or movies? Are there any specific plot devices you feel are central to the game's story?

Combat is at the heart of Dungeon Siege II. Lots and lots of combat.
Combat is at the heart of Dungeon Siege II. Lots and lots of combat.

KL: We were serious about creating a more compelling narrative for Dungeon Siege II, so we contracted a talented writer who worked closely with us to develop the story and characters. We've added characters who make multiple appearances over the course of the game, party members who have personalities and banter with each other, robust towns and non-player characters that change as the story progresses, and dialogue trees with choices for the player. Influences came from many books, movies, and games, but Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings definitely made a big impression on us, with the rich detail in its universe.

GS: We know that the original games' artificial intelligence, which defaulted to a highly autonomous setting that some critics felt "made the game play itself," was another feature that met with mixed reactions from fans. When we last spoke with the team, it seemed that the goal was to adjust character AI to make sure the game remained streamlined, but also allowed players enough control to feel involved in the action. How has this balancing act been working out in practice?

KL: Balancing this has been an interesting experience. Our first step was to try taking away all character automation. When we did that, many players felt that the party was too unresponsive and was not acting as intelligently as they would expect. We're continuing to work on striking that perfect balance between enough automation that your characters don't feel unintelligent, but not so much that the party does your work for you.

GS: Otherwise, the primary focus in the design of both the previous games seemed to be on streamlining the interface and eliminating any and all micromanagement--Dungeon Siege was the first game to include an "automatically pick up everything" button, and the first game to include pack mules to carry extra loot, among other things. Is further streamlining of the interface (beyond what we've already seen) also a priority, or are there other things the team felt were more important to create or improve upon for the sequel?

KL: Absolutely. We've taken many strides toward eliminating things that fans complained about having to manage. For example, when I played Dungeon Siege, I found myself spending a lot of time managing my inventory when I came back from a big dungeon haul and it was time to hit the shops. The reason I spent so much time with my inventory was that I wanted to go through each item and compare and contrast the stats to make sure my party had the best possible gear. In Dungeon Siege II, we've automated this comparison through the interface. When you pick up a piece of equipable gear--a sword, for example--it is compared with your currently equipped gear and the interface shows you "up" and "down" arrows to clearly indicate which piece of gear is better. We've added many little things like this (teleportation is another example) that will allow players to spend their time where they want to spend it, not where they feel they have to spend it.

GS: Give us an update on the game's development. What parts of the game is the team working on now?

Dungeon Siege II will leap our way sometime early next year.
Dungeon Siege II will leap our way sometime early next year.

KL: We've finished the first two acts of the game, and we're currently working on getting the final act functional and polished. Once that's done, we'll be looking at a heavy dose of gameplay testing, balancing, and polish until we ship.

GS: Is there anything else you'd like to add about Dungeon Siege II?

KL: I think you've covered it pretty well. Traditionally in development, games really start to take shape in the final months. We're starting to see that now and it's really exciting. We're really looking forward to getting feedback in the play-test sessions to come and during beta.

GS: Thanks, Kevin.

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