Dungeon Siege II Updated Q&A - Graphics and Setting

We get the latest details on Dungeon Siege II from several members of the Gas Powered Games development team.

Taking its cue from the hit Diablo games, 2002's Dungeon Siege was an action role-playing that gave players an opportunity to hack and slash through hundreds of monsters across a fantastical landscape. Now Microsoft and developer Gas Powered Games are readying the sequel to Dungeon Siege, and though Microsoft announced the game last year, we've had few details thus far. But we had the opportunity recently to ask members of the development team about the game, which is due to arrive early in 2005.

Prepare for more party-based combat in Dungeon Siege II.
Prepare for more party-based combat in Dungeon Siege II.

GameSpot: Did you get to work on Dungeon Siege II right after Dungeon Siege? Did you know what you wanted to put in the game immediately, or was there a time when you were exploring options and possibilities?

Sarah Boulian (Lead Level Designer): Right after Dungeon Siege shipped, we immediately began work on the Yesterhaven downloadable map. After that released, we worked with Mad Doc Software on the Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna expansion pack, and began preproduction on Dungeon Siege II. During that time, we gathered lots of ideas, both from the team and the community, to put together the initial Dungeon Siege II feature list. We winnowed down both that list and our ongoing internal wish list to come up with what we felt would be the best ideas to support a rich, exciting real-time RPG experience.

GS: The original Dungeon Siege was an excellent-looking game for its time, but two years have passed. How are you updating the look of the series for Dungeon Siege II? Is this a new engine, or an enhanced version of the original? Any fancy graphical features you'd like to tell us about?

James Loe (Lead Engineer): We've completely rewritten the effects system, including support for 2.0 pixel and vertex shaders. This allows us to do some really spectacular things with our effects systems, and also allows us to do stuff with fire and water that we couldn't do in Dungeon Siege. We're also using larger textures, and many more of them, to give almost everything in the world a very crisp, detailed look. Our engine has been revised to handle a significantly larger amount of content, thus supporting a much richer approach to content design and development than we had previously.

GS: How does the Dungeon Siege II story fit in with the established timeline? Is it a sequel, or a prequel? Does it take place immediately after the first game, or is it set years, decades, or centuries apart?

Kevin Lambert (Lead Designer): Dungeon Siege II is a sequel that takes place 100 to 200 years after Dungeon Siege. Players who have never played Dungeon Siege won't feel like they're missing anything because the story in Dungeon Siege II supersedes everything that happened in Dungeon Siege, but players who played the first game will appreciate that Dungeon Siege II reveals some important history that predated Dungeon Siege by 1,000 years.

Better-looking water is just one of the visual improvements in the game, courtesy of the new shader effects.
Better-looking water is just one of the visual improvements in the game, courtesy of the new shader effects.

GS: Judging from the initial screenshots, it looks like you're keeping the art style and direction of the original game, but will there be anything new?

KL: Judging by player response to the first game, we didn't feel that fans wanted a radically different experience so much as a richer experience, one that took all the best elements of Dungeon Siege and made them much more engaging. That's what we're delivering with Dungeon Siege II, with new elements like powers, skill trees, pets, an improved story, more compelling characters, and better loot.

A More Brutal Siege

GS: We've heard that the interface will be streamlined in a number of ways. For instance, the game will automatically gauge any item that you examine in your inventory and tell you how it compares with what you currently have equipped. In what other ways are you streamlining the interface or control scheme?

There's a lot more detail on your characters in the sequel.
There's a lot more detail on your characters in the sequel.

Daniel Achterman (Designer): The first thing we did was find out what our fans had to say about the interface to Dungeon Siege. We updated a couple of things as a result, adding more slots for spells and stripping down the controls for party formations to keep formation control really easy in a real-time environment. Gas Powered Games also looks for places where we can make it easier for players to perform common actions, such as the "pick up all items" button in Dungeon Siege. Dungeon Siege II makes it easier to target monsters, to keep the party together, to share potions, and to do even more than you could do in real time in Dungeon Siege. We also completely overhauled every game window and added a lot of functionality to our existing interfaces. I think players will really like the new journal, for instance. It's got game maps, a thorough player reference, and a full bestiary, in addition to quest information. It's crazy.

GS: The first game and the Legends of Aranna expansion pack gave us wooded, mountain, and jungle settings, among others. What kind of new settings and locales can we expect in Dungeon Siege II?

SB: Dungeon Siege II offers a range of environment types, including a foreboding, corrupted forest; a harsh, thorn-strewn desert; and crumbling, ruined dungeons.

GS: These days, there are more recognizable actors providing voices in games than ever before, it seems. Any plans for a stellar voice-acting cast for Dungeon Siege II?

Bert Bingham (Production): The sheer number of voiced characters in Dungeon Siege II (more than 260 in all) requires a broad range of voice talent (nearly three times as much as the original Dungeon Siege). Fortunately for us, the Seattle-Portland voice-talent pool is arguably the third best in the nation for diversity and quality of character actors. While there are no television or movie personalities in the lineup, we chose our voice talent carefully from the best professional actors available.

GS: While we're on the audio front, what kind of musical style are you aiming for with Dungeon Siege II? Will we hear more of the familiar Dungeon Siege themes? Will any new styles or directions be introduced?

BB: The underlying world at the time of Dungeon Siege II is more brutal and warlike than that of Dungeon Siege's Kingdom of Ehb, with the occasional harbor of tranquility. With that in mind, we worked closely with Jeremy Soule to widen the canvas to range from primal and tribal themes to the angelic and surreal. It is fair to say that some of Jeremy's more recent work with other major titles has evolved his music in different directions as well, and he has always been comfortable pushing the envelope with studio upgrades during our production process, so we are getting a really wonderful montage of music to work with for Dungeon Siege II.

Dungeon Siege II will support bigger and more-spectacular multiplayer battles.
Dungeon Siege II will support bigger and more-spectacular multiplayer battles.

GS: What multiplayer details can you give us at this point? Are you sticking with the established multiplayer modes or adding new ones? Will you be able to support more players per game?

DA: We'll definitely be supporting more characters in multiplayer. Each player can control a full party in Dungeon Siege II, instead of just one character per player. We're already playing multiplayer games with armies of characters taking down monsters, and it's awesome. Monsters get stronger based on the number of characters in the game, so it stays tough. We've also upgraded our multiplayer game browser to make it easier to find a game that's right for your party, and it's super easy to stay in touch with your friends. You can actually log in to the friends server while playing single-player so you'll know when your friends log in.

GS: Thanks, everyone.

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