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Dungeon Siege II Interview

With the release of Dungeon Siege II, we got the chance to ask the people at Gas Powered Games some questions.

Daniel Achterman is a designer of Dungeon Siege II. Sarah Boulian is lead level designer, Brian Fricks is level designer and Jeremy Snook, whom we have had the pleasure to interview before, is marketing manager.

DSH: You can play through the singleplayer campaign three times, on different difficulties. Are there any differences between the modes, to make it more interesting for players on their second and third time through?

Daniel Achterman: Oh yes. There's a ton of stuff in the game that you can only get access to if you play the difficulty levels beyond Mercenary. There are powers your characters can't learn before level 40, reagents and items that only drop in Veteran or Elite, and a ton of unique and set items designed especially for extremely high-level characters. The excitement of finding new stuff lasts all the way through the end of the highest difficulty level.

DSH: Have there been any changes to the distribution of points to strength, dexterity, and intelligence for the different classes? (compared to the original game)

DA: The basic system is still the same as DS1 - your stats increase at different rates depending on what classes you're gaining levels in, so you strength increases fastest if you use melee weapons, your intelligence increases fastest if you use spells, etc. It's super-easy to understand.

We did make your stats respond better to switching classes. In DS1 if you gained a lot of levels as a fighter then switched to magic, it would take a long time for your intelligence to increase. In Dungeon Siege II, your intelligence catches up to your other stats a lot more quickly. There are a lot of reasons to stick with one class, though, so feel free to experiment!

DSH: With Dungeon Siege II, you focused much more on the story. How closely has GPG worked with writer Susan O'Connor, and how much influence has she had?

Sarah Boulian: Susan O'Connor worked with Kevin Lambert and I to develop the primary quest story arc and main characters of the game. She then wrote the first draft of the primary quest script and party member banter. I wrote the remainder of the script and secondary quests with help from Kevin, Pete Gardner, John Sutherland and Ruth Tomandl.

DSH: Modding was a large part of the original game. For Dungeon Siege II, will mod tools ship with the game, or will they be available from the website later?

Jeremy Snook: Our current plan is to release the mod tools shortly after the game hits the shelves via www.DungeonSiege.com.

DSH: With all the mods out there, playing Dungeon Siege multiplayer has turned into a risky adventure, where you risk many things happening to your character without asking for it. What has been done to make multiplayer a more enjoyable experience this time around?

DA: In general, Gas Powered Games likes to give players a lot of freedom about how to play the game. Some people really enjoy playing maps and mods they made with indestructible characters, and that's still possible in network or anonymous internet games. But most people like to play the game fairly, so we created the GameSpy vault.

When you play on GameSpy you use characters that are stored on GameSpy servers. There are no mods or custom maps allowed in GameSpy games, so it's much safer. It's not a guaranteed secure environment. People may still find ways to cheat their characters to level 100 or give themselves the best gear, but the game filtering tools let you avoid playing with those people if you don't want to. And since there's no PvP and no mods are allowed, they won't be able to ruin your experience.

DSH: What do you believe will be the largest change for aspiring modders, the area with the most news and differences from the original game?

Brian Fricks: In a single word, Flick. DS1 modding was all about adding and changing content through the text file formats .gas and .skrit. While both very powerful, neither format was designed to be a scripting language. Flick, on the other hand, is an exclusive set of commands designed specifically for creating complex events, encounters and changes to the world. Flick includes non-interactive sequences (NIS), special effects and the logic-managing lines of dialog for NPCs. Flick can be as simple as telling a single actor when and who to attack, or as complex as moving an army into battle positions and coordinating scripted attacks. Written like a screenplay with roles, cues, props, and actions, Flick will be a major area for new modding in the future.

DSH: Are there any plans made for supporting the community post-release? Any additional content, like Yesterhaven?

JS: We will absolutely be supporting our community once they have Dungeon Siege II in hand! The Gas Powered Garage is quickly becoming a thriving hive of our fans sharing stories, modding tips and teasers of content-yet-to-come. We've already seen thousands of posts in our forums since launching the website a month ago and thousands of users are interacting with each other and GPG folks on a daily basis.

DSH: Now that Dungeon Siege II is completed, will the entire team focus on Supreme Commander, or are there more, unannounced, projects going on at GPG?

JS: When we ramped up our Supreme Commander team into pre-production, we created a self-sufficient team to ensure that both projects had the necessary resources. There are a couple of DSII team members that have switched over to SupCom to scratch their RTS itch, but the rest of the DSII team is already working on other unannounced projects.

DSH: Dungeon Siege II takes place between 100 and 200 years after the events of the original game. But what happened to the dwarfs? Were they wiped out in some mysterious incident, or are they still alive, just keeping to their caves in Ehb?

DA: Hmmm. An interesting question. Now that you mention it, there WERE dwarves in the first Dungeon Siege game, weren't there? What happened to them? Where are they? Why has no one in this region of Aranna even heard of them? It's a mystery, all right, but there MUST be a reason. I'll have to look in to that...

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