Gavin Mackenzie 12:28, Tuesday 14th December 2010

Dungeon Siege III associate producer, Alvin Nelson, speaks to us about loot, abilities and consoles

The looting action-RPGs of the late nineties have evolved into MMOs during the last decade. How do you differentiate between a game like Dungeon Siege III and an MMO?
It’s similar to how the loot systems work in an MMO, but just not… forever. You find more things that are better for you as you look around and search a little bit more, and do a little bit more investigation of the world, as opposed to in an MMO where you fight forward and you have a certain quest that’s going to give you something good. So it’s a little bit different from how they are, but we didn’t think too much about the difference between our game and an MMO. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a good game like Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance or Dark Alliance II – just fun co-op multiplayer with loot.

And we imagine it’s easier to avoid all those ‘Collect 10 of these’ and ‘Kill 20 of those’ type quests…
It is… and more towards the story. When you’re in an MMO I feel like you have to have lots of quests so it’s kinda hard to continually do different quests. So it’s relatively easy to just make a… y’know, ‘Kill 50 birds’ or ‘Find 50 skulls’ than to adhere the quests to the actual story.

When you were introducing Dungeon Siege II to us, you mentioned that you’re very excited to be working with Square Enix. Is working with the Japanese giant making any difference to the way you design your games?
Fallout is a very western RPG, as is Alpha Protocol. This will be the first one that has a lot of the mixtures between Japanese and Western RPGs. It’s been interesting for some of the developers [at Obsidian] but it’s been fun for the other ones because we wanted to make something that has a little bit more Japanese RPG influence into it, so it’s actually been a fun experience.

Do you think Obsidian and Square Entertainment have learned from each other?
I think so. I think on the publishing side, Square Enix has learned a little bit about how a Western developer works, then on our side it feels like there’s a different type of RPG elements that Japanese RPG gamers look for that we had to actively think about with regards to making certain things, and that’s been interesting and enjoyable.

Can you give us an example of some Japanese influence in Dungeon Siege III?
Our co-op multiplayer – where you can just drop into [and out of] the game – that’s one of the things we actually took from [Square’s SNES classic] Secret Of Mana, as opposed to the co-op in Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance where [both players] jump into the game at the same time. Our lead designer, Nathaniel Chapman, and myself are really big Japanese RPG enthusiasts. The co-op experience in Secret Of Mana is a lot of fun because you can just come into the game, play and then leave at some point. We really want to take those experiences and that idea, and put it into our game.

Looting RPGs are sometimes much better in co-op than in single-player. How are you ensuring that single-player doesn’t become a grind in Dungeon Siege III?
In how the combat system works. As you attack you gain your focus, as you gain focus you can use your abilities, and as you use your abilities you can use your power orbs to use an empowered version of your abilities. So you’re not just constantly hitting A, you’re also switching between your three different stances – each stances has different abilities. You’re going to use your attacks, you’re going to switch stances, you’re going to use your abilities, you’re going to use your empowered abilities, you’re going to use your defensive abilities.

We wanted to have the the combat experience be easy to learn, but hard to master. You could just use a couple of them, but to get the full experience of the game you have to move around and do a lot of different things, and dodge and use your shield and defend… especially in co-op, where you’ll use a lot of that stuff a lot more. Some people’s abilities tend to help other people’s abilities.

This is the first Dungeon Siege game to appear on consoles. How are you adapting it for console players?
The loot, and how it worked. On a PC, you can just bring up a little menu with all the stats of all the different items that you have, whereas on a console you really don’t have a button for that – you’re limited on your buttons. One of the things that we did was that you can just hover over an item that’s on the ground and you’re shown the name of it, the colour of it for its rarity and the gold value as well, so you can quickly see, is it something I want to pick up? Is it something I can just leave here and not worry about it? There’s a lot of ways we’ve tiered more towards the consoles.

Eager for more details? Check out our Dungeon Siege III preview.

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Gavin Mackenzie

Gavin Mackenzie

I’m the games editor on Play magazine, so I’m in charge of the reviews and previews. I have...

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