PC Interview

Dungeon Siege - Chris Taylor

Total Annihilation mastermind Chris Taylor talks to Ferrago on his long-anticipated RPG.

Microsoft's Gas Powered Games' first foray into the RPG genre has been a long time coming; though there is now light at the end of the long development tunnel, and it does look promising. With this in mind we spoke to head-honcho Chris Tailor (formerly of now defunct developers Cavedog) on his new baby, Dungeon Siege.

The RPG genre is one of the most established around, from what I can gather Dungeon Siege hopes to add a fresh take on the established rules. What are your motives behind the ambition of the game?

Chris Taylor: I have always enjoyed working with the latest thing that technology has to offer... be it a faster CPU, more RAM, or the latest in video rendering technology. It's a lot of fun to create something that pushes the boundaries and delivers something that has never been seen before. That's technology, but on the design side, I enjoy creating designs that can attract more players, a design that makes the experience more fun, with less hassle and learning curve. Especially as I get older, and time becomes more precious, it's important to have entertainment that you can jump in and play quickly and easily.

..how are you planning to achieve this and book Dungeon Siege it's place in RPG history?

Chris Taylor: We took all the things we enjoyed about past games, and left behind the things we didn't enjoy. We are creating our ideal of what this sort of game should be all about. Exploration, cool weapons, special effects, over-the-top combat, and a light story that moves along quickly. We added Packmules to carry lots of stuff, for those who don't like leaving things behind in the dungeon. We made it so that stores give a full money-back-guarantee on anything you buy, and will sell you back an item you sold to them accidentally. We made the world continuous so you never have to back-track and see the same scenery more than you have to. We selfishly built a game to deliver the kind of experience that we have always wanted... now we get to find out if people agree with us!

The element of action seems to be a prime-focus in the game; what are the improvements of this over previous games, and how does it effect the balance of gameplay?

Chris Taylor: In many ways much of what our combat system offers is founded in the technology we employed to create it. We use a state-of-the-art bone-skin character deformation system. We use blending to accurately aim weapons. And to solidify the visual realism, we use real physics so that the ranged combat is more exciting and dynamic, and not pre-determined through formulas.

The game promises an epic 'seamless story' for the single-player experience; what is the premise of this plot? Please give us some detail on how you plan to improve upon what has gone before.

Chris Taylor: The area we wanted to improve upon, was the simplicity in which the traditional epic story is presented. There have been some amazing games that have done a great job of telling some very deep and compelling stories. Our goal was not to create something that takes the complexity of that story-telling deeper, but rather to preserve that sense of "epic" while finding ways to streamline it... to keep the action moving forward, and not let the story get between the player and the action. We also have found ways to provide additional back story in such a way that it is almost transparent to players who are not interested in that sort of thing.

What environments will Dungeon Siege find the adventurer exploring, and how will this fit in with the story?

Chris Taylor: When it comes to the environments, we chose the most exciting places that we thought we could bring to life on the screen. We created huge lists of possible locations and picked our favorites... ice caves, bizarre subterranean river complexes, classic dungeons, fantastic desert canyons with deep gorges and vistas. We then had the writer work with these areas and weave the story around them.

Visuals next, how vivid and realistic is the world you are creating; what has been your inspiration behind this. Finally, how will the game square-up to the competition in this department?

Chris Taylor: We really went for broke here. We took it as far as we could, and at this point everyone feels great about the visual richness and detail we are putting on the screen. In terms of competition, only time will tell, but for now we are very happy with the results.

I hear you can take up-to eight-players with you to assist in you quest, is this purely a multiplayer thing?

Chris Taylor: In the single player game you can have up to eight characters in your party. This includes Packmules. In multiplayer, each person plays a single character, but there can be up to eight players in the game at one time.

What kind of situations will the player encounter and how free-form / linear is the game's progression?

Chris Taylor: In the single player game the progression is more linear, but the player still has a lot of freedom. As they travel across the world, there are lots of side areas to explore, and extra quests that can be completed. In multiplayer we have opened it up and allow the player to head out into the world without restriction. In order to pull this design together, we had to build two seperate worlds, one for the single player game and one for the multiplayer game. This worked out great, and in many ways is like having two games in one.

Finally, what are your aims with the title and when do you expect us to be enjoying it?

Chris Taylor: Our aim was to push the action-RPG to new heights of design and technical ambition. To make a game that almost anyone could jump into and play, yet have the depth to attract the old school RPG enthusiasts. If all goes well, it should be on the shelf in eary 2002!