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Page 1 of 3I can't help but feel that George Ziets doesn't get enough credit for the contributions he has made to the RPG and MMORPG landscape over the past several years. Not only did he do a significant amount of design work on two of my favorite MMOs of all time (Dungeons & Dragons Online and The Lord of the Rings Online), but he was also the creative lead on Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, a title that is easily one of the finest works to have sprung to life in the halls of Obsidian Entertainment. After a short stint at Zenimax Online, he returned to Obsidian to do some writing on Fallout: New Vegas and jump back into the creative lead seat on Dungeon Siege III. How's that for a resume?
As such, it was with great appreciation that I entered his office for a brief interview about the contributions he has made to Ehb's history, as well as the game's storyline, quests, NPCs, and dialogue:
GB: As the creative lead, what were your goals with Dungeon Siege III in regard to the lore, dialogue, and quest structure? How did you go about giving the game the "Obsidian treatment"?
George: If you look at Dungeon Siege I, which is the game that I feel we follow the most - Dungeon Siege II, and I'm not sure if you've played it or not, but Dungeon Siege II kind of goes off into another part of the world and does a lot of other stuff that was very different from Dungeon Siege I. We went back to Dungeon Siege I and continued the story of that world and that country and what was going on there. In Dungeon Siege I, [Gas Powered Games] did not have a lot of what we would consider Obsidian RPG elements, right? They didn't really have a whole lot of choice, they didn't really have much in the way of interactive dialogue. Their story was just there.
They did have a narrative, but it was not front and center. It was something that you had to really pay attention to in order to figure out what was going on. Which, for what they were trying to do, was fine. They were just trying to create a hack and slash experience with lots of loot and creatures coming at you, and for what it was, it was fine. But we really wanted to bring in some of those Obsidian RPG elements like branching dialogue and player choices. Some meaningful choices that the player can make, as well as relationships with characters.
Those are the sorts of things we were trying to bring into the Dungeon Siege franchise. And we were sort of trying to meet halfway, right? We were trying to keep that action-y, fast-paced hack and slash combat that was what was fun in the first game, and then also add in some of the RPG elements that you've seen in Neverwinter Nights 2 and Fallout: New Vegas.
Now, what we didn't want to do from the very beginning - we made a very conscious choice that we did not want to take the sort of hardcore RPG stuff that you might find in some of our other titles and just smash them into Dungeon Siege because if you have that very fast-paced action combat, and then every once in a while all of a sudden you get these really long massive dialogues with very deep RPG content, they really wouldn't go together very well. So we really tried to find a way to marry those two together, and I would say that was our biggest goal, and, from my side of things, the biggest challenge was finding a level of dialogue and fiction narrative that works well with that fast-paced, action-y kind of combat.
GB: From what I've played so far, I haven't seen a reputation or karma system, and there really hasn't been much in the way of choice and consequence. Can we expect to see a reputation system, romances, tough choices with significant consequences, and those types of elements?
George: Choice and consequence is there. We are fairly selective about where we do it. If you play something like New Vegas, a lot of the quests and a lot of the characters have choices that have various consequences. That level of depth in the RPG systems was not the way we wanted to go with Dungeon Siege III, and to be honest, we didn't have the writing resources and the design resources on this project that those guys had on Fallout: New Vegas - they had a bigger design team. So we don't have as much of that as what you see in Fallout New: Vegas, but what we do have is at critical moments in the game, you will have those choices that will have consequences later in the game.
In fact, I don't know how far you've played in the first region, but I think there are at least two situations like that at high points in the first region.
GB: I've been doing interviews most of the day, so my hands-on time was pretty limited so far. I've probably clocked in twenty minutes, tops.
George: Pretty short, okay, you wouldn't have run across them then. But then you'll also have minor choices that have lesser consequences with side quest characters and NPCs. Another thing that we did, we don't really have a karma system or a reputation system per se, but what we do have and what we did keep from previous Obsidian titles was the influence system with your companions. We sort of followed the example that we set in Mask of the Betrayer. A lot of the choices that you have in dialogue, the ones that have consequences and the ones that don't, most of the time at least one of your companion characters will react to it, and you'll get influence or you won't get influence. In this game, again, it's a slightly more simplified system in that you don't lose influence, but you will gain influence when you say something specific. For example, if you're playing as Lucas and Anjali's with you, if you say something that she really likes, you'll get influence with her just like our previous titles. And those influence bonuses will give you actual gameplay advantages at certain threshold levels. Very much like Mask of the Betrayer did. So those sort of Obsidian staples are definitely in Dungeon Siege III.
The third point I believe you brought up was romances, and that we do not have.
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