Posted by BuckGB at 7:57 pm on 03.3.2011 (2 years ago)
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.
GB: Now, how does the causeway system fit into Ehb and the existing game world? How were you able to make this pathway of portals make sense, particularly since it didn't exist in the first two games?
George: One of the things that we did - remember, this is a slight reboot of the earlier stuff, right? We have a lot more lore, and we've expanded some of the regions that they had in the game. And one of the things that we expanded on a lot was the Legion. The Legion was sort of there, but it was very much in the back-story in Dungeon Siege I - you just kind of come across a few legionnaires at one point and they say something to you, and give you a quest and you keep going. They’re not front and center in that game.
We put them front and center in this game and we expanded their lore a lot. And we made them into special knights, templar-y, in fact there’s a knight’s templar book on my shelf right here [and, yes, there was]. So we expanded their fiction a lot and one of the things that we did is we made them cooler, and much more interesting. We gave them more powers. All of the players in this game are descended from Legion bloodlines, well, except for Anjali, but she’s got a special story. So the causeways are something that we added to the Legion fiction. And the back-story of the causeway, I probably can’t get into a lot of what they are, I’m just assuming because they didn’t say I could talk about that so I probably can’t –
GB: You probably can. [laughter]
George: [laughter] The causeways are something that the Legion created, and so imagine if you’re a military force that is tasked with protecting this country, one thing that would be very advantageous is to be able to take a very large force and move it quickly from one part of the country to another, right? As opposed to marching for five days to get to the border. Well, now you can get half your forces to the border [snaps finger], just like that, right? So that is what they were using the causeways for.
Now that the Legion’s been wiped out, nobody really remembers how to open the causeways or how to use them, and that’s one of the things that the players get to find out about as you go through the game.
GB: It seems like you've really elaborated on the existing lore, while also adding in quite a bit of new material. Did you run into any roadblocks when fleshing out the story, perhaps from Square Enix, Gas Powered Games, or even Chris Taylor himself?
George: No, actually - I’ve worked on a lot of IP games. I’ve worked on The Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Neverwinter Nights - all sorts of different IPs I’ve worked with. There have been other situations where it was quite difficult to get things over the wall. This was really easy, and I’m not just saying that. This was actually a very nice situation.
About a year and a half ago, in 2009, I wrote this sucker [pointing to a hefty lore booklet], which is – in fact, this isn’t even all of it, but this is 100-some pages of expanded lore, and we sent that off to Chris Taylor. I will say that when I work on a license, I’m not a fan of going into a license and being like, “I’m going to completely change everything.” I really like to get to know the license and not violate any of the original stuff. Just expand on what’s there. So I did that on Dungeon Siege III, and I wrote this very long document, it went off to Chris Taylor, and it’s like, “Oh God. Please don’t make me rewrite that whole thing.” And the comments that came back were very minor.
He liked it. The guys at Gas Powered Games liked it. They were easy to please. They had a few comments and they kind of guided us a little bit, but other than that, I think it was great. So no, not really. Not really a lot of problems in that regard.
GB: With such a large amount of additional lore, how many quests did you create for the game? Is this going to be a very, very quest-driven game, such that I'll have ten quests in my journal at any given time?
George: It is a quest-driven game. There will never be a point in the game where you don’t have the main story either telling you to do something or branching off and letting you do any of these different things. Typically you won’t have ten quests in your journal before you get to a region. Usually, a couple of quests will be sending you to a new region and once you get there, then you’ll be opening up a bunch of side quests.
You probably didn’t get too far into the Rukkenvahl for the sample that you played, but there are a good number of quests in that region. You won’t necessarily get them where you show up in town and see something like 15 exclamation points. Typically, you’re going about your business doing whatever it is that you need to do for the main quest, and things pop up as you go along. So because of things that you’re doing, something happens and then someone has a quest for you.
There’s a wide range of quests. There are quests that are fairly complicated - main storyline stuff and some of the side quests are pretty big deals, there are decisions at the end of them, and they’re fairly long. And then there’s the quick one-off quests, like sending the player over here to do something relatively brief and come back. And we did that to make sure that the player has a good stream of rewards and quest offers coming in throughout the play experience. I'm finally doing my massive play through right now. I feel like it’s a pretty good balance.