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Both blood stains and blood messaging carry over from Dark Souls, though they see a few new changes. Messaging happens directly from a gameplay menu now. You used to have to use items, but now you can simply select an option from a menu with no worries about items or slot usage. Because Dark Souls II is server based, finding messages on the ground will be more frequent, says Namco Bandai.
Even with my frequent deaths, I still had a cocky undercurrent to my play during this session. A Namco Bandai staffer that watched over my shoulder seemed frustrated that I refused to light a torch in these dark caves. I tried to convey that I'd rather carefully stumble around in the dark with a shield in hand than compromise defense with a torch. After turning down his advice he looked satisfied when I died. And after 15 minutes or so of deaths my HP bar suffered, with the max cap hovering at about half of normal capacity. Popping a Human Effigy item built me back up, though.
Dying consecutively as undead will lead to depletion of hit points in Dark Souls II. And if that wasn't bad enough, your character's appearance will begin to deteriorate as well, meaning that the more you die, the worse you look, with hair falling out among other things. Using this Human Effigy will have your character becoming living again now -- a change over having to use Humanity in Dark Souls. These items can be found or purchased, says Namco Bandai.
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The section I was playing - the outer ramparts of a castle and the forest surrounding it - is a portion of the area that will feature in the online beta test (scheduled for October). As such, the bulk of the game's online elements are included in this demo. While server integrity is the main reason for the beta, the dev team says it wants to also give players a glimpse into how online play will work in the finished game.
"We want players to be able to experience the features like the summoning and invasions," says Tunimura, the game's producer.
"There might be some online features locked out of the beta build, but pretty much everything else will be in there."
Ever mindful of how players are reacting to the Dark Souls universe, developer From Software is leaving the door open to changes to the full game if the beta throws up major issues for players.
"We'll be analysing the feedback we get from players during the beta test, and there might be a case that we consider removing or changing some of the online features based on that feedback," Tanimura says.
There a few changes to how a number of the online features have worked in the past. Leaving Blood Messages for other players to read, for example, are being encouraged to a greater extent than in the first Dark Souls by removing the need to possess an item to write them. You're now free to leave them for other players when and wherever you wish.
Unlike the peer-to-peer lobbies that fuel the original Dark Souls, players will now populate dedicated servers, like the spiritual predecessor, Demon's Souls, thus increasing the number of players that populate a given instance of the game.
In order to encourage player interaction, blood messaging is built into Dark Souls II as a system command, negating the original game's item requirements.
Summoned players--players who join the game of another character--no longer automatically exit a game upon the defeat of a boss. By utilizing different sized White Soapstone items, players gain different amounts of time for co-op play, but this allotment depletes as the summoned player defeats enemies. Players can also now summon two players at once, creating a three-player co-op experience.