Yeah, it was basically a mildly interactive screensaver. And I say this with love.
Not content to be just another roof housing cheap imitation game developers, Gas Powered Games instantly set to work on making the sequel to their beloved Dungeon Siege franchise (while plotting the mind-blowingly sexy Supreme Commander, of course). I've personally been following the development of Dungeon Siege 2 since the moment it was announced, taking in each newly released screenshot and interview with a bit of my inner-fanboy emerging with every new screenshot pixel or interview letter.
However many years later, and Gas Powered Games makes the announcement I've been waiting for: it went gold. And take a look at those screenshots (Or the ones from my DS2 gallery)... Wait, what has Gas Powered Games doing doing all these years? What the hell? This game isn't new. What the hell. They didn't change anything. What the hell!
What you've been absorbing is the best example of a game being released where the development company has all the resources of every other game development company around and uses them to... make a better game? That's right. Almost three-four years in development under the guiding powers of the infamous Chris Taylor (of Total Annihilation fame), Gas Powered Games now prepares to release the sequel to their Dungeon Siege franchise for the video gaming consumption of rabid gamers everywhere. And in these three years in development, the graphics engine was hardly touched at all. Sure the textures are crisper and some shader effects were thrown in, but the graphics engine for Dungeon Siege 2 is essentially the same one we all saw in the first game. This is one of the best instances I've ever seen where a developer has actually decided to divert their focus from the much criticized "graphics over gameplay" path that a lot of developers take, and instead focus almost all of their time trying to make their game world seem more alive through details while simultaneously spending time to make the actual gameplay perfect. Three years in development, and we get what Chris Taylor says "is the closest to perfection I've ever come on any game I've done!" Bold words from a game designer said to revolutionize the real-time strategy genre with Total Annihilation.
And here's where the point comes in: gamers are already up-in-arms about Dungeon Siege 2. And not about the developer's immense focus on detail and gameplay, but rather about the developer's lack of time spent upgrading the graphics engine. Comments I've seen from average gamers across a number of sites chastise Gas Powered Games (though, not directly of course, that would require backbone and thought) for releasing a game in 2005 that looks "so bad," yet go on to complain about the original game being a "screensaver." The nerve of Gas Powered Games! What were they thinking when they were following the ideal that so many critical editorials and articles express their fears that games are becoming so technologically advanced that the gameplay begins to suffer. What on Earth were they thinking in actually spending time trying to perfect their new game's gameplay instead of focusing on visuals?
And there's the beauty of this industry folks: graphics make the game. Despite whatever article on any game development, game review, or game-related website or periodical may say, at the end of the day, a game simply cannot be released these days unless it's using a shader model higher than any graphics card can support, unless it is taking advantage of HDR lighting, lens flares, per-pixel lighting, physically accurate shadows, mega-detailed textures, and super-shiny rough wooden surfaces (because that's totally realistic, dude). Nobody wants to play a visually par game anymore; hell, take a look at Battlefield 2. A ridiculously popular game, yet, it's released months before it should have been so buyers can function as beta testers, and with requirements that alienate anybody without the latest and greatest graphics cards. The video game industry is an industry well-versed in gamer hypocrisy, and the developers acknowledge it when they release games like Battlefield 2, Half-Life 2 (it's not a good game, I'm sorry), and DOOM 3.
If gamers really do mean it when they say that they would rather have a visually sub-par game with excellent gameplay, then let's all put our money where our mouth is. Buy games like Dungeon Siege 2. Reward the developers for releasing a great game and focusing on what really matters to gamers everywhere: the gameplay. I will be buying Dungeon Siege 2 as soon as I possibly can, and not only to support the developer's focus on gameplay, but because I think their laser-like focus and precision during the development of Dungeon Siege 2 has resulted in one of the best action/RPGs in gaming history being released on August 16th, 2005.