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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 12:00 GMT
Fantasy farmers take up swords
Screen shot from Dungeon Siege computer game, Microsoft
Choose your battle tactics carefully in Dungeon Siege
By BBC News Online's Alfred Hermida in Las Vegas

Keen computer gamers are getting a glimpse of a role-playing game that Microsoft hopes will be one of the most popular PC titles for 2002.

Set in a familiar fantasy world scenario, Dungeon Siege takes players from humble beginnings as a farmer to a life dedicated to heroism and daring-do.

The game's developers are trying to make it stand out from the crowd of fantasy games currently on the market by removing some of the conventions that dent the realism of existing titles.

Dungeon Siege is due to go on sale in the US in April and worldwide two months later.

Non-stop action

"We are offering a rich, engaging fantasy experience but with no steep learning curve," Microsoft's Christopher Lye told BBC News Online.

At the start of the game, set in the fictitious Kingdom of Ehb, the player is cast as a farmer who is seeking revenge against the evil creatures that have killed his best friend and destroyed his small-holding.

Screen shot from Dungeon Siege computer game, Microsoft
Sometimes it's better to run away rather than fight
As the gamer ventures out to hunt down the creatures, they get swept up into a larger story in which the hero plays a pivotal role.

But beyond the recognisable storyline, Dungeon Siege attempts to get rid of some of the annoying compromises PC technology forces on games.

Dungeon Siege uses what Mr Lye described as "streaming technology" to avoid putting the action on hold while the next part of the world unfolds.

Gamers will never see loading screens in Dungeon Siege.

"It is a stream of fantasy," said Mr Lye. "It does not pull you out of the game."

Learning curve

Unlike most other role-playing games, Dungeon Siege does not force players to commit to one narrow specialisation at the start and stick with it throughout the rest of the adventure.

In this game, you do not choose a specific character like a magic user, warrior, thief or priest.

Instead, players start off with no special skills but as they play the game, the character adapts to fit their playing style.

Those who prefer to use a bow and arrow as their primary weapon gradually improve their archery skills.

During the adventure players can meet up with up to seven other characters.

Minimum requirements
Pentium III 333 MHz
128 MB of Ram
8 MB video card
The separate members of a party can be given different tasks during firefights and pitched battles, adding an element of strategy to games that often devolve into a slash-fest.

As with many 3D games, in Dungeon Siege you can zoom around the game as you play it.

But again, the game developers have added something a little special.

In Dungeon Siege, you can pause the fighting and then move around the scene, just like in the film The Matrix.

Microsoft is aiming to build an online community of gamers, with the release of tools that allow players to create their own fantasy worlds.

Dungeon Siege is the creation of Gas Powered Games, which was founded in May 1998 by Chris Taylor, creator of the award-winning Total Annihilation.

Consumer Electronics Show 2002, Las Vegas

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30 Jul 01 | dot life
03 Jan 02 | Science/Nature
03 Jan 01 | Science/Nature
10 Sep 01 | dot life
20 Aug 01 | Science/Nature
29 Oct 01 | dot life
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