Sun, May 12, 2002 - Page 24 News List

Computer gamers enjoy strides in technology

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Computer game enthusiasts are enjoying recent strides made in game technology. A surge in popularity of the games has been credited to the box-office success of the film The Lord of the Rings.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

The huge success of the film Lord of the Rings has not only made thousands of Taiwanese intimately familiar with the fantasy world of Middle Earth, it has also helped in establishing the popularity of a new generation of games which are making their first step onto the local market.

Currently Dungeon Siege, which is filling the premium display space in computer stores, is pushing Diablo II off the shelves as the most sophisticated and popular product with gamers.

In seeking to recreate the world of Middle Earth and the adventures of the fellowship in the role-playing game (RPG) format, complete with the mind-blowing scenery that Rings has made a virtually essential element of any fantasy gaming environment, Dungeon Siege is leading the way. On one level, game designers have been pushing for almost cinematic effects in the game environment as an important hook to create appeal for hard-core gamers and new players alike.

"Even in the virtual world of the game, the graphics engine is able to create endless snowscapes and cliffs of ice that look almost real. With the addition of a zoom capability, players can become totally engrossed in the movie-like story," said Antonio Lu (呂維振), chief editor of the Gamebase Web site. "The feeling of intense hand-to-hand combat is totally engrossing," said Lu.

"It's been many years since I have been so engrossed in a game that I have played it non-stop for two days," said Nabil Hsieh (謝松霖), chief editor of PC gamer magazine. "But when Dungeon Siege was released, that's exactly what I did."

The enormous appeal of Dungeon Siege is its combination of two until now distinct gaming styles. "It is a mixture of the Baldur's Gate series and Diablo II. It combines the team combat concept of the former and the hand-to-hand intensity of the latter," Hsieh said.

The complexity of Baldur's Gate restricted its appeal to new gamers, who often found the move-by-move combat, in which the player needed to control characters individually, tedious. Diablo II made the shift to a relatively automated model in which a player can set up a basic strategy (for example, wizards and archers fighting in the second rank) and simply point and click at the target enemy. A total of eight characters can be controlled in this way, greatly speeding up play, especially for novices.

Diablo II received highly favorable comment when it was first released in Taiwan, and in its attention to graphics and detailed conception of its virtual world, was the prototype for many similar games that followed. While supporters believe that Dungeon Siege has made the next step in developing RPG gaming, critics point to a number of failings that include a lack of dramatic tension in the game and a lack of balance between character types.

"Dungeon Siege has nine chapters to its story, and although each has beautiful graphics, the virtual world it creates is not very significant in game terms. In Diablo II, different environments require players to alter their equipment and their strategy," said Lin Yi-shun (林以舜), a translator for computer games currently working with Interwise. "Other critics have pointed out that in online play, there is not sufficient tactical interrelation between character types, so that archers are not very effective and wizards are killed off too easily," he added.

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