Gas Powered Games has created the Siege Engine, a custom 3D game engine packed full of innovative features:
Seamless transitions in a continuous world
Particle effect system
Realistic shadows, configurable as high or low detail to control GPU usage
A fully 3D environment allowing for design in any direction, even straight down
Advanced camera options
Weighted vertex animation system
After a short precaching time during startup you will never see a loading screen again. Brett Johnson, Lead Level Designer, tells us that this is accomplished by having the Siege Engine stream new pieces in as old pieces are streamed out. This loading in and out will be done in the background. Rooves will lift away and allow you to follow your characters as they walk in and out of buildings and dungeons without missing a single step.
The combination of particle effects, realistic shadows, and dynamic lighting creates an engrossing and visually stunning world. Here are several comments about the graphics capabilities from several online articles:
"As you wander through forests you'll find yourself surrounded by tall trees and thick vegetation. When you come upon a stream, you'll see the transparent water ripple over the rocks below, or cascade off of a ledge in a superb waterfall. Travel into a dank cave or down into the basement of a ruined temple and the world remains equally stunning. Chasms descend into dark purple fog, broken furniture lies ruined in shadowy corners, and rusted elevators creak into depths unknown." - GameSpy 3/01 Preview
"The game engine uses a particle system that makes spells and effects fully 3D. At one point, the demonstrator paused the game during combat, then panned the camera to point to a fireball in mid-flight. He then zoomed in and rotated the viewpoint around the fireball, which truly showed off the incredible detail lavished upon every aspect of the game. The drip-drip's of drool were the only sound in the room at this point." - Games Domain, 3/00
"A fireball crossing a room lights objects in its path in a dynamic, realistic way. Fog obscures deep chasms, adding to the sense of dizzying height as the player crosses a flimsy rope bridge" - Daily Radar
The camera control options are explained very well by Chris "Duckman" Liu.
Currently, we have two modes for camera control, a game camera and a developer camera. The game camera (also known as tracking mode), is locked into a 3D 'donut' around the character(s). You can orbit, lower and raise, and zoom the camera within a certain range to get the right angle for adventuring. For example, you can orbit the party to get a 360 degree view of them, but you can only zoom in and out and lower the camera so far. The camera can be adjusted at anytime. One of the ideas the GPG team has is implementing different camera angle ranges depending where you are. We could lower the camera angle limit in dungeons to get a better perspective and mood, then raise the camera angle limit for outside areas to help you keep the party together. We're still playing around with the right set of camera angle ranges we'll allow for game play and we'll probably be playing with the camera for a while to come.
The developer camera will probably not ship in the final version of the game with the exception of the Siege Editor where it would be necessary to have. Basically, we can move the camera anywhere we want in any axis, independent of the party or a character. It's great for debugging and testing when we want to verify the world and objects.
You will also be able to set specific camera positions and recall it via hot key. So you could have a close in camera to look for traps and a battle camera that's zoomed out for large party engagements and access them at a keystroke
You'll easily be able to zoom in and out with the wheel on a wheel mouse. GPG also created the camera control so that obstructions become transparent automatically.
Watching all of these wonderful graphical creations on your system will be a feast for the eyes. Resolutions range from 640 x 480 to 1280 x 1024 in 32-bit color! And if your system becomes overburdened with all this graphical goodness, the Siege Engine has the ability to scale the graphics and remove detail as necessary to maintain a smooth frame rate.
The GPG team has also been very hard at work on the animation aspect of DS.
"We have well over a hundred monsters that have been invented, built and animated. We have literally thousands of animations that move our characters in the world. We have thousands of items, bushes, trees." - Mark Peasley at Game Guru.
The DS Vault has specific information on the method of animating in DS:
"Dungeon Siege features a weighted vertex animation system, and Chris pointed out their system allows smooth transitions between different animations without requiring a model to return to "set position". For instance, a skeleton could go smoothly from mid-sword swing immediately into a death animation as someone deals it a killing blow." - DS Vault E3 2000 Report