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Interviews By  on November 17, 2006

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We chat with Obsidian to find out what MMO gamers can expect from NWN2

When the original Neverwinter Nights was released, it seemed like another BioWare RPG. Yet, over time, the game became an odd hybrid. Some played it for the single-player campaign, while others worked, modded and transformed it into a kind of home-brew mini-MMO maker. With Obsidian releasing Neverwinter Nights 2 recently, we decided to talk to the developers and find out what MMORPG fans should expect from this high profile sequel. Your game is not an MMORPG by any stretch. Why do you believe traditional MMORPG players will be attracted to your title?
Annie Carlson:

Aside from the actual meat of the game - robust character creation system, a compelling and diverse array of character classes, a solid ruleset (a system that many MMORPG players might be familiar with, as a lot of modern RPG systems are derivatives of the Dungeons & Dragons system), and the ability to play the game online with up to 4 players - it's not just about the single-player campaign. Neverwinter Nights 2, like its predecessor, is shipping with a fully-functional toolset designed to allow players to create their own adventures. Even if your average player is not as attracted to making their own campaign, there exists a gigantic community - which grew and flourished from the time of the original Neverwinter Nights release - who are committed to creating outstanding adventures and releasing them for public use. But wait - there's MORE! In addition to stand-alone adventures, communities of players are creating "Persistent Worlds," which are basically miniature MMORPGs, games with their own storylines, quests, and areas, created from the toolset and populated by a vast number of players from all over the world.

So, basically: in addition to a large, robust original campaign (which includes a multiplayer component), a versatile toolset for creating your own adventures, a vast number of downloadable modules and adventures, and access to a large number of Persistent Worlds to play in, there's a tremendous amount of variety of gameplay a player has access to within this one single title. I think there are elements within each aspect to draw the eye and win the heart of any gamer, including the most fickle of MMORPG players. Giving players the ability to write their own content creates a whole other level to game play. How did you come to this choice for NWN?
Tony Evans:

Bioware created the original Neverwinter Nights and provided an excellent Toolset for fans to create their own content. This, combined with Bioware's commitment to providing frequent updates to the Neverwinter Nights Toolset through the years, has helped foster a large community of fans who design their own modules and share them with the world.

To continue the winning formula pioneered by Bioware, Obsidian Entertainment has given fans a next-generation Toolset and game engine with many powerful new features that will make it easier and faster for anyone to create their own amazing adventures. What type of UI do players use in order to create the worlds that other players can enter? How friendly is it?
Ben Ma:

NWN2 comes with a robust toolset package for creating your own world in the D&D universe. We set out to create a toolset that would meet the demands of functionality and usability of the entire community (hobbyists, developers, hardcore builders, etc.) and I believe we've achieved that goal by delivering a package that has the power to create full-fledged campaigns and the flexibility to modify preferences and layout to your personal liking.

The toolset provides all the necessary components to create landscapes, decorate castle interiors, write dialog or quests, and even design your own special effects. While it does have a multitude of options and properties (that can look rather intimidating from a screenshot), the toolset's presentation is actually quite intuitive. For example, we no longer use tiles preset with trees, roads, and grass for creating exteriors. Instead, in NWN2 you mold the terrain similar to a piece of clay and spray paint the textures directly onto the surface. If you need a road, paint a little road. If you need some grass, spray a little grass. With your imagination and NWN2's huge palette of fitting placeables, trees, and creatures, you might begin with a clean slate, but you can end with sprawling fields, fiery volcano mountains, or even lizardpeople filled jungles! If a player creates a dungeon for others to explore can they put it out on a network for all players to try? Or is it just set up for their specific play group?
Eric Fenstermaker:

Anyone can play someone's custom dungeon. Typically when players create these adventures, they'll upload them to public sites like NWVault, and others can download, play, and even provide feedback on them. These online modules end up extending the replay value of our game by a wide margin, because once people are done with the single-player campaign that we put together, all they have to do is open up a web browser and pick out a new adventure to play. For Neverwinter Nights 1, the selection currently numbers in the thousands, and we're hoping for similar numbers for the sequel over its lifespan. The best of these modules are every bit as professional as the official campaign, and their authors become well known for their incredible work. How successful was this type of game play in the first Neverwinter Nights? Did you find more players using the tool than playing the actual regular game?
Eric Fenstermaker:

It was extremely successful. I imagine most players just start out by playing the official campaign, naturally, but as time passes and more and more of them complete the game, they look to ways to continue with the experience. And of course some are just born builders as well, and the toolset is the first thing they play with. Between people using the tool and people playing player-made adventures created using that tool, I would guess that that population is currently quite a lot larger than the one playing the original Neverwinter Nights campaign. You won't find many other games released in 2002 that still have many people playing them, but the Neverwinter community is still thriving, for the simple reason that it was a game that came with a good toolset. Can players run through the single player game and then transport their characters into the player created content? If so how does this impact the game?
Tony Evans:

Similar to a Paper & Pen game of Dungeons & Dragons, the player can take the character they created into the Neverwinter Nights 2 Official Campaign or most any user-created modules. Using the Export Character option the player can save their character in its current state and then use that character for a new adventure. Obviously if the player Exports their level 19 Warlock and starts the Official Campaign from the beginning with that character, the game will be pretty easy, but players always have that option.

The Toolset allows users to put in custom restrictions for their own modules. For example, if a module is designed and balanced for level 10 characters, and the players starts the module with a level 1 character, then the designer of the module could choose to give that character enough experience points to level up so that they are more of a match for the challenge of the module. How many players can take part in the network game at once? Is it possible for players to design dungeons for specific numbers of people?
Anthony Davis:

You can have just as many people playing at the same time as you could in NWN1. While you cannot run your own MMORPG, you can connect with a dozen or more friends and play Dungeons and Dragons. Yes, you can limit the number of players in a module or a campaign through the toolset. Obviously, the last NWN game developed this kind of MMO-lite following where players developed their own mods, add-ons and worlds using your tools. Do you anticipate the same evolution in NWN2?
Tony Evans:

It is too early to tell, but we are very encouraged to see how well the Neverwinter Nights community has reacted to the Neverwinter Nights 2 Toolset so far. Though Neverwinter Nights 2 was just recently released, already the fans have created some very promising modules and plug-ins. I can't wait to see what the future holds! What hopes do you have for the customizable content? Is there a plan to extend it even further for players?
Ryan Rucinski:

If you mean things like 'Premium Modules' and the like, there are no official plans at this time. Does that mean we aren't ever going to do them? It would be suspect of us to never create more content. Rather we are working on what it would take to make content available to the public. We need to convince a provider to give us free bandwidth... And money, lots of it!