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Since the talented developers are known for the characters they've created in previous games like Fallout, Planescape: Torment, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, we thought it would only be fitting to direct our questions in such a way that we could learn more about the protagonist we'll be controlling this time around - and lead designer Ferrete Baudoin gives us the answers we were looking for:
GB: How intricate will character creation be when we fire up Neverwinter Nights 2 for the first time? In addition to the standard choices we've come to expect from Dungeons & Dragons CRPGs (gender, race, class, etc.), will there be any other optional traits or abilities that we can give to the main character?
FB: Creating a Dungeons and Dragons character has a lot of fun choices you need to make. It can be an involved process to create just the right character for you. In Neverwinter Nights 2 you make all the standard choices plus you get to select a background for your character. Backgrounds represent what you were doing before the adventure, and they have an effect on how you're perceived by other people in your home town. And if that's not enough to entice you, they are almost like a free feat so everyone should enjoy them.
If this sounds overwhelming, don't worry. We'll also have the handy recommend feature like the first game, so character creation takes as long as you want it, really.
GB: Tell us about the protagonist's background and what purpose he or she serves before the game begins. How will they find themselves becoming involved and ultimately end up being the center of the adventure?
FB: The protagonist's background is really in large part up to you. You make your own character so you pick your race, class, skills, and other things. But no matter what you're a villager of remote village of West Harbor, and have been your whole life. You wind up adventuring because you (and your village) are being threatened, and you're the one to fix it.
GB: Will the protagonist have any ties to famous Forgotten Realms characters we may know of? Or are they completely independent from any previous encounters we've experienced in the setting?
FB: The protagonist doesn't have any ties to famous Forgotten Realms characters we want to leave it open enough that people can fill in the blanks of their character background. The funny thing is a designer can tell the tightest story by nailing down more and more about a character's background. At Obsidian we're trying to stay close to our Dungeons and Dragons' roots and making it so you have a lot of control over your avatar.
GB: Do the main character's primary goals become evident early in the game? Or will these change as the game progresses?
FB: The primary goals shift over the course of the story. Initially it's a mixture of finding out what's going, saving your village, and saving your own skin (the last even a chaotic evil guy can rally behind). But as you learn more the goals get more intricate. It builds upon itself.
GB: How would you compare and contrast the protagonist from NWN2 to the likes of Fallout's Vault Dweller, Torment's Nameless One, or KotoR II's last Jedi?
FB: I think our protagonist is closest to the Vault Dweller, because there's nothing overtly special about you. What makes you special are your mission, your choices, and decisions. And maybe some stuff happens along the way that ups the ante, too.
GB: Will the main character be forced to make morale decisions during the game where the final outcome (good or bad) is not always obvious? Can you give us an example of a difficult decision he or she will be forced to make?
FB: In NWN2 the player will need to make a lot of choices throughout the course of the story some will be easy, others not so much. Moral decisions for good-aligned players are often choosing the expedient and practical instead of the straight and narrow. For evil players, it's a case of how low will you go.
There's a lot of gray area, too. As an example, at one point in the story there's a wicked lady who is on the eve of being put to the headsman's axe. She really is as guilty as sin, but she begs for clemency and the ultimate decision is placed in your hands. Is it a good thing to be merciful? Perhaps she will turn over a new leaf? Although, she did a marvelous job of trying to ruin your life and others before. You could make arguments either way, and that's what fun about the shades of gray in RPGs.
GB: Aside from the main character advancing in experience and levels, is there any sort of development that goes on (behind-the-scenes,) such as his or her alignment shifting after performing a dastardly deed?
FB: There's a lot that happens behind-the-scenes. Your alignment will shift based off of decisions and your actions in the game both along the good and evil axis as well as law and chaos. Beyond that the world reacts to some of the decisions you make, and it remembers. Maybe not all the time, but enough that it should keep you guessing. Also, the player advances in stature and renown through the course of the story so there's more than loot and experience that a player would find rewarding.
GB: How has the influence system from KotOR II been expanded for NWN2 and how much influence will the game's protagonist have on his or her party members? What sort of outcome might we expect when a party member is greatly influenced in a negative or positive direction?
FB: The companion system in KotOR2 was a great innovation. Because instead of looking at let's say Kreia as just a Jedi companion, instead when talking with her you had to think of her as a human being and if you wanted to get on her good side you had to figure out what made her tick. We definitely are doing that in NWN2 and its being handled by Chris Avellone, the lead designer of KotOR2 and resident writing guru. The people with you are more than just classes and levels, they're people. If they respect you and like you then you may get more information and they'll be more inclined to help by you when things get tough.
GB: Can the main character influence his party members through actions, in addition to dialogue choices? For example, will a thief perfecting his trade cause any dissention? If so, will the outcome be determined on a case-by-case basis?
FB: Sometimes when a companion is (off camera) and not in your party, they do do things. But when they are in your party you command them, and you can step in and control them directly. For a player to formulate fun tactics in a fight, they need to be able to rely on their orders being followed. That doesn't mean that your companions won't indulge in some mischief from time to time.
Thanks for answering our questions, Ferret! We look forward to exploring the Forgotten Realms once again.