Neverwinter Nights 2 Preview & Interview

1Up has published a new two-page feature for Neverwinter Nights 2, which includes a hands-on preview and an interview with Obsidian Entertainment CEO Feargus Urquhart. A snip from the Q&A:
Q: When I hear you and Ferret talking about the game, one of the things that's striking is the contrast between abstraction and realism. On one hand you're working with this D&D system, which is absolutely as abstract as games can get, with all these numbers. And on the other hand you're dealing with moral choice and storytelling and a reactive world. How do you navigate that kind of tension?

A: That's a good question -- about what you abstract and what you don't abstract. You have to look at a game as entertainment. It's supposed to be fun. When you get away from fun, it could be that you're trying too hard to make it art. When you're trying too hard to represent something...I don't want to say "in too realistic a way," but let's say "in too much detail"...then it's not necessarily fun. It might be fun to a small group of people, but not necessarily to a large audience.

On the flipside, you can abstract things so much that you screw up the flow of the game. I can give you an example: in KOTOR II, at one point we were going to have T3 be able to break down equipment. And be a workbench. So basically you would never have to empty your inventory, you'd almost never have to go to a store. He could just do everything for you. And maybe that made the game easier to play, and maybe if it's easier to play it's more fun. But it kind of broke up the whole flow of an RPG, which is: you go on an adventure, you solve a problem, you kill some monsters, you get some stuff, you go back to town, you stay at an inn, you sell the stuff, you get some new quests, and so on. And that can get tiresome if you make the player go back and forth too much, but the flow is important. So when the question comes up of what to abstract and what not to abstract, I guess we think a lot about the flow.

Not screwing up the flow is one of our bigger challenges. We can also make something too realistic -- maybe you have to use the workbench in real-time, and then you have to go back to the inn, and there's only one workbench in the world -- and maybe it's a really cool mechanism and you can do cool things with it, but it's so tiresome no one will ever use it. Maybe that's the answer: what's important to a game is the flow. You abstract what you need to abstract to keep the flow even and in such a way that the game remains fun.