Neverwinter Nights 2 Interview, Part Two

Eurogamer has dished up the second portion of their Neverwinter Nights 2 interview, in which they fire off even more questions about the RPG sequel to Obsidian Entertainment CEO Feargus Urquhart. Check it out:
Q: Could you explain the creative set up at Obsidian. How you go about designing a game? What's your method for conception and creations? [Because we're interested, and because it gives us evidence of what a Lead Designer would actually be doing about six months from release.]

A: We decide to do a game. How it works at my level is that I talk to the game designers. As time has gone on, some games we've done have been more successful than other games - at least from a design perspective. My job is trying to define the few goals we want to stay with. For example, Planescape is a good example. Its goals were: we want to make a Planescape game. We have to use the Baldur's Gate engine. Planescape is very much about Sigil, which is interesting... but there are other planes. You also have to go to the different planes. And it needs to be very story-centric. That's the box that I drew, and it's how everything starts. We try to do it like this, but have forty goals. As soon as you have more than three or four or five goals, no-one knows what they're chasing.

It then goes to an expanded version of that. If we break each of the core aims down, and decide what the cool ideas are in each of them? We write a five-page story. The five-page story gets turned into a fifteen-page story. Then we pull out and define all the areas, and the areas turn into 20-page documents, so before you know it, it's gone from three pages to 400. But it's done in a way of continued sub-sets, so it goes from before. So you don't lose the point of it, as you can get lost sometimes.

There are over 110 areas in Neverwinter 2, so if you make areas outside your goals you get lost and then the results end up not feeling like part of the whole. After that, we have a big document which we then proceed with to implementation. Here we tie a designer and a scripter together, who implement the areas. Chris Avellone [Lead Designer on Planescape Torment and founding member of Obsidian - Ed] always takes the big writing task - so for Neverwinter Nights 2, he's written all the companions and all the major characters and proof-reads almost all the dialogue, and fixes it out to make sure it's all uniform. We have these individual teams, then we have these people over them to make sure it all fits together.