Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir Blog Update

Obsidian Entertainment technical artist Scott Everts is the latest developer to add an entry to their Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir blog on IGN.
Soon after Mask of the Betrayer, we started planning for the second expansion. Those of us that worked on the previous games were very excited to see what we could do now that the tools were solid and we had a firm grasp of the systems. Working against us was a smaller team and shorter development schedule then we had on Mask. But with our experienced team we felt we could deliver a great game with interesting new systems. So Storm of Zehir was born!

One of the first new systems we discussed was the Overland Map. We wanted to make this game more "old school" with a party and interactive travel maps. We needed two maps, and they had to look distinctly different since one was in Samarach (in the southern reaches of Faerûn) and the other in the Sword Coast. I worked with our Art Director, Justin Cherry, to come up with some concepts. My first take was a flat map with prop hills, mountains, rivers, etc. Though this worked fine for small test maps, it didn't work for large areas. I finally scrapped that approach and made a new series of ground textures and molded terrain. Forests were problematic, so after much experimentation I came up with a series of differently-shaped tree canopies with separate tree trunk props. When you walked under the canopy it would fade out. It made the forests look dense and allowed the designers to "hide" encounter areas and other surprises.

The map was purposely stylized with different scales of objects. We wanted to make sure players knew they were in a different mode when travelling. To help portray this, Jay Bakke created a wonderful screen border and programming added a custom camera mode. We used saturated colors and distorted objects to increase the feeling of depth and scale. Travelling across each map now seems like an epic journey and with the spawned random monsters a dangerous one! Roger Chang was given the task of making all the cities, buildings, & other interactive props used on the map. All Overland art is completely new to fit the unique style. The tools and art elements are available for the mod community so they can also create exciting overland maps for their adventures.