Rock, Paper, Shotgun has conjured up a post-mortem interview with Ossian Studios' Alan Miranda about their Neverwinter Nights 2: Mysteries of Westgate adventure pack. In it, they discuss MoW's extended delay, prioritizing on a limited budget, European and American review score differences, and more.
RPS: Now the game's out, how does the team feel about the response to Westgate? What are you proud of? What are your regrets?
Alan Miranda: Ossian and the MoW team are immensely proud of Mysteries of Westgate. We set out to create a high-quality, medium-sized adventure in the traditional BioWare-RPG style for Neverwinter games, and we feel that we succeeded in that. The majority of the reviews for MoW have been positive, and what pleases us the most is that the Neverwinter fans are happy with the game.
The experience in developing MoW was quite different from DoD. Whereas DoD was the Wild West of game development with designing on the fly, MoW's design was planned out very tightly to begin with, and them implemented in an orderly fashion. I am very proud of our team for being able to do that as a virtual company because it's solid proof that AAA games can be developed virtually. Ossian has made that system work very well.
Our main regret obviously stems from being released 19 months late, because timing can mean everything to a game. MoW was supposed to have been released before the first NWN2 expansion pack but ended up being released 5 months after the second expansion! Its purpose was to be a sizeable appetizer on a menu of larger following courses. Its ultimate place seemingly became the cheese and crackers after the main meal was over.
It's sad to think that MoW didn't perform as well as it could have, not from any failure on the part of the game but because of its huge delay and initially restrictive DRM activation. In May 2008, PC Gamer's veteran RPG reviewer, Desslock, said Mysteries of Westgate was (a real gem) and (top-notch.) Yet a year later, GameSpot gave it a 65%. That's a pretty large difference. From the sound of it, it looked like there was the mistaken expectation from some reviewers that MoW was another expansion but failed to have all the content expected in an expansion, like new classes, lots of new art, and a large VO budget. Or even that it failed to leverage the features from previous expansions (which is impossible since MoW was finished before those games even released). That would never have been an issue had we released earlier. Perhaps having to hype the game for a year and a half (because we never knew when it would release), also led to expectations that MoW was bigger than it was. It is interesting to note that out of the 8 reviews for MoW on Metacritic (where it received a 73% average), the top 4 reviews are European and the bottom 4 are American. Extract whatever conclusion you like from that.
With Mysteries of Westgate finally released, I can say that Ossian Studios, which has expanded in size from the MoW days, is easily capable of creating a much larger RPG that succeeds on the aspects we weren't able to maximize with MoW (yes, the clichÃ© bigger, better, more). I am very much looking forward to the future of D&D games.