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GB: Speaking of combat, can we expect a mostly social campaign with some battles here and there, or will you actively try to murder our characters in the most devious ways imaginable?
LS: I’ll be trying to murder your characters in every way you can conceive of and some you can’t – but all within the confines of the rules and the spirit of the setting.
GB: Do you intend to introduce any mechanical changes to the basic NWN ruleset?
LS: In the first chapter, no. The second and particularly the third chapters may require some nifty scripting, in which case I’ll reach out to one of my celebrated colleagues or else just pester Beamdog. I can’t say more for fear of spoilers.
GB: According to your announcement, The Blades of Netheril will not only continue the original NWN story, but also act as a sequel to the game's two official expansions, and even some of your earlier modules. How exactly are you planning to make all those story threads work together?
LS: This is one aspect of the story I am most excited about. The Blades of Netheril takes place in the middle of 1373 DR, around a year after the original campaign and some months after SoU/HotU and my earlier modules. It pulls all of the plot lines and many of the characters together. If I can pull this off, it will be a feat of storytelling the bards will one day sing of. This approach does require some assumptions about the earlier stories and their characters, but it is a price that needs to be paid to get the narrative I want.
GB: The announcement also mentions that you intend to sell this highly ambitious module of yours at the low, low price of free, provided we own Beamdog's Enhanced Edition. Are you sure? And what about those who don't own the EE?
LS: As of right now, the project is intended to be free for owners of the Enhanced Edition. If someone makes me an offer that doesn’t undermine my creative vision and allows me to add VO and other highly expensive features I couldn’t otherwise afford, I would consider going the commercial route.
Anyone still interested in Neverwinter Nights should own the Enhanced Edition. You can buy it off CD key sites for under $3. If nothing else, buy it together with Tyrants of the Moonsea and you will be directly supporting the development of this project.
GB: You also promise some new portraits. Can you talk a bit about the style you're going for with them? And also, do you have any thoughts on why creating good RPG portraits seems to be such a lost art these days?
LS: As with most art and sound-related stuff, my answer is “do what Alan Miranda would do,” because he’s a genius at this kind of thing. I’ve no idea why good portraits are hard to come by: you’d have thought they would be in ready supply with the explosion of the global workforce and proliferation of talented artists for hire.
GB: And now, for one final question. On top of being a video game writer, you're also a fairly successful novelist. And as such, in your experience, what are the biggest differences between writing a book and a video game? What are your thoughts on using a game's systems to augment its narrative?
LS: “Fairly successful?” Touché! I’ll have you know-
No, actually, “fairly successful” is pretty accurate. The biggest difference when writing a videogame is that you have to account for player agency. Conversations will be different depending on the player’s actions and it takes a skilled writer to ensure the general flow of a conservation goes where it needs to in order to progress the story while remaining reactive. Also, game writing is all about dialogue: books must contain a narrative voice. I used to be a fan of RPGs that presented a narrative voice in dialogue, but these days I consider it indulgent and unnecessary.
Utilising a game’s systems to augment its narrative is one of the great advantages a game possesses. I’m a firm a believer in attaining a perfect synergy of the two. The best games can tell a story simply by the way they have the player interact with the world.
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