Page 1 of 2With Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer finished and on store shelves, we fired over a handful of tough questions to lead designer and producer Kevin Saunders. Our questions and his answers to follow:
GB: Tell us a little about yourself and your role in the creation of Mask of the Betrayer.
Kevin: My name is Kevin Saunders and I was the lead designer and the producer for NWN2: Mask of the Betrayer. My educational background was in environmental engineering, but I've been a game designer for over nine years, working on titles such as Shattered Galaxy (MMORTS), C&C Generals: Zero Hour (RTS), and Knights of the Old Republic 2 (RPG). I've been playing D&D since I was 5 and have a deeply rooted passion for the game.
GB: What was your primary goal with Mask of the Betrayer and do you feel that you accomplished it?
Kevin: My answer is boring, but our primary goal was creating a great game on time and within our budget. Fans probably hate to hear this, but at the end of the day, developing games is a business. Unless we can do it efficiently enough, we go out of business. While it's true that some in game development get rich, most of us work hard just to be able to pay the bills and live a life like everyone else (our big payoff is that we tend to love our jobs).
Of course, we wanted to make the best RPG experience we could, while improving the tools for the mod community as much as we could. We wanted to have reactive, realistic characters, a story that adapted to the player's decisions, an immersive world with stunning visuals, etc. - and I think we achieved all of these things at least to a large part. But on MotB a priority was to maximize the game play experience without requiring more time or additional resources from our original schedule and budget. Yes, we achieved this goal.
GB: What aspect of the expansion pack are you most proud of?
Kevin: As a project, I'm most proud of how the team truly excelled. Everyone worked together very well and no one was deterred by the numerous challenges that come up in game development. A lot of individuals did stellar work and the quality of MotB reflects their efforts and their cooperation and teamwork.
As a game, I'm most proud of the consistency and coherence of our depiction of the world. From the characters, to the visuals, to the individual minor quests, I feel we did a great job of presenting the game's setting (Rashemen and a few more exotic places) and telling a story that players will remember.
GB: Is there any content that you regret leaving out or didn't have time to add?
Kevin: No (but see below). There are a few things I wish we could have added. One was a side quest we called Patron of the Arts. It was a complete tangent from the main storyline and mostly for nostalgia value and comic relief. It involved organizing a play using the actors at the Veil (and competing with actors at the Sloop).
The play would be about your adventures from the NWN2 campaign and would culminate in a cut scene of the play that would have depended upon how you "wrote" the script and which actors you convinced to play the roles. It was an idea that we all really liked, but it became clear that we just wouldn't have the time to do it well, so we dropped it from consideration early on.
GB: Mask of the Betrayer has even garnered some comparisons to Baldur's Gate II and Planescape: Torment. Did you draw any inspiration from BioWare/Black Isle Studios games of the past decade?
Kevin: Not directly. Many of the MotB developers have played those games so they certainly had an influence, but no specific ideas or inspiration was drawn from them. We didn't go into MotB with a plan to make it like either of those games.
GB: The expansion focuses more on an inward story combined with cosmological elements than on any of the classic down-to-earth approaches of RPG storytelling. Why did you choose this route?
Kevin: It was the type of story we wanted to tell. NWN2 had a classic fantasy RPG story and we didn't want to do that again. As an expansion, we felt we could try something different and gamble a bit with the story. The majority of people who buy an expansion for a game like NWN2 are pretty hard core gamers and role-players and we thought they'd appreciate an atypical story.