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Page 1 of 2Ossian Studios was founded in 2003 by Alan Miranda, who you might recall was a producer on Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal and associate producer on Neverwinter Nights. The team's previous experience and passion for role-playing games landed them the opportunity to develop both Darkness over Daggerford, a title that was originally intended to be a Neverwinter Nights premium module, and Mysteries of Westgate, the very first premium module for Neverwinter Nights 2. To learn more about this latest project, we fired over a set of questions to the man himself:
GB: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your company.
Alan: I was previously a producer at BioWare on Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal and Neverwinter Nights. After we shipped NWN in the summer of 2002, my wife, Elizabeth Starr, and I decided to move back to Vancouver, British Columbia, where we'd lived for almost a decade prior to moving to Edmonton. It was at this time that we formed our company together, called Ossian Studios, with our goal to create games that told tales of epic adventures.
In the spring of 2005, while pitching another project, I talked with BioWare about doing a Neverwinter Nights premium mod. Since we knew each other well from my time at BioWare, they were excited about the idea. A little over a year later, we released our NWN1 Darkness over Daggerford module, and received great critical acclaim for it. Unfortunately, because the BioWare premium module program had been cancelled, we decided to continue working on the game for another couple of months and release it for free. With 25-30 hours of gameplay, new art, and new music, we really felt the NWN community would enjoy playing it. I think we made the right decision. :)
GB: How has Darkness over Daggerford been received since its 2006 release?
Alan: It's been doing very well we actually passed the 50,000 download mark for Daggerford this October. It also won the Independent Games Festival Best RPG Mod Award at GDC 2007, as well as the NWVault 2006 Gold Award, something Ossian is extremely proud of. And the interest is definitely still there amongst players, as the game consistently gets downloaded about 1000 times a month more than one year after release.
GB: Did you expect Daggerford to be downloaded as much as it was?
Alan: Well, we were honestly hoping that it would be downloaded a lot (who wouldn't?), but we were in awe when it was first posted to the NWVault. I remember talking to the team on release day and watching the downloads with them. It was being downloaded so fast over 2 downloads per minute that no one on the team had ever seen anything like it, and they were all longtime Hall of Fame mod authors in the community!
We've always been very happy at the hearty reception we got from the NWN community, and with the expectation that Darkness over Daggerford was to have been a premium module, it further fuelled players' excitement. In the end, I think what has kept interest going all this time has been the high quality of our game. We hope that our new game, Mysteries of Westgate, will be similarly well received and are confident that we have created an adventure of the highest quality.
GB: When Daggerford was finished, did you immediately start working on Mysteries of Westgate or were there other ideas floating around at the time?
Alan: There were plenty of ideas floating around for sure, such as what project to do, or who was on the new team. You see, in the aftermath of the BioWare premium mod program dissolving, there were some very talented modders that had been left floating. Our lead designer, Luke Scull (aka Alazander in the NWN community), was one such person that came to Ossian. There was even the option for us to work on a non-NWN RPG at one point. However, we eventually decided to do a NWN2 game for Atari, whom we had started talking with shortly after the release of Daggerford. NWN was, after all, what we were most familiar working with, and with the large success of Daggerford, I think we were the best partner choice for Atari to work on a NWN2 adventure pack.
Choosing Westgate as the location for our game came after a lot of research into popular locations with fans, as well as a false start where we had chosen Rashemen (of all places!) to set our campaign. Pre-production work started shortly thereafter, once we received WotC's (Wizards of the Coast) approval, this being in the latter part of 2006.
GB: Are there any major differences between working on a Neverwinter Nights 2 module as opposed to a Neverwinter Nights module?
Alan: I think the most important development difference with the NWN2 toolset has been the level design. Areas in NWN1 could be very easily built, although a skilled builder was needed to create high quality ones. In NWN2, the amount of time needed to create an area, let alone a high quality one, is markedly higher. For exterior areas that use a heightmap, this is to be expected, but building interior areas requires significantly more time than NWN1 as well. We are very fortunate to have found some extremely dedicated and talented level designers. In fact, MoW's area design is something that should really stand out for players as one of the highlights in the game, since we took a lot of care to make them as detailed and intriguing as possible.
In general, working with the NWN2 toolset has been an interesting challenge over the past year. There is a great deal of power under the toolset's hood, and Ossian has spent a lot of time discovering its quirks and learning how to best take advantage of that power. It will continue to serve us well into the future.