Neverwinter Nights Interview

Article Index

Eschalon: Book II

Developer:BioWare Corp.
Release Date:2002-06-18
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Isometric
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
The team over at BioWare has created quite a history for themselves. By combining the gripping storylines and extensive gameplay associated with tabletop AD&D gaming with the functionality of computer gaming, they've provided us with some of the most revolutionary role-playing games of all time. And they intend to continue.

Their next project quite literally might redefine multiplayer gaming as we know it. This game, entitled Neverwinter Nights, will provide a plethora of advantages and enhancements over current RPGs. It will give you the power to manipulate, control, and even create your own worlds.

As such, we wanted to quench our insatiable thirst for more information concerning the game. Luckily, we were given the chance to ask Rob Bartel, the game's co-lead designer, some questions about how exactly the game would function and just how powerful it would be. Here's what he had to say:

GB: Many people consider the DM tools the most crucial factor in Neverwinter Nights' success. If they are easy to use for the average gamer and provide a wide range of freedom, NWN will have the edge against current RPGs with similar traits, such as Vampire: The Masquerade. In PnP AD&D gaming, if the players tried something that the DM hadn't thought of, or if the module doesn't cover the activity the PCs are trying to perform, the DM could (wing it) if he had to. Will the DM tools give the DM running an NWN module the freedom to build certain areas of a module on an as-needed basis? If so, how difficult and time-consuming would it be for a DM to create a whole new room, for example, if he didn't anticipate the PCs traveling there? Would something like this require (pausing) the module or stopping the module in some fashion? Or could a diligent DM keep the module running smoothly while he adds the room?

Rob: There are a number of technical issues associated with on-the-fly terrain updates. For instance, what happens to the treasure pile that suddenly finds itself above a bottomless chasm? Or what about the plot-critical trigger that is suddenly embedded in a wall? For these reasons and others, we've decided to hold off on real-time terrain alteration in the initial release. Perhaps we will have time to address the issue more thoroughly in the future. In the meantime, should the players express an interest in journeying to an unexpected location, the DM can always delay their progress until the next game session and handle it then.

GB: I realize the DM can change stats of creatures, but when you place a monster, such as an ogre, can you alter their appearance and/or title in any way? For example, can you place an Ogre Leader named Tuth'gar that is 150% larger than your standard ogre (and of course more powerful) and wearing very large platemail armor? Can you alter the experience gained from this more powerful version?

Rob: Hmm. Aside from altering the creature's stats, you will be able to change their name, as well, so Tuth'gar Undurak of the Fang Tribe is certainly a possibility. You won't be able to scale the size of the creature, however, as that would break a lot of his animations. Most of the creatures will have variant parts that you'll be able to swap in and out but not to the same extent that is possible with the player character races. So while you may not get a suit of player-style platemail on Tuth'gar, you'll still be able to make him seem beefier and more heavily armored than the remainder of his clan. And yes, you can override the default amount of experience he gives out upon his death.

GB: If the above example is possible, will doing things like this get people's characters barred from being "Vault-Approved"? Will there be guidelines for DMs so that they don't "overdue" implementing too many high level items and experience, thus causing the players of their module to be unable to bring them over to the Vault? It might be a bit of a letdown if characters go through a very comprehensive module only to find out that their gold, items, and/or experience is all null. If the DM knew what he could and couldn't add beforehand (to let the players keep Vault-approved characters), this would make implementing a module less frustrating.

Rob: The standards of the Official Vault will be firm but they will also be reasonable. It should be something to keep in the back of your mind as you design your module but there shouldn't be any need to be obsessive about it. If you do happen to give out too many experience points or items, don't worry - you haven't invalidated your player's entire character. When he or she checks back into the Vault, it will be possible to trim down the excesses instead of having to revert to a past save. Also, the Official Vault isn't the only way to play Neverwinter Nights. If you find the Vault restricting, you always have the choice of maintaining your characters locally or on servers where you play frequently.

GB: What is stopping a DM from implementing monsters and treasure *exactly* to Vault specifications and running players through quickly and easily in order to (twink) their characters to be some of the most powerful in the NWN network (with the least amount of time invested)? For example, could a DM put the appropriate amount of treasure on the ground (without any sort of fight or struggle) for his friends' characters in order to build them faster?

Rob: With Neverwinter Nights, we want to put as much power into the DM's hands as possible. Game balance and power levels are theirs to discern. For instance, they may want to run a superhero campaign, where both the player characters and the enemies they face are grossly overpowered. While such characters won't receive Official Vault status, they nevertheless represent a perfectly legitimate approach to gameplay. And that's the thing with the Official Vault: it's not there to stop cheating - it's just there to make cheating redundant. Yes, you can put a lot of effort into '˜min-maxing' the Official Vault but your character won't be all that more powerful than anyone else's. Players that want to be super-powerful are better off saving their characters locally, where they don't have to worry about maintaining official certification.