Neverwinter Nights Interview

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Eschalon: Book II

Developer:BioWare Corp.
Release Date:2002-06-18
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Isometric
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Only a couple of weeks ago, BioWare announced that they had come to terms with Interplay and that Infogrames would be publishing the eagerly-awaited Neverwinter Nights. Very good news, indeed. Not only did this dispel the fear that NWN may never be released, but it also meant that the game would be able to continue using the D&D license (not to mention I can finally sleep at night).  Even with all of the spotlight and the many changes BioWare is going through with a new publisher, we managed to get an interview with Greg Zeschuk, Joint CEO of Bioware and Co-Executive Producer of Neverwinter Nights. Our questions and his answers below:

GB: How is development coming along with Neverwinter Nights? What areas of the game are currently being worked on, and what areas are still left before the game is finished?

Greg: Development on Neverwinter Nights is moving along extremely smoothly. We're working on a number of fronts: fine-tuning the story and dialogue, working on code optimization for speed, building in scalability of the graphics engine, and most importantly going through a full pass on the interface to make sure the game is fun to play.

GB: How many hours of gameplay will the single player version offer? Additionally, will it offer enough side quests and other (extras) (like BG2 did) that a person could conceivably replay it several times?

Greg: We're aiming for sixty (60) hours of gameplay. One of the most powerful things about the Neverwinter Nights scripting system is that we can be much more specific about letting NPCs recognize characters of different race, class and even attribute (like Intelligence) - this allows us to make many more specific quests targeted only to specific players. One of our goals in Neverwinter Nights, as always, is to have a lot for the player to do in terms of non-story related events.

GB: During the Interplay lawsuit, there was some talk that NWN may have to switch from using a D&D license to a D20 license (depending on the outcome). Now that things are finalized, and Infogrames will be publishing the game, will the game mechanics or rules have to be changed in any respect? Do you foresee the game being delayed whatsoever because of these recent changes?

Greg: We have made no changes to the rules or game mechanics based on the events of the last few months. We've still got a pretty big chunk of work to do, but we don't believe there will be any significant delays in our final completion path.

GB: There are three popular RPGs currently in development that will include an editor allowing players to modify many aspects of the game: Dungeon Siege, Morrowind, and Neverwinter Nights. How do you feel NWN's ability to create modules will stand up to the customization of the other two games?

Greg: We can't really comment on the tool sets of Dungeon Siege or of Morrowind as we've never used them - we make a point of not speculating. Saying that the Neverwinter Nights tool set is really easy and fun to use certainly isn't speculation though as I've had the pleasure of using it quite a bit. One of the most exciting things about what we're doing with the tools is making them accessible to anyone - people with very limited technical experience should be able to make a module and then play it. As far as I know no other game to date has reached that goal. We are very confident that the Neverwinter Nights tools will unlock incredible creative potential in the community because of its ease of use.

GB: Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor was the first game released that incorporated many of the 3rd edition rules, but some people were disappointed at its lack of character customization due to the fact that you couldn't select your feats and skills (among other things). Can you tell us what you've done to make sure players feel like their character is (unique) in NWN? Will there be any notable aspects of the 3rd edition rules left out?

Greg: We are allowing players to select individual skills and feats both at character creation, and when characters level up. For people that don't want to totally customize their character we will have a couple options. One option is the ability for the game to make recommendations for the player in choosing skills and feats, and the other is the ability to choose among various '˜packages' of skills and feats (e.g. we make presets of brute fighter, dual-wielding swordsman, etc.). We understand the importance of allowing players to customize their characters if they wish.

GB: Can you give us any idea of how many magic items will be available in the single-player version of the game? Assuming that some of the more famous weapons from 3rd edition D&D will be available (Flame Tongue, Nine Lives Stealer, Sun Blade, etc), will any of these possess graphical effects, such as the blade of Flame Tongue actually projecting a flame?

Greg: The answer to this is easy - hundreds! The last time I used the tools and saw the number of items in the game I was flabbergasted! There are literally dozens of items of every imaginable type. Even more impressive is that you will be able to build new items in the tool set and use them in the campaign if you wish.

With regard to graphical effects on items, we actually attach the visual effect to the designed effect - if you choose the flaming attribute the sword will have a flame effect. The same goes if you choose a frost effect - it's all automatic so the player doesn't have to worry about it. Thus the player focuses only on design of a module, and not the art details.

GB: Would it be possible to get a lengthy description of how a character's death will be handled? How much experience will he lose, and could this loss result in the loss of a level? If so, could a person change the class he chose to level in initially when he regains the lost level?

Greg: We're still working out the details of how player death will be handled. When the final design is determined we will make it public. Unfortunately I can't do so now.

GB: Is there any new information on how the Official Vault will be maintained? With your recent publisher changes, do you still intend to make the official servers free of charge?

Greg: We've been spending a significant amount of time in the last few weeks planning out how our community site is going to work. In short, it's going to be very impressive. We are creating a location that all players of Neverwinter Nights will gather and exchange information. We'll have more information on this as it develops.

GB: Jay Watamaniuk's recent Q&A on the official Bioware forums states that DMs will not be able to take control of player characters. What options will a DM have if a character is doing whatever he can to make the game miserable for the rest of the party? Can a DM simply boot him from the game at any time?

Greg: One fairly safe rule to follow in game development is that it always sucks to lose control of your character - we agree with this. The host of the server (who incidentally doesn't have to be the DM) will have the ultimate power over who can play on the server. We still evaluating a system in which DMs will also be granted this power - we'll discuss this when it is resolved.

GB: Over a year ago, it was stated that NWN will offer over 200 spells. Has this number changed at all since then? How much variety will there be in high-level spells, and will some monsters be immune to them, such as the more powerful creatures in Throne of Bhaal?

Greg: I asked someone to count how many spells there are in the game and they refused, complaining there are too many. There are a lot of spells - around the 200 we originally discussed - we haven't specifically changed the goals with spells in any way. There are quite a few higher level spells (with really amazing effects) and we'll be following the game rules with regard to monster spell immunities - monsters will be immune if they're supposed to be, according to the rules.

I'd like to say thanks to everyone at BioWare, especially Greg, for taking the time to answer our questions. We hope you enjoyed reading his answers.