After recently leaving Obsidian Entertainment, George Ziets, creative director on Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer and Dungeon Siege III, with previous experiences at both Turbine and ZeniMax Online, has opened an account on Formspring, a Q&A-driven social network. By now the man has already replied to a good number of questions, so we've rounded up some of the more interesting:
One of the standout moments in MotB was the scene between the spirit eater and Myrkul. Who wrote that scene?
I wrote the Myrkul scene (except for the Gann and Kaelyn lines, which were written by Chris Avellone).
A side note: Games are not always written sequentially, but MotB was. I started with the spirit barrow and worked my way through all the main plot dialogues, gradually building tension and unanswered questions until I reached the scene with Myrkul. It felt a lot like working my way through the plot of a novel. I think that sense of momentum really helped the Myrkul scene to work, like the big reveal in a Sherlock Holmes story. I doubt it would have turned out as well if I hadn't written that way.
Mask of the Betrayer is one of my all-time favourite RPGs. Some of the things I most liked included the dark atmosphere and that you weren't afraid to take risks with the gameplay. Which part of the game are you most proud of?
Thanks. :) I am probably most proud of the choices in the game. The major decisions had meaningful consequences, they made the player feel powerful and cool (e.g., devouring the god who cursed you), and most of them were morally gray.
Also - the team's attention to detail, in an effort to create an immersive and internally consistent world. Immersion is my gold standard, and it requires everything - art, sound, narrative, game systems - to work toward the same goal.
In terms of particular moments in the game - I was happiest with the Myrkul scene.
What lead to the choice of setting MoTB Rashemen? I loved it compared to the various Sword Coast uses.
Mostly, it was my frustration with the fact that EVERY D&D CRPG was set on the Sword Coast. That's a little bit of an exaggeration... but not much.
I literally sat down with the Forgotten Realms map and sourcebook and looked around for a setting that 1) I personally thought was cool, so that I would be inspired, and 2) had never appeared in a CRPG before.
Rashemen and Thay turned out to be perfect. They were close together, so the player could conceivably visit both in the same game, and Rashemen had roots in Japanese and Slavic mythologies (according to my reading, anyway), both of which I found interesting.
Is there any particular reason why Dungeon Siege III wasn't more unusual?
Yes, definitely. First, we were bound by the Dungeon Siege license, and the DS world is a fairly standard fantasy setting, albeit with a few twists. Second, Higher Powers wanted DS3 to be more mainstream. and not a personal storyline like MotB. Third, narrative was not a top priority on DS3, so the story and setting got less attention and resources than combat and gameplay.
To be fair, I think our attempt to marry Obsidian RPG stylez to the fast action RPG genre was a pretty ambitious goal in the first place, and we spent a lot of our time just trying to figure out how that might work (which was one of the reasons we kept the story pretty simple). If it had been up to me, I probably would have tried to be truer to the original IP, implemented an even more simplistic narrative, and focused all our efforts on making an updated game that was fully in the spirit of the original. But that's just my opinion, and I don't think the vision we embraced was fundamentally flawed - just very, very challenging to pull off.
You know George, CDP RED is seeking developers. ;) What is your opinion about Aliens RPG. The stories about Alpha Protocol
I missed most of the development cycle for Aliens (that was the year I spent at Zenimax Online). The early design documents for Aliens were pretty great though, and I wish I had gotten to play that game. Josh is a big fan of the franchise, and the characters, in particular, impressed me as interesting, multi-dimensional, and believable - much more so than in most games. Some of the sample banter dialogue that Josh wrote was hilarious and awesome. :)
Unfortunately, when I returned from Zenimax, Aliens did not seem to be in a good place, and it was canceled shortly after. I don't know exactly what happened while I was gone, so I can't really speculate on what went wrong.