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In an editorial published on Kotaku, we learn how much of an impact BioWare's Neverwinter Nights had on the author during their earliest days of playing video games, while also hearing that current BioWare employees, including level designer Jess Hara Campbell, have also credited the title for their earliest role-playing inspirations. I can't say that Neverwinter Nights had much of an impact on me at the time of its release due to its handling of companions and somewhat lackluster storyline in comparison to Baldur's Gate, but it was still a solid offering with a wealth of DMing options, so it's great to hear that others found it even more compelling:
The story BioWare wrote in Neverwinter Nights has plenty to keep the player engaged, and the ever-evolving nature of the main antagonist keeps an aura of mystery around the game from start to finish. The atmospheres are excellent—the music, forests, dungeons, and ambient sounds created excellent immersion even with 2002-era graphics.
It was the characters, though, that made Neverwinter my favorite, and for many years only, game. I replayed the main campaign four times, and the expansion packs many more times than that. The NPCs were fun, flawed and downright weird (kobold bard, anyone?). Perhaps more importantly, the PC was entirely up to me. I don’t think gaming would’ve become a passion for me if I’d been forced to play as a Muscular Male With A Sword. There’s nothing wrong with that archetype, but he and I don’t have much in common.
Gaming is different things to different people: some want to role-play as someone else; some want to be a better version of themselves; some people just want to swing an axe. But what sets gaming apart from books and movies is that the player has a hand in creation: we get to decide which of those things to be. And getting to write our own stories is pretty powerful.
Now, if we were talking about the original SSI title on AOL back in the formative years of online gaming, I'd have much more to say about the matter.