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Aaryn Flynn, BioWare's former general manager, was one of the keynote speakers at this year's Reboot Develop Red conference. According to this GamesIndustry.biz article, Flynn discussed his tenure at BioWare, the extensive and easy to use toolset he helped develop for Neverwinter Nights, and the rather tricky nature of EA's Frostbite engine that he compares to an F1 car. A few sample paragraphs:
But the talk was also part biography, with Flynn mapping out his career leading up to starting at Improbable in terms of his relationship to the tools he used on specific games. In his case, the first game was Baldur's Gate 2 for Bioware in Edmonton, a job he landed straight out of college almost 20 years ago. Flynn followed that by working as a tools programmer on Neverwinter Nights, a game notable for providing players creative tools with which to author their own experiences.
"The real ambition of this game was to give players that pen-and-paper experience that was so beloved, but to do it in a way that works for a computer RPG," Flynn explained to the Reboot Develop crowd. "An extremely ambitious endeavour to attempt to do."
It proved to be a formative experience for Flynn. The end result demanded a toolset that was both intuitive and powerful, so that untrained hands could produce results without in-depth training. The team at Bioware reasoned that the best way to achieve this would be to use those same tools to make the game itself, rather than treat them as different products. Neverwinter Nights was created in tandem with the very tools with which it was built, and those tools were then handed to the community. Somehow, it worked, and it produced a classic of both the genre and that era of gaming as a whole.
"To this day, people are still using that toolset, and have found all different ways to extend it and grow it and make it better," Flynn added. "It's remarkable to see the community that still exists around Neverwinter Nights... It was a great game and everything, but it was really the toolset that set it apart -- letting payers have everything that we as developers were using to build the game right there in front of them."