Yahoo Games Domain has published an interview with Feargus Urquhart, in which the Obsidian Entertainment president discusses their upcoming Neverwinter Nights sequel. Here's a taste:
Q: Where is the balance between planning NWN2 as a true sequel versus an expansion?
A: It's funny - everybody has that question. And I know where it comes from, since we're saying we're going to use the same engine. The people on our forums have exploded, telling us how dumb we are. Like, 2006? Same engine? What are you doing?
The decision there went like this. I look at the Aurora engine as two things. It's a technological thing: graphics, models, textures, and all that. But it's also a great RPG engine, and in that way it has aspects like the non-graphic elements of an Unreal engine, or a Doom engine, or something like that. It's a gigantic scripting and dialogue system tuned towards an RPG.
So our idea was twofold: why make a new engine that has a new scripting language? It's like saying we're not going to use C++ to program, since it's old. We're going to use Cobol now, or something. We have a strong RPG base -- let's leave that. Then the designers aren't waiting for new tech to start doing their thing -- they can start writing dialogue and doing the things they have to do, which takes a very long time in an RPG. A lot of game types are built from a lot of technology and then equal or lesser time is spent doing levels and content. But we're an RPG, and we have to get the tech done because it takes so long to build levels and write dialogue. So we took that into account.
But we also know that the graphics part of the engine is different. What exists now came out in 2002, and it looked... good. It didn't look like crap or anything -- it just looked good for 2002. Obviously for 2006, that's not going to work. Having two years to work, we can rip out the whole graphics aspect and rewrite it. It's going to be a completely different thing. It's not going to be the same kind of model system.
We're probably going to stick with tiles, not because of the engine, but because it's such an easy system for making mods. It's a quick thing -- people can lay the tiles down, and it's good reinforcement to keep making your module. If people have to work hard just to get the look right, they're not so inclined to keep moving forward. We're not going to keep the art or anything, but we'll keep a tile system that's similar. Everything else about the graphics is all gonna change. We probably won't use one piece of art from the original game.