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NWN2 News August 17th, 2007

Posted by Rob McGinnis , 17 August 2007 · 4099 views

NWN2 News
Neverwinter Nights 2 Community Update
August 17, 2007

Time for another Community Update! This week we will take a look at a great Community Initiative, read a bit about MoTB from a player's perspective and check out a couple great community modifications.

Community Content Compilation
Thunderblade_33 has taken the initiative to develop a Community Content Compilation project. Rather than steal his thunder, I'll let him explain it:

3C is a compilation of non-scripted work from the Vault. It's there to give guidelines for releasing quality content and help spread the use of that content. The compiled work is selected by using a list of publically available criteria. Steps are taken when needed to make the whole pack remain compatible.

This project started last week and will get updated regularly. Help from the community would be greaty appreciated for many things ranging from the creation of the missing custom PC armors to the acceptance and use of 3C as a standard content expansion hak.

I think this is a great idea. You can check out this great compilation here, on NWVault.

Mask of The Betrayer

A couple weeks ago Khaveen (from the Shadow Thieve's guild, Gallows Bird PW and a Community Rep) stopped by the Obsidian offices to visit during his road trip vacation. We took him out and forced him to eat. Took him around the offices a bit and well... read the rest for yourself...

A most fortunate thing happened to me one day a couple weeks ago. I was on vacation in southern California, and thought, “Hey, why not stop in and say ‘Hi’ to Rob McGinnis (NWN2 Community Coordinator) and the folks at Obsidian.” At the least, they deserved a thanks for all their efforts on Neverwinter Nights 2 (NWN2). Rob most graciously got permission for me to visit, probably only because of all the community representin’ I’d been doing as a NWN2 Community Representative. I figured we’d just grab lunch and chat for a bit before I headed off for Vegas, which was my next stop. Whoopee! I never could have imagined how that day at the Obsidian office would turn out…

So I arrived at the Obsidian office late in the morning, my stomach rumbling for lunch and my questions about the game ready to roll off my tongue. I met up with Rob who seemed to immediately want me to sign this Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) so I’d be legally obligated not to reveal any secrets I might see or hear that day. I never figured I’d actually be exposed to any ‘real’ secrets that hadn’t been announced publicly yet.

Rob took me around the office to check out art posters and meet everyone who was around at the time. I couldn’t believe that I was meeting Josh Sawyer and Chris Avellone, legends and great guys, and so many others whose names I had only known through forum logins. We met up with a cool group of guys from Obsidian and Atari to go to lunch at a phenomenal barbecue restaurant. Outstanding food, engaging conversation, great atmosphere… except perhaps the fried pickles. Yeah, frying pickles, I know… that was Rob’s idea. I could tell right off the bat that these guys liked each other and loved working at Obsidian and in the game industry. It was really refreshing to see the real passion from each Obsidian employee.

Throughout the lunch we talked about the development process and some of the plans for the near future of NWN2. I can’t reveal what I learned, but perhaps I can just say I was surprised and excited to hear several things. I’ve had faith that NWN2 has a bright long-term future, and that faith was reinforced.

I asked the guys about some of the quests, character backgrounds, storylines, and side adventures that were cut from the original NWN2 campaign. They said many of them were cut to maintain only the highest levels of quality and to comply with Atari/WotC requirements. I can respect them for holding to that standard of quality, although that does nothing for the curiosity. I asked about the development cycle, particularly with regard to how the storyline and quests developed, as superb RPG story has always been a trademark of Obsidian. They had only the highest praise for their senior designers and writers who led the way, but they still felt like they were allowed input and ideas through the process.

After lunch, we returned to the offices to get some work done. Rob said he wanted to show me the Mask of the Betrayer (MotB) expansion before I left. I thought about it, and said “Yeah, okay, I guess,” trying to act all cool. In truth, my tongue was probably hanging out and drooling all over the floor. Funny, Rob didn’t mention it. Nathaniel Chapman (NWN2 Assistant Producer) actually got started showing me the character creation process in MotB. Cool stuff, not too much different than you can see if you watch some of the game play walkthrough movies available on the net right now. But before I knew it, Nate sat me down at the chair and had me playing the actual beginning of the expansion campaign! I’ll share some initial impressions based only on the early stages and experiences in the game…

Within minutes, I was drawn into the story, and into the game world itself. The writing is top notch. I couldn’t tell which characters to trust, or why I was where I was, or why certain things were happening. The immediate questions that are evident as you begin really make you want to continue playing to figure it all out. I knew I wasn’t leaving that chair until they pried me out, pulled the plug, or Sneak Attacked the back of my head with a 3.5 Edition D&D Players Handbook (which I saw looming ominously on the bookshelf behind me).

The voice acting, including the new “narrator” voice, is superb. Well-placed sound effects, atmospheric and to-the-point cutscenes, and excellent brand new music tracks help put you in the setting and set an engaging atmosphere for the story. About five minutes into the gaming during a particularly intense scene, the hairs on my arms were literally standing straight up.

Game graphics seem to be improved in many respects, including blades of grass, leaves on the trees, and the sky. The game world art is beautiful, and the areas were clearly built carefully and with very good attention to detail. I observed several nice new graphical effects as well. The new interior tileset texture re-skinning feature really made one area’s old terrain look like a whole new tileset, which will be a boon to builders seeking more diversity in their areas.

Some really small things I saw that I liked where: a horse; a time of day indicator on the main interface; a little note in the combat log each time your party member gets a successful Lore check to identify an unknown item; an improved NPC influence tracking system where you can see the accumulated influence on the character screen, a notice of the accumulated amount and the change amount when influence changes, and the influence now being a 100 point scale; a wandering monster resting system where you can’t always rest infinite times just anywhere without consequence; and of course a Wendersnaven (or was it just a butterfly?).

Through the gaming as I encountered new features (most of which haven’t been announced yet), I felt like I was constantly asking, “Is this scriptable? Can builders use and customize this new feature?” And the answer was refreshingly almost always, “Yes.” Builders will have a nice array of new goodies, and I could tell that without even opening up the toolset.

At level-up, I took the opportunity to browse through the available spells list. There are some pretty cool new spells I’m sure we’ll be learning more about in the coming weeks. The new multi-select control feature has improved since the last patch, and it’s working well. And the new camera options (in patch 1.07, see Rob’s August 3 blog) are very nice. Although there are a large number of options, they are laid out better and are more intuitive than before. The new “strategy mode” camera option in the expansion is a real boon. You can switch back and forth between modes with a single keystroke, which I liked doing during combat to get a better view of the battlefield.

The crafting and item enchanting system is now more convenient and easier to use. You’ll be able to make some nice, powerful items even early on, and you’ll need them because combats are tougher than in the original game. They should be; you’re approaching epic levels now! I seriously recommend equipping your characters as best as possible and taking each combat seriously with your tactics. And I hate to say it, but buy as many healing potions as you can. With more challenging combat comes more fulfillment from winning each battle. I certainly felt it each time I survived by the skin of my teeth. My MotB game session ended some number of hours after starting, when my party died in a tough combat. Sure, I had just saved the game and could have reloaded, but I had seen enough for one day, and Nate and Rob had been more than generous with their time.

Still, the day wasn’t quite over, as Rob showed me some of the improvements we’re expecting for the DM Client interface in the next patch. The Player Listing on the right side of the screen is by far the biggest improvement, and it looks nice. The other DM Client changes have been described well in Rob’s weekly blogs.

I’d like to send my biggest thanks to all the guys and gals at Obsidian, whether I met them or not. If they only knew the gaming enjoyment they bring to so many of us. Thanks especially Rob and Nate for the once in a lifetime opportunity!

Community Works

New Shield Designs

SilkD has posted some great shield designs up on NWVault. These will add a lot of flavor and variety to your game. You can check them out here, on NWVault.

Heed's No Con

Heed's No Con 2 is a small hak pak/script system that will hide the challenge rating when a PC examines a creature. All description text is left visible and fully intact. You can check out this GUI hak here.

That's about it for this week. GenCon is going on in Indianapolis, so head on out there to check out MoTB for yourself.

Good to hear, good to hear. Don't know if what I would consider surprising and what Khaveen would consider surprising about the future of NWN2 are the same thing, but I hope this means they'll go the same route Bioware went with NWN, which is to say, more than one official expansion.

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