Neverwinter Nights is an ambitious project that's been more than four years in the making at BioWare, the developer of the highly acclaimed PC role-playing games Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II. BioWare hopes that its next product will finally bridge the gap between computer and paper-and-pencil role-playing games. It's true that Neverwinter Nights will feature a comprehensive single-player game that uses Wizards of the Coast's/TSR's updated 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules. However, it'll also include a powerful construction set that'll let would-be dungeon masters create their own virtual dungeons and then host online game sessions with players all over the world.
Neverwinter Nights' single-player campaign will consist of between 20 and 30 different scenarios that should prove sufficient for anyone looking for a single-player computer RPG. But it'll also feature a comprehensive toolset with a streamlined interface that'll help users create their own adventure modules by actually laying out dungeons, buildings, and terrain and populating it all with interactive nonplayer characters and hostile monsters, who may be involved in whatever quests the dungeon master decides to build into the scenario.
Once dungeon masters have built a module, they'll be able to take their creations online with more than 60 different players at once and conduct and arbitrate battles and dialogue in real time. In multiplayer sessions, players' characters will be persistently stored in server-side databases, not only to let players retain their characters' progress and transfer their advanced characters from campaign to campaign, but also to prevent client-side hacking and cheating. Fortunately, Neverwinter Nights will also let players create separate single-player characters for the game's lengthy single-player campaign--characters that they can make as poor or rich and as weak or powerful as they desire by playing through the included scenarios.
Neverwinter Nights seems more and more promising each time we see it. We'll have updated, hands-on reports directly from the show floor soon.