Neverwinter Nights 2 Designer Diary #3 - Designing an Epic, Flexible Story

Senior designer and creative director Chris Avellone explains how the story in Neverwinter Nights 2 will let you be a hero, politician, general, or criminal.

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Classic role-playing games combine hack-and-slash gameplay, character development, and an epic story--and these are all goals that the team at Obisidan is working on with Neverwinter Nights 2. The follow-up to the popular 2002 role-playing game that had you saving the fantasy city of Neverwinter from evil forces. Neverwinter Nights 2 promises to take the adventure further, with a beautiful 3D graphics engine as well as a powerful and flexible story that will have you experiencing all sorts of new adventures. To explain, we have Chris Avellone, the game's creative director from Obsidian Entertainment. Neverwinter Nights 2 is scheduled to ship around month's end.

You can be a warrior, a mage, or even a ladies man in Neverwinter Nights 2.

Choose Your Own Adventure

By Chris Avellone
Creative Director/Senior Designer, Obsidian Entertainment

One of the initial goals of Neverwinter Nights 2 we had here at Obsidian was to create an epic, cinematic storyline to drive you forward--to make you realize that you are not only advancing in level over the course of the game, but taking on increasingly advanced political and tactical challenges, as well. We wanted your decisions to prove important for not only yourself and your party, but also other prominent non-player characters and factions in the game, to the point where you can even change the balance of power within the city of Neverwinter itself.

It's very easy to label a game as "epic," but what we tried to do was make sure we nailed down exactly what constitutes an epic storyline and then implement it. We wanted to keep the stakes high and the enemies powerful, as well as give you a key role, not just from an adventuring perspective, but also as a general, commander, and even a ruler of your own military stronghold. We give you a choice of being a politician, criminal, or advisor, as well, but that's up to you to choose. Whatever occurs, you will find yourself engaged in several battles over the course of the game--sometimes commanding large groups of troops on the battlefield, and at other times, diplomatically fighting for your reputation in a courtroom where it seems all the evidence is piled against you.

You can also play as a female character, if you choose.

The story in Neverwinter Nights 2 begins with a series of brutal attacks in the Mere of Dead Men, including your home of West Harbor. These attacks begin to escalate up and down the Sword Coast, and you find yourself in the middle not just of a growing war in the Forgotten Realms, but a battle that has been raging across the dimensional planes for centuries. To make matters worse, you find yourself fighting wars not on just one but several fronts. There's the politics of Neverwinter and the challenges of fortifying your own stronghold, as well as enemies from Luskan in the North and the extraplanar githyanki that have declared a crusade on you. You find yourself locked in battle with all these factions, but you're in a position to play them off against each other to buy time and learn more of the events and history that led up to this conflict, and how to end it once and for all.

But fortunately, your character isn't alone in this fight. The companions in Neverwinter Nights 2 have undergone an overhaul from the first game. Not only do they play more of a crucial role in the storyline, but they also have a depth to them that you can choose to explore over the course of the game depending on your interest. They have been revised in terms of game mechanics, as well, and while you can allow them to act on their own (as a personal frustration of mine, ally spellcasters often act much smarter than my own character does in combat), you can command them and issue them direct orders, equipment transfers, and even guide their level-up decisions, as well. At times, you may even be able to convince them to change their class over the course of the game, although this may involve finishing a vision quest or two and gaining their trust through the influence system.

Our influence mechanics system is based on the one we set up for Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. While Neverwinter Nights 2 does offer a range of alignment options for your good, evil, lawful, and chaotic actions, the influence system also allows for an additional level of repercussions for decisions you make that are not on the alignment axis. For example, contrasting opinions on magical theory, nature versus civilization, and even how much of a rein you put on creativity itself in light of threats you and your characters face. Each of these actions can cause your influence with certain companions to go up or down over the course of the game and govern how much they involve themselves (or leave) at certain points in the game.

There are a number of character races, including the hulking half-orc.

Obsidian has also tried to import several cinematic techniques we learned while working on our previous Star Wars title. We have cinematic cameras and cutscene setups for a number of major dialogues and interaction sequences, as well as a host of animation states that can be used in player-created adventure modules. We do allow for over-the-shoulder camera play and also offer a free-range tactical isometric view to better give orders to allies and soldiers in combat (which proves important in several battles). Being able to move the camera around also allows a better perspective of the environments and creatures the artists have whipped up for the game (many kudos to our art team)--the dragon alone is a terrifying sight to see in the game in over-the-shoulder mode, even before it blasts you with its breath weapon.

In any event, we're working hard on polishing the game for release, and we hope to have it in your hands soon. We're even more excited to see what the community does with the toolset, as well, and get a chance to play modules they create.

Discussion

87 comments
terv74
terv74

Superb.....Excellence.....Impressive.....Awesome.....

glowinghyren
glowinghyren

you're making a "Giant Enemy Crab" mod? lmao

silvya1980
silvya1980

I'm giving Obsidian their 2nd and last chance to prove they can make good games, like in the old days (Black Isle, anyone?). Thus, I've preordered my copy of NWB2, can't wait to play the OC and join oline servers and RP communities. Also, can't wait to give the editor a try.

imbacon
imbacon

"As long as I can still create my own races, classes and spells, I'm up for it! *begins sketching on his Crab Warrior-King with an awesome "Call in the troops"-spell that summons an army of crabs to attack the enemy*" Craaaaaaab people Craaaaab people, tastes like crab. talks like people! You make that into a mod...I'll play it!

Fraek
Fraek

As long as I can still create my own races, classes and spells, I'm up for it! *begins sketching on his Crab Warrior-King with an awesome "Call in the troops"-spell that summons an army of crabs to attack the enemy*

Maximiliator
Maximiliator

i hope there will be devasting crictical in that game, too... MUST BE *fanatical grin* max

Jarlaxle_56
Jarlaxle_56

Hopefully they don't forget the fact that it is a D&D game and not Star Wars..

Brian_Burton
Brian_Burton

Nice, sounds good...hope it translates well. Considering the sourse though i'm sure that it will.

Tay_Esh
Tay_Esh

Wow i wana be a general....but how many men are under your comand and how do u comand them????? and against how many??

NB_Pyro_X
NB_Pyro_X

I just hope that my old comp can run this thing. Not just starforce (I've experienced it with a few games, and some of my friends' mods burned to disks.) but also because my comp can barely run it. Will it really require oblivion-par specs? IT looks impressive, but that may take a toll on many systems, not to mention my own. Let's hope the devs have put on a great show. Hold your breath, it's coming soon.

_Sam_
_Sam_

I hope it's good

MrFlint
MrFlint

There wont be Starforce on NWN2, since even Ubisoft dropped it after the problems it caused during the beta testing of HOMM5 and if im not mistaken, Ubi's CEO( i think, not sure), even gave an interview on the Starforce issue in a very negative tone...

bouchert
bouchert

I don't believe NWN2 will use Starforce. For LoranHalvard's benefit, Starforce is a controversial copy protection method that has been falling into disfavor since it has been discovered to be incompatible (in rare cases, some say, even to the point of damage) with certain drives, and which opens potentially dangerous security holes in Windows as a side-effect. That said, I'm not sure what Kenjik1999 is talking about. I don't think any Atari games have used Starforce recently, if at all. The tide has turned against the developers of Starforce, especially in the wake of the Sony-BMG rootkit fiasco. Ubisoft was the last major publisher holdout I knew of, and they stopped using Starforce recently. I see a few press releases in which the developers behind Starforce brag that Atari has selected them to copy protect certain games, but they mostly appear to be related to crappy developer Monte Cristo Mulitmedia, and it's not clear what their relationship with Atari is, as Gamespot doesn't even list Atari as the publisher for their games. In that case, it clearly appears to be a choice the developers are enforcing, rather than the publisher. It's possible that this is a regional thing, and that some games bearing the Atari name have been copy protected in certain regions. Specifically, European games seem to sometimes use Starforce while their US counterparts do not. http://www.boycottstarforce.net/?page_id=3 seems to support this. But none of these appear to be titles like NWN2, in which Atari was primary publisher, and various other copy protection databases I've searched around the web show that both Atari and Obsidian have favored SecuROM on all recent games bearing their name, which while not ideal, is still a heck of a lot better than Starforce. Please do some research before stirring up unnecessary animosity towards a publisher. Most of them realize Starforce is trouble.

LoranHalvard
LoranHalvard

Hod on a second! What are you guy talking about? What the hell is this StarForce thingy?

Sagan321
Sagan321

I hope that this does not have StarForce. I would really like to play this game, but StarForce always messes with my drive.

Kenjik1999
Kenjik1999

Hmmm since its Atari, the probability is high that the game will use StarForce and if so, I wont bother buying it. especially after following the class action lawsuit in Europe. Now I don’t mind the copy protection scheme. But having something that not only CANNOT be deleted, even after you uninstall the game, but also creates a security hole for hackers to exploit. Sorry Atari I wont install it.

monish_05m
monish_05m

Release this baby fast or i'll have to play NWN original again for the 11th time. please

aimmy79
aimmy79

man...can't wait any longer

Antinate
Antinate

You have no idea what you're talking about, alexandru. Hordes of the Underdark was made after Shadows of Undrentide. On top of that, all three original NWN games were made by Bioware, not Obsidian.

cjcr_alexandru
cjcr_alexandru

Look at the scores -> 9.2, 8.2 and 7.8. It looks like Obsidian has made good games until now and I don't think this game will be an exception.

Enthasius
Enthasius

There's no denying it, this is truly Obsidian's chance to prove to everyone that it really was Lucasarts' fault for the bug ridden and incomplete KOTOR 2. With the couple of delays, that actually spells good things in my book, means they're still tinkering to make sure it comes out decent and actually feeling complete. Don't let me down, Obsidian, I've been stating your innocents on the KOTOR 2 situation to everyone who complained about it, I just hope my faith in the company isn't misguided.

chongon
chongon

sad and glad the date keeps getting pushed back

xathar
xathar

I wasn't too excited about the looks of it when I first heard it was coming and read a bit about it, but now as it draws nearer and I get further looks I am pretty excited about this game. It definitely has the possibility to be a good one.

jeffljtj
jeffljtj

Looking at their history, I very much doubt there will be many bugs, and if there are, they will fix them fast with a patch. It looks polished and I'm sure it will be epic. I'm pretty damn pumped.

Ariolander
Ariolander

I wonder how good the editor will be. It had a pretty good mod comunity making all kinds of custom compaigns.

peeweeshift
peeweeshift

sounds pretty deep. Screenshots arn't as good as they are hyped up to be. They're still amazing though...:p

xatman911
xatman911

Fully custimisable feature rules.

tpgbommer
tpgbommer

Loved what Obsidian has done with KOTOR, so I expect a simmilar kind of experience in the NWN-universe. And I couldn't agree more with 2facedJanus: the more dragons, the merrier.

zhamar
zhamar

Looking at the screeshots of this single player game reminds me alot of the D&D Online pretty much same basics since is part of that family, no surprises here, just better graphics due to single play.

Dragonstring11
Dragonstring11

This game could easily be teetering on the edge of "gaming hell" seeing how sooo much could go wrong with it's execution...but who likes a pesimist!?!? This game is gonna rule!!! As for the original, how could anyone say it was terrible?!?! Bad graphics and gameplay? what multiverse are you on?!

a_ndy
a_ndy

I thought I would really be more excited about this game than I am. Neverwinter Nights was one of my favourite games of all time due in no small part ot interesting mechanics, a strong cast (and great voice acting), and a really awesome mod community. Now that Obsidian is picking up the NWN mantle, they've been doing a lot of bragging about the game: "epic" this "upgrade your graphics card" that. While the features seem neat, the graphics don't seem nearly as impressive as they claim. The characters, while sporting high level of detail seem awkwardly malproportioned, the clothing seems to stick to their body like a skin rather than fitting the way one would expect it to, and their facial expressions looks blank if not creepy. The environments look gorgeous, but the characters seem plain odd. And from the videos released to date the combat looks a bit static too.

klactose
klactose

I have to disagree with many of the comments claiming that the original Neverwinter nights wasn't a good game. When it originally came out 4+ years ago, it was a great game. It's longevity and the fact that so many gamers are anticipating it's sequel is indeed partial testiment to that fact. I will agree however that in recent years it has begun showing it's age and is now significantly outclassed in scope of graphics, but as far as content, gameplay & replayability, it's sequel has some pretty big shoes to fill. I hope it does so while incorporating a graphically compelling experience on par with current/next generation PC capabilities.

SuaveBrute
SuaveBrute

Boy, Oh Boy, Oh Boy!!! This is the strongest reason to upgrade my machine!!

willdemers
willdemers

I'm trembling with anticipation. If only my computer could run it.

FoodThing00
FoodThing00

Bioware never understood how storyline works. Nor how to create a compelling game. I hope obsidian will have more power of the game than them but then again, no -one will ever be able to replace Black isle, bioware can't seem to understand that games need more than multiplayer.

mrclean2988
mrclean2988

Amen to captaindingo's comment. Neverwinter 1 had potential, but I couldn't get past the terrible graphics and gameplay. Luckily, this looks like it'll be much better than its predecessor

fonzieahmed
fonzieahmed

well dont know but not being such a big fan of pc rpgs, i still enjoyed the previous one

CaptainDingo
CaptainDingo

Neverwinter Nights was quite lackluster, so hopefully the sequel will be a vast improvement.

Yuck_Too
Yuck_Too

--dryden555-- This game will be around a VERY long time becuase of the toolset alone. Look at the community surrounding NWN and know it will only get bigger.