Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer Updated Q&A - Story, Companions, Prestige Classes

Obsidian Entertainment CEO Feargus Urquhart talks about the upcoming expansion to the hit role-playing game Neverwinter Nights 2.

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One of the bigger PC role-playing titles of the year is Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, which is actually an expansion pack to last year's hit fantasy role-playing game. Mask of the Betrayer will continue the story that began in Neverwinter Nights 2, and you can expect many high-level adventures because you have the option of carrying over an existing Neverwinter Nights 2 character or creating a new, high-level character in the expansion. You can also experiment with new races, new character classes, and more. For more information on Mask of the Betrayer, we turned to Feargus Urquhart, CEO of developer Obsidian Entertainment. The expansion is due to ship later this year.

Mask of the Betrayer will let you import your existing Neverwinter Nights 2 character or create a new one.

GameSpot: We briefly touched on the story in our last Q&A and learned that it's a continuation of the Neverwinter Nights 2 plot. It's also a more personal story. We're peeling back the onion here, so what more can you tell us about the plot?

Feargus Urquhart: I think you've gotten to the heart of the story pretty closely. Mask of the Betrayer is a much more personal story than the original NWN2. The entirety of the story is about your survival and what you choose to do to survive. So, instead of it being about saving the Forgotten Realms--again--it comes down to what you will do to save yourself.

The story is more of a continuation of your character then it is of the NWN2 storyline. We tie up many loose ends from NWN2, but the things you are doing aren't directly related to the events of the original campaign.

GS: We also learned that we'll get some new companions that will be better developed than the NWN2 companions. Can you reveal any of them at this point? Who are they, and what do they do?

FU: Kaelyn the Dove is a half-celestial cleric of Ilmater. She once worshipped Kelemvor, the current god of the dead but, for reasons you may uncover, she fell out of favor with her god in a rather dramatic fashion.

As far as the companions being more fully developed goes, Kaelyn, who is completely optional, has more than twice as many lines of dialogue as the most developed companion from NWN2.

The gensai are one of the new playable races in the expansion.

GS: What was some of the feedback that you got for the single-player campaign of NWN2, and are you adjusting the expansion in any way in response to that?

FU: A lot of the feedback we got about the single-player campaign came down to one of two things: How we implemented the D&D rules and the satisfaction that one got from the ending of the game. We're continually working on the game based on comments we get from people about how we've implemented the rules.

We also often pose questions to the community as to what they would like to see. As we get that feedback from them and from our own continual play of the game, we are adding in changes to update both NWN2 and the expansion. As for the ending, we want everyone to feel a sense of closure with the ending of Mask of the Betrayer--in a good way. We don't want them to have too many questions. So, we've already designed and implemented the ending of the expansion and have started to play through it. Based upon those play-throughs, we are going to make sure it's the ending that everyone would like to see for how they approached the rest of the game. There are, of course, multiple endings, and we're working hard to make each conclusion satisfying.

GS: We understand that you've made some artificial intelligence improvements in the patches, but the mod-making community has really made huge strides in improving the performance of your party members in the game. How do you balance what the mod-making community is coming up with in terms of general improvements to what Obsidian is doing?

You'll get to explore a sunken city in Mask of the Betrayer.

FU: We have really tried to take a pragmatic approach to the whole thing. We break down things into three buckets: Features that only we can do, features the community has already put together, and features that the community could do. We then try to split our efforts between implementing things that only we can create, adding in features that let the community do more, and using things the community has already created.

We'd love to just take everything that has been made by the community, but we have to make sure that it works under every situation and doesn't somehow make the main campaign unplayable. With a game as complicated as NWN2, it often doesn't take much to confuse things and break a cutscene or combat that worked perfectly before. We did thoroughly test the AI improvements created by community members "evenflw" and incorporated them into one of the NWN2 updates. We've also incorporated "Zarathustra's" walkmesh helpers and "rpgplayer1's" spell fixes.

Mask of the Betrayer's lead programmer, Rich Taylor, keeps the Neverwinter channel of IRC open all the time and talks with the leaders of the community daily to see how they are doing. He is backed up by Rob McGinnis, who spends time in the IRC channels and the rest of his day up in the NWN forums. In the end, the balance is a hard one that we try to make easier by constantly communicating both internally here at Obsidian, and externally with the community.

GS: One of the interesting things about NWN2's story is the way you could follow alternate paths through large sections of the game. For instance, you could be a Neverwinter guard or a thief. Will we see any kind of comparable story branching in the expansion?

FU: We've taken a somewhat different approach in Mask of the Betrayer in that we've applied that idea to the whole game, but not differentiated it so clearly. The core focus of what is happening to you in the game can really be affected by how you choose to deal with it. That in turn changes how the game reacts to you as you continue playing, and ultimately how the game ends. But at any time you can choose to alter what course you're on. This isn't so clearly a "good versus evil" decision, though alignment is involved in some ways.

GS: Obsidian revealed that the Red Wizard of Thay is one of the new prestige classes in the game. Can you reveal any of the prestige classes or the two new base classes? What are some of the abilities of the Red Wizard of Thay prestige class?

FU: One of the new classes that we've put in the expansion is the favored soul. It is an interesting class that is somewhat like a sorcerer, but one who can cast divine spells like a cleric. That is, favored souls don't need to memorize specific spells and can cast any spell they know. This is balanced by the more limited spells they do know, compared to a cleric who has access to every spell available to clerics of their level. The favored soul also gets a free weapon-proficiency feat in his or her deity's favorite weapon, which is then upgraded to weapon focus and eventually weapon specialization at later levels.

The Red Wizard of Thay's implementation is fairly faithful to the D&D version--basically they are ultra-specialists, becoming even more powerful with their chosen school of magic.

The expansion ships later this year.

GS: There are new races and character classes, but let's cover new items, equipment, and spells. What are the highlights in the expansion; anything particularly high-level and awesome?

FU: New items include, as you might have guessed, a variety of masks. There are extremely powerful artifacts you can unearth, but you'll have to be clever to get some of them. One of the epic spells can turn all of your enemies into chickens.

GS: Finally, do you have anything you'd like to say about Mask of the Betrayer?

FU: Of course I'm biased, but I'm really happy with what the team has been able to do with Mask of the Betrayer. In a lot of ways, I feel like players are not just getting an expansion pack, but a whole new game in the world of NWN2. Plus, I think it's awesome that many of the changes that we've made and new things we've added are available to anyone who wants to either play the original NWN2 for the first time or play it again.

GS: Thank you.

Discussion

59 comments
Darkreaper_1
Darkreaper_1

"One of the epic spells can turn all of your enemies into chickens." LOL i did laugh out loud when i read this! Reminded me a bit of the chicken speel in DK2!

Noventus
Noventus

Can't wait for this, my only wish is they would make it more co-op friendly such as a decent loot system that spreads the loot evenly rather than a finders keepers system.

Orthrand
Orthrand

I never finished the story in NWN 2 the start was way to long, it just dragged on. Im past the castle bit getting into some of the good stuff, but i switched computers, cause my old one was crap. I left the game for a few weeks subsequently, and lost the plot thread never really regained it. I like complexity and being a cleric casting way too many buff spells before major battles but regardless of that its hard to do when its choppy. That and party management can become a headache for the above reasons. What i really want to know is not having finished NWN2 will I still enjoy the expansion.

renofury
renofury

The betrayer sunken city looks really cool and even the 2 new races are cool!!! Realy waiting to see this. Now publish it ASAP please :P.

Poki3
Poki3

Everything sounds cool... but PLEASE finally add support for multiple processors! I have a brand new computer, and NWN2 is the only game that doesn't run smoothly because of it :(

bcolter
bcolter

I'm looking forward to this expansion. Really enjoyed NWN2 Cheers!

elfingrey
elfingrey

No one seems to be talking about the reason that I took NWM2 off of my machine and will not re-install it until Atari gets rid of SecuRom. By secretly installing what could be rootkit technology by creating hidden files and folders on my hard drive that are waiting to be exploited, files and folders that I can not delete by normal means., makes a great game unplayable! I won't install a game that uses this technology. So great work, Atari. You've lost another potential lifelong buyer. It's a shame that Atari got a hold of a great title like NWN.

uberjannie
uberjannie

give me more CASTLE managing! I love to own a keep and decide stuff! please? :)

GriffinLord602
GriffinLord602

hey (KoiuLpoi) I thought Manaan was a good planet in Kotor, there was nothing wrong with it lol......... well anyway ive always thought the NWN games were good, but ive never got round to buying it... i dont know why. But by other peoples comments it seems like a really good game so you never know. bye people.

Barzenak_40
Barzenak_40

Looking forward to this and Fallout 3. Take your time, iron out the bugs and improve the modability for the future of the game is in the community. NwN2 is a great RPG but initially ran horrible and could of used more time before shipping. Atari needs this to be a hit and they need to give Ob the time needed to compete with Blizzard, Bethesada etc and have a AAA quality game. NwN2 would of got better reviews if it only had more polish. Keep up the good work.

tinatrav21
tinatrav21

As far as I am concerned NWN2, despite the bugs, is the best game I've bought for the last few years. better than oblivion, Dark messiah or any of the other many money consuming games released. So hurry up with the expansion please. I liked the strategy element (albeit only very limited) of upgrading the home base - any chance of more of that?

doodeeman
doodeeman

unfortunately, games aren't put out by the Creators, they are FORCED out by their Budget and the bosses of the companies. That's what creates bad games, they spend too much money advertising it, and not enough on the actual game... The company heads just want the money, and they don't care if they release a game 1/2 done.

Draconix3D
Draconix3D

If they don't make a Warlock Prestige class for this game I'm not even gonna waste my money on it. Seriously. The first game was alright, but the Warlock has just been left behind and forgotten it seems....

KoiuLpoi
KoiuLpoi

KOTOR II a bad game? If "improving upon the original in almost every way possible" makes it a bad game, I don't want to play good games. It had more in depth dialogue, the characters were more believable, the interface was easier to use, there were more character options, it was overall more immersive, and it didn't suffer from Bioware's sometmes flawed game design. Manann and the Selkath, anyone? Did anyone actually enjoy that planet and losing your party members? Jade Empire is a much better example of what Bioware can do, honestly. But KOTOR II is far from being a bad game.

BewilderedRonin
BewilderedRonin

Personally, I wish they had talked about possible updates and changes to the toolset. I haven't messed with it (or even played NWN2) in a whilst, but last time I opened the toolset, it was a nightmare! It would be great if they could get a team in there to fiddle with it and make it more user-friendly like NWN1's toolset is. But even the NWN1 toolset took some time before it was as user-friendly as it is now.

totalgridlock
totalgridlock

Obsidian don't so much make bad games, but rather flawed or unfinished games. Both KOTOR II and NWN 2 would have benefited greatly from simply having more development time and more testing - the same goes for 90% of games released today. Don't forget either that the core of Obsidian is Black Isle. Was Planescape Torment bad? Or Fallout? Most of the major bugs in NWN 2 have been ironed out now although I'll agree there's still a few quirks left in. I'm hoping that they playtest this expansion to death before even thinking about releasing it - more grumbling in the community is not what Obsidian need.

vampiredust99
vampiredust99

Let's hope the graphics look better than NWN2. In these days, when you have rpg's like Oblivion on the PC, a half-baked game like NWN2 doesn't stand up (esp when it's so buggy, too) Bioware should have handled the sequel instead of Obsidian (who have a tendency to make bad games - KOTOR 2 being the best example of this)

zeecorner
zeecorner

Well, when I played NWN2 a few months ago it was still really buggy, to the point where I couldnt even continue playing the game because my party just all together stopped responding. I would even pause the game and issue separate orders, but they would still ignore it. Maybe I should patch it up to date and start from where I left off, I mean it was an excellent game, I put about 40 hours into in and I didnt even finish the game!!

_iMMuNiTy_
_iMMuNiTy_

" The gensai are one of the new playable races in the expansion." While it sounds much cooler, it's actually "genasi".

VfighterX
VfighterX

I hope they put more time into optimizing the game.

kontralucid
kontralucid

Really hope they allocate more time for bug-testings before the release so it wont repeat what NW2 did.

rpgenie
rpgenie

O.o the new race looks like a Drow super Saiyan :P

mezzerin
mezzerin

I am playing throught the OC at the moment and am now a level 12 cleric and really enjoying the intense depth of the game and its characters. Definitately a MUST BUY for fantasy RPG fans!

KevColds
KevColds

Try playing through nwn2 as a druid and we'll see if u might get som problems tom3

THOMJOHN3
THOMJOHN3

After playing NWN2, I will definitely buy the expansion pack. I thought the game was pretty, fun to play. and a good story to boot. I am also glad that it will be a high-lvl adventure so I can port over my hero. As far as all the comments about stability and such, I can't offer any explanation. What I can say is that I played the entire game details cranked without any crashes but, that's how it was for Oblivion, Gothic3, SupCom, Ultima9, Icewind Dale2, SH4, Prey, and any of the other games I bought/played over the past year or so. I always use top-notch last gen components (i.e. A8N32 nF4 mobo, 7900GT, FX60, best Corsair ram) and everything always current (mobo BIOS, drivers/AMD&WinXP DC hotfix, patches, etc.). My buddy plays NWN2 and similar games on a 680i board with a fancy, faster intel chip and all his junk runs funny sometimes. Again, I didn't experience any bugs or game problems (I never do), but maybe I just got lucky (thousands of times).

rengetsu08
rengetsu08

Wait till next year for the sequel that will launch late this year, so that gamers like me, dont need to post a lot i mean very lot* of comments and question why the game do this.... w*f, just w8t for the 1st 3 months of the game and let see if it also buggy and unfinished game... really hate wat they do on the story of the original nwn2, a lot of great side story and great main story have to be removed because the game is not finished and the company nid to launch it early for the money

MichaeltheCM
MichaeltheCM

seems like a pretty good game. gotta see more though :)

DexCasas
DexCasas

Multiplayer is the best part of NWN , i know this becouse i have played the first one for 5 years online. Now i play nwn 2 online too, on the same server, unfortunally its very unstable, but hear me, nwn 1 multiplayer at the begginning was buggy too i mean my camera was regularly changed to the point of view of nearby placeables, i was often a chair or a bag.

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

Just ordered NWN2 as I knew it wasn't worth full price, so waited till I go t it cheap. Will play it for 20-30 hours before I decide if I want this expansion at all or whether it deserves a full price purchase or not. As we see fewer AAA PC tiltes, there is a tendancy for the PC gaming media to go over the top with hype on those few titles. NWN2 seems to be one of them. After all, in sales terms, it was only a minor sales hit. So I am somewhere between Ged3321 and Saggy34 at the moment for this product, but totally with Ged3321 with regard PC gaming in general, too much hype in PC gaming nowadays, and too many great previews followed by 70% review scores!

saggy34
saggy34

I loved the original nwn2 and I think this expansion pack will make it even better! Yeah it had some bugs, but that was Atari's fault, they didn't give Obsidian the time they needed to make it right. Blame Atari, not Obsidian.

ged3321
ged3321

yes... hmmmm hype machine may have to go gang busters again for this load of rubbish on release. BETA testers anyone? Been stung twice now by these incompetent rush job hacks... wont be fooled again. How dare they!!! Get ready foranother list off 100 blunders and unplayable game frame rate issues. Just remember what was released and the bulSH@#T score this game got . I hope they paid you heap gamespot. You lost all credibility with your review on this one. Shame tho I love my RPG's.

can0of0cheese
can0of0cheese

Turn them into chickens eyyy. Yess now i can become that epic dual wielding vegetarian who only slay fish, chicken and vegetables. THE WORLD IS MINE!!!

giftoflove
giftoflove

look the picture....g92 ready to run?

dryden555
dryden555

Wait for the reviews on this one before you buy.

kweeky
kweeky

Say what you like about the original release of NWN2, but you cannot fault Obsidian for working closely with the community that stuck by them. In this day and age there's not many game developers that have the time or inclination to do that. After the whole "oh my god, hot coffee!" fiasco, a lot of developers and publishers have really started closing up and moderating what can be modded (which, in my honest opinion is one of the real strengths of PC gaming). If you can't mod your games, you might as well move over to the world of consoles. *sigh*

Deano
Deano

NWN2 was pretty dodgy at release, alot of bugs mostly dialogue related, REALLY bad AI, awful ending as well. But they seem to have at least admitted they have worked on and even implemented mods from the community to address these errors. Maybe the expansion will turn out better if they really are gonna add as much dialogue as they say they are.

dual_barrel
dual_barrel

I'm not at all surprised that Obsidian is taking the support of the NWN community cuz after all Obsidian's still a noob!

Underdark_Hero
Underdark_Hero

loved NWN2 and i know i am gonna love NWNMotB, is drizzt gonna make a appierance in any NWN games? it is in the forgotten realms. they should incorp all they drizzt characters, but i dont think that'll happen. :(

rockatanski
rockatanski

This is going to be great! Hopefully it will be a good escape from the clutches of my girlfriends massive ass cheeks!

Trindris
Trindris

I find it very impressive that Obsidian is working so closely with the community, there are some games I consider unplayable without help from modding communities *cough* Elder Scrolls *cough*

sirchet
sirchet

I think it's great that Obsidian is taking interest in the gaming and modding community. To see them mention modders and implement the ai changes they created is outstanding. Bravo!

arc_salvo
arc_salvo

Well, looks like they've learned from their (admittedly many) mistakes it seems. I was one of the forumgoers who were complaining about the lack of a real ending and the fact that the game only felt 2/3rds finished. The whole third act and the companions suddenly not talking to you about new stuff halfway through the game made it feel like I was playing a late beta instead of a finished singleplayer game. Anyhow, I hope this new expansion's worth the wait and money. I haven't been impressed at all with any of Obsidian's outings so far, which shocks me given how much of a Black Isle fanboy I was/am.

september_basic
september_basic

It is observable and predictable that Obsidian Entertainment only has the slightest of interest in providing quality game entertainment to a commercial audience. Neverwinter Nights 2 was crap and did not appear to have more quality than a series of user mods. No actual gain nor any actual reward will be provided to them for failure, so we must assume that their continuation as a company is a sick joke.

jpkustra
jpkustra

I wish my initials were F.U.