BioWare's Neverwinter Nights was released last year and met with critical acclaim and commercial success. The 3D role-playing game used the 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules to let players create a lone adventurer (who could be joined by a single hireling companion) and go on an epic quest across the fantasy world known as the Forgotten Realms. The game also included a powerful editor and toolset that let enterprising hobbyists create their own custom adventures from the ground up, including different wall and floor textures, custom treasure items, and monster encounters that could be scripted with line after line of dialogue.
The developer followed up the game with the Shadows of Undrentide expansion pack, which was released earlier this year, and plans to ship a second expansion pack, Hordes of the Underdark, this year. The new expansion will provide additional support for high-level characters, as well as all-new editor assets for the Underdark, the titular subterranean domain of the sinister dark elves. For more information on this upcoming expansion, we sat down with assistant producer Darcy Pajak and producer Trent Oster.
GameSpot: Thanks for taking the time for this interview. Could you give us an update on Hordes of the Underdark? How far along is the expansion, and what is the team working on now?
Darcy Pajak: Thanks for inviting us to do the interview.
Hordes is currently undergoing testing at Atari. We have most of the features completed and are down to writing the henchmen and some of the plots in the middle chapter.
Trent Oster: The Hordes of the Underdark expansion is flying along, with most of the major sections nearing completion. The major effort is currently focused on finishing the writing and getting the remaining art, animation, and resources in.
GS: We know that the second expansion pack will add plenty of new features to the original game, such as new prestige classes and new editor tilesets, including the Underdark, but what are you hoping the expansion will ultimately add to the game? Is it just more of the same, or do you see Neverwinter Nights heading in a particular direction?
TO: The Hordes expansion will vastly increase the high-level character support, allowing players to take characters further than ever before with the addition of epic level support. I think this expansion really pushes the Neverwinter Nights experience in almost every way. The expansion includes new tiles, monsters, prestige classes, and so many new feats and special abilities that it is truly amazing in scope. All of the new features we're adding will allow custom content creators to make even more stunning and varied modules to share with the world.
DP: One thing I think that Hordes of the Underdark will add to Neverwinter Nights is a greater range of player options and freedoms. You can now expand your character into epic levels and increase the skills, feats, and classes they want. They will be able to have new voice sets, they can add new portraits, choose new weapons. The builder now will have more tools to create their own adventures. We've added one large tileset and three smaller tilesets so they can set modules in many locations. They will have new monsters, new scripting commands, and the toolset has more wizards and options to make building that much easier.
GS: Is there a specific feature or addition in Hordes of the Underdark that you're most proud of, or that you're particularly fond of, that you'd like to share with our readers?
TO: Yes, but not quite yet. I've personally been involved in a small feature addition which I think will be quite popular among the community. I think the largest impact will not be the implementation, but the potential for future flexibility in the system.
DP: There really is no specific feature I can point to which I'm most proud of. The story is intriguing, and the interactions with the henchmen keep me going through the arduous fights with the new monsters. The new weapons are fun to use, as are the new effects we can add to them to give my character awesome power.
An Adventure of Epic Proportions
GS: How are you hoping the expansion will be received by the community? What do you think Neverwinter Nights fans will enjoy most about it? What will module makers like best about it?
TO: I think this expansion will be even more popular than the highly successful Shadows of Undrentide expansion we released in the spring. Neverwinter Nights fans will enjoy the new story and the truly amazing power his/her character can wield as an epic-level character. The module makers are going to love the new tilesets, the new scripting commands, and the sheer volume of new feats and abilities.
DP: I am hoping the expansion will be well-received by the community. We have added so much to it that I think most people will be finding new things in the game constantly. From new skills and feats to unique characters and items in the game, there is a lot of detail for someone to discover. The mod builders have a huge range of new monsters and some very good-looking tilesets to build higher-level adventures.
GS: Though the two expansion packs collectively add a great deal to Neverwinter Nights, are there other things you'd ideally like to add to the game, if you were given infinite creative license? 3.5 Edition rules? A standardized Star Wars ruleset?
TO: Given no time and money constraints I would add everything I could think of. I'd really like to add a huge number of new things, but none of them are feasible in an expansion pack. In my mind, all our work on Neverwinter Nights is a strong step in the right direction. Now we just have to wait and see what the future holds.
DP: As Trent says, there are so many things we want to add: more monsters to fight, more classes to explore, etc. The Underdark world has so many possibilities for adventures I would like to explore. But given infinite creative license, I would add a feature that would call for pizza from within the game so I don't have to step away.
GS: We've asked this question previously, but now that Neverwinter Nights is over a year old and will have two expansion packs by year's end, what's next for the game? Are there plans to continue supplementing Neverwinter Nights with expansion packs? Will there be a full-on sequel? Any plans to bring the game, or some form of it, to consoles?
TO: Honestly, right now our priority is to get the Hordes of the Underdark expansion done, and then we can chart a course for the future of Neverwinter Nights. There have been a great number of discussions regarding the future direction of Neverwinter, and we have yet to work out which possibilities would best serve the fans.
DP: We have many ideas and strategies to consider for both Neverwinter Nights and BioWare as a whole. Nothing final has been decided, but no matter what we do, [we'll] give the RPG players something to enjoy.
GS: The recent (and very successful) release of Knights of the Old Republic for the Xbox, and the announcement of the all-new Xbox game Jade Empire, are very exciting, but they also beg the question--how much longer will BioWare be working with Dungeons & Dragons? Is the team getting restless with D&D, or can we expect to see more original Dungeons & Dragons games out of BioWare for years to come?
TO: Wow, another long-term-planning question. Right now, we are still talking about what the future holds and where we, as a company of creative people, can focus our effort for the best results. We've had a long run with Dungeons & Dragons, and we've enjoyed great success with the license, so there is a desire to continue to expand what we have done with that license. On the other side of the equation is the amazing success we are having with Knights of the Old Republic and the potential to push ourselves creatively in a new direction. From my viewpoint, we have a lot of talking to do before any direction emerges.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Hordes of the Underdark, or Neverwinter Nights in general?
TO: I'd just like to voice my appreciation to the fans of Neverwinter Nights and the great work the people in the community have done. Neverwinter started out as an ambitious project, and it has become an amazing, vibrant gaming system. I'm very proud to have been involved in the development of such a title, and I'm truly proud of the people I've worked with over the last six years on Neverwinter Nights and the expansions. We set out to do something amazing, and I honestly think we hit the mark.
GS: Thank you for your time, gentlemen.