Neverwinter Nights: XP2 Q&A

Once just isn't enough. We grill BioWare's cofounders about the second planned expansion pack for Neverwinter Nights, which will be announced tomorrow.

Tomorrow morning, BioWare and publisher Infogrames will announce the development of a second expansion pack for Neverwinter Nights. The first one, 2898741Shadows of Undrentide , is being codeveloped with FloodGate Entertainment, a studio that's composed of a number of ex-Looking Glass designers. The second one, which is simply being referred to as XP2 for now, will be worked on solely by BioWare. The official announcement isn't until tomorrow, but last week we had the chance to talk to BioWare's own Dr. Greg Zeschuk and Dr. Ray Muzyka about this forthcoming add-on.

GameSpot: We weren't surprised by your announcement of the Shadows of Undrentide expansion for Neverwinter Nights. But we're a bit confused about why you would announce another, unnamed expansion at the same time. Can you enlighten us?

Ray Muzyka: Like our publisher Infogrames, at BioWare we have long-term plans to support our Neverwinter fan community with the BioWare Live/Community Team, and the two expansion packs we've announced are part of this plan. The first expansion pack is being developed in collaboration with another developer (FloodGate), and we have also been working on an expansion pack that is in development solely at BioWare, planned for release months after the FloodGate expansion. We wanted to let our fans know about both expansions at the same time because the features of both are very cool. We're excited about both expansions, and we wanted to let our fans know about the long-term plans for the franchise.

GS: So, how come you don't have a name for the project yet? What are you calling it internally?

Greg Zeschuk: We do have some ideas for names of our upcoming expansion, but the reason we haven't disclosed anything yet on the name is we have yet to settle on one. We have a very tricky name for the internal expansion pack--for now, we're calling it XP2! We like it because it sounds high-tech and mysterious.

GS: Will players be able to import their high-level Neverwinter Nights characters into the game, or will they start over with a new character in the expansion? Will the hireling system remain as is, or will players have control over more characters this time around? Will the character level cap be raised? What can we expect in the way of new skills, feats, or even character classes? What kind of new monsters will we be up against? What kind of new loot or new magic can we expect to run into?

GZ: The best way for us to answer this big bunch of questions with regard to XP2 is to say that the D&D 3rd Edition rules are exceptionally broad, with a huge amount of potential content that we can access in both the first and the second expansion packs. We're watching the various message boards and online polls on feats, classes, and skills, and we're choosing new content based both on the desire of the fans and the technical feasibility of the features. We've got some big plans we're putting into action with these two expansions that we'll detail further in the coming months.

A few specifics to mention include some of the improvements to the henchman system--we're working on improving henchman AI, as well as giving the player control of the henchman inventory. The first expansion pack will be similar to the original Neverwinter Nights where the player will have one henchman accompanying them on the journey, though we have an additional goal of making the henchman much more interactive, and we're exploring the possibility of having more than one henchman in the second expansion pack. BioWare's upcoming Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic will feature an expanded party system, as will the new PC intellectual property we're currently working on, but not yet talking about.

With regard to the new monsters, they can best be described as "bigger and scarier!" As Ray mentions above, we are able to pull out all the stops in our expansions and sequels as the designers have greater skill and experience they can apply to creating new content. Not only will the monsters in this second expansion pack be bigger and cooler, but they will also be considerably smarter as we have plenty of time to design new and powerful AI systems for creatures and enemies to use.

GS: Neverwinter Nights was a lengthy game, and you've said that the Shadows of Undrentide expansion will have a 30-hour campaign. That's a lot of Neverwinter Nights, so what's this second expansion going to do that will pull players back into the game for yet another go?

RM: The first expansion pack is mainly focused on providing an exciting new storyline as well as a number of new monsters, new skills, feats, and spells, and some new background tiles. Because we have more time to work on the second expansion pack, it is a bit more ambitious in terms of the scope of the new programming features, art, and design. We're planning some very cool features that will take us more time to develop--things like supporting higher-level characters and supporting a very cool area of the Forgotten Realms that our fans have been asking us to put in the game.

More details on the features of the second expansion pack will be revealed a bit later in development. For now, we're focusing on the first expansion pack in terms of what we're discussing, but we did want our fans to know that even more features are planned for the second expansion and that it will be a worthy addition to the Neverwinter lineup. Naturally, we're excited to see how FloodGate's design will play out in the first expansion pack, Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide, and we'll do our very best to compete with them to make a great storyline for the second expansion as well.

GS: Thanks for your time.

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