Once upon a time, in a tavern far away...
(Ed Greenwood is going to kill me for this unpassionate potrayal of a character)
Two Elminsters meet in a tavern in Waterdeep. One, the older one, is from 1st edition of Forgotten Realms books, the other, a younger one, from 3rd edition. Neither is actually older than the other. Both are actually the very same person - well, the other is a 39th level magic-user and another is a Ftr1/Rog2/Clr3/Wiz20/Acm5/Epic4, but basically, they're the same person. Besides, time is very much an irrelevant concept for a magician of great power.
"Always nice to meet familiar faces, even when it is somewhat unusual to see one's mirror image in flesh", the older archwizard comments. "Where have you been lately?"
"I have just come from Neverwinter", the younger wizard comments.
"What a coincidence! So have I", says the older one. "I had not been there for a while, so I decided to see what is happening in that beautiful city. Though, I've found that most of the people there are so..." the wizard pauses, thinking. "...edgy. They also sometimes move around but aren't seen. And everyone seems to march at same pace and turn at even degrees. And I don't know what this all is about."
"Oh, is that so? I found the city had a lot nice, normal people, except that it was a bit bad time to visit. There was some plague going on. It was strange, indeed strange", the younger wizard comments. "And on top of that, some time later in the week, the Luskan army was attacking the city again. Fortunately, it has all been fixed now! The people quite definitely were not edgy, but some were quite messy."
"Hmm", the old wizard thinks again. "The city was quite tidy when I was there. Oh! Silly me! You must have visited the other side of the river!"
"Yes, I suppose that could be the reason. But let me tell you what kind of services the Moonstone Mask nowadays has..."
Title: Neverwinter Nights
Developer: SSI, Inc.
Host: America Online
I have one old Dragon Magazine somewhere here - the only issue I've so far bought. Issue 205, May 1994. Recently, I read it again, and found one rather interesting advertisement.
The advertisement was from America Online. "Free Trial mambership INCLUDES TEN HOURS...", it said. (No, kids, not 10 000 hours like they offer these days. And back then the software came on a floppy, not on CDs. At least you could reformat them. <random sounds from the back rows: "What's a floppy?" "What's 'reformat'?"> Luckily, being a non-USian, I never got too many of those things.)
The advertisement was in Dragon because they advertised their roleplaying forums, and most of all, their online AD&D game that
customers members could play for free. The game was called Neverwinter Nights.
If you own a computer and a modem, you're invited to try the first graphic online AD&D® game, Neverwinter Nights, FREE on America Online. Journey to the troubled town of Neverwinter in the FORGOTTEN REALMS™ game world to battle brutal monsters, search for great treasures, and restore peace to the volatile land. But beware - if weapons and magic fail you, your quest could come to a hideous end!
(::Hears newbies giggling at the doubting tone of "if you own a computer and modem"...:: Shut up, kids! This is serious!)
The game was one of the first MMORPGs, kind of a predecessors to what "modern" MMORPGs are. Compared to today's games, "massive" is a bit less so - the game supported 200 players at a time at first, later upgraded to 500 players at a time. So effectively, we're still talking of a graphical MUD instead of a MMORPG - but if the server would only have had the capacity, it would have been "massive" all right. The game, being put together by SSI, used an engine that appeared to be quite similar to what the SSI Gold Box games used. The game was based on the 1st editions of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and Forgotten Realms.
Just like Richard Garriott appearing as Lord British in Ultima Online, AOL's chairman Steve Case sometimes played Lord Nasher, the city's ruler, just to greet the players - though this act was for different reasons. Indeed, it is thought that the money from the game helped AOL stay financially afloat in its infancy.
The game was for most part a great community effort. The players liked the game a lot, even to the point of assisting the staff; the staff and coders really liked the players too, and the game was for the most part staffed by the users! The game was probably eventually shut down - in July 18, 1997 - due to the fact that AOL switched on flat monthly rate instead of hourly rate. Even so, AOL's final decision to close it was fairly strange: The game was extremely popular, ran on only one server at AOL, and required very little bandwidth and machine power.
Apart of the normal Gold Box fun of adventuring and monster-chopping in The North of Forgotten Realms, there were also guilds - a major source of fun - and player-vs-player ladders, not unlike in the modern games. NWN also hosted many events, such as roleplaying events, wars between the guilds, fairs, PvP "super bashes", and trivia games.
Most of the information here come from Bladekeep's site at http://www.bladekeep.com/nwn/, that also has a lot if things archived - most importantly, maps, screen captures, and newsletters!
When Bioware revolutionarizes gaming...
Title: Neverwinter Nights
Publisher: Atari (Infogrames)
Date Published: Summer 2002
Platforms: Windows, Linux and Mac OS (Linux client downloadable, MacOS version sold separately)
Ratings: ESRB: 13, ELSPA: 11, VET: 11
Yes, it took a little eternity to make, but it is here and has now proven its worth. I got the game shortly after the release, and loved it since getting it and played it a crazy amount of time. The game has received amazing amounts of praise and critique, but mostly praise. And not for nothing!
The game has just about everything for everyone in some form, and unlike most games, it has lots of potential to fill, in case it doesn't have the things you need. Since the idea of the game is to make free-form computer rolegaming a possibility, the game bends quite a lot. The games can range from silly to straight-faced, stupid to epic, hacking at things to deep conversations and roleplaying, social to action, and story to free-form persistent world-style game. It's not a MMORPG, but rather a game that scales from single player to group play to support various game styles, and can also be led by a DM, which just makes it more interesting.
I played through the game's official campaign, and that failed to impress me overall, even when it was pretty good. Then I played some of the custom modules. I was getting very interested about the sheer potential of the thing. Then, I played The Witch's Wake 1: Fields of Battle module, which clearly showed that the toolkit has potential and it can actually be harnessed and used by talented people. Likewise, Elegia Eternum by Stefan Gagne was a shocking experience - proof that this game's moddability is second to none.
I have always seen NWN as the dream game of those who want to tune, tinker with and make more game material. Far too many games these days are pretty on the outside but can't hold water for long - Neverwinter Nights tries to be "the last RPG you ever need to buy" and even succeeds somewhat! Personally, I'm a tinkerer at heart, and a writer at heart, but writing stories just doesn't seem to work. But I just love to play around with the toolset and see what others have managed to put together...
There are some things that make NWN sound fairly cheap. For example, not everything that can be done in the mods is "perfect". People made visible cloaks, but they look like they're made of cardboard. People made ridable horses, but they have sudden model change problems. People made sky, but that requires camera hack visibility parameter change and as such may bring the performance way down. And the tilesets in the game are spectacular but don't really offer that much variety. But I believe all this stuff is not that important because in RPGs, visuals have always been of secondary priority. It doesn't need to look that bad. I know an evil dungeon when I see one. A horse is a horse. A cloak is a cloak. ("Who cares about graphics glitches, back when I was young, I had a Commodore 64, blah blah blah..." =)
I'm extremely hopeful, and hope to expand this writeup in future. One more lunatically raved word to end this inadequeate look to this great game: "Potential". Remember that.
Some nodes related to NWN
More to be noded... some are but nodeshells right now, some not even that.
Expansion packs: Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide * Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark
Places and characters: (In the official campaign or expansion set campaigns) Neverwinter * Luskan * Aribeth de Tylmarande * Linu La'neral * Tomi Undergallows * Lord Nasher Alagondar * Deekin Scalesinger
Modules: Witch's Wake * Pool of Radiance * Rahasia * The Winds of Eremor * Penultima * Elegia Eternum * Lone Wolf
Modding: NWScript * Hardcore Ruleset * HAK * Memetic AI Toolkit * encounter