Note: Neverwinter went gold on June 11th, 2002. It's somewhat different from what was expected, at the time I originally made this writeup. A disclaimer; I'm one of the Neverwinter Community Official Moderators (BioMods).

Neverwinter Nights is a Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition RPG from Bioware Corporation. It is a pseudo-MMORPG, allowing play in Single Player, small-group multi and full-scale MUD-like worlds.

NWN's features include:

Post-release, I can say that NwN is not the holy grail that I once held it to be. However, it is still a very good game. Perhaps the largest complaint is that the game is really designed for one character, as opposed to Baldur's Gate's six. A henchman and a summonling can be added. Another complaint is the single player campaign that ships with the game-- it is widely considered to be subpar, compared to BioWare's other offerings. However, there are currently nearly 2000 user-made modules, and BioWare has started a free campaign, called "Witch's Wake" that has received much praise.

In addition to the "Neverwinter Aurora Toolset", BioWare has released a "plot wizard", to further simplify the adventure creation process.

More info can be found at the Neverwinter Community 'Site (nwn.bioware.com), Neverwinter Vault (nwvault.com) is useful as well.

After what seems like an eternity, Neverwinter Nights, the new game from BioWare has been released. After the disappointment of the new Pool of Radiance game several months ago, many gamers have been eagerly awaiting a new RPG from the makers of the highly successful, and critically acclaimed Baldur's Gate series of games. As mentioned previously, the release date of this game has been moved back numerous times, both causing a heightened sense of anticipation, and an increasing feeling of frustration. Eventually, the company bit the bullet, and released its latest work for the world to see - and given the critical nature of many of those who love these types of games - judge.

Neverwinter Nights is the first game produced by BioWare to be based completely on the 3rd Edition D&D rule set. The change to 3rd Edition rules was a huge one for the game of D&D, and would have meant that much of the code written for the Baldur's Gate games was useless. While I'm sure it's not the only reason, it's probably one reason that the gaming engine has been completely re-written. Neverwinter Nights introduces several changes to the gaming experience, including:

  • A rotating and zoomable 3D view. You have the ability to zoom in on your character in the midst of battle, zoom out while winding your way through the cities, look at your character from almost any direction. A major change, and it looks really nice. As noted below however, there are some who are not too happy with the limitations of this 3D view.
  • A move away from the party based character system. Whereas throughout Baldur's Gate, you picked up companions along the way, until eventually you had half a dozen different characters under your control, Neverwinter Nights is primarily your character. You are able to hire one henchman, and assuming you have the ability, summon various companions. But the only character you have any direct control over is the one you first created.
  • The change to the 3rd Edition Rules. New features include a totally new way of using skills - where skills are actually useful, and necessary. Feats you can acquire along the way, enabling you to perform extraordinary deeds, use different combat techniques, or modify the way your spells work. Under 3rd edition, you can customise your character to a large extent, meaning no two characters will ever really be the same. There are new classes to choose from also, such as the Monk - an unarmed warrior, skilled in fighting with bare hands and feet, needing no armour. Eventually, becoming a magical being, perfectly attuned to the surroundings. Also, the Barbarian, a powerful fighter, taken to entering a state of rage, and laying waste to anyone foolish enough to stand in his path. Generally not given to intelligent conversation, the barbarian may resort to intimidating people around town to gather the information he needs. Although even then, he may not understand what he's been told...
  • Some of the most interesting dialog choices I've seen in a PC RPG so far. Dialog choices are dependant upon your intelligence, charisma and wisdom. Depending on your alignment, you may have different choices in dialog, some of which can be pretty amusing. Feel like lying to someone, telling them you have a cure for the plague, and taking their gold for the cure? You can do this, then watch as realisation dawns on your hapless victim's face. Be prepared for your alignment to shift towards the side of evil for making choices such as this though!
  • The ability to have a Dungeon Master in your game. The one big difference between PnP D&D and PC Based games, is the lack of the DM. Neverwinter Nights is the first game to introduce DM's in your games. The DM plays on a separate computer, and can modify the game in real time, possessing the power to mould the gaming experience in almost any way as the game progresses. They can add creatures and items, possess creatures, and fight as them, to name only a couple of their powers. Instead of hopping into a game with your friends, and breezing through levels, with a pretty good idea of what to expect, the DM can make it a much more interesting, enjoyable experience.

Gaming Community Reaction

The reaction to this game has been mixed, to say the least. Reading through the forums, at the official Neverwinter Nights web site ( http://nwn.bioware.com/ ) you can see reactions from both sides of the spectrum. On one hand, many people love the game, and are keen to talk tactics - how can they get the most powerful character, talking to the finest detail, where every choice matters. On the other hand, some people feel completely let down, and are virtually demanding their money back. There are a few reasons for this, the most common being:

  • What some people perceive as a weak single player campaign. Many people feel that the single player aspect of this game was not all that good, and on the whole, quite easy to complete - even on high difficulty levels. There has also been vocal disapproval at the level 20 cap on characters. This isn't a decision BioWare made though - the official D&D 3rd edition rules only cater for players up to level 20. (some speciality levels follow, but they're anything but standard).
  • The camera angle. It's incredible how many people are furious at the camera angle used in the game, practically begging that it be lowered, even a few degrees. The camera is designed such that you never ever see a horizon, you simply can't get down low enough. Lots of people are pretty pissed off about this, and refuse to believe that it's simply not possible for BioWare to change this in a patch.
  • The Aurora toolkit. And this is probably the point of most discontent. Put simply, it's not as simple to use as BioWare made it out to be. People have bought the game, then discovered that a lot of the game functions are scripted in C. Not knowing C, they're mightily pissed that the toolkit that was hailed as easy to use, is not really all that easy. Much arguement has resulted over this, and I think that both sides have a valid point. BioWare advertised their toolkit as being simple to use, many times, in various places. Even on the game packaging, it reads as though any old joe could grab the toolkit software, and whip out a module, no hassles.

    However, the other side of the arguement is that the scripting language provides a much more powerful editor than a simple point and click interface ever could. The editor is limited only by the imagination of the module creator, almost anything is possible. If a module designer had a good enough knowledge of the scripting used in this toolkit, it's entirely possible that they could create something that the game designers never, ever dreamed off. Thus, the longevity of the game it assured, once talented designers learn how to use the power of the toolkit, and start to examine it's possibilities. It's starting to happen already, but you get the feeling it's nothing but the tip of the iceberg so far. Some official documentation for the toolkit will make a difference too!

It's been a very long wait for this game, and personally, I'm in no way disappointed. And I can't help but feel, that the best is yet to come.



Updates:
There are now dozens of new modules available for download, both user created and official. As more people come to grips with the editor, the longevity of the game is assured.

August's PC Powerplay Magazine (an Australian PC Gaming magazine) has just voted Neverwinter Nights the best game of all time. Perhaps a little early for such a result, but it certainly says a lot about how revolutionary this game is thought to be.
I've had this game for a time now, and I must say it is awesome. Well worth running out and buying it, and in fact I'd say that if you don't you must be mad with the Wailing (in game joke) if you don't. Despite the incredible gameplay, graphics and game mechanics, there are a few bones I have to pick with the game:

So there you have it. These are flaws I have found in the game, but other than that, it truly is a great game with mindblowing graphics and gameplay, and alot of replayability.

Note: All information on what class/race abilities should have are found in the Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition Player's Handbook and Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition Monster's Manual.


getha says re Neverwinter Nights: There are two so-called 'hacks' goin' around that might be worth mentioning. One is a patch that allowes the camera-angle to be altered beyond the constraints set by Bioware. The other is a hack that allowes one to add more characters to ones party and also to make use of their inventory space (another miss by Bioware IMO)

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..."


AOL riseth

Title: Neverwinter Nights
Developer: SSI, Inc.
Host: America Online
Operational: 1991-1997

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
Developer: Bioware
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

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