Games: Neverwinter Nights


Developer: Bioware
Publisher: Infogrames
Street Price: $59.99
Genre: Role Playing Game

The name BioWare has become synonymous with “monstrously fun role-playing games” and their upcoming Neverwinter Nights looks to prove no exception. The Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons-based PC RPG will feature a Baldur’s Gate-esque single player mode with 60+ hours of gameplay, but it’s the included toolset and multiplayer modes that have role-playing gamers failing their saves and going berserk.

Neverwinter Nights will ship with the Aurora Toolset that lets gamers forge their own D&D modules, complete with buildings, terrain, monsters, traps, and magic items. Users can create a module set in Forgotten Realms, the setting of Neverwinter Nights, or in medieval Europe, or wherever they’d like. After a module has been created, you can host it on a server and invite up to 64 of your friends to play (after downloading the module). Even the Dungeon Master (DM) can run his/her own player character.

But it’s the control that Neverwinter Nights places into the hands of the DM that makes this game so different from others in its genre. BioWare has modeled Neverwinter Nights off of pen-and-paper role-playing and lets the DM moderate gameplay. As players adventure through the module, the DM can set up their encounters, drop clues about their quests, and take control of non-player characters (NPCs) to speak to the party in real-time.

Depending on the settings, gameplay can involve various levels of “player killing”. In Safe Mode, players can’t harm each other, while on the opposite end of the spectrum, in Full Player vs. Player Combat, no such protection exists. There will also be a team-based Party vs. Party Combat mode, where players can only harm members of an opposing group.

As in D&D, other players won’t necessarily know anything about your character other than their appearance, which is determined by race, equipment, etc. not by class. So characters interested in secrecy can have their mage appear as a thief or other combinations for disguise. Players interact with other players, NPCs, and the DM with quick keys tied to pre-created messages or via a robust chat system for more detailed conversations.

A fully 3D game, Neverwinter nights will feature roughly 200 monsters, from orcs to dragons (naturally). Combat animations include reflexive actions, such as dodges, parries, and thrusts, and players will be able to attempt diverse attacks, including disarmings and knockdowns.

We sat down and chatted with Brad Grier, BioWare’s communications manager, at E3 about the game. Here’s what he had to say:

Click images to enlarge


What’s the single player game going to be like?
Brad Grier: It’s listed at 60 hours, but you’ll be taking an even longer time. It’s a lot bigger than that. It’s the traditional BioWare single player story, complete with heroes and villains, good versus evil, etc.

Gamers will be able to essentially create their own D&D modules, right?
Brad Grier: We’re shipping with the game the same tools that we built the game with. We expanded the tools department and created a shipping product that allows the end user to create a D&D style module. It will be very simple, with lots of wizards you can use.

Wizards to create wizards, then. And how will these modules come into play, so to speak?
Brad Grier: With the DM client, a gamer can set up a server with the created module. The gamer acts as DM and shepherds his/her friends through the adventure. The DM can take control of any character or NPC. For example, in a bar, the DM can take control of the barkeep or a saucy waitress to drop a hint to the players.

The control extends to combat as well. Say a player pissed you off at work, you can drop down a monster on the fly – have a band of wandering ogres jump out at them, for example.

The DM watches and shepherds them through the adventure – you can do as much as you want. When the party’s fighting, there’s a difficulty slider that can be adjusted to modify how tough the creatures are.

Will there be persistent worlds in the game?
Brad Grier: Players will be able to set up their own persistent areas, ranging from a tavern set up as a chat room to an entire world.

How has your relationship with NVIDIA helped during the game development?
Brad Grier: NVIDIA has been a great partner throughout the development of Neverwinter Nights. We rolled the NVIDIA relationship from Baldur's Gate II right into Neverwinter Nights, so we were provided with a whole slew of GeForce4's very early on and worked closely with NVIDIA's developer relations group to ensure we were taking full advantage of the hardware. Bioware has had a long-standing relationship with NVIDIA and we've been able to achieve some amazing visual effects in our games that wouldn't be possible on anything other than NVIDIA hardware. The graphics effects in this game are just incredible. Be sure and check out the shiny bumpy water. And the combat effects, from spell effects to sparks flying off armor from a sword hit.

Role-playing fans – of both PC and tabletop varieties – have been waiting years for a game that can incorporate the interaction of a face-to-face D&D session with the realistic action of a computer game. They need wait no longer: BioWare has the answer to their Limited Wish.

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