Neverwinter Nights (NWN), produced by BioWare and published by Infogrames (now Atari), is a third-person perspective computer role-playing game that is based on third edition Dungeons & Dragons and Forgotten Realms rules. It was originally to be published by Interplay Entertainment, but the publisher's financial difficulties forced the change. Infogrames released Neverwinter Nights for Windows on June 18, 2002. BioWare released the freely downloadable Linux Client in June 2003 (purchase of game still required). MacSoft released a Mac OS X port in August 2003. Two expansion packs were released in mid and late 2003, and a third in 2005. On October 31, 2006, the sequel Neverwinter Nights 2 was released followed by its first expansion in late 2007 and its second one at the end of 2008. The game was based on the concept of building an internet-like model for a massively multiplayer game, allowing the end users to host the server. The belief was this model would create a potentially infinite massively multiplayer game framework. The game was named after the original Neverwinter Nights online game, the first graphical MMORPG, which ran from 1991 to 1997 on AOL.
The core release includes the game engine, a campaign that can be played as single player or multiplayer, and the Aurora toolset (for Windows only) used for creating custom content based on the same engine.
For more information, see the NWNWiki.
Play centers on the development of a character who becomes the ultimate hero of the story. In the original NWN scenario supplied with the game engine, the player is single-handedly responsible for defeating a powerful cult; collecting the four reagents required for stopping an insatiable plague; thwarting an attack on the city of Neverwinter, and many other side quests.
The first and final chapters of the story in the official campaign deal with the city of Neverwinter itself, but the lengthy mid-story requires the player to venture into the countryside and then northward to the city of Luskan. Neverwinter is a city on the Sword Coast of Faerûn, in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting of Dungeons and Dragons.
The story begins with the player character being sent by Lady Aribeth to recover four monsters needed to make a cure for the Wailing Death, a plague that is sweeping the city of Neverwinter. With the help of Fenthick Moss, Aribeth’s love interest, and Desther, Fenthick’s friend, the player character is able to retrieve the monsters. As he is collecting these monsters, he is attacked by mysterious assassins from the cult that is behind the spreading of the plague.
As the cure is being made, Castle Neverwinter is attacked by Desther’s minions. Desther takes the completed cure and escapes the castle, with the player character and Fenthick in pursuit. When they catch up to Desther, he surrenders after a short battle. Desther is sentenced to burn at the stake, and Fenthick, despite being unaware of Desther’s true intentions, is sentenced to hang.
The player character meets up with Aribeth and they begin searching for the cult responsible for the plague and the attack on Neverwinter. With the help of Aarin Gend, Neverwinter's spymaster, the player character retrieves diaries of dead cultists and letters from a person named Maugrim, which convince Aribeth that the cult's headquarters are in Luskan. Aribeth goes ahead to Luskan, and the player character follows after speaking once more to Gend.
After arriving in Luskan, the player character hears rumors that Aribeth is joining with the cultists. These fears are confirmed when he finds her meeting with Maugrim and Morag, Queen of the Old Ones. They seek magical relics called Words of Power.
The player character retrieves all of the Words of Power except for one, held by the cult. He discovers that the words open a portal to a pocket world inside the Source Stone, where Morag and the other Old Ones are. He confronts Aribeth, and depending on how he handles the meeting, she either surrenders to the player character or he is forced to kill her. He then confronts Maugrim for the final word. He uses the words to enter the Source Stone and battle with Morag. After Morag's death, he escapes the stone as the world inside it implodes.
A posting at the Neverwinter Nights 2 Vault on June 4, 2008 contained information from what appeared to be original Neverwinter Nights documentation. At the BioWare forums, Neverwinter Lead Designer Rob Bartel confirmed that the "series of excerpts from the game's design doc" were not a hoax. When asked if the plans were altered due to time constraints, Bartel referenced various legal difficulties that the company was working through.
As in Dungeons & Dragons, the first thing a player must do is create a character. One can choose the character's gender, race, character class, alignment, statistics (strength, dexterity, etc.), abilities (skills, feats, etc.), appearance, and name. There is a great deal of customization involved - one can be, for example, an outdoorsman (Ranger class), healer (Cleric class), and then choose the skills and feats that would help them the most (a Ranger might want the Animal Empathy skill, for example, while a Cleric would choose the Combat Casting feat).
The game is lengthy (original NWN has three CDs, while the expansions each add one CD - Later productions moved the entirety of the game to a single DVD). Following a small prelude, there are four "chapters" in the original game, with each chapter consisting of a general storyline (the first chapter, for example, deals with a mysterious plague in the city of Neverwinter), and within each chapter, there are many quests, subquests, and mini-storylines. Depending on specific quests completed, and specific items kept, some storylines are continued throughout the entire game (such as Henchman or Aribeth's tales). Completing many of the side quests will give the player's character more experience (and special items), making him/her level up faster and continue to make the game easier as the player progresses. For example, completing all quests in the first and second chapters will place the player in Chapter 3 with a 13th level character, instead of a 10th.
The game's actual mechanics are based on the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition rule set – most important actions (fighting, persuasion, etc.) are based on a die roll. For example, when a fighter attacks, he would roll a 20-sided die (called a d20 in-game) to determine if he hits the target and then roll another die determined by the type of weapon (an 8-sided die (d8) for longsword, two 6-sided dice (2d6) for greatsword, 10-sided die (d10) for dwarven waraxe etc.) to determine damage dealt. Although nearly all actions are based on a dice roll, the player does not see the dice roll and it is calculated "Behind the scenes"(although a nearly exhaustive feed of the various rolls may be enabled).
The robust multiplayer component separates Neverwinter Nights from previous Dungeons & Dragons games, as there are many servers for players to choose from. Each server, depending on hardware and bandwidth, can support up to 96 players (not including Dungeon Masters) on the same server application, additional players can join the same machine, on a different server, on a different port of the machine to give more player capacity, although this reduces game quality on low end machines. NWN game modules run as a variety of separate genres and themes, including persistent worlds (which are similar to MUDs), combat arenas (player versus player modules), whole servers dedicated to sexually oriented roleplay, and simple social gatherings similar to a chat room. The campaign included with the game can be played with friends, for example, or a team of builders can build a virtual world similar in scope and size to commercial MMORPGs. BioWare insists that these persistent worlds be free of charge, primarily for reasons of copyright law.
Because Neverwinter Nights lacks a global chat function aside from the supported Gamespy, players typically join "pickup" games through the game's multiplayer interface, or schedule games in advance with friends. Matchmaking sites, such as Neverwinter Connections, facilitate scheduling of games, and the experience is much like traditional Pen-and-Paper roleplaying games. Persistent worlds do this work for them by inviting players to visit their website and continue to roleplay there.
One important feature of Neverwinter Nights is the 'DM' or 'Dungeon Master' Client, a tool that allows an individual to take the role of the traditional 'Dungeon Master', who guides the players through the story, and has complete control of the server. While not the first game to utilize this feature (one previous example is a more basic version in the game Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption, based on the printed gamebooks published by White Wolf), Neverwinter Nights had the most evolved version of this feature and thus arguably created one of the most 'immersive' RPG experiences currently available in CRPG gaming. The DM Client allowed players to participate in regular campaigns, while also allowing persistent-world servers to flourish by permitting the Dungeon Masters of those servers to possess NPCs 'on-the-fly' for added realism. The DM Client also permitted the user to spawn and control masses of monsters and NPCs much in the same way as units would be controlled in a real time simulation strategic game.
Neverwinter Nights ships with the Aurora toolset, which allows players to create custom modules for Neverwinter Nights. These modules may take the form of online multiplayer worlds, single player adventures, character trainers or technology demos. Additionally, several third party utilities have further expanded the community's ability to create custom content for the game. Custom content creators are known as builders in the Neverwinter Nights community. The Aurora toolset allows builders to create map areas using a tile system; the appearance and surface textures of the area are defined by the area's selected tileset. Builders can overlay placeable objects onto areas, and use the built-in scripting language NWScript to run cut scenes, quests, mini-games and conversations. NWScript is based on C. Third party utilities allow builders to create custom content for most aspects of the game, ranging from new playable races and character classes to new tilesets, monsters and equipment. Custom content is added to the game in the form of hakpaks. Builders have used the Aurora toolset in combination with hakpaks to create playing experiences beyond the scope of the original campaign. Despite the game's age, the Neverwinter Nights custom content community remains active. The community, mostly centered on the Neverwinter Vault, created over 4000 modules to the game, among them are many award-winning adventures and series, like Dreamcatcher, Aielund Saga, AL series, and much more.
Additionally, Aurora toolset has allowed for the creation of a number of ongoing persistent worlds modules.
The Aurora toolset is not available for the Linux and Macintosh versions of Neverwinter Nights. The open source project neveredit aims to port the toolset features to these platforms.
The game's module-making legacy was continued by Neverwinter Nights 2.
Official expansion packsEdit
- Shadows of Undrentide (SoU) - this expansion scenario pack was released in June 2003. It added 5 prestige classes, 16 new creatures (two of them available as additional familiars), 3 new tilesets, and over 30 new feats and 50 new spells, as well as additional scripting abilities for those who use the Aurora toolkit. It featured a story line concerning a student sent out to recover some stolen magical objects. The story begins in the Silver Marches, eventually moving toward the desert of Anauroch and the old Netherese city of Undrentide.
- Hordes of the Underdark (HotU) released in December 2003 expanded the level-cap to level 40, and added a number of spells and items appropriate to such characters, as well as adding further tilesets, prestige classes, feats, and abilities, and compatibility with the Intel Pentium 4 Processor, which was unsupported in previous versions. The story continued where Shadows of Undrentide ended, with a character of at least 12th level, and led into the vast subterranean world known as theUnderdark. The first chapter of the story took place in the Undermountain dungeon beneath the city of Waterdeep.
- Kingmaker - an expansion pack released in November 2004 that features three premium modules: the titular award-winning Kingmaker, plus Shadowguard, and Witch's Wake.
Community-created expansion packsEdit
Atari and Bioware helped to promote and release free downloadable hack-pack \ models \ tileset Expansion Packs which greatly expands the possibilities of mod-making.
- Community Expansion Pack (CEP), released in March 2004, and based on community's fan-made material. This freely downloadable expansion was compiled by members of the Neverwinter Nights community. It combines a selection of previously released custom content into one large hakpak. BioWare had no involvement in creating content for the CEP, but provided resources to help promote it. Players must add the CEP to a module with the toolset to use CEP content.
- Players Resource Consortium (PRC), released in early December 2003, is a group of hakpaks combined, which added classes, races, skills, and spells to the game. As of May 20, 2006, the PRC now has roughly three times the number of prestige classes the original game had. It also adds dozens of epic spells, and many normal spells that make better use of BioWare's Aurora engine. These include: Teleportation, Transposition, Mazes, Summoning Houses and more. As well, psionic powers have been included, which are essentially spells, but done with "power points", akin to the sorcerer class. Much of the PRC pushes the engine in ways that the designers never intended, so caution is advised when making use of the hakpak.
In late 2004, BioWare launched its online store and started selling what it called premium modules as part of its digital distribution program. This initiative was spearheaded by BioWare's Live Team Lead Designer, Rob Bartel. These smaller-scale adventures introduce new storylines and gameplay, and include new music and art that BioWare integrated into later patches to the core game.
According to BioWare, the revenue generated is used to support their fan community and provide ongoing updates and improvements to the popular game. The modules that are sold in the BioWare store require an active internet connection to play, even when played in single player mode. The modules in the Kingmaker expansion were stripped of this requirement but are only for Windows. The modules included with Neverwinter Nights Diamond Edition do not require Internet access to play.
As of August 30, 2009, BioWare has discontinued its selling of Premium Modules due to a request made by Atari. So far, Atari has not yet provided any alternative means to acquire the modules.
- Kingmaker – In November 2004, BioWare announced their flagship premium module, which later received the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences 'PC RPG of the Year' award. The player is called upon to defeat the evil at the Keep of Cyan, and win the throne.
- ShadowGuard, (released with free Witch's Wake) – created by community member Ben McJunkin. It features a new setting, Abaron, and a story focused on player character's adventures and interaction with a secret Shadowguard group.
- Witch's Wake - A remastered version of Rob Bartel's popular story-oriented module by the same name. The remastered version added new subraces, music, and substantial voice-acting throughout. The game features a story of a man who lost his memories and awakens on a field of battle. In development was Witch's Wake II: The Witch Hunters – the sequel to the popular Witch's Wake premium module, but it was ultimately canceled and has never been released for download, free or otherwise.
- Pirates of the Sword Coast – In June 2005, BioWare announced the upcoming release of a new premium module. The story begins in the city of Neverwinter, and leads to a lengthy ship-borne, swashbuckling-style adventure. Characters start at the 5th level.
- Infinite Dungeons – In May 2006, BioWare released this premium module which takes place in Undermountain below Waterdeep. The main feature is randomly generated dungeons, which are suitable for all levels of adventurer. The module is designed for single and multiplayer gaming. With the exception of the ability to respawn one's character, ID is very similar to a 3-D roguelike.
- Wyvern Crown of Cormyr – In September 2006, BioWare announced a new premium module produced by the DLA team. It features fully ridable horses, flowing cloaks, tabards and long coats, a new prestige class (the Purple Dragon Knight), and extensive new art, creatures, and tilesets. Characters start at the 6th or 7th level and module offers an approximate 18 to 20 hours of gameplay.
Premium modules were supposed to continue on, but unfortunately were canceled. Three premium modules were known to be in development before the cancellation. Two of them ended up being free downloads, while the third, which was to be the sequel to Witch's Wake, was never released. One module, Hex Coda, was cancelled by Wizards of the Coast for not being the Forgotten Realms setting.
- Hex Coda - On May 15, 2005 Stegan Gagne released Hex Coda, the first canceled premium module, to NWVault. The story was a mix of fantasy and science fiction and involved the player dealing with the machinations of the multinational corporation called Cathedral. A sequel was in development but cancelled.
- Tyrants of the Moonsea – In July 2006, Alazander released to Neverwinter Vault. The story takes place in the Hillsfar area and includes gladiatorial matches. Characters start at the 12th level. Artemis Entreri makes an appearance in this module. The module is also known as AL3: Tyrants of the Moonsea, as it serves as the third entry to Alazander's AL series of modules (the other two, AL1: Siege of Shadowdale and AL2: Crimson Tides of Tethyr, are also free to download on the Vault). While the module itself received favorable reviews, many criticized its shortness, because, due to premium modules abortion, the development of the module was ended before planned release, and Alazander was forced to finish it with already existing material.
- Darkness over Daggerford – In August 2006, Ossian Studios Inc., headed up by Alan Miranda, a former producer at BioWare, released the second canceled premium module to the Vault. The story takes place in and around Daggerford and has been compared favorably to Baldur's Gate 2 in terms of its scope. Characters start at the 8th level. The module includes a cinematic intro (like the main campaign) and a world map. Darkness over Daggerford's status as a quasi-official expansion pack was supported by the next release of the team, this time a fully official one: Mysteries of Westgate for Neverwinter Nights 2.
Atari released subsequent editions of the game following its first release in 2002. These editions are: Neverwinter Nights: Gold, which combines the original game with the Shadows of Undrentide expansion pack; Neverwinter Nights: Platinum (in Europe called Neverwinter Nights: Deluxe Edition), which combined all three NWN products and came on a single DVD-ROM or six CD-ROMs; and Neverwinter Nights: Diamond (in Europe called Neverwinter Nights Deluxe: Special Edition), which includes everything in the Platinum edition plus the three additional modules from the Kingmaker expansion pack.
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