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What Can Modders Expect?
What was the best part about Neverwinter Nights? You may get a lot of answers to that question, but the resounding sentiment would likely be the toolset and custom content that was so easily created. Neverwinter Nights 2 has promised this same level of moddability, and even more. According to Obsidian Entertainment President Feargus Urquhart, the man behind games such as Knights of the Old Republic 2 and Icewind Dale, believes the toolset needs a makeover, and in a good way.
Let's go back through Neverwinter Nights briefly. Modders will understand all of this full-well, but for those who are looking into modding Neverwinter Nights 2 who have yet to experience the original toolset, here's a taste. The Neverwinter Nights toolset is one of the easiest mod tools I have ever seen. It blows away anything you've seen before, and while this may be due to the relatively simplicity of the Aurora engine's setup it was something almost anyone could pick up, spend a few days learning, and pump out an entire module with very little assistance.
The only difficulty I ever discovered as a modder came in the form of scripting, which unfortunately is not a skill you can pick up in a few days. However the Neverwinter Nights community responded with helpful threads from skilled scripters and several script generators to make the process that much easier so anyone in the community could take part in the module-making craze. And it shows. Simply pop on over to NWNVault, IGN's Neverwinter Nights file site, and you'll see. Hundreds upon hundreds of modules, ranging from professional programmers to eager newbies.
Can we expect this kind of versatility with Neverwinter Nights 2? Urquhart says yes.
"We're not going to change the tools drastically," Urquhart says, "but we definitely want to refine them and bring anything that we can from the stuff that we're creating into the tools and we hope that we can make the tools a little easier to use."
The tileset system will stay, despite arguments against the system, however the ease of use of a tileset system played an instrumental role in the choice to keep it. Of couse the tileset system has been enhanced, allowing much more variability in how a piece of terrain can look, but the basics of the tileset system will stay. In keeping with an "ease of use" policy, Urquhart also expresses the need for increased assistance to the modder.
"I think in some ways there needs to be a tutorial system," Urquhart explains. He also says that an improved wizard system will be included, perhaps one that can even create a bare-bones module itself. However whether this system will indeed be included is still up for speculation.
For those that are more interested in the nitty gritty bits of the toolset, you should be pleased to know that much more variation is available, especially with characters and NPCs. For instance you should now be able to scale NPCs. Want a giant troll? You've got it. The designers warn against resizing creatures too large, however, due to strange animations with overly-sized skeletons. Of course I don't remember any King Kong stories in the Dungeons and Dragons realm, so I think most people will be okay with that.
Those who have played Knights of the Old Republic as well as Neverwinter Nights are sure to have a particular question in mind: is dialogue NWN-esque or KotOR-esque? The answer: both. According to Nathaniel Chapment of Obsidian Entertainment both the NWN-esque dialogue boxes as well as more KotOR-like dialogue will be included in the game. Cutscenes are also enhanced, giving modders more control over how their cutscenes play out.
"Static cameras can be placed anywhere within the current area," Chapman says, "so, if you want to have an NPC talk about something, and then the camera cut to whatever they're talking about, you'll need to make a dummy version of the area within your current area and place the static cam there. Additionally, you can tell a random camera to pan or track to follow the speaker."
People who managed to get their hands on the toolset at E3 rave about its prowess over the old toolset, referring to the old NWN1 toolset as an "outdating antique." With such rave reviews modders can only hope for, and expect, great things from the new and improved toolset, and with many promises from Obsidian for an easier-to-use toolset, the community's modding experiences are sure to be positive ones.
NWN2Files looks forward to all the new-found modding possibilities upon Neverwinter Nights 2's release, and we hope you'll share your talents and modules with us!
***All quotes taken from the Bioware forums, official discussion forums for Neverwinter Nights 2, and the many developer interview videos you can find right here at the site***