The AIM Game - A chat room interview with the man behind Neverwinter Nights 2.

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Published by Zach 16 years ago , last updated 4 years ago
Taken from is a chat room interview with Feargus Urquhart, the CEO of Obsidian Entertainment. [quote]PR Flak Brandon has entered the room. CGW: Great, so I get stuck with you? ;) Where's Feargus? PR Flak Brandon: I am a sexy monkey. Isn't that enough? CGW: Ummm, no. PR Flak Brandon: haha. Okay, I'll just be the silent partner and keep Feargus in line. FUrquhart has entered the room. FUrquhart: Okey Dokey. CGW: Welcome to the party everyone. So, how should I address you, Feargus: Mister? Doctor? Esquire? FUrquhart: How about Feargus Urquhart, CEO, Obsidian Entertainment, Inc. CGW: Anything shorter? FUrquhart: Smooth Motherf***er. CGW: That's more like it. I guess nothing shocks you at this point. FUrquhart: Pretty much - I survived the development of Fallout 2 - that pretty much scarred me from being surprised at anything. CGW: so was that your own personal Vietnam? Mine was reviewing Breed. FUrquhart: Well my hell lasted from about June of 1996 until September of 2000. That was pretty much one straight crunch time - Fallout 1 to Fallout 2 to Baldur's Gate to Torment to Icewind Dale to Baldur's Gate 2. It pretty much sucked. FUrquhart: Not to whine, but I got one vacation in there to get married. CGW: I know that crunch time schedules mean many sleepless nights, but what kinda crap do you get from your wife for that? FUrquhart: She understood what I was doing and I usually set aside dinners for us to spend some time together. Luckily, she worked at Interplay as well, so she was pretty busy. FUrquhart: She was definitely done with it after BG2 though. CGW: So I guess I can't paint you as a notorious player in the industry FUrquhart: Nope - that's one of the other owners - Darren Monahan. All the girls love that boy. CGW: I remember Darren. Slick guy. Nice name too (if I don't say so myself) FUrquhart: They call him SAM - Sweet Ass Monahan. CGW: Now that has to go into print. FUrquhart: Well he is the producer on Neverwinter 2 - so it could just be part of the "background". CGW: fair enough. Maybe you want to reference that in the credits. Producer / Sweetest Ass, NWN 2. CGW: Ahem. Yeah, maybe we should be talking about the game a little ;p. So, Mr. Motherf***er, can you clue us in on how Neverwinter Nights 2 is coming along so far? FUrquhart: We've been working on it for about a month now and things are going really well. We are finishing up the story, the list of new features and the programmers are getting the engine ready for the new stuff. CGW: So this is a new engine? FUrquhart: No, but it will be a heavily modified one. One of the first things we did was move it up to DirectX 9.That will give us the ability to pull in a lot of the new graphic features and make it more compatible with other platforms - if necessary. CGW: Hang on a sec. Does that mean this is making the console jump to the Xbox as well? FUrquhart: We don't have anything definite in that regard, but since we were doing a big overhaul, we felt we might as well keep the window open. CGW: gotcha. What would you say is the one thing that you wanted to change most design-wise between NWN1 and 2? FUrquhart: Design-wise our big focus is the single player game. We really want this to wow people and make them feel like they are playing a great story. CGW: good call. the first game felt like a test run while the modules/expansions that came afterwards seemed more thought out. FUrquhart: We've been talking a lot about older RPGs and how RPGs have evolved. FUrquhart: We want to get back to the place where the world really played a role in the game. When you were playing Ultima IV, it wasn't just about your stats and the next big sword. It was about your place in the world. FUrquhart: I guess we want to make it an adventure. CGW: So how do you really feel about all the other RPGs out there now? FUrquhart: They've started to fall into this "on a rail" feeling, or they are so expansive that you don't know what to do next. But Bioware did a great job with Kotor1 and brought the story back to being at the forefront. CGW: So, for the most part you see lots of Diablos or Morrowinds. FUrquhart: Exactly! FUrquhart: I loved Diablo, but you didn't feel the accomplishment when you finished like you did when you finished an Ultima. And well, Morrowind, I think it's a good game in a lot of regards, but there are also a lot of problems with it. CGW: I know, Ulitma IV was like a morality play...teaching you how to live a moral life and all. Sadly, I think I learned more from that than Sunday school. (They had an Apple in the rec room, what can I say?) FUrquhart: Yep, and you still had the character system, items and spells - but that didn't over shadow what you were trying to do. We want to make sure that both reinforce each other and not have one overshadow the other. FUrquhart: Game playing as a religion - it could work. :-) CGW: So what exactly can you tell us about the story at this point? FUrquhart: Actually today was our first milestone for Atari and that is getting sent off in the next hour or so. From here Wizards of the Coast needs to approve all the story stuff to make sure we are treating the Forgotten Realms right. So I can't say anything yet. FUrquhart: I can tell you that a big focus for NWN2 is on the NPCs - we want the player to care about them and have them be real. So, we are focusing on the key NPCs and putting a lot of time and energy behind them - to reinforce their part in the world. CGW: In that respect, you've already done a great job with of your previous work: Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment, the fallout games. All great stories that, at times, will make you laugh out loud. FUrquhart: Yep, it works a lot better when they are introduced to them early and deal with them throughout the game. FUrquhart: Luckily one of the owners here is Chris Avellone, who is just amazing at dialog. He was the lead designer on Torment. Did a bunch of work on Fallout 2 and is the lead on Kotor2. He'll join the NWN2 team when he's done. CGW: Ok, so we're getting a rockin' story this time around. What else is going to make NWN 2 stand out beyond the first game? FUrquhart: Well that it's Neverwinter 2. :-) CGW: nice FUrquhart: Seriously - I think the key is to really focus on the story and to make sure it is as mod-able or even more so than the first one. CGW: can you give a taste of things to come? How would you make the single player experience different? Or about how you might tweak the modding tools? CGW: (besides story, are there game elements you'd add. for example, torment was a brilliant evolution using the BG engine) FUrquhart: There are some interesting ideas that we have - but we can't really talk about them right now. CGW: Aww, c'mon. I promise I won't tell anyone. I swear. FUrquhart: You promise? CGW: Sure! FUrquhart: Okay (so I'm easy). Some of the new things are going to be pulling in more of the flavor of the Forgotten Realms - full support for many of the sub-races. FUrquhart: We are also going to be working on the henchman system a lot. We are working on having them be a lot more reactive and making it easier for you to control them. CGW: Really? So you won't have to dig into 10 menus to set AI coding routines for henchmen? FUrquhart: Exactly. One of the ideas is to have them call out to you and ask if you need help and then you just have to acknowledge it with a single button press. CGW: that sounds like a much more reasonable alternative. FUrquhart: That help will be context sensitive, so you won't have to press different buttons. FUrquhart: It will also make a fight feel more like a fight. We are also looking at where you can ask for help and you will yell out in combat and then your henchmen will yell out in response. That might even be based on their personality. CGW: so that would be like a hotkey communication setup? FUrquhart: Kind of - our theory is that you can just yell for help and they can figure out to a limited degree what you want. Then there will be other keys where you can ask for specific help, like - "Attack my Target". FUrquhart: If you yell for help and your hit points are low then the cleric will heal you. If you aren't wounded but your opponent is really tough the cleric will help you attack it. FUrquhart: You know, something will go in like this. We're just not sure how robust it will be. CGW: very cool. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing this in action. CGW: can you say anything about the plot at this point or is it just too soon to go into? FUrquhart: It's really too soon to say, especially since we need to get approved by Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro. FUrquhart: We are also looking at a lot of MMP stuff right now to see what might fit into Neverwinter. Can a hunting and crafting system interesting enough to be a part of the overall story? Dunno. CGW: you're looking to incorporate that end of the mmo world. No dancing like in SW Galaxies? ;) FUrquhart: Well maybe Brandon pole dancing... but other than that, no. PR Flak Brandon: anything for coverage... FUrquhart: He is a PR whore, after all. CGW: Brandon? Any possiblity of that happening in Mexico CGW: no doubt FUrquhart: If you think about it, he starts about ten steps behind because he doesn't have breasts. PR Flak Brandon: convince Jeff to give us a cover and I'm your bitch FUrquhart: Is that incentive? PR Flak Brandon: Feargus...i hate you.. FUrquhart: I merely speak the truth. CGW: the searing image is having me pluck out my eyeballs FUrquhart: Well maybe not about the pole dancing and 75% of this interview, but you know what I mean. CGW: ANYHOW, back to nwn2. We were talking about MMP elements... FUrquhart: Well, we haven't really ruled out anything yet other than camping for 12 hours for the 33% spawn chance. Although, think of the gameplay hours we could quote. :-) CGW: I can see it on the box already! 900000000 hours! FUrquhart: We do want to give the player things to do that are off the main path of the story and reward them for exploring. MMOs do that very well. FUrquhart: It's all a balance - you want people to see as much of the game as possible, but you also want to make some of the game a reward for the player to find. It's tough sometimes, you have to cater to different kinds of players without alienating any of them. FUrquhart: Sometimes that leads to a LCD game (Lowest Common Denominator), or if you did your homework you can please most of the RPG players with what you create. CGW: *and reviewers ;-) FUrquhart: That is an ENTIRELY different thing. CGW: Hey, totally random tangent, but I'm curious: What are your thoughts on the Fallout franchise now that its going over to bethesda? FUrquhart: Well, a part of me is sad that I won't be involved in creating the next Fallout. I always thought we would get to do it. FUrquhart: Another part of me is glad not to do it. FUrquhart: It's sort of a no-win situation with what Interplay has done with the brand and the rabid fans that it has. FUrquhart: Plus, is the Fallout brand even pertinent anymore. Would it work with players today? CGW: how far along was fallout 3, anyhow? I know that it was in limbo for some time... FUrquhart: Well, we made a go at starting it in early 2000, but that team ended up making Icewind Dale instead. Interplay needed a product turned around pretty quickly and Fallout needed a whole new engine. CGW: and now bethesda is going to scrap whatever's done and start fresh. CGW: at least Interplay has maintained the MMO rights... ;-) FUrquhart: As for the next incarnation, after we stopped working FR6, since, ummmm, Interplay lost the D&D license to another publisher; they took that engine and were working on Fallout3. FUrquhart: I saw the demo fairly recently and thought it looked pretty good. It was a game they could have finished in a year. CGW: think that they'll use the Morrowind engine and just ship people to the future? FUrquhart: I'm assuming they'll use the Morrowind engine as well. I wish them all the luck; it's going to be a hard road for them with the fans. CGW: well, I don't want to hog up any more of your time -- you've been awesome about this already. But I gotta try asking one more time: Anything you can tell us about the plot? FUrquhart: Sure. We it's about your sex life and call it "Pee Wee's Big Adventure." Brandon can be your body double. PR Flak Brandon: HEY!! FUrquhart: Rated A - A--hole to Everyone. CGW: excellent! PR Flak Brandon: Feargus, this is all going in print FUrquhart: He can't print that. FUrquhart: I've said much worse. [/quote]
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