It's one of the most anticipated PC games coming out this fall and it may be the key to saving its publisher Atari from financial shutdown. So there is a lot of attention being given to Neverwinter Nights 2, the sequel to BioWare's best selling RPG that's being handled this time by Obsidian Entertainment. FiringSquad got a chance to chat with Obsidian co-founder Feargus Urquhart to find out more about the game and other topics.
FiringSquad: First, Neverwinter Nights 2 has been a long time in development it seems. Did Obsidian anticipate taking this much time to create the game when it first started designing it?
: Once we started working on the game in August of 2004, we began to add more and more to our "wouldn't it be cool" list and since we ended up doing most of those things, the project has taken longer than we expected. So, when we started designing it we felt it would be an 18 month-ish project, but after adding the new graphics system, using a new animation system and re-writing the toolset it started to become obvious that it was going to take longer than that.
FiringSquad: How hard is it to develop a game that not only has the D&D franchise behind it but also a previous game developed by BioWare?
: The funny thing is that we don't really worry about those two things as much as you'd think. That may sound arrogant, but it's because we have one other thing that is WAY more looming to us and that is the community. The NWN 1 community is something that we talk about pretty much every day and they really impact almost every decision we make. You could say the same about D&D and Bioware, but we've worked with both of them for so long that knowing what to do there is somewhat second nature. The community on the other hand have an incredible number of good ideas an expectations. Knowing we have to live up to so many of those expectations can be pretty stressful.
FiringSquad: As Obsidian worked on the game were there any surprises or unexpected changes in its development?
: Of course not. And if you believe that I have this bridge for sale.... :) I think the major challenge has been that we didn't anticipate how a lot of the changes that we were making to the engine would effect the overall make up of the engine. Every new system that got added or was changed a great deal, seem to necessitate an even larger number of changes than the previous one. On top of that, while we did take multi-player into account, I think we could initially taken it even more into account when it came to how we approached the design of our campaign and a lot of the changes that we made to the engine.
FiringSquad: What are you most proud of in Neverwinter Nights 2 now that the game is in its home stretch of development?
: That's tough - I think the campaign that ships with the game is going to be a lot of fun to play, but if there is anything I'm proud of it is the effort that a lot of the people on the team have put into the game over the past nine months. They've all really wanted it to be everything the fans would want, which is probably centralized in the new toolset that has been chiefly put together by Erik Novales with work from Adam Brennecke and Steve Weatherly. The toolset pretty much does everything. I really am proud of how it can let people not only place pieces of things, but also change them around by coloring and sizing them differently. Basically, it really is a game making application now.
FiringSquad: Single player RPGs have been few and far between lately but there seems to be a resurgance in this field with Neverwinter Nights 2, Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion and Gothic 3 all due out this year. Why do you think that single player oriented RPGs have come back into favor?
: I'm not so sure that they have come back in favor or that RPGs often get sequels and we are seeing a year of sequels. I am glad though that they are all coming out fairly close in that it will really show that the single player RPG is not dead and that publishers should start green lighting more of them.
FiringSquad: Of course Neverwinter Nights 2 does also have a multiplayer element as well. What can you tell us about your plans for those features for the sequel?
: If there is anything that we haven't changed a bunch, it's the multiplayer element. We wanted to really focus on enhancing the engine, the toolset and delivering a solid campaign. Trying to also do something revolutionary with multiplayer sounded crazy - even to us. The one multiplayer element that we still owe the community an explanation on is the DM Client. I had hoped that we could get a plan put together and explain what we are doing, but we've been trying to get the game done and not looking far enough ahead. I do hope that we'll soon be able to start talking more about our plans for the DM Client and what we will be able to do and by when.