Yes, this wasn't an email interview. There are just too many questions to be asked about NWN, and too many questions to follow those up. I'll give you a rundown of how the conversation went, bypassing some of the many humorous asides we had. The italics are paraphrases of what Trent said, not direct quotes.
A Long Time Ago in a City Far, Far Away…
So John introduced me to Trent the NWN Producer, who decided to do the interview on the spot… basically getting right down to business which seems to be the way he runs his crew. Kind of startled, I rambled a bit before popping out the first question that came to mind - also the one that bugged me most. "Why have you decided not to follow the EverQuest and Ultima Online route?" Again not mincing words, he answered that
EQ and UO are based on a different concept than what we're interested in bringing to the user. You have over a thousand strangers per server, all anonymous beings who follow somewhat generic quests.
Having tried a bit of EQ that struck me as weird, because there is so much emphasis there on the party experience. I popped that at Trent, and without missing a beat he replies that
True, but is it the same interaction that you get from a real gaming session? EverQuest is basically "I want to get this so I camp here, then I need this but first have to level up so I go monster hunting and get my levels. I get more powerful and then my items but by then my items aren't so great anymore so I want these better items but I need to level up first…" You group together out of necessity, not out of a desire to. In Neverwinter, it's totally different. You get your buddies together, meet on the server and run through a detailed quest module, enjoying interesting NPC interactions, plot twists, well-planned encounters and good rewards. All this without camping and trains at that! I mean, for the kind of quests we're planning on doing that can change the entire situation in the game, you'd have to reset the EQ servers every time someone finished one. We are going to provide the tools to do your own modules so any potential DM out there can make one.
We got to talking about the tools a bit, and one of the more interesting points that came up is that you can do your own module live, as the game plays. Possess the bard, tell the party of the big bad monster up North, they go there, you drop a bunch of orcs in their way to buy you some time as you decide on the bad monster, spruce the encounter area up and maybe setup some dialog. The game being real-time though, Trent elaborated that this will prove quite a task for most DMs so it is better to at least setup part of the encounter beforehand. Naturally, doing the encounter will probably give a lot more flexibility, if you're quick on your feet =) Of course, being able to change things at whim (ah… the power of a Dungeon Master. To the uninitiated in pen and paper RPGs, think of Populous or SimCity, but without mana or budgets, so you can do anything. >=] (yes, that is my evil DM grin :)