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we've had the chance to talk about the hugely popular Neverwinter
Nights module, Darkness
over Daggerford, with the module's producer and lead designer,
Alan Miranda. Alan is a former BioWare producer, having been the
producer on Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal and the associate
producer on Neverwinter Nights, and as such, a perfect victim for
the Sorcerer's Place inquisition. The second and final part of our
comfy chair treatment is available below. (You can read the first
We've liked the "Honouring the Paladin Code" messages
with tiny amounts of experience and alignment points. What made
you think of that?
Miranda: That was done by our designers, so I honestly
couldn’t say. However, I know that they were very keen on
role-playing elements for the various classes, and so created a
number of those opportunities for players.
While roaming around the module world, we thought you must have
had quite a lot of fun writing epitaphs or crafting certain characteristic
personages. What has actually offered you the most enjoyment, from
your own perspective?
Miranda: The most enjoyment I personally had was
seeing the quests that I had written be brought to life by our designers,
as they turned the barebone NPCs on paper into believable characters,
and plot outlines into exciting events. They did such an excellent
job on the implementation, it didn’t make any difference that
I knew what was going to happen – it was always great fun!
In the module, we've noticed some Easter eggs, such as the ale mug
of Lord Alex and the musical instrument of Lady Oonagh. Might you
be coaxed to reveal more?
Miranda: Well, I wouldn’t want to give away
everything. ;) But if you search hard in Torleth’s Treasures,
you’ll find a third Easter egg item besides the two you mentioned.
There’s also an item hidden under one of the many rocks in
the Lonely Barrens, although I’ve never seen anyone mention
that they’ve found it.
How much debugging did you have to do while working on Darkness
over Daggerford? Was there anything serious enough to halt your
works until you've nailed it down and corrected it?
Miranda: Every game requires a lot of debugging,
no matter what, and Daggerford was no exception. There was never
anything serious enough to halt production though. Had we been doing
programming in the game engine code, that could have been an issue.
As it was, everyone focused on their own design aspects in the game,
so people were never really blocked by a game-wide problem.
Searching through game files sometimes allows one to discover traces
of plot lines or side quests cut from the game. While we haven't
actually dissected DoD this way, is there something you wanted to
put in there, but didn't have enough time to implement?
Miranda: There were a few things that we had initially
planned to do, but were dropped at a certain point. One had to do
with the number of areas in the game, as we initially had several
more than what we shipped with, but we cut them in order to reduce
the scope. Illefarn was one spot in particular that was originally
designed as a massive place, with several levels. But that didn’t
work as well towards the end of the game, so it was redesigned to
be smaller and tighter. Another idea we had always toyed with was
having your stronghold attacked by a dragon and its minions. The
shape of the stronghold, with its four low towers, was designed
to handle the player fighting from the rooftop. Seeing the goblins
swarming around the structure trying to break in, while the hill
giants threw boulders at you on the towers, and having a dragon
land on the roof would have been a really cool battle! At some point
though you have to cut something in order to stay on schedule, and
that happened to be one of those things.
How has the cancellation of BioWare's Premium NWN Module program
affected your company financially?
Miranda: Darkness over Daggerford was self-funded
from beginning to end. Having the premium mod contract cancelled
was more than a little disappointing though.
Considering the amount of time and effort your team has poured into
DoD, its removal from the PM program must have come as a shock to
you and your team. What were your initial reactions, and did you
have any prior knowledge that the PM program might be shut down
before the release of your module?
Miranda: No, there was no forewarning about it.
It just landed on us with the weight of a flying elephant that suddenly
forgot how to fly. We were all rather upset when the news first
came through, and then watched the explosive fallout subsequently
unfold on the Net. We weren’t interested in jumping into the
fray, however, and focused our efforts on finishing the game to
the highest quality instead.
Do you feel any different about Atari's decision to stop the PM
program at this point? DLA's Wyvern Crown of Cormyr, while supposedly
cancelled along with your own module, surprisingly got released
a while ago. Did you see this coming, or were you as stunned as
the unaware community?
Miranda: All of the premium modules were cancelled
when the bad news came out in May about the Premium Mod program
being shut down. Although we were unhappy, it affected all the mod
teams equally, so there wasn’t any of that sort of unfairness
from the situation. It came to our attention a couple of months
later (in July) that Wyvern Crown had been reinstated, which caused
us to raise an eyebrow. BioWare had way back in March rated Daggerford
as being of high quality and green-lighted it towards content completion.
So we found the situation quite perplexing.
Gaming companies that continue to develop single-player CRPGs are
a rarity nowadays. Despite there certainly being a significant market
for good single-player CRPGs, over the last few years the industry's
focus has shifted predominantly into the multiplayer/MMORPG direction,
which many of the people who love classic Infinity Engine games
don't find overly appealing. How do you feel about this trend, which
might eventually completely kill off the single-player CRPG genre?
Miranda: I think a lot of things in this world behave
like a pendulum. It swings to one extreme, and then due to popular
dissatisfaction begins swinging towards the opposite extreme, and
so on. BG1, incidentally, came during one such turning point, a
time where single-player CRPGs were said to have been dead. The
arrival of BG caused the pendulum to start swinging back with full
force. Eventually, players will likely become tired of the MMORPG
experience, and be on the lookout for trying (or retrying) a different
experience (i.e., a single-player one). I think this sentiment,
coupled with a macro-technological advance in AI for NPCs, could
create the foundation for a new wave of single-player CRPGs. You
also can’t beat the great advantage of story-telling techniques
and tailored cinematic gameplay only found in single-player games,
and those are the kind of epic adventures that Ossian will continue
to strive to create.
What is the current status of Darkness over Daggerford? How many
downloads have you had, and are you planning on releasing any new
patches, additional content, etc?
Miranda: Daggerford has currently surpassed 30,000
downloads just two months after being released, which is pretty
fantastic for a module right at the end of the NWN1 life-cycle.
We’ve already released two patches to the game and are now
at version 1.2, which incorporates numerous bug fixes. There is
also a two-part walkthrough for the game’s critical path that
we’ve posted on the NWVault for fans who might be stuck. As
we shift to our new project, our attention will be primarily focused
on that, but we’re always happy to answer any questions fans
have on Daggerford, either through the Vault boards or via the email
address listed on the Contact page of our website (www.ossianstudios.com).
The Darkness over Daggerford module has made the community hold
its breath in expectation of further modules or even games from
Ossian Studios. Is there anything you could tell us about your plans
for the immediate future? Or maybe about something more long-term?
Miranda: We can’t talk about anything at this
point, but Ossian Studios stands for epic adventure and quality,
so that’s what you will be seeing from us in the future.
Is there anything else you would like to say to our visitors?
Miranda: I’m glad that we had the opportunity
to create a module with a Baldur’s Gate feel. It was personally
satisfying for me, the team, and I’m sure for our many fans
who played it. Yes, Baldur’s Gate will forever rock! :)
Thank you for answering our questions. We are looking forward to
hearing and seeing more from you!