January 2004

Obsidian Boards Coming Next Week
Posted Friday, January 30, 2004 - 18:39 CET by chevalier

Obsidian, the company created by the legendary development veteran Feargus Urquhart, has announced the opening of their own message boards next week.

Read the rest at Obsidian.

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Neverwinter Nights Forum News
Posted Friday, January 30, 2004 - 18:33 CET by chevalier

Here are today's Neverwinter Nights forum highlights. Please take into account that these are only single parts of various threads and should not be taken out of context. Bear in mind also that the posts presented here are copied as-is, and that any bad spelling and grammar does not get corrected on our end.

Georg Zoeller, Designer

Subracial abilities:

My Take a)
- Create a feat called "drow darkness" in feats.2da
- Create a connected spell called "drow darkness" in spells.2da
- Add the feat to iprp_feats.2da
- put contraints into the spellscript to make sure you can only cast it once per day
- put the feat on the creature hide using dynamic item properties (example in the HotU scripting sticky).

My Take b)
- Create a feat called "subrace ability" in feats.2da
- Create a connected spell called "subrace ability" in spells.2da
- Add the spell to all base classes (not prc's) cls_feat* lists and set the OnMenu column to 1
- put contraints into the spellscript to fire the appropriate effects for the player's subrace as well as time restrictions.


Patch 1.62 & creating traps: It's not a bug, only player characters can create traps in NWN. As for containers being stuck open, I think I've seen a fix about that in the patch notes for 1.62.

Local objects: Local objects have a point, they are useful in a lot of situations i.e combat AI (target tracking), crafting (I used it for the whole item modification stuff) and so on. You just need to know when not to use them. If you want to store objects in a persistent fashion, you could use the StoreCampaignObject(?) function, but beware, it's not very fast.

CD-Key: Your CDKey is in the manual. If you do not have the manual anymore, there are two chances:

a) you allowed retrieval of your cdkey when you registered it - then you can get it from this webpage in the MyAccount section

b) you still have NWN on your hard disk - it's in the nwncdkey.ini file

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Hordes of the Underdark Review at RPGDot
Posted Thursday, January 29, 2004 - 23:23 CET by chevalier

RPGDot have reviewed the Hordes of the Underdark expansion, giving it a 9.4 score. Here's a bit of what they write:

I think it's safe to say the graphic quality of Hordes of the Underdark easily surpasses its predecessors. The character models appear to be more detailed, the new monster models are excellent, and the addition of a sky does much to increase the immersion of a player in the world of Faerun.

Additonal features include the inclusion of robes (and they look great. Now, if only they'd add cape models for that cape slot...) as well as the ability to customize your equipment's color schemes by use of dyes that you get in game. Not content with the color of some wicked armor I found in chapter 3 with my blackguard, for example, I gleefully changed its color to be as black as his soul. The end result was cool enough for me -- especially when I further discovered through experimentation that you could use the dyes on helmets as well. I did two complete play throughs with my trusty-rusty GeForce 2 MX (32 MB) and I noticed the graphic increases with Old Faithful. Halfway through my third completion of the module for this review I upgraded to a Radeon 9600 (if it impresses me my next upgrade will be to a 9800 Pro or XT once the prices drop). Immediately the game became totally unplayable. Sigh. I had to break one of my rules of reviewing and hit the official tech support forums looking for an answer to what turned out to be a rather common problem. I had to DOWNGRADE the Catalyst drivers that came with my card to 3.10 and turn off hardware mouse acceleration. Lovely. Ok, the driver thing I would have tried myself eventually but I never would have thought to check for something as innocent looking as a mouse setting. Once I got it working I was able to crank every graphic setting to and through the roof and blink in amazement as the graphics, which I've always thought were PERFECT for a D&D game, became even better looking.


See the rest at RPGDot.

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BioWare Wednesday
Posted Thursday, January 29, 2004 - 21:01 CET by Sorcerer

Hordes Introductory Walkthrough
More and more players are joining the community to delve into the dank depths of the Underdark. We've got an introductory walkthrough to get you out of bed and through the first level of Undermountain. You don't know what you might have missed until you check it out. Discuss.

Hordes of the Underdark - Complete Feats List (Printable)
We've completed the list of Feats in Hordes of the Underdark, and added a printer-friendly option. Blinding Speed, Dragon Shape, Thundering Rage and Planar Turning are just a sampling of the tasty Epic Feats added in this expansion pack. Discuss.

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Last Week's Poll Results
Posted Thursday, January 29, 2004 - 17:13 CET by Sorcerer

What we asked:

Q: If you have seen the third The Lord of the Rings movie, how would you rate it?
(403 votes total)

5 (excellent) (239) 59%
4 (79) 20%
I haven't seen it (42) 10%
3 (24) 6%
2 (11) 3%
1 (awful) (8) 2%

The majority of those who voted in the poll (59%) rated the concluding movie in the Lord of the Rings saga 5/5, or excellent.

20% of poll participants were a bit less satisfied with it, rating it 4/5.

10% of those who voted haven't seen it (yet) at the time of the poll, so they could not rate it.

The remaining 11% of votes were accorded to ratings from 3/5 down to 1/5 - 3/5 6%, 2/5 3% and 1/5 2%.

  • Current Poll
  • Previous Polls

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    Neverwinter Nights Forum News
    Posted Thursday, January 29, 2004 - 15:23 CET by chevalier

    Here are today's Neverwinter Nights forum highlights. Please take into account that these are only single parts of various threads and should not be taken out of context. Bear in mind also that the posts presented here are copied as-is, and that any bad spelling and grammar does not get corrected on our end.

    Georg Zoeller, Designer

    Patch fixes: Maintaining any list would cost resources and would cause lots of grief for everyone because there are always people who can't read properly (i.e. plan == promise) and there is the fact that people tend to disagree about if things are a bug or not (i.e. automatic failure or devastating critical are working as intended, they are not bugged). If you have a particular worry about something you don't want to code a complicated workaround, just ask, you usually get an answer here (unless we don't like the way you are asking, of course) We sometimes jump in and commment on when a certain bug has been fixed, but doing this "on a regular basis" is out of question, the Live Team resources are much better used in different areas, including actually fixing bugs instead of maintaining lists. A sticky will never happen about this.

    This is a list of things I *know* have been worked on already and will be in a future patch (please note the absense of a version number and the words "worked on"!) - Note that if something is not on that list, it doesn't mean it has not been worked on, I just don't know about it (after all I am not on the NWN project anymore). Please do not try to interprete this list. Nothing new on this list for those who read the forums on a regular basis.

    Changed spells:
    - Improved Invisibilty,
    - Crumble
    - Black blade of disaster (correct great sword related feats now)
    - Elemental shape now scaling above level 20

    Crafting Feats:
    - Dupe problem with scrolls, wands fixed

    Talktable:
    - Multiplayer support

    Skyboxes:
    - Day/Night cycle & Transition
    - other issues (size)

    Scripting Commands:
    - GetHasSpell works for cure/inflice spells
    - CreateObject now returns stack object if player already has an object of a kind that is stackable
    - CreateObject now should copy variables set in the toolset template
    - SetCutsceneMode now doesn't set plot objects when called twice with TRUE.

    Classes:
    - Palemaster/bard multiclass chars now get their epic spells
    - RDD ELC issues
    - Shifter gargoyle shape carmour missing , epic dragon form carmour mismatch , not merging towershield properties

    Other stuff
    - Lots of Melee Touch attack issues (i.e. you no longer get a bonus from your equipped weapon)
    - Problems with encountersystem above level 20
    - OnHitCastSpell:UniquePower cost reduced
    - Various Exploit fixes
    - Made some changes to the AI statescripts to reduce lag on servers that dump all monster's into the same faction (bad habit).
    - European beta (being worked on)


    Bug lists:

    Quote: We deserve respect as clients and provide us information about bugs that can ruin our gameplay experience, as I see, is an obligation of BIOWARE. Thank you.


    While I agree that anyone deserves respect, especially customers, there is absolutely no obligation to keep a public bug tracker - as said, this would cost time of people who have better things to do, including fixing the bugs reported - it's just not realistic what you ask for and playing the "I'm a paying customer" card doesn't change that at all - there are more than a million paying customer's out there for NWN alone, if we would incorporate every single person's wishes, we wouldn't be making games right now. Actually, I don't think there are many game companies out there that provide the level of feedback and presence in their community as we do, including discussion of bugs and status updates.


    Quote: would have a option BEFORE starting a game or taking a feat. Ex: Will I play a AA altough its failures, or will I take PARRY feat even knowing it doesnt work the proper way?

    That's my favourite: A) parry is a skill, B) we invented it, so regardless how broken people claim it is, nobody can claim that is is not working or bugged. period. I'm not saying there could be optimizations to this skill, that's not the point - the point is that it's not a bug just because people don't like the way it works.


    Further:
    Again (for the last time), it won't happen, reasons above. Time is precious and a buglist that needs to be kept up to date and written by a PR monkey so people can not overinterprete it definitly a bad way to invest your time.

    A:you said it would be fixed -
    B: no, we said we are investigating -
    A: no you promised -
    B:

    (And don't tell me this won't happen). A public bugtracker would be nice, but the world is not ready for that yet, the freaks that jumped the board just before patch 1.61 made that pretty clear. There are reasons why nobody in the industry is doing this (apart from it being a relatively bad sink for investing your precious time).


    Further:
    You are free to ask if certain features will ever happen, but naturally people won't believe it anyway. [ no psionics, no cloaks, no changes to saving skillpoints, no horses, no "z-axis", no official archmage prestige class ]

    As for us not wanting buglists on the website for PR reasons - that would probably be the reason you would get if you asked a PR person about why not to have an official buglist. If you ask a designer or programmer, you will get other reasons, because we tend not to think of PR first (I'm certain that's driving Jay and Tom nuts from time to time). What it all boils down to: In the end everyone involved will have said no for whatever reason and that makes a pretty good final answer.


    Whirlwind & Cleave: Hi Whirlwind and cleave don't "stack". You can do either one or the other - if it would be different characters could get "dead locked" while fighting in a crowd of critters

    Epic bards: Epic bard's can't get epic spells, epic pale masters can. There was an issue that if you were palemaster/bard multiclass, you wouldn't get your epic spells from being a pale master.

    Custom editing: Since several people PM'ed me about how to do this, here is the concept (servervault, hakpak required)

    Let's say we want hide in plain sight to work only during nights.

    A) Change the prerequisites to Hide in plain sight to something impossible in feats.2da

    B) Create a new feat Hide in plain sight in feats.2da, using custom talktables, using the values from hide in plain sight before you changed the prerequisites.

    Result: People still can select Hips, but it doesn't do anything.

    Next:
    C) Put a script in your module that monitors the time and signals two user defined events to the module (night start, night end).

    D) Implement both user defined events so that they add/remove the real (old) hide in plain sight feat to the shadowdancer's in your module using a creature armor created for that purpose on the shadowdancer.

    Basically you are done now. Players will select a useless dummy feat when making their character (since the hips functions are coded into the 2da row number for the original feat), but they won't know that. By adding the item property bonus feat on the shadowdancer's creature armor, he gets access to the original feat (which ignores all prerequisites when put on an item). When it becomes day, you just remove those item properties.

    You may want to add some safety nets (i.e. some code in OnClientEnter)

    Other things you could do with this approach:
    - limit devastating critical to certain weapons or areas
    - require a special outfit to be worn to use a certain feat
    - remove certain feats when a player has a certain item.


    Henchmen: Could your henchman have been dominated/stunned/blinded. Especially blinding is not apparent (no VFX) to the player and the poor henchmen doesn't tell that he can't see anything anmore. We had a couple of reports from QA while playtesting the game about this and in all cases it turned out that the henchman behaving this way had been blinded.

    David Gaider, Designer

    Deekin: The original concept for Deekin actually came from one of the designers at Floodgate who had Deekin as a bard henchman in the original Chapter 2 of the Undrentide campaign before I worked on it. I like kobolds and thought the idea of a bard kobold was cute, so I gave Deekin a bigger speaking part and included him in Chapter 1 as well. Deekin's personality as it exists now is based on a pair of kobold servants one of the female players in my D&D group acquired. The pair tended to leave the entire group in stitches, and when the kobolds got seperated from the party they actually (and unexpectedly) braved incredible dangers just to find them and then save them. So when I saw Deekin in the original campaign I just had to keep him in the picture and make him a star. And, no, he's not Jar Jar Binks, and any twit who thinks making such a superficial comparison is witty is about two steps away from transforming into Comic Book Guy.

    ToEE & NWN: Georg has a point about the differences between ToEE and NWN. Not to say that we couldn't keep closer to the PnP rules in implementation (or try to), but there are some basic gameplay choices which you have to make which affect rules implementation at every level. I liked ToEE's combat system... quite a lot, in fact. Along with some great graphics it's about all ToEE has going for it, but since there's a lot of combat throughout that's not necessarily a bad thing. Imagine, however, that you take what ToEE has and suddenly make it multiplayer. How are you going to keep the turn-based combat system and yet have multiplayer gameplay which is acceptable? Are you going to require that players stay on the same screen at all times? If not, how do you resolve a player coming from real-time movement who enters a turn-based combat situation?

    And that's only one of many considerations you need to make when comparing the differences between NWN and a single-player-only game like ToEE. Hell, just the other day I was talking to James and he enlightened me with the huge handicaps you're suddenly stuck with as soon as you include party members or henchmen... suddenly having such things as horse riding and 3-dimensional movement becomes problematic (not impossible, necessarily, but a huge obstacle that would require significant resources to overcome) because you have to account for all these extra characters on the screen. I'm not going to suggest that any particular type of play is inherently better... if a single-player game is all you're interested in or you just like the turn-based combat that it allows and have no interest in multiplayer or toolsets or what-have-you, of course you're going to prefer a game that specializes in your niche interest. The thing to avoid, I think, is underestimating NWN's achievements by ignoring the parts of the overall game that you do not like or are not interested in and the impact those parts had on the original design decisions. And, yes, a few of those decisions we probably would have made differently if we knew then what we know now, but such is the beauty of hindsight.


    Public buglists: One thing that maybe hasn't been mentioned is that maintaining a public buglist doesn't do us much good. We need info on the bugs people encounter and how they got them to occur. At best such a list would make people who pay attention to such things (which is not many) to stop sending us information on bugs that are on the list because they think we already have all we need, not to mention that we'll get three times as many messages regarding perceived omissions and errors for the list itself, not to mention the "I didn't find it on the list, but here's a bug you should know about..." as well as the "this bug is a really vital thing to fix, why is it still on the list way down at the bottom?" and so forth. And all that still affects only those who would use the list. Which ends up with us spending a lot of time to maintain the list while deriving very little benefit from it. I admit it would be really nice to have something up for those people who are conscientious about reporting problems they find, and we do appreciate those people, but it's a luxury we simply can't afford and that's why you don't see anyone else doing it either. Bugs will always exist and our first priority is and should be fixing them.

    Craig Welburn, Live Team Programmer

    DM client: There is no dedicated icon for running the DM client. However, you could easily make one yourself.
    Make a shortcut to nwmain.exe (by holding down the right button on nwmain.exe and dragging the icon to a folder). Then select "create shortcut here".
    Then right click on the shortcut and select properties.
    Then click on the shortcut tab in the properties window and in the "target" box add " -dmc" (without the quotes).

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    Neverwinter Nights Forum News
    Posted Wednesday, January 28, 2004 - 23:55 CET by chevalier

    Here are today's Neverwinter Nights forum highlights. Please take into account that these are only single parts of various threads and should not be taken out of context. Bear in mind also that the posts presented here are copied as-is, and that any bad spelling and grammar does not get corrected on our end.

    Jay Watamaniuk, Community Manager

    Campaigns: Playing through NWN, Shadows and then Hordes will give you the feel of a long campaign but I personally started with a 'new' character when I started playing Hordes. Over time you want to make little changes to your favorite character and being leveled up to 15 was a good opportunity to go back and redo my guy making some slight adjustments along the way.

    Georg Zoeller, Designer

    Devastating Critical: Devastating Critical is implemented from the ELH and has been approved by WotC. Your complaints about it have been noted, but spamming about it isn't the way. However, speaking of PvM, if a player plans to get these feats, they are free to do so. They are from the book and if a player is enjoying the game by making a character that can get those feats, he is invited to do so. If a player gets his joy out of mindnumbing hide-attack-hide sequences, he is free to do so. If the DM doesn't like it, he has ways of letting the player know. Likewise a DM is free to remove the feat from his games, change the prerequisites or make monsters immune to it. He could even make monsters immune to it and remove the immunity on the fly when certain conditions are met.

    Quote: Personally don't want my server to become populated of half-melee multiclasses bard/rdd/weaponsmasters and 39 rogue/1 shadowdancers just to take advantage of imbalance of melee/casting to wreck havok on all the boss npcs

    Right, on your server you are the boss ... that's how NWN works. However you need to understand that different people enjoy different aspects of the game, and what you enjoy may not be enjoyable for others - That's why you can make your own servers and even your own rules in NWN. If people like your rules, they will come to your server, if they don't like them, they don't. If you don't like the rules on the server you are playing on, you can talk to the DM/builder. If he agrees, he can do what he thinks fits his world - even introduce epic spells or change existing ones to slay the population of the whole server, all his choise).

    So what it all boils down to ... by asking us to change certain things you don't like, you are also taking steps to enforce your opinion on how the game should be played/balanced on other players - perfectly valid from your point of view, but you need to understand that we are a bit careful about those things. IF we think something needs to be changed AND IF this change can be made with the existing resources, we will eventually do it. I agree that an ini entry to set the DC of devastating critical would be nice - however at the moment the Live Team's primary concern is probably squishing bugs and getting the international clients ready, so don't hold your breath for anything like that in the next one or two patches. Once the current stuff is done, it will probably be evaluated.


    More:

    Quote: Out of curiousity, how would you recommend doing this? Short of a blanket immunity to criticals, of course. Is that what you were referring to?

    Adding or removing immunity to critical hits from the creature hide can be done through scripting. So you can script prerequisites (i.e. you need to find the blood of a white wyrm and sprinkle it on the dragon to make him vulnerable to your devastating blows) - after all, that's what D&D is about - mighty creatures like dragon's rarely are challenged head to head. Removing the feat or changing it's prerequisites is a matter of simple 2da editing, the people in the custom content forum will surely help you out. With a bit more complicated scripting/2da hacking, you could also limit the feat in other interesting ways (i.e. only have it work during certain hours a day, etc).

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    SP Happenings #34
    Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2004 - 18:38 CET by Sorcerer

    Well, now that the latest site update is up, I am free to proceed with the conversion to the new design. Getting back into it is taking me a while (I lost count how many times this project had gone through significant changes), but I'll get there eventually. I've decided to start converting/restructuring with the front page and its linked subsections (articles, site news, polls, archives etc.), and to leave the games subsections for last. Depending on how long it will take me to convert that much, another games subsection site update might go up before I start converting that part of SP. Thanks yet again to Blackthorne TA for keeping up with my requests to change things in the converter scripts to the last. Stay tuned for weekly reports on my progress.

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    Neverwinter Nights Forum News
    Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2004 - 12:28 CET by chevalier

    Here are today's Neverwinter Nights forum highlights. Please take into account that these are only single parts of various threads and should not be taken out of context. Bear in mind also that the posts presented here are copied as-is, and that any bad spelling and grammar does not get corrected on our end.

    Darcy Pajak, Assistant Producer

    Patch 1.62: We have an idea of when they will release the patch, as we need to give them any text for them to translated, and then we need to integrate it back into the game. At the moment they are working on translating the 400,000+ words from Hordes so they can release the expansion. After that we'll be working out the translations for the patch. We are trying to do them both at the same time, so when the European languages are sold, they will contain exe. 1.61 or whatever the current exe that the North American market has, so you will not have to patch.

    Craig Welburn, Live Team Programmer

    NW server:

    Quote: I would like to reqeust a feature in the NW server that allows DMs to log in, even if the max player count has been reached. It could be optional, say a flag in the nwplayer.ini file.


    I believe you can script a few reserve spots for DMs. In the module enter event, try getting the number of PCs in the module and if its greater than say 62 and the entering player is not a DM then boot them. May be give them a text message saying why they are being booted a few seconds before booting them.

    Quote: I would also like to request that the 1 = fail and 20 = save feature that was introduced in patch 1.61 become optional, again perhaps set in the nwplayer.ini file.

    Not sure if this will happen or not.

    Quote: Also, when using server vault, there apparently is no way to force the server to save a character's file to the hard drive. As best I can tell, its only saved if the player logs out cleanly or the server performs an entire game save to disk. Does this sound correct? Does anyone know how to force a player character save to disk using NWN script when using servervault instead of local vaults? If not, I would add to my feature request a NWN scripting function that saves player files to the hard drive, some sort of SaveALLPlayerFiles(); type thing.

    There are two scripting commands to do this already:

    ExportAllCharacters()
    ExportSingleCharacter(object oPlayer)

    You can look up more details on them in the toolset, they should do what you want.

    Console Commands:

    Quote: yes, you can (I'm pretty sure you can anyway) right-click on a slot and find the "Custom Text Macro" option. Normally this is used for DMs (check page 171 of the manual for a list of commands) or people who roleplay a lot and have a few phrases that they say often enough that they don't feel like typing it out ("Greeting, fellow traveler." or something)

    If you want to put a console command on a quick slot, you need to prefix it with ##

    So if you want DebugMode 1 on your quickslot.
    Add a new custom text macro, with what ever label you want.
    Then type "## DebugMode 1" (without the quotes)
    Now when you use the quickslot, it will turn Debug mode on.


    DM client: If you want to run the DM client from the command line use:

    nwmain.exe -dmc


    Derek French, Assistant Producer

    Patch 1.62 beta: There will be Beta 1.62 patches in English, French, Spanish, Italian, and German.

    Jay Watamaniuk, Community Manager

    Beta testing: Beta are one of the most valuable things you can do if you really want to test your stuff. Derek F. always say 24 weeks of testing with some of the best QA folks in the biz mean nothing compared to 24 hours in the hands of 100,000 fans. If you know the difference between feedback and someone who wants to add his 2 cents about your story, areas etc then you will benefit. It takes work to test something and lots of people don't care enough to add that extra polish.

    Area creation: As general piece of advice from a guy who has seen a lot of forests and has had to make a few demo areas for the press taking time with placeables is really the most important part. This is pretty basic stuff for someone who has done so many areas as yourself but I'm surprised by people who forget the basics when constructing an area. If the place looks cool/spooky/scary then your module will be that much better.

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    Site News - New Additions
    Posted Monday, January 26, 2004 - 20:45 CET by Sorcerer

    Subsection Updates -> Fantasy Books

    Miscellaneous Books subsection: Harry Potter Hardcover Boxed Set (Books 1-5) added.

    Subsection Updates - Games -> Planescape: Torment

    Tips, Tricks & Hints subsection: PS:T Creature List updated.

    Subsection Updates - Games -> Baldur's Gate 2

    Tips, Tricks & Hints subsection: BG2: SoA Monster Encyclopaedia updated, Chris Lee's Thief Guide added, BG2: SoA NPC List added, Secrets of Journals updated.

    Editors, Hacks & Custom Characters subsection: 1 mod added, 1 mod updated, 1 portrait pack added, 1 voice set added, 1 mod link added.

    Subsection Updates - Games -> Icewind Dale 2

    Tips, Tricks & Hints subsection: Jukka's Ultimate Powergaming Party FAQ updated.

    Editors, Hacks & Custom Characters subsection: 1 mod updated, 1 pre-made party added.

    Subsection Updates - Games -> Neverwinter Nights

    Walkthroughs & Guides subsection: NWN Expansion Details page updated, NWN, SoU & HotU Reference Guide updated, 1 NWN walkthrough added.

    Tips, Tricks & Hints subsection: HotU Feats & Spells listing added, Neverwinter Grimoire added, HotU Merchant Guide added, Epic Character Table added, Shifter FAQ added.

    Editors, Hacks & Custom Characters subsection: Camera Control added, NWN/SoU/HotU Character Creator updated, Prestige Class Editor added, 3 PrC packs added, Access to All Voice Sets (HotU) added, Leto - HotU Compliant added, 1 portrait pack added.

    Miscellanea subsection: 1 chat log added.

    Toolset & Related subsection:

    Subsection #1: 4 new additions.

    Subsection #7: 2 new additions.

    Subsection Updates - Games -> The Temple of Elemental Evil

    Tips, Tricks & Hints subsection: ToEE Issues & Solutions added.

    Editors, Hacks & Custom Characters subsection: 1 mod updated.

  • Direct Links

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    Dungeons and Dragons Online Interview at D&D Warcry
    Posted Monday, January 26, 2004 - 18:05 CET by chevalier

    Dungeons and Dragons Warcry have posted a Dungeons and Dragons Online Interview in which they're asking about the rules implementation, planned content and some others. Here's a tidbit:

    Warcry: What role will Alignment have in the game? Is it possible to have alignment play a role in an online role-playing game?

    DDO:Alignment will play a role in questing, and NPC interactions. We want to ensure that the quest and content experience can be different depending on the character’s alignment.

    WarCry: You've mentioned in the Game Banshee interview that you plan on having smaller servers (population) in DDO. What is your definition of smaller servers?

    DDO: The number we throw around is 1000 concurrent players per server at peak. Once we get farther in content development, we’ll see whether that number needs to be adjusted up or down to fit the effective “playsize” of the world – the important point is that we are still committed to providing a more “neighborhood” feel to your server, that an individual can know more of their fellow players on a world, and have a larger impact on the server politics and direction.


    Read the rest at D&D Warcry.

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    Hordes of the Underdark Review at Game Chronicles
    Posted Monday, January 26, 2004 - 3:07 CET by chevalier

    Game Chronicles have reviewed Hordes of the Underdark and given it a score of 8.9. Here's a clip:

    The main draw for those who purchase Hordes of the Underdark (other than the new campaign) is the revised level cap, which BioWare has doubled to 40. The level 20 cap was a sore point for most who played Neverwinter Nights. While the feature will be applauded by the vast majority of Neverwinter fans, I must admit that I bristle at the thought of epic levels. I played pen and paper D&D for over a decade. It was an obsession. And throughout all those gaming sessions, the peak of power the members of our gaming group attained was level nine. To us, this was a moment of pride, an achievement of great magnitude. We fought every step of the way to reach that pinnacle, and cheated death more times than I can recall. So it makes me queasy to think of the consequences of setting the cap so high. I worry that BioWare might be drifting into Diablo "power gaming" territory.

    Read the rest at Game Chronicles.

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    Hordes of the Underdark Review at DEN
    Posted Saturday, January 24, 2004 - 20:23 CET by chevalier

    Digital Entertainment News have reviewed the Hordes of the Underdark expansion, giving it a score of 9.2. Here's a bit of what they say:

    Also more generous this time out is the number of new spells and prestige classes. While SoU contained only five prestige classes, HotU extends that by six to a total of 11. It also contains one of my personal favorite prestige classes, Red Dragon Disciple. And to make matters even more interesting, the game introduces Epic-level characters; levels 21 to 40. The new cap allows a lot more variety in character development as well as the introduction of tougher enemies that require group play online to keep one’s head above water. And of course, with epic classes come epic spells that are real treasures for gamers looking for more firepower and greater challenges.

    Read the rest at DEN.

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    Neverwinter Nights Forum News
    Posted Saturday, January 24, 2004 - 17:22 CET by chevalier

    Here are today's Neverwinter Nights forum highlights. Please take into account that these are only single parts of various threads and should not be taken out of context. Bear in mind also that the posts presented here are copied as-is, and that any bad spelling and grammar does not get corrected on our end.

    Georg Zoeller, Designer

    Stack size:

    Quote: Is there a neater way of doing that than cycling through the player's inventory until you find a stack which can take one more scroll then? Returning this stack (and doing a SetItemStackSize instead of CreateItemOnObject) solves the problem in my test module, but I'm worried about execution times.


    Craig fixed it through a change in the CreateObject scripting command (it now returns the stack the item was created on, rather than OBJECT_INVALID), but there is an easy way to fix this through scripting: Instead of creating the scroll in the player's inventory, create it in an external container, i.e. IPGetWorkContainer() and then move it over to the PC's inventory.


    David Gaider, Designer

    Lolth: Actually, I remember that we initially wanted to do a story involving Lolth... but WotC knew that the module would come out during the War of the Spider Queen and wanted us to follow the general story continuuity of the time. So Lolth is missing and unusable until that whole storyline is wrapped up. So we had to obey the story regarding what was going on with drow society in general (and certainly couldn't go and solve it ourselves... oh look! HERE she is!!). With that in mind, that's how we came up with the current plot. Like was mentioned above, the chaos amongst the drow certainly allowed for some opportunistic conniving that otherwise would never be possible considering how possessive and controlling Lolth normally is of the drow.

    Patch 1.62: I saw an entry in the list yesterday that the custom .tlk files now work in multiplayer. I don't know if that means it's in for 1.62... it might not have made the cut-off or might not pass QA, I really can't say. This might also not be the entirety of the problems with the .tlk, either, I just thought it was worth mentioning that I noticed the .tlk is indeed being worked on.

    Derek French, Assistant Producer

    Patch 1.62: Transitions should be fixed now. Fog clip is being addressed in two ways, one of which is the skyboxes being made larger - that should be in 1.62, as well as we are going to allow higher values of fog which actually smoothes out the clipping/pop-in. That is being finished right now and may end up in 1.63.

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    D&D Rules Lawyers Needed to Test ToEE Patch
    Posted Saturday, January 24, 2004 - 17:02 CET by chevalier

    Steve Moret, Troika's Lead Programmer for the Temple of Elemental Evil is seeking D&D rules experts to test the second patch for ToEE in order to make the D&D rules implementation so perfect as possible.

    Second Patch Help
    I'm getting ready to submit the second patch to Atari; there will be a little bit of a delay for them to Secu-ROM the new executable and hopefully we can begin testing the second patch shortly.

    In the mean time I'm looking for volunteers (preferably those who think they know the D&D ruleset like the back of their hand, and who get extremely angry when the rules aren't EXACTLY right) who would be willing to spend 2-3 hours a day beta testing the data portion of the new patch.

    Once the executable is Secu-ROMed, these people will also probably be asked to help test the full release of the second patch. Their input will also probably go towards any future patches (of which I plan to make ad infinitum).

    If you are interested in helping test/report bugs and develop future patches for ToEE please e-mail toee-bugs@genocide.net and include the following in your e-mail:
    1) your full name
    2) your date of birth
    3) city and state you currently live in
    4) the computer setup you will be testing on
    5) a little blurb on why you want to test

    Optionally you can also include an instant messenging handle (ICQ,AIM,MSN,Yahoo). Also, if you have an e-mail address you'd prefer to be mailed back at please include that as well.

    Priority will probably be given to those who show a good level of communication and ability to handle responsibility. Most likely you will be required to sign an NDA and other legally binding agreements. This has yet to be 100% determined.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: This in no way indicates that Atari will not continue to support the project. Infact, they have been extremely helpful in making sure that all of my needs to continue work on ToEE are being met.

    p.s. Thanks for all your support!


    Read the rest at Atari.

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    Hordes of the Underdark Review at Adrenaline Vault
    Posted Saturday, January 24, 2004 - 16:54 CET by chevalier

    Adrenaline Vault have reviewed the Hordes of the Underdark expansion, giving it a score of 4 out of 5. Here's an excerpt:

    As the title suggests, much of Hordes has to do with a realm known as the Underdark. For those of you who’ve never played D&D proper or the Baldur’s Gate series (or even Menzoberranzan back in the days of DOS), the Underdark is a continent-sized subterranean habitat complete with its own mountains, rivers, lakes and cities full of dark-skinned elves known as Drow. The add-on’s story begins in a tavern in the city of Waterdeep, known as The Yawning Portal. The inn is built on top of one of the entrances to an enormous dungeon known as Undermountain - which is itself situated above the Underdark. The mysterious labyrinth, constructed and administered by a functionally immortal (and totally insane) arch-wizard named Halaster, was usually only dangerous to the adventurers who voluntarily probed its depths in search of treasure. Lately, however, it’s become the source of a violent invasion by the Drow. In addition to enduring sporadic raids, an increasing number of Waterdeep’s most influential citizens have been assassinated in their beds. The besieged city has sent out the call for adventurers to determine the cause behind the unrest and put an end to it.

    Read the whole thing at Adrenaline Vault.

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    Year 2003 in Review at RPG Codex
    Posted Saturday, January 24, 2004 - 6:21 CET by chevalier

    RPG Codex have posted a Year 2003 in Review article in which they sum up the past year's good and bad moments for the roleplaying genre. Bioware, Troika, Interplay, everyone gets his own. Here's a snip:

    BioWare being horrible to mediocre is pretty much par for the course, really. But while we can just laugh at the Canadian developer's stumbling first steps towards CRPG design, it's harder to accept that Troika Games, a staff favourite, might make some mistakes too. Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura was a great game, but it had its flaws (which I won't go into here--I'm not talking about the games of 2001). The same can be said about (take a deep breath) Dungeons & Dragons: The Temple of Elemental Evil - A Classic Greyhawk Adventure.

    Expectations were high for this dungeon crawler D&D title inspired by the old-as-dirt module by older-than-dirt D&D progenitor Gary Gygax. The game we got was certainly a terrific dungeon crawler--the game that Icewind Dale by Black Isle Studios (more--lots more--on them later) should have been. But in some respects, it disappointed us.


    Read the whole thing at RPG Codex.

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    Last Week's Poll Results
    Posted Thursday, January 22, 2004 - 19:50 CET by Sorcerer

    What we asked:

    Q: If BioWare decided to release another Neverwinter Nights expansion, would you buy it?
    (359 votes total)

    Yes, bring it on! (196) 55%
    No, it's time for a new game (80) 22%
    Maybe, once (if) I ever play the previous two (49) 14%
    Maybe, depends on the reviews (34) 9%

    Quite surprisingly (to me, at least), the overwhelming majority of poll participants (55%) voted in favour of buying another Neverwinter Nights expansion, should BioWare decide to release it (which does not appear to be the case currently).

    Only 22% of those who voted are firmly convinced that it is time BioWare came up with a new D&D game, and that they wouldn't buy another NWN expansion.

    14% of poll participants are allowing for the possibility of buying the third expansion, provided that they play the previous two first.

    Lastly, only 9% of those who voted in the poll would rely on reviews of the expansion to decide whether they should buy it or not.

  • Current Poll
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    Neverwinter Nights Forum News
    Posted Thursday, January 22, 2004 - 13:02 CET by chevalier

    Here are today's Neverwinter Nights forum highlights. Please take into account that these are only single parts of various threads and should not be taken out of context. Bear in mind also that the posts presented here are copied as-is, and that any bad spelling and grammar does not get corrected on our end.

    Georg Zoeller, Designer

    European manuals: There seems to be a problem with some of the earlier european manuals- Atari seems to have shipped a not-so-up-to-date version of the manual to europe. The manual on the CD should be the same as the version that shipped with the US game however.

    Tim Smith, Programmer

    Hak packs: At module startup, the hak pack directories get loaded and maintained as separate hash tables. Thus multiple hak packs require multiple searches in a hash table. Personally, I really wonder if the difference between one and two to five hak packs is large. Fifty hak packs might be a problem.

    Don Moar, Tools Programmer

    VSS: We actually used VSS internally for the binary versions of the .mod files. Yes, I know. :) It's not optimal and can lead to all kinds of problems if you're not careful. Creating a gff2xml utility (and xml2gff) would definitely be a step in the right direction for using any source control system. If you're feeling ambitious, you'd probably want to fully automate the process. This includes extracting the files from the .mod and running VSS from the command line. This could be done via a batch file or script. Of course, you'd also have to reverse whatever process you followed in the first place to be able to open the module in the toolset again.

    David Gaider, Designer

    Deekin's Voice: Ummm... no. Locally means voice actors here in Edmonton. I preferred the original voice actor for Deekin myself, but I suspect it may be just because I heard the original first and that's the sound I identify with him. Had it been the other way around, I would no doubt prefer this one. The alternative to getting local talent to try to replicate the old voice would have been not to have old characters come back at all. And that would have been worse, in my mind.

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    Neverwinter Wednesday
    Posted Wednesday, January 21, 2004 - 21:05 CET by Sorcerer

    Another week's around and here are the latest NWN Wednesday goodies:

    Stormy Skies Screenshots
    It was a dark and stormy night.... Add some squall to your adventure with these stormy skies appearing in a future Hordes of the Underdark update. Discuss.


    Hordes of the Underdark - Complete Spell List (Printable)
    We've buffed up the Hordes of the Underdark spell list to include all of the spells in the expansion pack. Details on Hellball, Dragon Knight, Black Blade of Disaster and many more are now available in browser and printer-friendly forms. Discuss.

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    Shadows of Undrentide Review at DEN
    Posted Tuesday, January 20, 2004 - 18:59 CET by chevalier

    Digital Entertainment News have posted a review of the Shadows of the Undrentide expansion with a final score of 6.2. Here's an excerpt:

    That’s harder to say about Shadows of Undrentide. While the new solo campaign is enjoyable, it rates as a “20-hour” adventure, about one-third the length of the original Neverwinter Nights solo campaign, which rated as a “60-hour” adventure. That’s short and there’s good reason to believe many rush-rush NN-vets are able to beat Shadows in 14 hours or less. While Neverwinter Nights offers an online mode to extend play, many games still expect “their money’s worth” out of a $30 expansion pack and compared to other franchises, Shadows of Undrentide is stingy in length.

    The story to the Shadows of Undrentide campaign is strong, except that it still casts you in the role of an initiate to adventuring, a pupil just starting out. If you play Shadows with a newly-rolled character, that’s not much of a problem, but assuming you played through the Neverwinter Nights campaign before the Shadows campaign, you may have a character as high as Level 20, so the “just starting out” storyline can feel out of place if you decide to continue on with your existing character.


    Read the whole review at DEN.

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    Hordes of the Underdark Review at WorthPlaying
    Posted Tuesday, January 20, 2004 - 18:57 CET by chevalier

    WorthPlaying have reviewed the Hordes of the Underdark Expansion, giving it a score of 9.0 in 10. They also include lots of impressive screenshots from the game. Here's a clip:

    Hordes is a single-player only adventure. This was a little disappointing because the only reason Neverwinter is still popular is because of the strength of adventuring co-operatively. There are many who enjoy a good single player romp, me included, however the lack of a multiplayer option was a little disappointing. The community will take the new tile sets have a heyday so that will certainly fill the gap. And, that's probably just what Bioware is banking on. Some of the new features include 6 new prestige classes, 4 new tilesets and 16 new creatures. Oh, I forgot to mention 50 new feats, 40 new spells, some fabulous new music by Jeremy Soule and more. Jeremy Soule is the highly rated composer that worked on the original NWN music, Total Annihilation, Morrowind, Dungeon Siege, and the 2003 MTV Movie Awards just to name a few. His compositions for Hordes are really good and very fitting to the game play. This expansion is chock full of goodies.

    Read the whole thing at WorthPlaying.

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    Eulogy for Black Isle Studios at GWJ
    Posted Tuesday, January 20, 2004 - 18:53 CET by chevalier

    Gamers with Jobs have posted Eulogy for Black Isle Studios Tragic End. Here's a bit of what they say:

    If there’s a cautionary tale of late, the kind of story parents tell their children so they won’t grow up to be game designers, it’s the saga of Black Isle Studios. With no shortage of blame to be turned o­n Interplay’s legendary mismanagement, the lamentations of BIS have been lavishly wept across the gaming spectrum and mostly deserved. But, and please forgive me for suggesting the blasphemous, it seems a bit naďve to assume this end was either sudden or even avoidable. Black Isle may have been scraping along for the past year or two, but it was no healthier than Atari during its dark Jaguar days, and barely a shadow of its o­nce dominant self.

    Read the rest at GWJ.

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    SP Happenings #33
    Posted Tuesday, January 20, 2004 - 18:50 CET by Sorcerer

    I now finally have a few weeks off (uni holidays), so I'll see about getting the SP redesign back on track. First, however, there will be a site update - you can expect that by the end of the week. By then I should also have everything ready to start with the content conversion. No other news this week, so I'll just get back to work now.

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    Neverwinter Nights Forum News
    Posted Monday, January 19, 2004 - 23:32 CET by chevalier

    Here are today's Neverwinter Nights forum highlights. Please take into account that these are only single parts of various threads and should not be taken out of context. Bear in mind also that the posts presented here are copied as-is, and that any bad spelling and grammar does not get corrected on our end.

    Derek French, Assistant Producer

    Patch 1.62: Hi there. The first round of internal testing is starting Monday. If all goes well, you should see it at the end of January or early February. The Sea Hag, with VO and her special abilities are coming in 1.62

    Georg Zoeller, Designer

    Patch 1.62: The Live Team is working busy on 1.62. "In January" would probably be a good guess, but I'm just guessing (read: not making any promises) - I don't know their schedule. The RDD high stats issue should be fixed with 1.62.

    Further
    Medusae had a bow at one time during development of HotU, but we found out that ranged weapons have a number of problems with polymorphed creatures we could not work around, so the bow had to go. Otherwise, I fixed a couple of shifter quirks, including the wrong hides on blue and green dragons and the missing epic gargoyle hide (+7/25 damage reduction, hmmm). No promises any of these fixes will be in 1.62 through.

    Further
    Quote: Not to speak out of turn, but isn't it the task of a development team to make such things possible, rather than completely subvert them?

    That depends - I added the whole item property merging stuff based very close to our design lockdown date as a result of fan feedback given here on the boards. Later we found that it wouldn't work correctly with bows, so we had either the option to cut the bows or to cut the item property merging - and so we cut the bows, which is a good trade off in my opinion.


    Further
    Quote: Rather than solve the problem?

    When you are in "lockdown" that means that programming resources are tight and that features that can't be fixed easily are likely to be cut, especially if these things are not very important features. Cutting them is some sort of "fixing" a problem too. Having bows for medusae would have been nice, sure, but it wasn't worth sacrificing the whole item merging idea over it.


    Weapon decay: If your idea involves putting the OnHitCastSpell property on any weapon in your module, please forget it immediately - it's the best way to ensure your module will be so slower than you can possibly imagine when playing with multiple players. If you want to simulate weapon decay, I'd rather use the OnEquip handler in your module to implement it.

    Knockdown effect: you need to specify a duration (at least 3.0f for Knockdown) on the ApplyEffectToObject command.

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    The Temple of Elemental Evil Review at GameShark
    Posted Sunday, January 18, 2004 - 22:13 CET by chevalier

    GameShark have reviewed the Temple of Elemental Evil, rating it 6.2. Here's a snip:

    They really did a great job bringing the wealth of options available in the pencil-and-paper RPG to the PC game format. Character creation was another amazing aspect, with 11 character classes to choose from, and the ability to fully customize your characters through allocation of skill points and feats. If you have, for instance, a rogue with lots of skill points put towards social abilities such as Diplomacy, Bluff, or Gather Information, he's gonna be the guy you want to use when talking to folks in town. You'll find that the non-player characters in the game react very differently to the different characters in your party, depending on their skills and ability scores. They'll be cowed by the big, burly fighter with a high Intimidate skill, and maybe flirtatious towards the sorcerer with a high Charisma. A character with low Intelligence will have simplistic speech and fewer options during conversation. With all of the options available, no two players' parties will be the same; my two-weapon wielding ranger who specializes in stealth will be very different from another dude's ranger who may focus more on tracking and marksmanship with a longbow.

    Read the whole thing at GameShark.

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    Neverwinter Nights Forum News
    Posted Saturday, January 17, 2004 - 3:32 CET by chevalier

    Here are today's Neverwinter Nights forum highlights. Please take into account that these are only single parts of various threads and should not be taken out of context. Bear in mind also that the posts presented here are copied as-is, and that any bad spelling and grammar does not get corrected on our end.

    Craig Welburn, Live Team Programmer

    Update tool: Not sure if it will help or not, but you can hold down the CTRL key when you click on the "Update" button on the update tool and it will spit out a bunch of debug information. Next time if you could copy and paste the error message that you get from doing this into your post, it might help me determine what the problem is.

    DM client:

    Quote: Okay I don't know if this is the right place to post but.....I want to run both the game client and the DM client at the same time (as a means of trying different options within a module) is there any way of doing this?


    Only if you have two copies of the game installed on two different PCs. Alternatively, you could run the dedicated server (the file nwserver.exe in your Neverwinter Nights directory). Connect to that server with the DM client, then log out and log back in with the player client. You can't run both at the exact same time, but this will allow the module to keep running after you log out. Not sure if that helps or not.

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    Neverwinter Wednesday
    Posted Thursday, January 15, 2004 - 23:40 CET by Sorcerer

    Another week's around and here are the latest NWN Wednesday goodies:

    Gelatinous Cube
    Just when you thought that unsightly pasta stains had no champion, and you were comfortable in a world where mayonnaise didn't fight back, comes a creature made entirely of the stuff that bursts out of mashed caterpillars. A wobbly favorite of roleplayers young and old, the Gelatinous Cube is one of the new creatures in Hordes of the Underdark. Discuss.

    Top Hordes Modules
    The Neverwinter, Shadows, and Hordes sites now list the top rated Hordes of the Underdark modules hosted at NWVault. You will find this information listed in the "Modules" side panel of each site, as well as the modules page. The % of online players with Hordes installed is now also shown in the "Site Status" side panel. Discuss.

    Guilds and Registries and NWN Lexicon Hordesified
    The Guilds and Registries section has been updated with Hordes of the Underdark classes, skills, and feats so you can now search players and guilds by Hordes prestige classes, or add example characters to your registry profile that use Hordes skills and feats! Additionally, NWN Lexicon, (the reference bible for builders) has recently been updated with scripting functions and constants up to and including patch 1.61, including the scripting additions introduced in Hordes of the Underdark. Discuss.

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    Last Week's Poll's Results
    Posted Thursday, January 15, 2004 - 13:23 CET by Sorcerer

    What we asked:

    Q: On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate the expired year 2003?
    (258 votes total)

    3 (103) 40%
    4 (75) 29%
    2 (42) 16%
    1 (worst) (23) 9%
    5 (best) (15) 6%

    Overall, people have voted 2003 to be a somewhat mediocre year. The majority (40%), rated it 3/5. 29% of poll participants were a bit happier with it, rating it 4/5. 16% rated it 2/5, a pretty bad score, beaten by the 9% of those who voted the year 2003 1/5. 6% of those who voted, however, were so happy with 2003, that they rated it 5/5. I sure would love to be one of these lucky people!

  • Current Poll
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    Neverwinter Nights Forum News
    Posted Thursday, January 15, 2004 - 2:28 CET by chevalier

    Here are today's Neverwinter Nights forum highlights. Please take into account that these are only single parts of various threads and should not be taken out of context. Bear in mind also that the posts presented here are copied as-is, and that any bad spelling and grammar does not get corrected on our end.

    Rob Bartel, Co Lead Designer

    Pay per download:

    Quote: Yes, that would be most useful. How about it Rob? Are there specific points you want more feedback on for this epic thread? Would you like maybe to discuss one of the subjects mentioned in previous posts here not too many pages ago such as methods/ideas to generate and sustain a steady stream of content and/or adventure modules? Sources could be your designers minds, from TSR printed modules, from fantasy novel and campaign-setting authors, and of course from willing nwn community members (as long as bioware was properly shielded from legal concerns that could arise from upset folks who cry fowl err foul).


    As most of the discussion thus far has focused on different payment models and content combinations, I suspect those two topics, while important, can probably be laid to rest (if you feel you have something to contribute, by all means do so but I recommend reading through this thread and its predecessor to ensure that you're not simply restating something previously mentioned). As for new areas of focus, I'm working on WW2 again; Any thoughts on where the story should go or what new features I should add? Also, what other types of series or one-off modules would you like to see within the digital distribution model? An epic-level series has been mentioned and I think that's a good idea. Would you like to see more humour involved (WW is fairly dark, for instance)? What about competitive play modules? Persistent world templates? High adventure? A real solid dungeon crawl? Extremely story-oriented? Experimental gameplay types? My personal opinion is that there is strength in diversity but that doesn't mean that everything is going to sell well and be worth the effort. What are your thoughts?

    Another question to ask is how much content is too much? How much is too little? Assuming that there were an unlimited supply of new, enjoyable modules each month (i.e. modules that you would consider worth paying to download), how many modules would you buy? How often would new installments in a series have to be released to maintain your interest? How often would new modules, period, have to be released for you to maintain interest in digital distribution overall? Also, what's the most important factor to you when deciding on a module to purchase? The name/reputation of the creator(s)? The reputation/style of past installments in the series? Reviews/Word-of-mouth regarding the individual module? Prior discussion of the module's features or setting? Type of gameplay? Projected gameplay length? That should provide some new grist for the mill.


    Georg Zoeller, Designer

    2DA files: The irpr_feats.2da file exists, you may need to extract it from the game's resources. The function to create a feat ItemPropertyBonusFeat takes the line number of the feat in aforementioned 2da file. Only feats listed in irpr_feats are accessible for this function (the ones you can also put on items in the toolset), if you need other feats in there, you will need a hakpak.

    Black dye: Pure black is available as a color, but there is no premade dye for it. You can either make your own dyes in the toolset for that color (check the sticky on top of the scripting forum for details), or, I think there is a package with all premade dyepots for all possible colors available on NWVault.

    Craig Welburn, Live Team Programmer

    Console key on French keyboards: I remember this be asked a long time ago. From what I remember you hold down SHIFT and press the ` (backward single quote) key, since ~ is the shifted character on the ` key. Its been a long time, so that might not be right.

    Purging server history list:

    Quote: Is there a way to delete servers from the history list? I don't need all those servers on my list, just the ones I play in. And, sorry if it was asked before, but the list is really getting long...


    You can open you nwnplayer.ini file and under the heading [History Page] you can manually remove the server IPs. You will also have to renumber the Server0, Server1, Server2 entries to start at Server0 again and make sure they increment properly.

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    Minsc & Boo in GameSpy's Top Ten Videogame Sidekicks
    Posted Wednesday, January 14, 2004 - 23:26 CET by chevalier

    GameSpy have published Top Ten Videogame Sidekicks. The unforgettable ranger berserker and his hamster come fifth. Congratulations, guys!

    GameSpy: Any advice for burgeoning rangers who want to walk the path of righteousness?

    Minsc: Evil is a maze of deceit, and the cheese it hides is never worth the running. Oh, and never trust an ice weasel when your hamster is on the line.

    GameSpy: If you had to choose between kicking evil in the head or the behind, which would you choose, and why?

    Minsc: I'm not sure I understand the question. I have two feet, do I not? You do not take a small plate when the feast of evil welcomes seconds


    Read the whole thing at GameSpy.

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    Hordes of the Underdark RPG Vault's Expansion Pack of the Year 2003
    Posted Wednesday, January 14, 2004 - 2:25 CET by chevalier

    RPG Vault have declared Hordes of the Underdark Expansion Pack of the Year 2003. Here's what they say:

    Released toward the end of the year, Hordes of the Underdark took players on an engrossing trip deep within the sinister bowels of the Forgotten Realms campaign world, offering an adventure with massive battles befitting its powerful, high-level characters and abilities. Of course, there was a great deal more such as new prestige classes, feats, spells, creatures, tilesets et al, all available to the many module makers among within the huge Neverwinter Nights community.

    See the whole thing at RPG Vault.

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    Neverwinter Nights Forum News
    Posted Wednesday, January 14, 2004 - 2:15 CET by chevalier

    Here are today's Neverwinter Nights forum highlights. Please take into account that these are only single parts of various threads and should not be taken out of context. Bear in mind also that the posts presented here are copied as-is, and that any bad spelling and grammar does not get corrected on our end.

    Georg Zoeller, Designer

    TLK files: As for multiple strings with the same contents, as Tim said, the reason is simple:

    Lets assue we have a Toolset GUI label called "Fireball" used for the spell selection when adding a new Cast spell item property. We could of course use the same stringref in game for scrolls, spellbook labels, etc, and save a few bytes each time we do so - But: Now assume someone decides that it would be fine to have the caster level of the spell displayed in the toolset as well, so he changes "Fireball" to read "Fireball: " in order to display the caster level behind it in the Toolset - That would cause all the strings in game to change as well, and that would look pretty stupid in some cases. Another plus of the talktable system: Network bandwith. Instead of sending a potentially long string down to any client, you just need to send a StrRef and the client can access the string locally and display it.


    GetLastKiller() problems: GetLastKiller is NPC only. You can use GetLastHostileActor() instead.

    Weapon Master: Ok, I will try to explain why there are no unarmed weapon master's in NWN. The weapon master was not originally planned to be a weapon master. We had planned it to be a Kensei Prestige Class. At some point in the approval process, we were informed that a Weapon Master would make much more sense in the Forgotten Realms and that we should switch the Kensei class over to be the Weapon Master Class. At this point in time, adding the required feats and especially game mechanics to make an unarmed attack weapon master possible was not an option anymore, because of the required sigificant amount of time from both Design and Programming as well as some time from Arts. That's it - no bug, no oversight, no stupidity, just the effect of plain reality. If you ask me if there is a chance for this to change -I doubt it.

    Bioware's script compiler: yes, we use the same compiler. I recompiled most of the scripts prior to our gold build using the command line compiler that can be found in your "utils" directory

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    SP Happenings #32
    Posted Tuesday, January 13, 2004 - 19:07 CET by Sorcerer

    We've been having some problems with the message boards lately; namely problems indicating that we've pushed the current board software (UBB.classic) to the limit. While I could archive the biggest forums and solve the problem that way, I don't really want to do that. People often revive older topics with valid new ideas or questions, and I want the trend to continue. So, as soon as the final version of the new vBulletin becomes available, we will be switching to that.

    The next site update, along with the beginning of the conversion to the new site design, should occur near the end of next week.

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    Neverwinter Nights Forum News
    Posted Tuesday, January 13, 2004 - 2:53 CET by chevalier

    Here are today's Neverwinter Nights forum highlights. Please take into account that these are only single parts of various threads and should not be taken out of context. Bear in mind also that the posts presented here are copied as-is, and that any bad spelling and grammar does not get corrected on our end.

    Georg Zoeller, Designer

    Scripting errors: I did a full recompile of all scripts before we created the Hordes Gold candidate, so I can rule out that there is a problem with that file. Two things possible

    a) nwscript.nss in a hakpak or your override directory. If so, remove it!

    b) any modified nw_i0_* or x0_i0_* file in your module, overriding the official version of the file. Remove any file starting with x0_i0_ or nw_i0_ from your module.


    HotU manual: Atari insisted on the manual being finished several weeks before the game, so some changes may not be reflected in the manual. And, by the way, there are no floating points in PnP D&D, just plain tables.

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    The Temple of Elemental Evil Review at GamerzEdge
    Posted Sunday, January 11, 2004 - 17:31 CET by chevalier

    GamerzEdge have posted a review of the Temple of Elemental evil, rating it 8.4 out of 10. Here's a snip:

    At first this menu system can be confusing and it can potentially become even more so as your characters learn new skills further subdividing these menus. However, if you take the time upfront to learn your characters menus, then when it comes time to cast the life saving heal spell you won't be lost in a sea of choices.

    Gameplay is varied in this game so much that it is recommend that you play through it more than once, and I can see why. The characters you choose with their specific skills as well as the different alignments you can choose , from lawful good to chaotic evil, vastly change the path you will take in the game. Initially, my main character of focus was a three foot tall rogue halfing who could pick pocket anyone with a purse. However, I have feeling that if I create a band of barbarian half-orcs that my approach to the game would be much different.


    Read the rest at GamerzEdge.

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    Shadows of Undrentide Review at GamerzEdge
    Posted Sunday, January 11, 2004 - 17:28 CET by chevalier

    GamerzEdge have reviewed Shadows of Undrentide and given it a score of 8.2 out of 10. Here's a bit of what they say:

    For those of you who haven't played NWN, the gameplay goes something like this. You control a single character and most of the time you are supported by a computer-controlled character. The battles take place in real-time, but underneath the surface the game is acting like any D&D player would by simulating dice rolls to determine if your actions fail or succeed. Battling is simply a matter of choosing what actions you want to perform from various menus that appear when you click on your character. Once you've chosen your action, such as a simple attack, you click on whatever you want to attack. Or if you want to pick a lock you find the corresponding action and click on a door or chest.

    Read the whole thing at GamerzEdge.

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    Neverwinter Nights Forum News
    Posted Friday, January 9, 2004 - 17:05 CET by chevalier

    Here are today's Neverwinter Nights forum highlights. Please take into account that these are only single parts of various threads and should not be taken out of context. Bear in mind also that the posts presented here are copied as-is, and that any bad spelling and grammar does not get corrected on our end.

    Rob Bartel, Co Lead Designer

    Witch's Wake 2: Don't worry, I'm still in firm control of the fate of the Witch's Wake series. The story and overall gameplay focus will continue according to my original plans, regardless of whether or not it falls within the DD framework. I did have to sacrifice the use of community content, which is unfortunate, but it doesn't jeapordize the overall integrity of the series. I am also rethinking some of my original decisions such as the complete absence of combat XP but I was already heading down that path long before the DD plans had even occurred to me. As for marketability, remember that the original saw over half a million downloads. If we can get even a fraction of that number via the DD system, we'll be very pleased. Don't worry. If it sucks, it'll be my fault, no one else's.

    Georg Zoeller, Designer

    Publishers:

    Quote: I guess that means that the publisher has some say in how long you are able to support the game from here on out?


    They control how much time we have on a project prior to release. We also can't make any move without their agreement: they and the license holder have to approve everything. One assumes that we could put together a team and work on HotU even if the publisher didn't offer to foot the bill, but that's unlikely to happen... we already have the live team working continuously on NWN as a whole, and like Darcy already said they'll work on ironing out the single player game before they even consider tackling such a huge thing as multiplayer support.


    Quote: Is the publisher, in this case, able to benefit from the revenue you would generate doing the pay-for-download model of game updates as discussed here, even though those offerings would come stright from you?

    Sorry, I can't comment on that nor on how our publisher would be involved.

    Quote: I was always under the impression that the developer contracts with the publisher to get the game out in the retail world. You make it sound like the publisher is the one footing the bill for all the development, and Bioware is just the shop that made the game for them.

    The involvement of the publisher varies according to the deal. In most cases, the publisher actually does foot some or most of the bill during development... most smaller publishers could not, in fact, make a game any other way. There are exceptions, but it's rarely just a case of a developer "contracting out" a publisher even when the developer has made the entire game already... the publisher is, after all, taking a lot of financial risk in publishing a game even if they didn't finance its production. I believe Bioware is in a place where we can be more independant in our operations (the Live Team for NWN would not exist otherwise, I suspect), but that doesn't mean the publisher still doesn't hold a lot of power over things like release dates and support... especially when a license is involved.

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    Neverwinter Wednesday
    Posted Thursday, January 8, 2004 - 21:59 CET by Sorcerer

    Another week's around and here are the latest NWN Wednesday goodies:

    Sea Hag
    Gibbering, wretched, seaweed-covered, screeching horrors of the sea, these watery minxes used to lure sailors to their death with their seductive, haunting call. The Sea Hag is a new creature that will be included in a future Neverwinter Nights update. Discuss.

    NWVault Module Contest Overall Winner
    We previously announced that Papermonk’s "The Nether Scrolls" and Xxtayce’s "Shadohaunt" were the two finalists in the NWVault Module Contest. After some tough deliberation, we have named an overall winner. Discuss.

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    Last Week's Poll's Results
    Posted Thursday, January 8, 2004 - 15:03 CET by Sorcerer

    What we asked:

    Q: Are you saddened by the apparent demise of Black Isle Studios? (Developers of the Icewind Dale series and Planescape: Torment, among other things.)
    (428 votes total)

    Yes, of course (371) 87%
    Somewhat (39) 9%
    No, I don't care (18) 4%

    I think the poll results here speak for themselves... RiP, BIS.

  • Current Poll
  • Previous Polls

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    John Deiley Interview at GameBanshee
    Posted Thursday, January 8, 2004 - 1:30 CET by chevalier

    GameBanshee have posted an interview with John Deiley, one of the laid off Black Isle employees. They speak about the atmosphere at BIS in the last days before the big lay-off and the state of BIS's projects at that moment. Here's an excerpt:

    GB: What do you feel prompted Interplay's decision to close Black Isle Studios?

    John: Technically, BIS has not been shut down. Black Isle Studios is a *brand* name that is owned by Interplay Entertainment Corp. As such, Interplay has the right to put the BIS *brand* name on any product it produces.

    The fact that there are no original BIS employees working for Interplay is irrelevant.

    Anyway, to answer your question, it was done for purely financial reasons. The company could no longer afford to pay us.

    GB: Were you aware that such a decision might be made during the final days of the studio, or was it entirely out of the blue?

    John: It was always a possibility. The company was in dire financial straights. Direct payroll deposit had been canceled and employees were being paid with live checks. A few of those checks bounced but were later made good on. However, we had reason to believe that we were fine and that the company would pull out of its slump.

    Read the rest at GameBanshee.

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    Feargus Urquhart Interview at GameSpot, Part 2
    Posted Thursday, January 8, 2004 - 1:20 CET by chevalier

    GameSpot have posted the second part of their interview with the legendary developer Feargus Urquhart, this time focusing more on the future. Here's a snip:

    GS: When you left Black Isle Studios in April 2003, you said it was because "[BIS parent] Interplay has a direction that it wants to pursue concerning projects and I have a direction that I want to go." What was that direction?

    Feargus Urquhart: Interplay wants to focus on console titles and I don't think that the future of gaming is entirely on the console. I enjoy developing games for both the console and the PC and abandoning one completely for the other is not a direction that I would like my career to go.

    GS: Do you think [Interplay CEO] Herve Caen is taking the company in the right direction?

    FU: I think Herve has a plan for the company and he is following it.


    Read the whole thing at Game Spot.

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    Neverwinter Nights Review at Digital Entertainment News
    Posted Thursday, January 8, 2004 - 1:13 CET by chevalier

    Digital Entertainment News have posted a review of... the original Neverwinter Nights. The overall score is 8.7 and here's a bit of what they say:

    As pleasing as the official campaign may be, it is the expandability of Neverwinter Nights that is the game’s true strength. In the Aurora Toolset, gamers are given many of the same tools BioWare’s developers used in developing NN, except with lots of helpful wizard-based tools instead of a staff of 60 talented coworkers. Perhaps the most powerful toolset ever to be put in the hands of the gaming public, with some talent and not a small amount of time and dedication, one can actually construct anything from a mini-campaign that can be played online in the course of an hour or two with a group of friends or GameSpy-gamers, or if you’re obsessive-compulsive enough, you can even develop a long single-player scenario that can be added on to Neverwinter Nights almost as easily as any of Atari’s official “expansion packs.”

    Read the rest at Digital Entertainment News.

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    Neverwinter Nights Forum News
    Posted Thursday, January 8, 2004 - 0:57 CET by chevalier

    Here are today's Neverwinter Nights forum highlights. Please take into account that these are only single parts of various threads and should not be taken out of context. Bear in mind also that the posts presented here are copied as-is, and that any bad spelling and grammar does not get corrected on our end.

    Georg Zoeller, Designer

    Ice Storm:

    Quote: Let me just verify because this is a gigantic debate going on in my PW world now...A Mage being able to continually cast Maximized/Empowered Ice Storms was done intentionally? If this is correct could I get the reasoning behind this so that I can pass on some feedback to my PW so people will let it die...


    It's an epic character (shifter, not mage), what do you expect? Fighters can kill with devastating critical at that point and weapon masters can do damage in the hundreds, I hardly see a problem here, especially with the pretty low overall damage on ice storm compared to other spells. Finally NWN is open enough to change whatever you want about a class, so if you feel you don't want people to have that ability on your server, you can always change or remove it.


    Pay per download:

    Quote: Well, I am most certainly against pay for play in this fashion. If they put WW series on disc and ship to the software store then I will buy it, but how things can easily mess up one's hard drive (like a corrupted Track 0) and lose all that content one has just bought. Then what? We will have to buy aeverything all over again. No thank you.


    Regardless how it would be done technically, you can be sure that you would always be able to redownload something you purchased - that's one of the basics of digital distribution. I recently bought my first game via a digital distribution system, it took about 20 minutes (paying, downloading and burning it to disk). It did cost me 50% less than if I would have bought the game in a store (not counting the cost of driving to the store, getting a parking lot, etc - or shipping and handling if I bought it in an online store). I always can redownload the game from the companies server as well, in case my download gets lost, all I need is the CDKey I got when I bought the game. I wouldn't do this for every game. For certain games, I just want to have that box in my shelf and I want to have that manual (and thus I can understand you), but the game would have come in a DVD box anyway ... As said by Rob, you can expect a digital distribution system to be done right - IF we would go that route ( which would include the ability to redownload things you already bought, of course).


    Tom Ohle, Communications Assistant

    Pay per download: While I'm slowly chugging through this thread, I want to make a quick statement so that I can clear this up...We haven't announced any formal plans for digital distribution... we're still discussing the possibilities internally. What that means is that statements like "But I won't be able to do this!" aren't overly fitting at this point... since we don't know what you will or won't be able to do. Definitely keep posting your ideas, as they may help us make some decisions, but know that nothing is set in stone yet.

    Rob Bartel, Co Lead Designer

    Pay per download: Regarding our intended audience, we do have data regarding patch downloads, web visits from unique IPs, active accounts, survey respondents, and so forth that do indicate a substantial number of 'silent participants' in the NWN community. They may not post on the boards or post content to the Vault, you may not recognize their account names but they are out there and they are actively engaged in the NWN experience. Our preliminary estimates suggest that the acctive community is large enough for something like this to be viable but we may be wrong. As for how to reach these people, the patch updater has already been mentioned as one possible route. A little bit of press coverage, paid advertising, and discussion with the Vault may also be required. We'll have to see.

    Maize: As for your concerns about there being insufficient information on which to speculate at this point, that may be true. I'll turn the question around a bit, though, and ask you what you would consider to be a proper cost:value ratio (recognizing, of course, that everyone may have a slightly different opinion on that). WW1 was a high-quality 3-hour module. Is that worth $10? $5? $1? Nothing at all? What about longer modules? What about individual components such as creatures or tilesets, should we go down that route (again, my advice would be not to but the issue is definitely still up for debate)?

    Regarding the notion of CD hard copies and alternate payment schemes, all these things are possible, though we may choose not to phase those sorts of things in until after we establish the core framework. Again, everything is speculation at this point which means it's a very good time to voice your opinions, offer new suggestions, and troubleshoot the idea for potential problems. If we do go down this route, we want to do it with your participation and input because, in the end, that's what the Live Team is all about.

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    SP Happenings #31
    Posted Tuesday, January 6, 2004 - 21:51 CET by Sorcerer

    I've been occupying myself with the new SP design lately, trying to make sense of all the planned (sub)section restructuring, and it's proving to be quite a task. The whole thing is especially problematic because it all needs to be done as I go along with the site content conversion to the new layout. Still, once I have all the bases in place, the rest of it should follow pretty quickly.

    Chevalier, the guy who's been more or less single-handedly doing the news reporting here on the front page for the last month, has been promoted to full News Staff status a few days ago. Here's hoping he doesn't get tired of his job - I have to search way too long for good news posters whenever they're in short supply.

    As far as the next site update's concerned, it's probably going to be in around 2 weeks' time.

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    Feargus Urquhart Interview at GameSpot
    Posted Tuesday, January 6, 2004 - 21:37 CET by chevalier

    GameSpot have posted a review with Feargus Urquhart, the former head of Black Isle Studios and now of Obsidian. The legendary developer speaks about the lay-offs in BIS, the future of their unfinished projects, Obsidian, Interplay and roleplaying genre in general. Here's an excerpt:

    GS: What do you think caused Interplay to lay off most of Black Isle's staff?

    Feargus Urquhart: I can only speculate based upon what I have heard going around the Internet and third-hand. However, it sounds like Interplay has decided to put all of its remaining development effort behind Fallout Brotherhood of Steel and the Exalted license. Both of those are console titles, while Black Isle was making a PC product. Plus, I would assume that Interplay could make more money in the short term by selling Fallout to another publisher and letting the team go than finishing the product.

    GS: Do you think the layoffs were a good decision, businesswise?

    FU: That's very hard to answer. I have heard from many people that the team was very certain that they could get Fallout 3 done, and I think most people would consider that Black Isle was a marketable brand. I'm sure there are smarter people than me who could comment on whether shutting down a division in that position was a good idea or not.


    Read the whole thing at GameSpot.

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    Neverwinter Nights Forum News
    Posted Tuesday, January 6, 2004 - 21:21 CET by chevalier

    Here are today's Neverwinter Nights forum highlights. Please take into account that these are only single parts of various threads and should not be taken out of context. Bear in mind also that the posts presented here are copied as-is, and that any bad spelling and grammar does not get corrected on our end.

    Rob Bartel, Co Lead Designer

    Witch's Wake:
    For the record, the notion of a pay-to-download framework is under discussion as a means of supporting ongoing Live Team involvement into the future. There's no guarantee it will come to pass, however, and there's no guarantee that the Witch's Wake series will or will not become a part of that framework should it arise.

    Witch's Wake began as a free series highlighting the best content available in the community. Unfortunately, due to its nature as a free series, it became very hard to justify keeping a full-time designer assigned to it when other projects were experiencing design shortages and looming deadlines. While I firmly believe that the initial Witch's Wake module did its part to re-invigorate the builder community and drive sales of both the original NWN and its expansions, that's a very hard thing to prove to those who crunch the numbers and make the real decisions. Instead, the success of the original Witch's Wake module actually resulted in a greater internal demand for my skills. In the end, I've been able to spend only three months of the past year and a half on Witch's Wake.

    The same has been true of the Live Team as a whole. Even before NWN's release, for instance, we identified a need for a dedicated Live Team artist to generate new downloadable content in regular installments. Because the Live Team was not directly responsible for generating revenue, however, such an artist was never assigned. We received some part-time art involvement that allowed us to add rats, kobolds, and gnolls via download but that well has since dried up. In short, if we do move toward some form of pay-to-download framework (for WW or otherwise), it will be to support the provision of ongoing content and value from the Live Team over the coming months and hopefully years.

    Further:
    Hehe. I warned Tom that I was stirring up a hornet's nest here. Regarding the concern about splintering the community, I assure you that it's a concern I share. The model I've been advocating is one where new base content (i.e. new creatures, new scripting functions, etc) is made readily available through the patch/update system just like kobolds and rats were for WW1. Under such a model, you would only be paying to download the actual playable module (be it WW or something else). If that's the approach we end up taking, there would be no splintering of the community because the individual components would be freely available to everyone. You'd be paying for the story, the gameplay, the chance to see those individual components integrated into a playable context but you'd be paying once for it, up front, with no hidden costs or implied exclusivity of content.

    As for what made WW1 successful, I would heartily agree with Orik that it was a highly collaborative effort and one that I'd like to see continue in WW's future, regardless of whether it's developed under a pay-to-download framework or not. The Live Team and the QA department have been working together to develop an even better beta-testing environment than the effective but ad-hoc one we threw together for WW1. Personally, I'd love to see that environment extended in the future to accommodate our traditional retail titles as well. While the core vision on WW1 was always mine, the beta testers were the ones who really shaped it into something magical. The last point I'll make here is that any pay-to-download system is going to be an opt-in one. The onus is on us to develop content that's worth your gaming dollar. If the stuff we put out sucks, don't buy it. Treat it as you would a traditional retail game or expansion. It's your money and I encourage you to invest it wisely. I'm just going to go out there and do what I've always done: tell a good story and hope some of you join me for the ride.


    Georg Zoeller, Designer

    Crafting switch: That switch will only switch off the crafting FEATS, not the skills. To switch of the skills, you can set another variable which I posted somewhere already (or just check the first conditional script on the crafting conversation).

    Large battles: Some things we used for the large battles in HotU:

    Graphics/Level Design
    a) Use only up to 7 different creature appearances, the less the better.

    b) Use predefined appeareances only instead of using creatures with customized appearances/outfits

    c) Use few placeables that have a walkmesh in the area the battle takes place. The fewer the better

    d) Never place placeable objects on tile seams

    e) Use well designed, small areas for the battle - in any case stay below 16x16, better below 10x10

    f) Switch off tile features like torches or smoke. Don't place smoke or fire placeables if not neccessary

    g) Remove "persistent" effect spells (i.e. acid sheath) from the spell list of the creatures that participate in the combat. Nothing kills the frame rate faster than a lot of fancy fire shields

    h) Minimize the use of weapons with particle effects (like flame arrows) in the battle.

    i) Don't use "persistent corpses". Try to have no treasure on most creatures that get killed in the battle - this prevents lootbags to be spawned

    j) Use open areas, the narrower the areas get, the higher the impact of pathfinding on the CPU.

    Scripting
    a) Remove most of the event scripts from all the creatures involved in the combat. Instead use "squad leader" creatures that give commands to the other creatures (squad based AI)

    b) The OnBlocked event fires for creatures blocking another creatures path - it makes a very nice spot for a target selection routine

    c) Tweak the spellcaster's spell lists to include only few cpu intensive spells (usually missile storm or area of effect spells) - they take too much CPU when

    d) Use the module's script caching features. Tools like NWNX2 provide options to screen script usage / execution times and allow you to get a good picture which scripts should be cached - caching all nw_c2_* scripts makes perfectly sense as do all the x2_pc_* scripts.

    some random ideas to make the battle look cool:

    a) There are ballista bolt and arrow projectiles in spells.2da. Using ActionCastFakeSpellAtLocation allows you to create swarms of arrows or incoming ballista bolts or rocks hurled by catapults for the right battle feeling

    b) Have creatures react to certain things (i.e. signal them an event if a player opens a gate or approaches a catapult). This will make the battle feel more intense and add the illusion of intelligent creatures.

    c) lay down triggers that spawn random things like hails of arrows or monsters bursting through a gate.

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    Neverwinter Nights Forum News
    Posted Sunday, January 4, 2004 - 20:07 CET by chevalier

    Here are today's Neverwinter Nights forum highlights. Please take into account that these are only single parts of various threads and should not be taken out of context. Bear in mind also that the posts presented here are copied as-is, and that any bad spelling and grammar does not get corrected on our end.

    Don Moar, Tools Programmer

    RAD tools: The problem isn't the RAD tools.

    I venture to say that this is how software development is done in most companies:

    1. Users want to see a functional GUI in a simulated production (not test) environment before they will "sign off" on a prototype.

    2. Programmers burn all their design, development and shakedown time trying to get "sign off" on their prototype.

    3. Managers with schedules to follow and resources (time, staff, money) to budget want the program done on time.

    The end result is a rather comical chain of events. First, the "users" complain to "management" that they're falling behind because the "programmers" haven't finished the program. "Management" then pressures the "programmers" to get the program done (typically resulting in severe overtime). "Programmers" polish off the prototype since that's pretty close to what the "users" want and because (they think) it'll take less time than doing it the right way. Finally, the program is rolled out. The "users" are happy, "management" is happy and the "programmers" just want to move on to something else. Unfortunately, there are subsequent changes or bugs left in the system that require additional time and which can't be dealt with effectively due to the lack of proper design. At last, the program is finished but now, the schedule has lost valuable time needed on the next project.

    This happens regardless of whether RAD tools are used, it's just that with RAD tools, the cycle is more... rapid. :) As professional programmers it is our responsibility to communicate to the rest of the team (i.e. non-programmers) that programming is more than just banging out code. On all but the simplest of projects you have to break your schedules up into time for design, ui prototyping, development, qa, shakedown, communicaiton and some buffer. Note that this doesn't imply a waterfall cycle approach - these tasks can be done using whatever development methodology you choose but all the steps are necessary. Included in each of these phases must be time for adequate documentation. If things start to slip, you have to communicate them back up the chain as soon as it happens.

    You also require a formal approach to change-management. The goal is to prevent half-implemented or untested features from making it into the next release build but remain flexible enough to handle emergency requests. As a professional programmer, it is up to you to move your organization towards a more disciplined approach to software development. Record what you're doing today to serve as a baseline, read books to find ideas on how to improve your situation and then talk to your management and users. These people are not programmers and cannot be expected to understand what you require to do your job if you cannot explain and justify it yourself. If you're working in a lousy environment don't just blame management, work towards changing it.


    Further:
    I sympathize, PJ. Fortunately, I've been able to make many of the changes I just described to tools development at BioWare over the last couple of years and I'm continuing to work on the others. Tim, RAD is not a development methodology - at least that's not how I've been using the term. To me, RAD is matter of using special tools and programming languages such as C++ Builder or VB. So I think the comparison between RAD / non-RAD and C / ASM is a valid one.

    The problem is that today's tools are so good that discipline and training are not as required as they were 20 years ago. Using these tools it is possible to make many simple programs perform adequately on small datasets. This approach simply doesn't scale to larger and more complex projects. The problem is that pretty much every programmer has to learn this on his or her own because it's not taught effectively at most schools.

    Here's another example of the problem. While not technically a RAD tool, many source control programs support the simultaneous check-out of the same file to multiple users. While this does eliminate the problem of programmers being blocked by each other, it requires the careful merging of changes. The risk is that changes can be accidentally overwritten or otherwise replaced resulting in the introduction of more bugs. It's another case of a tool supporting capabilities that require training and discipline to use properly. Personally, I don't like this feature. I think any file that's so big (in size or functionality) that it requires multiple programmers to work on it simultaneously should be split up. But then, I'm extremely risk-adverse in my approach to software development. Right, Tim? :)

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    Hordes of the Underdark Review at GameShark
    Posted Saturday, January 3, 2004 - 22:28 CET by chevalier

    GameShark have reviewed Hordes of the Underdark and given it an 8.4. Here's a snip:

    Hordes of the Underdark is all about choices. The 6 new prestige classes round out the 6 given in Shadows of Undrentide, giving all starting characters a class they can work towards if they want to. In addition you have much more choice in how your character appears. Dye kits let you recolor your armor, and the inclusion of real robes as well as the craft armor and craft weapon skills means the end of being forced to wear embarrassing clown suits just for their good stats. The most important choices you are given are the choices between good and evil. In the original campaign the evil choices were rarely satisfying, as you generally did the same things that the good characters were doing and all that was different was that you were a jerk about it. With multiple endings and some major plot affecting choices, you finally get the feeling that your actions have impact on the plot, as well as having consequences with your henchmen.

    Read the rest at GameShark.

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    Hordes of the Underdark Review at RPGFan
    Posted Saturday, January 3, 2004 - 22:25 CET by chevalier

    RPGFan have posted an enthusiastic review of the Hordes of the Underdark expansion. None of the partial scores drops below 92% and the overall is 95%. Here's what they say:

    But a rollercoaster of a story is not the only thing this game features. Along with massive improvements to the storyline come incredible advances in gameplay, as well. With the addition of six new prestige classes, epic levels, and sixteen epic creatures, Hordes of the Underdark certainly features a challenge never before found in Neverwinter Nights. Unlike as with the first expansion, the prestige classes are much more than just a novelty. While I did find the quintet of Shadows of the Undrentide enjoyable, I felt that their applicability was severely hampered by various weaknesses. The prestige classes of the second expansion, however, are far more intriguing. I actually restarted the game three times before I chose a character with which to finish the game simply because I could not choose which of the new classes to play. From the mysterious Shifters and Palemasters to the combat-ready Dwarven Defenders and Red Dragon Disciples, all the new classes provide for a unique gaming experience that urges the player to experiment with every character possibility available.

    Read the whole review at RPGFan.

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    The Temple of Elemental Evil Review at VideoGamesLife
    Posted Friday, January 2, 2004 - 15:34 CET by chevalier

    VideoGamesLife have posted a review of the Temple of Elemental Evil, giving it an overall score of 57%, despite each of the partial scores being higher. Here's what they say:

    The real problem with TOEE is the multitude of bugs that currently festoon the product. Several side-quests are broken, returning after triumphantly slaying that troublesome beast or recovering that precious artefact only to be greeted by complete apathy because the coding hasn't been correctly implemented is hugely irritating. Path-finding by your team is a joke – they wander off aimlessly for no apparent reason when directed to a specific area with no obstacles in their path, thus sometimes activating a combat scenario against a group of foes you would've rather avoided. When resting, it's clearly stated that when the relevant button on the interface is green, the art of sleeping and remembering those much needed offensive spells is achieved with no chance of being disturbed. So why were we being constantly attacked in these green sectors? As for the enemies themselves, they may look good but some have a bizarre need to meld with a wall in a hugely frustrating manner. Those of you who remember the initial release of Fallout 2 may also concede that these problems are again, nothing to be surprised about given the track record of the developer.

    Read the whole review at VideoGamesLife.

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    Hordes of the Underdark Review at GamePlasma
    Posted Friday, January 2, 2004 - 4:17 CET by chevalier

    GamePlasma have reviewed the Hordes of the Underdark expansion, giving it an overall score of 8.6. Here's a snip:

    In terms of graphics, it looks a lot fresher than Shadows of Undrentide did. There are new tile-sets that look pretty nice, and stay true to the Neverwinter Nights style of textures. The new spell effects are probably the most impressive addition, but if you choose maximum texture and shadow quality, and a reasonable resolution I can assure you the game itself isn’t an eyesore. Unfortunately there isn’t any lip-movement during the cinematic sequences that are shown, which is somewhat of a shame in 2003. The characters are nicely animated and make appropriate gestures, so it doesn’t look too unrealistic, but in terms of facial expressions it’s pretty far off the ideal. The game ran very well on my PC for the most part, but during the last chapter when you’re in really big fights the frame-rate does bog down a bit. On the other hand you can customize a reasonable amount of video related options to suit your hardware, so there’s no reason why you can’t run the game properly.

    Read the rest at GamePlasma.

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    Black Isle Studios History at GameSpot
    Posted Friday, January 2, 2004 - 4:12 CET by chevalier

    GameSpot have posted a history of Black Isle Studios, the developer whose demise we have witnessed recently. Here's a snip:

    The developer we knew as Black Isle Studios is no more, and internal confirmation of the studio's closure came just recently. You could say that the writing had been on the wall for the troubled developer, considering the problems its publisher Interplay has encountered in recent years, such as its turbulent relationship with publishing partner Vivendi Universal Games and its ongoing financial troubles. That doesn't make Black Isle's closure any less of a loss, considering that the studio, and the people who created it, are responsible for some of the greatest and most influential computer role-playing games ever made.

    Read the whole thing at GameSpot.

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    Neverwinter Nights Forum News
    Posted Friday, January 2, 2004 - 4:04 CET by chevalier

    Here are today's Neverwinter Nights forum highlights. Please take into account that these are only single parts of various threads and should not be taken out of context. Bear in mind also that the posts presented here are copied as-is, and that any bad spelling and grammar does not get corrected on our end.

    Jonathan Epp, Quality Assurance

    Moving: There is nothing you can do to make it work exactly like it does in KotOR. But there are a couple of features that you might like.

    - Press and hold down the left mouse button: This will make your character run in the direction of the mouse cursor (or walk, if the cursor is close to the character). If the cursor is in the top-center part of the screen, this will do what you've asked for, except that it's with the mouse and not the keyboard.

    - Press and hold down the middle mouse button: When you do this, moving the mouse will adjust the camera. This doesn't directly address your concern, but it's a useful feature that's easily overlooked.


    Georg Zoeller, Designer

    Dynamic Sound Objects: We probably never needed the ability to create sound objects at runtime, they are placed ahead of time and switched on/off by scripting ... and given the endless list of feature requests by the community, well, many things get added - as seen with Hordes - , but dynamic sound objects are probably pretty low on the overall list of features to consider. And, no, I don't think there are plans for dynamic sound objects at the moment, and no, I can't tell if it is easy to do or not.

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    Last Week's Poll's Results
    Posted Thursday, January 1, 2004 - 17:10 CET by Sorcerer

    What we asked:

    Q: Are you going to get any D&D CRPGs (or their expansions) this holiday season?
    (231 votes total)

    I already have them all (74) 32%
    Yes (70) 30%
    No (50) 22%
    Maybe, not sure yet (37) 16%

    Interestingly enough, 32% of people who voted claim that they aren't going to get any D&D CRPGs (or their expansions) this holiday season because they have them all already. Considering there are currently 13 D&D games & expansions (starting with the original Baldur's Gate), I find that a bit hard to believe. I presume many people who picked this option meant that they have all the D&D CRPGs & expansions (they consider) worth having, not that they own every single one of them.

    Only a few people less (30%) voted that they are going to get at least one D&D CRPG or expansion this holiday season.

    22% of poll participants aren't going to get any D&D CRPGs or expansions this holiday season. Finally, the remaining 16% of voters might get some D&D CRPGs or expansions this holiday season, but they are not sure of it yet.

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