April 2001

High-Tech Games: Neverwinter Nights
Posted Sunday, April 29, 2001 - 19:25 CET by Darien

Gamespot has put together a list of "high tech" games, and the upcoming Neverwinter Nights is, of course, included. You can jump straight to the subsection on Neverwinter Nights here.

BioWare isn't going to simply release basic in-house tools; the company plans to test, document, and optimize the toolset programs so that players can use them easily without having to figure out on their own how all these tools work. Grieg says that with the Neverwinter Toolset, "a cool-looking module, complete with waterfalls and a small village, [can be] painted in less than five minutes and then loaded into the game." During a company meeting, when the Neverwinter Nights team demonstrated these game-making tools, "everyone in the room recognized how revolutionary that kind of power was going to be and what a profound impact it would have on our development process," says Grieg. "And it's precisely that revolution that we'll be turning over to our end users."

Or if you want to read more, you can check out the full article. Here's a short introduction:

In the following pages, we discuss 10 recent or upcoming games that represent high-tech gaming. These are truly innovative and technologically unique games--ones that will probably inspire other developers and a dozen copycats and move game design forward. Almost every game mentioned here has been or will likely be released this year. Among them, a few trends for 2001 and beyond are worth noting: Artificial intelligence has been the biggest focus of improvement in RPGs and real-time strategy games; living persistent worlds will affect the player's decisions as you would expect in real life; and the use of photorealistic graphics is on the rise.

Site News - Lots of New Additions
Posted Sunday, April 29, 2001 - 16:14 CET by Sorcerer

Subsection Updates -> Articles

I have updated three articles I wrote some time ago so that they can be considered reviews instead of previews now. The articles in question are Sorcerer's Way Through Baldur's Gate II (Part II), Sorcerer's Way Through Baldur's Gate II (Part III) and Adventure in the Heart of Winter (Part I).
All of these can be accessed from the Articles subsection; the link to it can be found on the main link panel on the front page.

Subsection Updates -> Fantasy Books

The Fantasy Books part of the site has been updated a bit. One new book has been added to the Miscellaneous Books subsection (Bored of the Rings) and two to the Forgotten Realms Books subsection (Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal and Neverwinter Nights: An Anthology).

Subsection Updates -> Games

The box cover for Throne of Bhaal has been replaced with the official one, and a link to pre-order it at Amazon.co.uk has been added as well. You can notice these changes in the main Games section.
By popular demand, I have added links through which you can purchase the official strategy guides for all the games we cover. You will notice this new addition in all Walkthroughs & Guides subsections for each game.

Subsection Updates - Games -> Planescape: Torment

The Planescape: Torment NPC quotes list has been updated with two new quotes. Ok, it's not much, but finding any good quotes we haven't posted yet is getting increasingly difficult. ;)
The Hints for Playing Torment list has been updated with some stuff I dug up from my archives. You can read both of these in the Tips, Tricks & Hints subsection.

Two walkthroughs/guides have been updated; namely Daniel Herfield's and The Complete Guide & Walkthrough to PS: T. You can download the newest versions in the Walkthroughs & Guides subsection.

I have also posted a chat log from 1999, before the release of the game. Better late than never. :p
Anyway, some of you might find it interesting, if only for a nostalgia trip. Thanks to Blackthorne for editing it. As you suspected, you can get it from the Miscellanea subsection.

Subsection Updates - Games -> Icewind Dale

The Heart of Winter walkthrough you can find in the Walkthroughs & Guides subsection has been updated substantially, so go grab the latest version if you are still playing it.
On a side note, I have zipped the updates for the official Heart of Winter guide from Sybex and posted it below the guide cover on the same page.

One new and one updated store guide can be found in the Tips, Tricks & Hints subsection. The previously posted Heart of Winter store items guide has been updated, and the Icewind Dale one is brand new.

While I was looking for those official strategy guides I spotted that Sybex posted a nice Icewind Dale wallpaper on their website. It shows the races of the Realms and makes a nice background.
You can download it in two sizes from the Miscellanea subsection.

Subsection Updates - Games -> Baldur's Gate 2

The Complete BGII FAQ & Walkthrough that can be found in the Walkthroughs & Guides subsection has been updated. Don't forget to check my Throne of Bhaal features list found on the same page; it has been updated too.

A small addition has been made to our Cheats List. Now it also lists how you can check the progress of your romance. I have changed the color scheme on the page a bit so it will be easier to navigate now.
You can access the list from the Tips, Tricks & Hints subsection.

Two new player characters that have been submitted to us have been made available for download in the Editors, Hacks & Cap Removers subsection.

Subsection Updates - Games -> Pool of Radiance: RoMD

I have split the main Miscellanea subsection in two parts and added a ton of goodies for you. Some game music, a screensaver, two new trailers posted a few days ago etc.

From the same section you can access an article called Magic in Pool of Radiance II which surprisingly enough describes just that. It also comes with 5 cool-looking screenshots.

Finally, I have put together an edited chat log of the chat the development team had a few days ago. I spent an hour preparing it so I hope it has been worth it and that some of you will actually bother reading it. ;)

  • Direct Links

    LotR Lawsuit Dropped
    Posted Sunday, April 29, 2001 - 15:22 CET by Darien

    Inside.com has posted a short update on the lawsuit against Sierra.

    J.R.R. Tolkien fans looking forward to playing the upcoming online role-playing game based on his Middle Earth characters can get their joysticks warmed with the news that a lawsuit between the game's producer and developer disappeared less than a week after it was filed. MM3D announced Thursday that it withdrew its $10 million lawsuit against Sierra On-Line. "MM3D is happy to announce that we are dismissing the lawsuit (without prejudice) on 04/26/01. We are grateful to Sierra for their good faith and for the efforts they are taking to resolve this matter," MM3D said in a statement posted to its Web site. MM3D sued Sierra in Los Angeles Superior Court on April 20, claiming it breached a contract to create what is being called "Tolkien Online RPG" by attempting to force developer MM3D to accept diminished terms and 50 percent cut in revenue from the project. Plans for the game had been kept secret until the suit revealed the troubled negotiation.

    Official Icewind Dale - HoW Update
    Posted Sunday, April 29, 2001 - 0:40 CET by Darien

    Interplay has updated its Icewind Dale main page with some news about the download dungeon, a portrait, and some screenshots.

    Heart of Winter Download Dungeon Set

    Over the past month, several of the boys from the Icewind Dale team have been busy working on a free downloadable expansion set for Heart of Winter, and wanted to give you some updates as to its progress, as well as introduce it to those of you who are interested in continuing the adventures in Icewind Dale.

    When the web expansion is installed, a mysterious halfling introduces himself in the Whistling Gallows Inn in Lonelywood. He seeks a party of stalwart heroes for a quest to a place of great wonder, with treasures beyond the imagination. Should the party accept, they will be transported to a new place, far from the icy terrain of the Dalelands, finding themselves within the walls of a ruined castle in an unfamiliar land...

    We're including more new magic items, some of which are coming from those of you in the gaming community! Log on to our message boards to submit yours!

    New monsters coming too!

    We're doing our best to keep the overall download size at a respectable level, but expect it to be within the 75-100MB range, and it will be localized in French, German, Spanish, and Italian as well.

    In the meantime, check out the screenshots from one of the new underground areas and the cast. We've also got another new portrait for your gaming delight!

    Team Icewind

    Check out the new screenshots:

    Black Isle Studios Board Down
    Posted Sunday, April 29, 2001 - 0:18 CET by Darien

    The message boards at Black Isle Studios will be down for a few days for maintenance. I will, of course, tell you when they reopen.

    Throne of Bhaal Screenshots
    Posted Sunday, April 29, 2001 - 0:09 CET by Darien

    Planet Baldur's gate has reopened the Hall of Wonders and added 4 new screenshots from Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal.

    Neverwinter Nights Board Update
    Posted Saturday, April 28, 2001 - 19:18 CET by Darien

    Here are some developers' comments from the official Neverwinter Nights message boards.

    Rob Bartel, Co-Lead Designer:

    The storyline: We finished creating extensive outlines (approx. 30 pages per outline) for each of our modules last September or so. In February, we were writing prototype conversation for some of the modules in the first chapter. It's important to note that these were done in a word processor, using hypertext links, not in the actual toolset.

    We're currently transfering the prototype conversations into the actual conversation editor, using that as a means to quickly hunt down bugs (I thought I finished the conversation for one of my modules today, for instance, only to find that a bug had corrupted a bunch of my files).

    So, yes, you could say that we've been 'creating the storyline' for many months, now, but it's really an iterative, piecemeal process that will still be continuing well into the future. This is a normal process for a new engine game and nothing to get alarmed about.
    Script crashing: The scripting language is powerful and gives broad access to the game and engine. This will allow bad scripts to make a mess, but the scripting language will have a few safety features to stop endless loops and other problems. I would recommend solid testing before you release scripts though. Good testing is the only way to be sure.

    Trent Oster, Producer:

    Module Size: To date the largest module I've seen so far is under 300k. With this said, we haven't attempted anything close to a final module in size. I'd guess between 1-5 mb for a larger module.

    Screen artwork: The interface in NWN is very "minimalist". We deliberately went for a very lean Gui. Our goal is to leave as much screen real estate open for gameplay as possible while presenting all the required data

    The game will feature a number of hand drawn stills for module starts and endings and a huge variety of hand painted user portraits. All the Inventory items are also hand painted with matching 3D models in-game.

    Mac OS X: The game was working on the Mac until we found out about OS X. The Carbonizing effort hasn't been massive, but it has had a fair number of headaches. For the longest time we couldn't get mouse input. In short, the OS X port pushed the Mac port further behind, but through hard work our local expert has almost caught back up.

    Good show Howard.

    On the internationalization area, we are doing most of the multi-language support in NWN, so it should be one app, many languages.

    Publishing the Scripting Language: We will start opening up more about the scripting language as we get closer to ship. We have a habit of ripping things apart and reworking them so we're waiting until we're sure the language won't change too much before we release a ton of information.

    Pool of Radiance Trailers
    Posted Friday, April 27, 2001 - 20:59 CET by Darien

    The official Pool of Radiance site has posted a couple of trailers. Check out Trailer 1 and Trailer 2, in case they actually are new, along with any other goodies you may have missed.

    Last Week's Poll Results
    Posted Friday, April 27, 2001 - 20:53 CET by Sorcerer

    What we asked:

    Q: How will you play Throne of Bhaal?
    (371 votes total)

    From the final save in BG II forward (177) 48%
    Finish the game and Watcher's Keep (Add-In area) first, then proceed to kill Irenicus and into the Add-On area (86) 23%
    Start a totally new expansion-only game (48) 13%
    Import from a savegame before the end of the game and into the expansion (44) 12%
    Other (16) 4%

    As a follow-up to the previous poll where 90% of our visitors voted in favor of buying the Throne of Bhaal expansion, this time we asked how will you go about doing it.

    Almost half of the people who voted will be playing the expansion from the final save forward, which might not be such a good idea since in this case you will not get to keep those nifty bonuses you get in the final fight. Of course, you could just replay the showdown with Irenicus and go into the expansion then, with all the bonuses you are due...

    About a quarter of people who voted will finish the game and Watcher's Keep (Add-In area) first, then proceed to kill Irenicus and into the Add-On area. A sensible idea if you are not done with everything in the game yet. Although since the Watcher's Keep will be accessible from both the old world map and the new one, it will not really make much difference.

    Only 13% of people will begin a new Throne of Bhaal-only game, so the Wild Mage class will not be used that much apparently. A shame, since Bioware seems to be putting a lot of effort into wild magic this time around.

    12% of people will import from a savegame before the end of the game and go straight into the expansion. All chars below 2 million XP will be bumped up and given a bag of holding full of powerful goodies, so no one has to worry about not being mighty enough to venture into new lands.

    The last 4% picked other options. Here is a short list of the most commonly recurring ones:

    - I will import a savegame created just before the final battle with Irenicus in Hell to get those god-like abilities gained after "disarming" each eye with the Tear of Bhaal. (With Final Save, you won't get those bonuses)
    - I'm gonna start all over again
    - Start BG II completely over with the patch
    - Start with a brand new character in Baldur's Gate
    - Replay BG1-BG2-TOB
    - I will restart from BG 1
    - I won't buy it

  • Latest Poll
  • Previous Polls

    Black Isle Studios Board Update
    Posted Friday, April 27, 2001 - 20:40 CET by Darien

    Once again for your reading pleasure, another batch of developers' comments fromt the Black Isle Studios message boards.

    Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal

    Kevin Martens, Lead Designer:

    High level Turn Undead: There's nothing 'special' but it does kick ass. On a related note, did you know that evil clerics can turn paladins now?

    David Gaider, Senior Designer:

    Class specific quests: There isn't any room in the expansion for putting in quests that only 1/8th or less of the player base is going to see. Everything in the expansion has to be accessible to everyone...if it wasn't, it would seem quite short to the individual player even though there might be a lot of content in there.

    Besides, at this point the plot revolves around the PC's status as a Child of Bhaal...and that is universal regardless of class.

    Using custom items: There's no way for us to know what will happen to the game if you change anything or bring your own items in. We certainly don't account for those items when we design the game. You do so at your own risk, as with any kind of alteration.

    The Wyvern in the Adventurers mart: The Wyvern in the Adventure Mart is just what she appears to be. Kevin put her in...maybe he had a character once who had a pet wyvern named Lucy or something (sounds like the beginning of a Jan story), but maybe not.

    Sometimes we designers can be a bit perverse.

    (Ummm...not to be confused with 'perverts'...)

    Monsters opening doors: The problem with this is the way the engine is set up via object-recognition. Were we to start over and work on a new engine (like, say, Neverwinter Nights), we might take something like this into account...but currently in the Infinity engine there is no 'door' object that exists.

    The doors, themselves, exist...but solely as graphical objects that have been laid down. I, as a scripter, can refer to a specific door (ie. "DoorO2" or "Door1240") but not to "a door".

    Furthermore, a specific door only exists to a creature if they can see it (if it's not in fog-of-war). So in order to get a creature to use a door, I would have to give each room of creatures in an area its own scriplet, something like this:

    !See([GOODCUTOFF]) //if I don't see the party
    See("Door02") //but I do see Door02
    OpenState("Door02",FALSE) //and Door02 is closed
    !Heard([ANYONE],151) //and no-one's in combat
    RESPONSE #100
    MoveToObject("Door02") //go to the door
    OpenDoor("Door02") //open it


    I suspect this scriplet would probably work, but like I said...it would have to be tailored to each individual fight. That'd be a lot of fights to go back to in BG2...and a lot of testing to be done again to make sure nothing screwy happened (which it probably would...I've never used the above script except in cut-scenes so it's hard to say whether it would work as I think).

    We know what you're talking about...and while in some cases it might seem cheesy, we also don't allow the players to exactly get behind a door and block it, cast Wizard Lock or barricade it some fashion, either...so, in a way, it's a trade-off that monsters can't use most doors, I think.

    Something to chew on, I suppose.

    On Monks: 1) Monks aren't supposed to be able to use any mage scrolls, no. Obviously a mistake. 2) Monks are supposed to be able to use the priest scrolls, according to James. (And since ALL of them are marked this way, this backs up his claim. 3) Yes, Monks can use the (Sensate) amulet.

    The Abyssal Door: The alignment change is intentional via the Selfish path, but all changes are supposed to happen immediately upon doing the test (and the paladin SHOULD become Fallen if he becomes Neutral Evil)...if it happened later, I'm not so sure that the player would remember what happened or understand why.

    Chaotic Neutral Alignment: I don't think CN characters need to be pigeon-holed as erratic and psychotic. There is lots of wiggle-room in any alignment for personal playing style, and I wouldn't let anyone tell me that an alignment is a particular way. I've seen LG played as both soft-spoken, righteous do-gooder and merciless inquisitor who sees evil everywhere...and both were valid.

    To me, a Chaotic character is one who doesn't abide by law, structure or authority. Jan is a thief...and shows many times that he enjoys being disruptive and flouting authority. I couldn't imagine law and order having any impact on him whatsoever.

    And Neutral is someone whose self-interest out-weighs their desire to do good, but not so much that they do out-right evil (although doing either isn't beyond them...it just wouldn't be for the same reasons as someone who is Good or Evil). It can also mean an interest in maintaining a balance (but I tend to mentally relegate that to True Neutral only...and if any alignment is hard to portray, it's that one). Jan may have some good tendencies, but he is still a thief...and he happily goes along with the party regardless of the acts they commit. He might not like out-right evil acts, but I imagine him rolling his eyes at overt acts of charity, too. Keep in mind that Jan talks numerous times about being a con-man...he just doesn't put it in those words.

    So I think CN fits Jan just fine.

    Throne of Bhaal Developer Profile
    Posted Friday, April 27, 2001 - 17:01 CET by Darien

    RPG Vault has posted another developer profile, this time of Nathan Plewes, Line Producer on Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal.

    While BioWare quickly rose to take a place in the very top rank of development studios, it's still located in Edmonton, and it's still giving talented but inexperienced area residents the chance to break into the game industry. On the Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal team, one such individual is Nathan Plewes who joined the company last year, just in time to be thrust directly into the front line on the very high profile Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn. In this installment of our Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal Developer Profile series, we have the opportunity to meet Nathan Plewes and to find out about him, how he got his start at BioWare, what he does in his position as a Line Producer, and more.

    Throne of Bhaal Item of the Week
    Posted Friday, April 27, 2001 - 16:51 CET by Darien

    IGN has posted their latest Item of the Week from Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal. It's the Quiver of Plenty this week, with a bonus trio of screenshots at the bottom of the page.


    One often repeated, though never substantiated, legend holds that the quiver was once given as a gift to Duke Orin Gastlecate. Orin cared little for politics and the day to day duties of his fiefdom, and would often vanish for weeks at a time into the thick forests that covered much of his land where he would live the life of a solitary hunter.

    If the stories can be believed, Orin was eventually approached by an unscrupulous merchant who offered him a gift in exchange for the title to all the lands Orin ruled over – a quiver that would produce an infinite amount of magical arrows. Orin quickly agreed to the deal, figuring his problems were forever solved.


    Unlimited +1 Arrows

    Neverwinter Nights Contest Details
    Posted Friday, April 27, 2001 - 16:35 CET by Darien

    Earlier we brought you word of a character design contest for Neverwinter Nights. Now Interplay has posted the complete rules, including hints, prizes, and all the "legal stuff." Here's a bit of information:

    Have you ever wanted to try your hand at designing a game and immortalize your character within the official game release of Neverwinter Nights? How, you may ask? Simply submit your original NPC into Designer for a Day Contest and thousands could meet your character in Neverwinter Nights!

    Contest Guidelines:
    -Contest begins on May 1, 2001 and ends on May 31, 2001 11:59PM
    -The Interplay.com panel will judge all eligible entries.
    -NPCs will be judged by Interplay.com panel based on NPC stats, description, history, and originality.
    -15 semi-finalists will be chosen by the Interplay.com panel to be eligible to be judged by the community (Interplay.com reserves the right to be the final arbitrator in the event of a tie)
    -The Neverwinter Nights Community will choose the top 3 finalists from the 15 semi-finalists.
    -Bioware will select the grand prizewinner.
    -There will be ONLY ONE overall winner who will receive the grand prize.

    Hints on Submissions:
    Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating an NPC (Non Player Character):

    -The NPC must be entirely your own creation. If your character has been copied from any source you will be automatically disqualified from the contest.
    -NPC's must be created from the 7 player races which include: Humans, Elves, Half-Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Halflings, and new Half-Orc. Submissions of other races not listed above will be rejected.
    -We suggest NPC's that are there for "color", and not storyline. For example: an amusing NPC that has a positive role within the game.
    -We are NOT looking for characters that would actually EAT the traveling party, so please, NO TARRASQUES!
    -Any Characters with adult themes will be disqualified.

    Read the complete rules.

    Interview with Bioware
    Posted Friday, April 27, 2001 - 2:51 CET by Darien

    An interview by the Los Angelos Times talks with James Ohlen and Kevin Martens of Bioware about the Baldur's Gate games.

    Q: What does the game offer that traditional role-playing games don't?

    Unlike pen-and-paper games, our games add both visuals and audio to the experience, greatly increasing the immersion. To use an analogy, playing "Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn" is like watching a movie without losing the detail of a book.

    Q: What are some highlights of the design experience?

    The best part of designing a quest is seeing the comments of fans in e-mail or message boards as they play through and get caught up in the story that we've created. That we can actually bring emotion to a player and have them relate on a personal level to a plot or character in the game is truly gratifying.

    Read the interview.

    Official Neverwinter Nights Update
    Posted Wednesday, April 25, 2001 - 21:57 CET by Darien

    Bioware has updated the Official Neverwinter Nights page with some comments by Trent Oster, Producer.

    Neverwinter Nights Project Update for March and April 2001

    We are well underway with our preparations for one of the most exiting events on the game industry calendar. Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), in sunny Los Angeles, gives us a first-hand look at what our colleagues in the industry have been up to. It also gives us the opportunity to show off a bit and give everyone get a peek at what we've been working on over the past year. For our fans, this means a new deluge of press coverage, screenshots, and previously unreleased info. In short, it's an exciting time and one where everyone wins.

    Our programmers have been working tirelessly to add new features to the game and integrate an ever-growing number of the 3rd Edition D&D rules. When we started Neverwinter, we knew that the rules system would be a time-consuming task. Well, the task is everything we imagined and more. =) Every day, I'm amazed all over again by the sheer number of criteria that have to be taken into account to run a single round of combat. Combat requires weapons, for example, and creating one within the toolset can involve as many as 60 different effects - everything from bonuses to hit and damage, to different forms of damage immunities, to level draining and electrical damage. In short, we're committed to making Neverwinter Nights one of the most in-depth Dungeons & Dragons experiences possible on your home computer.

    As always, the artists on the project are hard at work creating the stuff you see in every screenshot, desktop theme, and concept sketch. The response to our release of the various desktop themes has been very positive - so much so that we plan to release a series of exciting new ones over the coming months. As for game content, the modeling, texturing, and animating of creatures have been coming along nicely. Our current target is about 175 monsters and variants for Neverwinter Nights and we are well on our way towards reaching that goal. Work on the various interfaces has also been progressing smoothly and the spell effects system has been worked out in detail.

    The designers have finally begun item creation in earnest and have templates and descriptions for most of the magical and non-magical weapons and armor in the game. There's plenty of them, of course, as we want each player to have the leeway to play the kind of character that they want. Significant work has also gone into designing, mapping, and scripting our E3 demo and it's been a good way to prototype some of what we want to see happening in the actual game. Various storyline refinements to the official campaign have also been taking place and after E3, we'll be beginning implementation in earnest.

    Neverwinter Nights is moving along well: the rules are going in and the systems are taking shape. The team is very proud of what we have been able to accomplish so far, and we're looking forward to all of the excitement surrounding E3. As always, it is a great experience to be working with this many talented people on a project of such great potential.

    Until next month,

    Trent Oster
    Neverwinter Nights
    Bioware Corp.

    The New DB-Forge
    Posted Wednesday, April 25, 2001 - 21:53 CET by Darien

    The guys over at Dragon's Breath Forge have updated their site with a whole new look. Stop by and check it out.

    Lord of the Rings Lawsuit
    Posted Tuesday, April 24, 2001 - 21:25 CET by Darien

    The Adrenaline Vault has posted an article on the lawsuit against Sierra concerning its plans to create a Tolkien Online RPG.

    A lawsuit filed late Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court confirmed what the gaming community and fans of J. R. R. Tolkien have long suspected: Sierra On-Line, the Washington-based game-maker, has been quietly proceeding with plans for a massive online role-playing game based on the Middle Earth characters. Los Angeles game developer MM3D filed suit against Sierra, claiming the company earlier this month breached MM3D's contract to create what it called the Tolkien Online RPG by trying to force the developer to accept diminished terms and a 50 percent cut in revenue from the project.

    Neverwinter Nights Contest
    Posted Tuesday, April 24, 2001 - 16:49 CET by Darien

    This announcement was recently posted on the Official Neverwinter Nights message boards.

    Designer for a Day Contest (Design your own Character! )

    Have you ever wanted to try your hand at designing a game and immortalize your character within the official game release of Neverwinter Nights? Interested? Submit your original NPC into Designer for a Day Contest and thousands could meet your character in the lands of Neverwinter.

    Contest will run May 1-May 31. Stay Tuned, details are forthcoming.

    Neverwinter Nights Board Update
    Posted Tuesday, April 24, 2001 - 16:41 CET by Darien

    Once again, some comments from the Official Neverwinter Nights message boards.

    Trent Oster, Producer:

    On tile size: Correct, minimum is 2x2 and maximum is 32x32 with a maximum of 32 tiles in either axis.

    Creature spawning: There are three ways for creatures to get spawned into and area. The first and preferred method is to use encounters. Encounters have less overhead when players are not near and should be more efficient as a whole. The second method is to place an instance of a creature into the world. This is the method for creating a creature who will always appear. A third way could be to set up a script which spawns the creature(s) when an event is triggered.

    Cord Grimwinder-8d, Interplaygames.com Moderator:

    On servers: 64 (users) max is just their current "guess", that number may indeed any up being higher depending on the machine and connection used for the server but they wont know for certain until extensive play testing is done. So, stay tuned for more details closer to release...

    On nonstandad races: Above and beyond any issues with the license, there's some other things you need to consider. You have to keep in mind that every player race added means a *ton* of extra animation and artwork.

    Why? Because once you let little Johnny play a Centaur, little Johnny's gonna want to dress that Centaur up in clothes and equipment and make fancy moves and emotes just like all the other kids on the playground so he doesn't get picked on ;-). He's gonna also want some Centaur specific skills and feats thrown too while you're at it (not to mention special armors, weapons, and mane ornaments).

    As for your Quake comments, yes, you can make skins in Quake. It takes one per model, in NWN you're looking at 40 or more per model. I'm sure it will end up being done in NWN but it will take a)3D art software and b) a lot of time and talent.

    I don't mean to sound overly harsh here, but it's intellectually lazy to just say "Oh, they could easily let us play any race/creature as a PC if they just *wanted* to!". No, they can't. Sitting at your table and imagining that Centaur PC is simple, coding all the extra rules and regs and doing the animation/artwork for a computer is NOT. There is a *great* deal of time and work involved in adding *any* race or class to the game, much less adding *every* race and class to the game ;-).

    So, lay off the "They're repressing me!" trip and really think about what it requires to do what you ask. I can assure you BioWare would *love* to have the time and resources to code NWN such that it would automatically allow us to play any imaginable way we please. But that's the problem, our imaginations still far outstrip the little boxes sitting on our desks.....

    Black Isle Studios Board Update
    Posted Tuesday, April 24, 2001 - 15:43 CET by Darien

    Well, these updates could almost become a daily feature, if those boys keep chatting up the boards. Anyway, here's more from the Black Isle Studios message boards, this time with comments from others in addition to Dave! ;)

    Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal

    Mark Darrah, Lead Programmer:

    AI of thieves and backstabbing: This is intentional. The AI is really clever enough to get the thieves around behind you without putting themselves in danger. As such they just do it automatically if the conditions are right.

    More: Actually No, proper backstabbing for NPC thieves isn't realistically fixable.

    For NPC thieves to back stab here's what they would have to do:
    1. Make sure they are unseen (relatively easy they already do this)
    2. Determine their target (they already do this too)
    3. Determine how to get BEHIND this target. The problem with this is that EXCEPT for back stabbing, facing doesn't matter. As a result the path finding doesn't take into account any desire to be behind someone. While this is technically possible, it would reduce the speed of the search dramatically (I won't go into the intracies of A* here)
    4. Okay so now we know where we want to go BUT WAIT! our targets has turned! Do we calculate a new path to get behind them again? If so you could totally avoid thieves simply by spinning in place. If you do not recalculate then you can AVOID all backstabs simply by turning in place.

    Importing from BGI: You can import BG1 characters into BG2 OR into TOB. Either way you will be allowed to pick a kit.

    BG2's xp cap and ToB: The game does keep track of XP beyond 2.95 million. As soon as you install TOB this will be lost. The reason for this is so that you DO NOT instantly gain several levels.

    Kevin Martens, Lead Designer:

    Experience points awards: We have gone over the XP rewards several times. We're giving it out pretty carefully and certainly don't intend to give you XP you haven't earned.

    Yes, we have a ton of XP to give out (around 2.5 million for your main character) but TOB is so enormous and epic so it's not actually that hard. You get to kill a lot of high level monsters and partake in earth shattering events. The game is over 30 hours long, even for our experienced testers. So, at no point, would we give out 480,000XP for talking to someone. Even if you used numerous clever puns.

    Dave Gaider:

    Computer game designers and mind-altering substances: I think there are almost as many stereotypes about the people who make games for a living as there are about Dungeon & Dragons and role-playing in general. Unfortunately, not a lot of them are very positive. Growing up, D was not only a hard sell to my parents but to my school when I wanted to start a D club.

    I know that drugs are a part of life, and probably part of life in the Forgotten Realms as well...but hey, you know as well as I do that drugs are almost as sensitive an issue as violence. There's room for edgy material in almost every project, and I enjoy it as much as anyone else, but in a game that includes kids as part of its market let's not try to deliberately shoot ourselves in the foot, eh?

    I know you were talking about an item you wanted to see in the game, sure, but as someone who still gets the occasional weird look when I tell someone I design computer games for a living, I know that perception is a big thing. It was a small miracle that I was able to convince my school's principal that D was a tool for creativity and a positive thing...I love computer gaming and I love role-playing, and I'd hate to see either slandered by offering free ammunition to those who are ignorant of its true value.

    I know that wasn't the aim of your post, but it brought this thought to mind...especially considering recent events down in the U.S. I'd love to work in a society where edgy entertainment was viewed solely as that...entertainment...and not some mind-warping influence on children who no doubt encounter a hundred other influences to make them who they are. I feel fortunate that we can include what we do and have the freedom we have...because the alternative, vanilla PC-sensitive monitored output, strikes me as a very frightening thing.

    And then again, it also makes me wonder to what extent we have a responsibility to the public. Do we? Or is our responsibility solely to provide the best entertainment we can? Sobering thoughts. (And I apologize for the sudden introspection...it's late and I'm tired and about to go to bed.)

    More on thieves and backstabbing: Actually, we can no more program him to stand with his back to the wall than we can program him to try to get behind your avatar for a proper attack. Invisibility works as well for the player as it does for an NPC...and since it's our only option, we have to fake it in order to simulate the NPC thief using his backstab on you.

    But otherwise, sure, it's our sole mission to take away all those 'time-honored' options from thieves.

    Being a legendary Hero: Something we kept in mind consciously is that your character is very well-known at this point. There will still be the occasional person (of course) who doesn't know who you are and could care less, but for the most part you've become a legend in the area.

    Question regarding Dragon AI: OKay, I know the subject of fighting dragons has been covered in numerous other threads...what I'm looking for, here, is a few ideas from those of you who regularly kill dragons on some 'cheap' kills that could be avoided with decent AI. So far, we've got the dragons using Wing Buffet to dispel cloud-type attacks, and the dragon takes time to cast healing and summoning spells if you move out of its sight...and when it's ready, it'll come looking for you.

    What are some other possibilities you can think of? (Keep in mind not all dragons are master spell-casters...but some are, so should have access to a variety of spells, I suppose.) Thanks in advance.

    Well, a dragon meeting a group of well-prepared arch-mages probably isn't going to do that well...if you've prepared for the battle, you've earned your victory. I'm not looking to void legitimate ways of winning.

    Some good ideas, though, and thanks...it looks like getting the dragon to avoid the insta-kills is a major deal. I've already got it so that the dragon doesn't sit still if you leave it alone...and the new targeting scripts do prioritize mages (who aren't silenced or otherwise helpless, that is) unless there is a melee threat that is actually hurting them.

    Maybe adding in Death Ward to their Contingency (replacing something less important) wouldn't be a bad idea. A really powerful and old dragon might just be plain immune to Slay effects, sure, but I want to avoid that if I can. In PnP, the lair is to their advantage because they can fly. How does a dragon take advantage of their lair in the Infinity Engine? There was a post above that mention using a Tail Slap (or something similar) that would cause an Earthquake-like effect. I kinda like that.

    I could certainly see Silence...they do get cleric spells in addition to wizard spells. And in the last script I just did, the 'smart' dragon targets mages with his spells and attacks until the melee opponents really begin to annoy him...which seems to work OK so far. But immune to 4th level spells and lower. I dunno. There's enough big bosses that have plenty of immunities without giving ones to dragons that they shouldn't have.

    Some good ideas, though, and I like some of the other ones I've seen, too. Wouldn't walking into a dragon who suddenly put up Death Ward and Spell Immunity: Abjuration and Stone Skins be a little specific, though? Would you think 'hey, smart dragon, this should be a challenge' or would you just roll your eyes and see another reload coming?

    From what I can see, the problems with dragons are as follows:

    1) Too easily defeated by lowering their Magic Resistance and then using an instant-death spell.
    2) They don't recognize the true dangers facing them, spending time on summoned monsters and fighters instead of the mages.
    3) Their offensive powers (whether magical or breath weapon) aren't used well/often enough.
    4) They don't see and/or deal with invisible opponents well enough.

    Is that about right? Because I THINK I can script around these things. But you have to be careful, because it should be challenging...not impossible.

    Differences in Lead and Senior Designers: I'm not sure if I would want Kevin's job...and if I was going to be a Lead Designer, I think I'd want to be ready for it. It's a lot of stress.

    Kevin Martens, as Lead Designer, does a LOT of work. Unlike what I do (which is a lot of the writing and scripting), a lot of what Kevin does you won't see much of. He makes himself responsible for all the details...he makes sure things get done, that areas are balanced, that sounds are put in, that all the items are tracked and placed, that all plots in the game are written up somewhere fully so QA can test them properly, that the XP given out is the right amount...he co-ordinates all the other designers and ends up doing all detail work that most designers don't like to do.

    As a Senior Designer, I am responsible for a lot of the content in the game...I write a lot of the critical dialogue and story and do a lot of the story scripting. The other Designers are no less important than me...they just tend to focus more in one area. John Winski, for instance, is an experienced Designer...but he doesn't do writing, he focuses solely on scripting. Drew Karpyshyn did a lot of the dialogue writing on ToB, but he doesn't do as much scripting yet. Mike Geist is a great designer who works with scripting and the editors, but he also doesn't do much writing. It's a team effort, and my own title solely indicates my responsibility for critical areas.

    Is there a difference in our pay cheques? If there's any justice, Kevin makes plenty. It's on him that all the stress falls, after all.

    As for Ray and Greg...don't imagine for a second they sit around doing nothing. Far from it. Not only do they have to work to maintain their medical licenses, but they do a LOT of promotion for the games at the same time as they have a company to run...and on top of that, they both play-test the games at home.

    Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter

    Steve Bokkes, Designer:

    Starting levels in the expansion pack: Actually, we're shooting for a broader range of 11-18. Each individual encounter will be scaled according to your party's level. This seemed to be the only viable way to accommodate the greatest number of players. And, yes, the adventure will only be accessible through Lonelywood.

    Throne of Bhaal Monster of the Week
    Posted Tuesday, April 24, 2001 - 5:54 CET by Darien

    Here's the next installment of Daily Radar's Monster of the Week. This time it's the fire giant.

    You know from past adventuring experience that size isn’t always the best indication of an enemy’s power. But when you’re staring up -way up- into the glowing red eyes of an angry giant it’s hard to remember that rule. Still, the bigger they are, the harder they fall… you hope.

    Heart of Winter Review at MPOG
    Posted Tuesday, April 24, 2001 - 4:35 CET by Darien

    Well, it's been at least a few days since the last one, so here you go. In this review Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter earns four and a half stars from MPOG.

    Since Heart of Winter is an expansion pack, and not a full-fledged game in its own right, there isn't too much to elaborate on in terms of plot or storyline. Without unnecessarily spoiling any of the details for those who haven't yet played it, Heart of Winter basically adds five extra areas (in a variety of forlorn settings, including islands of ice!) for RPG addicts to explore. It is up to your party of adventurers to try to stop a magically-enraged Barbarian from wrecking havoc upon the Ten Towns (the area in the Forgotten Realms where Icewind Dale takes place). While these areas are indeed fun to explore, it's basically more of the same. That said, if you immensely enjoyed Icewind Dale, then you should definitely get a kick out of Heart of Winter. If you're expecting something awe-inspiring and revolutionary from the new areas (other than a few new monsters, spells, and skills typically found in all expansion packs), you'll be slightly disappointed.

    Pool of Radiance Chat
    Posted Monday, April 23, 2001 - 17:12 CET by Darien

    Got some questions for the producers of PoR: Ruins of Myth Drannor? Then check out this chat at Game Spy. You'll need to download Arcade in order to join in.

    What: Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor Official Chat
    When: Wednesday, April 25, at 4 pm PST
    Where: RPGPlanet lobby
    Who: Garrett Graham, Producer, and Chuck Yager, Associate Producer

    Black Isle Studios Board Update
    Posted Sunday, April 22, 2001 - 22:25 CET by Darien

    Yet another update from the Black Isle Studios message boards. Dave Gaider has LOTS to say, so check this one out carefully.

    Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal

    David Gaider, Senior Designer:

    Helms for thieves and mages: All of the Ioun stones from BG2 as well as the new ones are opened to all classes, now. Plus there are a couple of other items of headgear for thieves that I can think of off the top of my head (no pun intended)...all of these protect against critical hits as per a normal helm and some of them have AC bonuses as part of their effect.

    Pointy hats: Elminster is the only mage who is allowed to have a pointy hat in the BG series. He has a copyright, I understand (or does he have Gandalf's copyright? I can never remember.)

    +6 Spear: The spear in question is an assembled artifact and it is, indeed, +6. Enchantments only go up to 5, however...and, no, nothing in the game would require a 6 enchantment level (that would be silly).

    Imoen having Bhaal abilities: Interesting you should say that. The Bhaal essence seems to affect many Bhaalspawn in different ways...now that it's starting to emerge in Imoen, I wonder how it would affect her?

    More portraits: That'd be nice, if the art department has the time. We shall see.

    Making the final battle harder with the expansion installed: Not a bad idea. The end battle for BG was altered with TotSC, after all. But ToB is such a huge project...bigger in and of itself than many normal games...that I think the focus is on new content.

    Having an “uber-end-boss” with very a large amount of hit points and low immunities: Same reasoning as above. Immunities exist in D, but there are upper limits to HP even for godly beings. And besides...immunities and resistances, especially those that can be countered, call on using different tactics for different enemies. That's part of the point, especially at this power level. Having enemies that are purely to be whacked-upon and that have no particular resistances or anything is much easier when the player is lower level and doing much less damage.

    Well, the 'end boss' or whatever is bound to be tough...you can be assured of that.

    Giving dragons more hit points: We try to stick to the D schematic as closely as we can. Making a dragon, or anyone, have a gazillion HP (as you put it) isn't really the point. Sarevok in Hell had something like 500 HP...fortunately there was a reason behind that, as you 'created' him there, but it's still incredibly unrealistic and didn't really make him last all that much longer besides.

    For dragons, we don't intend on giving them more HP...we intend on making them smarter so they react better and use their abilities/magic better.

    As far as more dragon scale armor, it's a possibility.

    For our part, we're developing some better AI for our enemies (including dragons)...and now that we're aware of some of these questionable tactics, we can anticipate them.

    Mage types becoming a Lich: An interesting side quest possibly, involving an NPC or something, as the process of becoming a lich has story potential...but not something I'd implement for your main character. It would become unplayable at that point.

    Naming familiars having them progress: I think this is a good idea. Thing is, familiars weren't anticipated for with the original engine...and they were much much harder to implement than anyone had thought. Gosh, there was a point where familiars almost got cut out simply because there were so many problems with them.

    And familiars do advance in ToB...all familiars will be stronger, now, and most will have better or new abilities. It might have been cool to build this kind of advancement into the familiars right from the start...but then again it IS only a level 1 spell and familiars are not supposed to be uber powerful in any respect. But yeah...if there had been a way to name them at the very least, that would have been cool.

    Jaheira romance bug: The 'dialog loop bug' in Jaheira's romance will be fixed in the patch. I'm pretty sure that you can get a patch that works for it right now at the Baldurdash site.

    As for the romances continuing, there is a point in each romance where the romance becomes 'committed' and the global involved is set to 2. This occurs about halfway to three-quarters of the way through each romance.

    For Jaheira, this actually doesn't happen until near the end. So for her romance, we just set a requirement that the romance be about half-way done...we set it a couple of dialogues before the 'loop bug' so those people who encounter that can still have the romance continue in ToB as if they had finished it in BG2.

    For everyone besides Jaheira, the romance global has to have reached 2.

    Enhancing the original strongholds: None of the BG2 strongholds are going to be touched in the expansion...very little from BG2, itself, is going to be changed excepting only various bugs and some new programming. Aside from that, while I know everyone would love to have ultra-complex strongholds, the main holdback is that all this complicated and lengthy stuff that goes into one class's stronghold is seen by only 1/8th of the players. That's a LOT of content that 7/8ths of the player base will never see (unless they replay, which is not everyone), so the more complex you make it, the shorter the individual game is going to have to be. BG2 was a monster, length-wise, overall.

    James Ohlen, the head of our design department, had some good thoughts which summed up how we would do strongholds now if we had the chance again (hindsight is 20/20, after all)...I'm not sure where his articles are located now that GA-RPG is shut down, but they sum up what just about everyone in the design department feels. In short, having less strongholds overall (like, say, three main ones...a keep for fighter-types, a tower for magic-users and an inn/tavern for just about everyone) would have allowed us to put more detail into their plots...and it would likely have been a good idea, overall, to tie in the strongholds with the overall game plotline and make in a more accessible 'hub'.

    But, again, that's all hindsight at this point. As the strongholds were implemented in BG2 they were designed solely to be a few extra class-specific quests for each class and to get the character feel a bit more involved with the game world. They were far, far more difficult to set up than most players would suspect at first glance...and, sure, players are bound to have all these great ideas about how something should have been done (more closely according to their own tastes, generally), but it's not quite as easy as that. The strongholds did what they were intended to do, but I agree with what you say that some varied quests and more detail would have been preferable in the long run. That just wasn't possible with 8 separate quests...and, regardless, you'd still find people complaining that the quest wasn't suitable for their own particular vision of their character class. That's the way she goes.

    In the limited space that we have in the expansion, though, absolutely everything has to be visible and accessible to all players. (Fortunately romances are mostly dialogue).

    As for the items you created, they do seem cool for the most part. We have all the items we need, currently, including quite a few that came from fans' suggestions way back on the Interplay boards when we asked for them. But thanks for the suggestions, truly!

    Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter

    Steve Bokkes, Designer:

    ETA for the free expansion pack: Our original target date was set for early to mid May. However, we've recently added a couple more huge levels, so I'd imagine that date will be pushed back a bit. I'll post more info when we have an official release date. As for the title, I'm currently working on that. I've narrowed the list down to about two dozen potentials. Hopefully, we'll make our final choice by next week. More details to follow.

    Baldur's Gate II Review
    Posted Sunday, April 22, 2001 - 2:53 CET by Darien

    Maybe some of you haven't been convinced, or maybe you simply haven't gotten around to it. Well for those who haven't yet picked up a copy of Baldurs's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, here's a review from MoreGaming to get you in gear.

    Additional requirements for this game should read: Food and water supplies for 3 weeks. One functional "Porta-potty". Post "Go Away" signs all doors to your home. And finally, send all pets/children to live with a responsible adult for the month. This game is that engrossing. Interplay even goes on record stating, "The 'critical path', or main plot, of the game is around 50-60 gaming hours. If you do every quest, go for the best armor etc. and class specific subquests there are between 200 and 300 gaming hours." I'm guessing I did around 120-130 hours. And I still left several quests alone. Bottom line people... this is one HUGE game.

    Throne of Bhaal Screenshots
    Posted Saturday, April 21, 2001 - 21:06 CET by Darien

    PCIGN has posted four new screenshots from Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal showing some great spell effects!

    Black Isle Studios Board Update
    Posted Saturday, April 21, 2001 - 20:54 CET by Darien

    Here's a bit more from the developers at the Black Isle Studios message boards.

    Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal

    Kevin Martens, Lead Designer:

    Ammo bag: There is an ammo bag and other magical ammo related equipment that shall remain nameless for the time being.

    Add on vs Add in: In that situation, you would be wiser to continue into the Add-On and access the Add-In area (The Watcher's Keep) from there. It is accessible from either place.

    The Add-In part of Shadows of Amn is there primarily for those who haven't finished the game or who buy SOA and TOB together. You can access the Add-In section from either part or both.

    Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter

    John Deiley, Designer:

    On the ranger tracking ability: We wanted rangers to be able to do tracking but there was no support (that I know of) for it in the engine. That being the case we had to come up with a system that we thought would give the ranger a 'heads up' on what to expect in an area without having the programmers want to cast 'slay designer' on us.

    I think Josh did just that. Unfortunately, I can't see any more tracking improvements at this time.

    High XP rewards: Ok, I see your point on the exp issue... I am going to scale the monsters in my areas. Your level will determine how tuff they are (to an extent) and what you get for exp. I will also keep the quest/puzzle exp more reasonable.

    The only thing I would point out about some of the high exp rewards is this. It was mentioned that 420,000 exp is ridiculous. Well, 420,000 divided by 6 characters is 70,000. At level 9 a warrior needs 250,000 exp to level and a level 9 mage needs 115,000 exp... Thus the high rewards.

    Last Week's Poll Results
    Posted Saturday, April 21, 2001 - 20:51 CET by Sorcerer

    What we asked:

    Q: Will you buy Throne of Bhaal, the final part in the Baldur's Gate saga?
    (516 votes total)

    Yes, of course (465) 90%
    I'm not sure yet (36) 7%
    No, never (15) 3%

    We ran a similar poll a few months ago when the name of the expansion to Baldur's Gate 2 was not known yet; and guess what?
    The results of this poll and the previous one are practically identical. Back then out of 560 people who voted, 89% answered yes, of course, 8% were not sure yet and equally 3% of them answered they will never buy the expansion.

    I suppose this means that Bioware has such a dedicated fan base in us that most of us will buy the expansion no matter what. Back then we knew nothing about it, and today we know practically everything about it, and still our opinion has not changed one bit. Truly, if all gaming companies were this lucky...

  • Latest Poll
  • Previous Polls

    Neverwinter Nights Board Update
    Posted Saturday, April 21, 2001 - 20:33 CET by Darien

    Here are a few comments from the official Neverwinter Nights message boards.

    Rob Bartel, Co-Lead Designer:

    On setting tile lighting: Good eye! Different light settings will be available as properties of the individual tile. If you want, you should be able to go in and swap settings on a tile-by-tile basis (making the windows of the tavern glow with light while the shop next door remains veiled in shadows).

    More on setting tile lighting: It's a tradeoff between the freedom to have fully customizable interiors on the one hand and the ability to see into windows on the other. We gave it a lot of thought but I'm sure most would agree that the abilty to customize should take higher priority.

    That said, the light of a glowing window will still cast the players' shadows down the alleyway.

    On ranged weapons: Good questions and points everyone. The effectiveness of ranged combat within our current camera framework is a concern we're well aware of and will be paying close attention to in the whole testing and balancing phase. A few points, though.

    From a purely historical/tactical standpoint, putting unprotected archers in a vast expanse of plains is usually a bad idea. You either want the benefit of high ground, intervening barriers, or some melee fighters to 'take point' (hopefully not the point of your arrow in their back but, hey, the wages of war, right?). All of these things still hold true in NWN.

    As an aside, Grin, my halfling sorcerer in our 3e pen-and-paper campaign, just picked up Point Blank Shot as a feat and WOW, is it sweet for a high-dexterity character! As the ranges for most of his spells are around 30 ft, anyways, he's able to switch back and forth between his spells and crossbow pretty easily, depending on the situation at hand. Kudos again to 3rd Edition for allowing unconventional characters such as mine.

    New Neverwinter Nights Screenshots
    Posted Saturday, April 21, 2001 - 20:16 CET by Darien

    Neverwinter Vault has posted four new screenshots from the upcoming Neverwinter Nights. What else can I say? Check them out!

    Black Isle Studios Board Update
    Posted Friday, April 20, 2001 - 19:40 CET by Darien

    First the Developer Profile, now from the Black Isle Studios message boards, here's more from Dave Gaider on Throne of Bhaal.

    Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal

    David Gaider, Senior Designer:

    Abyssal Stronghold: Hmmn. I'm not sure who it was who started calling in an abyssal stronghold. Probably someone on our side was trying to come up with some way to easily describe it.

    It's not easily described...and nowhere in ToB is it actually referred to as an 'abyssal stronghold'. (I imagine someone on our side came up with that as a way to describe what it is/does).

    The only problem with calling it that is that people are bound to mix it up with the strongholds from BG2 or as a place to live. It's got some similarities, for sure, but it's not quite the same sort of thing (but what would you expect from a personal pocket plane?).

    It is pretty cool, but I would simply advise the same thing as with Sarevok and that is to keep your expectations in check because it's not your run-of-the-mill plot and the reader's digest explanation just doesn't do it justice.

    Firearms in Baldur's Gate II?: If anyone remembers way way back when BG2 was first announced, we actually had included an Arquebus proficiency and had intended to have a few (but rare) primitive-type firearms (along with an Unarmed proficiency, Whips, and a few others).
    But we quickly chalked it up as one of those morning-after-a-drunken-binge-what-the-heck-were-we-thinking kind of thingies.

    Firearms are a cool thought, but only if you don't think about it too closely. They have a real potential to get out of hand, and the idea is to keep as much in the genre as possible (at least for us it is).

    Using Tab to see what can be opened/picked up etc as in Heart of Winter: Done.

    Creating Viconia's romance: Heh...actually, yeah, Viconia's romance is a blast. If you want evil, though, you should have seen John Gallagher's original treatment of the romance. There was this, um, conversation that revolved around a leather glove that, um...hmmm, might have to wait until the kiddies are asleep to tell that one. Let's just say that Viconia is very adept at suggestive analogies.

    John's version of the story didn't make it to air, but I kept as much of it as I could and was inspired by it to write the rest of the romance as it remains, so I owe him my thanks. For one of my first work assignments when I joined Bio, that really rocked.

    As far as Viconia's story in ToB goes...well, as someone put it above, the game IS about the PC. The chance of us being able to stick in a very extensive story that people might not see for any single NPC is not very likely...but the romance does culminate in a, ah, appropriate manner. (You'll see.)

    Kensai and Cavaliers and thrown ranged weapons: Yes. The basic reason this was done was due to the number of weapons that can both be handled in melee AND thrown. Restricting them from thrown weapons would also restrict them from using those particular weapons.

    So a Cavalier, say, can get his proficiency in Axes...and this allows him to use throwing axes as well. This satisfies both the technical hiccup regarding the thrown/melee combo items as well as gameplay.

    But there will be no changes to the way proficiencies work for Cavaliers and Kensais. The ranged weapons are still not a feature of those classes. If there's some mind-boggling reason why this should be changed that hasn't been considered, then let me know...I can pass it on in that case.

    On dual wielding a range weapon and a melee weapon: Well, such a thing could be put in as an item-based power (which would be kind of unwieldy), but I'm not so sure about tying it to the Abilities button. I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that's hard-coded.

    But, regardless, what happens when someone is still dual-wielding when they turn their melee weapon into a ranged weapon? The game would crash, that's what. 'Kicking out' the offending off-hand melee weapon isn't an option.

    Throne of Bhaal Developer Profile
    Posted Friday, April 20, 2001 - 16:45 CET by Darien

    The latest profile from RPGVault introduces us to David Gaider, senior designer on Throne of Bhaal, the expansion to Baldur's Gate II.

    Jonric: What is your professional background in terms of education, training and previous jobs? How and when did you get into the games industry?

    David Gaider: Gosh, I have absolutely no training for this field whatsoever. I actually had a different career before this... I managed a hotel, if you can believe it. On the side, I had developed a PBM (play-by-mail) fantasy/strategy game that had about twenty people in it... one of whom was an artist here at BioWare, Kalvin Lyle. When Ray and Greg said they were looking for new designers, but ones who had actually designed something and completed it, Kalvin showed them my game - unbeknownst to me. They were impressed, I guess, and Greg contacted me for an interview. It's funny how things work out. At first, I wasn't interested - I had a career, after all - but then along came another hotel company who bought out the place I ran. As GM, I was walked off the property and given severance... and this was the day after Greg's e-mail. I was pretty suspicious at just what kind of influence Greg and Ray had on the world at first. Luckily, it just turned out to be a really golden opportunity and I totally haven't regretted coming to work, here.

    Read the rest of the profile.

    Throne of Bhaal Item of the Week
    Posted Friday, April 20, 2001 - 16:29 CET by Darien

    PCIGN has posted their latest item from Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal. This week it's the Club of Detonation. You can read this bit of history and stats, then check out the rest here.

    Nysrogh reached out to claim the champion’s discarded club as a symbol of his victory. But as the demon’s clawed hand touched the surface of the club he unleashed a spell of imprisonment, for which he was completely unprepared. Unileth’s trap had worked, and the demon that could not be harmed by any weapon was forever trapped inside the magic club.

    The crude wooden club still burns with the raging spirit of the demon forever trapped within by the powerful enchantments placed on the weapon. Occasionally, however, the demon's wrath manages to escape in a fiery blast.

    Combat Abilities:

    30% chance target will take an additional 15 points of fire damage with each successful attack
    5% chance a fireball will automatically detonate with each successful attack save

    Pool of Radiance Interview
    Posted Thursday, April 19, 2001 - 14:37 CET by Darien

    An article at Wizards of the Coast has some insight by Chuck Yager, Associate Producer of PoR: The Ruins of Myth Drannor. The interview focuses on the magic in the game, and also includes some screenshots.

    Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor offers players plenty of opportunity to test their combat mettle against even the strongest of foes. However, powerful battles are not all just swinging swords and maces -- elements of magic round out your fighting arsenal. The game boasts two types of magic as described in the Player's Handbook: divine and arcane. Divine magics come from the gods as gifts to their devout worshippers, granting clerics (and, to a lesser extent, paladins and rangers) powers that vary from healing allies to blasting enemies with holy fire called down from the sky. Arcane magic, wielded by sorcerers, is far more devastating than is divine (though it lacks the versatility of the cleric's healing and protective spells). No party is complete without at least one sorcerer to help even the odds with a well-placed fireball, lightning bolt, or cone of cold.

    Read more.

    Pool of Radiance Board Update
    Posted Thursday, April 19, 2001 - 14:27 CET by Darien

    Check this out! Some news on Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor. Here are some comments from the official message boards.

    Garrett Graham, Producer:

    On the release date: We're still tracking for release at the end of Q2 (spring). There is always the possibility of bugs holding things up for a few days, but we won't have any more buyouts to hold us up (said with fingers crossed).

    Game status: We've had surprisingly few games cancelled. Warlords IV is still alive and kicking. What we did have was a rather large round of lay-offs, which leads to...

    The lack of updates on the official site: ...not having a web team. We should soon be running on the Ubi Soft/ Red Storm sites, but until then, we're running this on one of our Producer's computers. I can't apologize enough for this, but it was out of our (local) control.

    The publisher: Ubi Soft has world-wide rights to publish PoR.

    Neverwinter Nights Board Update
    Posted Thursday, April 19, 2001 - 14:17 CET by Darien

    Just a bit from the Official Neverwinter Nights message board.

    Cord Grimwinder-8d, Interplaygames.com Moderator:

    On conversations: NPC Conversations Originally the plan was to have only the keyword method for NPC conversations, as you'll note from the last FAQ update, that changed-

    5.05 - How will I communicate with non-player characters in Neverwinter Nights?

    In the official campaign, you will be communicating with non-player characters (NPCs) through a system of pre-defined responses (similar to the system used in the Baldur's Gate series). This allows us to weave a tighter, more gripping story for your enjoyment. We acknowledge, however, the power and flexibility of a keyword-based text parsing system, especially in a multiplayer environment. While we have opted for the former system in the official campaign, both are supported in the engine and toolset, so you can customize the way players interact with your world to suit your needs.

    So, if the question is "Will the conversions be choice based or keyword based?", the answer is now- whichever you choose to use!

    Rolo Kipp, Interplaygames.com Moderator:

    A list of monsters?: Monsters Aye, I'm one of those working to collect what we know in one spot. Our current list of confirmed creatures doesn't include the bear that an earlier post by Rob suggests is in (regarding the use of the bear form for a were-bear as very possible).

    Otherwise I think it's pretty complete.

    Interview with Jeremy Soule
    Posted Thursday, April 19, 2001 - 14:08 CET by Darien

    RPGVault has interviewed Jeremy Soule, the award-winning composer of Icewind Dale. Here's a short introduction:

    As developers and publishers become increasingly aware of the added dimension that music can bring to computer games, they are putting more effort than ever before into making this part of games as strong and as effective as possible. Our 2000 Vault Network Award recognized the outstanding work of Jeremy Soule, a talented, prolific composer whose credits include the aforementioned Icewind Dale plus the Heart of Winter expansion pack, Giants: Citizen Kabuto and Total Annihilation, and whose high profile upcoming projects include Dungeon Siege, Sovereign, Unreal II and Sigma. Recently, we had the opportunity to ask him a number of questions about himself, his music and of course, his connection with games. The results comprise our extensive and very interesting Jeremy Soule Interview.

    Now read the rest.

    Black Isle Studios Board Update
    Posted Wednesday, April 18, 2001 - 17:34 CET by Darien

    Once again, the latest from the greatest at the Black Isle Studios message boards. There are comments on everything from items, to special abilities, to issues witht the HoW patch. Read on...

    Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal

    Jonathan Epp of Quality Assurance:

    The expansion pack: Here's how it works:

    Option 1) Start an expansion pack game with a new character - This is a character you can create using the usual character creation screen. You will start with 2.5 mil xp and given some items, and soon after the start of the expansion you will be able to build up your party. (Using the Import button of the character creation screen you can also import any single character from BG1 or BG2 character files or saves).

    Option 2) Import party from any BG2 save (including the final save) - Your entire party and their items are carried over into the expansion. The bonuses from using the tears before the final fight would not be carried over, because the final save is before you use the tears. (you really don't need the extra help anyway, do you? )

    Option 3) Replay the final fight - After the end movie you and your party will be taken into the expansion, with items, and with the bonuses you received from the tears.

    The expansion has a seperate world map, so you cannot travel between the BG2 areas and the expansion areas. The Watcher's Keep area, however, is on both maps, so it can be accessed from both BG2 and the expansion.

    I hope I got that right.

    Kevin Martens, Lead Designer:

    Shapeshifter abilities: The Shapeshifter gets both upgraded existing forms and access to the new super elemental forms. The Greater Werewolf form is more powerful and you can turn into it more than once per day so:

    If you get in trouble, you can switch back to human form, cast some spells, and jump back into Greater form and whack away.

    The greater elemental forms are part of the general druid perks while the increased power of the Greater Werewolf is specific to the shapeshifter.

    David Gaider, Senior Designer:

    Flaming sword animation:: Anyway, according to the item guy:

    1) the sword has the BG2 flaming sword animation (the sword glows, but no visible flames).
    2) the sword doesn't do extra fire damage, and apparently it doesn't say this in its description. (Don't argue with me, I'm just reciting, here).
    3) the troll thing is being worked on (same with a couple of other items that are supposed to slay trolls but don't...problem with the way they do their regeneration as I understand it).

    Actually, I went and asked the art department to make sure. It wasn't the size (although that was a factor) so much as it was the fact that the flaming sword animation looked really crappy when we switched to 800x600. Everyone agreed it looked good in BG1, but it didn't in BG2 and after a few tries to fix it all induced collective vomiting it was switched to a glow, instead.

    Monks and barbarians using the Amulet of Power: The Amulet of Power is another one of those items that was made before Barbarians, Monks et al were entered into the game...and then over-looked later as far as class uses.

    Also: All Paladins, although I doubt Undead Hunters will see a need for it. Keep in mind that Inquisitors, while not spell-casters per se, still have significant spell-like abilities.

    Minsc's berserk ability: You're probably right about it being copied over. It's different from normal enrage in several respects, so I'm not sure what was intended. At the very least, I doubt that he should be vulnerable to Stun.

    Cavaliers and kensai using thrown weapons: I'm pretty sure this was intentional. Thrown weapons, yes, missile or 'launched' weapons no. Don't ask me, I just work here.

    The Hamster: Boo is a hamster.

    He does not really go for the eyes, either, although I could imagine Minsc throwing the poor rodent at a foe and scared little Boo scurrying off until Minsc found him again.

    But, regardless, Boo does not have any special powers. He cannot 'call' other hamsters and while I suppose he could trip traps like the original hamsters did for that character, I'm not sure that's the fate we'd want to subject Boo to, himself.

    At best, Boo is an animal companion for a ranger. But that still makes him a normal hamster, wishful thinking aside.

    On Drizzt and his items:

    We take the items away because:

    1) It balances out with the good path involving Drizzt. Those people get a hero of the realms to help them defeat Bodhi. You get to defeat a hero of the realms and use his & his friends' items until you defeat Bodhi. Getting to keep the items permanently would also make killing Drizzt a must-do, even for good players, which it shouldn't be.

    2) Drizzt has a lot of powerful friends. You got your thrill...there are plenty of other items for you to use, after all.

    And then there's the fact that whenever I think of the giggling little player who suddenly discovers he doesn't get to keep all of Drizzt's neat-o stuff and I LAUGH and laugh and laugh...

    ...that alone makes it worth it.

    Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter

    Scott Everts, Designer:

    Fixing bugs with patches: One of the biggest problems with computer software programming are the thousands of different system configurations. We test our games on as many different systems we can but it is impossible to test EVERY configuration out there. It's not really fair to compare us to other things like cars or toasters. If I was writing an ignition system program for a 99 Grand Am, I know exactly what hardware I'm making it for. But try to write a generic ignition system for every car from every manufacturer for the last 10 years. So you see, its not that we are stupid or morons, it just means we try to make it work on the most systems we can. But there will be systems that won't work. We try to fix these in patches when we get reports. That's why we have message boards like this.

    J. E. Sawyer, Designer:

    Multiplayer problems with the patch: Bernie and some of the other folks changed the way the networking code operates. I'll try to explain without getting in over my head (I'm not a programmer). Basically, the way that the host communicated with the clients could be very slow. It was doing a lot of redundant work. To fix this, they had to re-write the way the networking code placed things in memory. Regardless of how well BioWare wrote the code, they're not hanging around to inform us of all the places where the code might be hiding out, or tell us how changing line 235 in one file will affect something seemingly unrelated any time a spell is cast. So, apparently the end result has been fewer synching problems with more general instability. ::sigh::

    Kevin Osburn, Line Producer:

    Patch fix info: With the 1.41 patch, the Storm Bow can now be equipped by Thieves. As for the enemy clerics casting healing spells on you party, this unfortunately didn't make it into the patch but will definitely be addressed by the time the downloadable dungeon pack is ready.

    John Deiley, Designer:

    Suggestions: Thank you for your suggestions. I'm always willing to listen to what our fans want. As far as your improvements...

    1. Yes, I felt that the wolf was an area of the expansion that should have been explored more. I wanted to address this issue in the web expansion but I guess it was not meant to be... The wolf will still be a mystery.

    2. Wylfdene would have made an excellent enemy. Unfortunately we had to do a lot of setup for other areas in the game and it worked out better that we not have the party fight him.

    I don't know, maybe I should have done more with this area. Maybe I made it too chatty and political. I'll take this under consideration...

    3. Yes. More small areas would have been nice. We were under certain limitations as far as resources and time available to us so we didn't put in a lot of the stuff that we all would have liked to. Was this a mistake on our part? Probably. But that is why we are doing the web expansion. We like to recognize our mistakes and learn from them.

    4. Too linear... Yes, that is a point about all rpg's that bother me. Most of them are linear in one way or another. Even games that claim to be non-linear are, in many ways, linear. Ok, so you can go anywhere you want in the game only you get your butt kicked till your nose bleeds which then forces you to go to the place the designer wanted you to go... which means the damn thing is linear.

    Oh well, just my two cents worth. Thanks again for the comments and please keep em coming.

    Large XP rewards: There are a couple reasons for the massive exp awards.

    1. We wanted people who were taking experienced characters into the game to level. That way you get more power, spells, whatever and see what life is like at a higher level.

    2. If, for some reason, you decided to ignore our warnings and start the expansion with first level characters you would have a good chance of hitting one of these rewards and getting some levels. No one likes crib death characters that don't even make it through the first battle.

    I know that the high exp has been a matter of debate and that there are many differing views on it. My personal view is that unless I level on a regular basis I can get bored with my characters or a game in general. So, I tend to give high exp rewards so that high level characters can see improvement and advancement.

    Throne of Bhaal Monster of the Week
    Posted Tuesday, April 17, 2001 - 4:32 CET by Darien

    Daily Radar has gotten a look at some of the monsters to be featured in Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal. The first creature featured (heh) in this new weekly series is the Magic Golem.

    Golems... We all know the drill. Big, dumb and slow. Magic isn’t much use against them, so just keep your mages safe at the back and beat those constructs down with a few buffed up warriors. But when your mages suddenly get blasted from across the room with deadly beams of pure energy, you realize this particular golem might be a whole new challenge.

    Read the description and check out the screenshot here.

    Site News - New Additions
    Posted Monday, April 16, 2001 - 14:23 CET by Sorcerer

    Subsection Updates -> Fantasy Books

    One new Dragonlance book has been added; namely Dragons of a Lost Star, the sequel to Dragons of a Fallen Sun. There is also a sample chapter of it available for download.

    Three new Forgotten Realms books were also added. First is The Summoning, the first novel taking into account the 3rd edition D&D rules and happenings. We also have a sample chapter of it available for download.

    The next two books are The Magehound and The Floodgate, both by Elaine Cunningham. A sample chapter is available for The Floodgate.

    Subsection Updates - Games -> Icewind Dale

    The official patch for Heart of Winter has been released recently. I have added it to the Miscellanea subsection along with a txt file describing all the bug fixes that were made. There is quite a number of them, so be sure to download the patch if you haven't already.

    Subsection Updates - Games -> Baldur's Gate 2

    A few minor additions have been made to my extensive Throne of Bhaal features list. You can find the list in the Walkthroughs & Guides subsection.

    An edited log of the Throne of Bhaal chat at IGN has been prepared just for you. In case you couldn't attend the chat, download the chat log from the Miscellanea subsection.

    Subsection Updates - Games -> Neverwinter Nights

    This week the NWN section is really booming. First, I have put together an edited chat log of the last Neverwinter Nights chat at Stratics. It is a very interesting read and I recommend it to anyone interested in the game. Yet again, you can find it in the Miscellanea subsection. (Sounds like a theme for today.)

    Second, I am proud to present you with the largest (to my knowledge) Neverwinter Nights Screenshots Gallery available online. To date, there are 127 unique screenshots on display in it. I still have tons of other NWN stuff like wallpapers, art and so on but that will have to wait till the next update. Until then, feast you eyes on the beautiful screenshots.

  • Direct Links

    Black Isle Studios Board Update
    Posted Sunday, April 15, 2001 - 22:40 CET by Darien

    Here are some recent comments from the Black Isle Studios message boards.

    Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal

    Feargus Urquhart, Director – Black Isle Studios:

    On Choosing a name: There was a lot of debate about what to call BG2. In the end Ray and I thought that having it be the second of a series, especially since the overall story does continue, was better for selling product. Which is a good thing, because it lets us continue making games. We also felt that it wouldn't really bother the fans too much.

    But, there was plenty of conversations that started off "Calling it number 2 is dumb, because Baldur's Gate isn't even in it. Curse of the Azure Bonds wasn't called Pool of Radiance II" followed by "Yeah, but Ultima 4 wasn't called Learn to be the Avatar". The conversations pretty much degenerated farther from there.

    On the developer-publisher relationship: Actually the line between developer and publisher can sometimes be a little blurry. As an example, on the Baldur's Gate series with Bioware, Bioware developed all of the content for the game - programming, art, design. However, Black Isle QA'd (Bioware had some of their own QA staff for BG2), managed the Audio, Music, and Voice Recording, and worked with them on early design of the projects.

    It all really depends on the relationship between the developer and the publisher, and what publisher it is. Since Interplay has a large internal staff of developers with Black Isle, Digital Mayhem, and Shiny - we tend to help out more on projects. I would never say that we are the developers of products like Baldur's Gate or Neverwinter, but sometimes we do things for the developer that can be considered development related.

    I'm sure the next question would be - so is Black Isle actually a developer? And yep, we are also a developer. Fallout 1, Fallout 2, Torment, and Icewind Dale were internally developed by Black Isle. We created all of the art, design, programming (outside of using the Bioware Infinity Engine), and managed audio and QA.

    On new technology and Black Isle’s games: Our big goal has always been to continue making games that our fans enjoy. The one thing we do need to do as time goes on though, is to update the engines and bring in the technology that makes sense. With TORN we actually went out and licensed an engine, so that we would not have to develop everything from scratch the first time we made a 3D game. A lot of the reason to do this was that we know that content (design, art, etc..) is what drives Black Isle games, not technology. So, if we license the technology, we can then focus a much larger percentage of our time on the content.

    However, having said that, it is important for us to stay within a year or so of the hottest technology, so that our games don't seem dated. A more extreme example of this is that it is very hard for me to go back and play the original Wasteland eventhough I loved it when I was playing it 12 or 13 years ago. Like I said, that is an extreme example, but it shows in some ways why we have to move away from older engines and graphic styles that we have stayed with for a number of years. If we don't evolve from time to time then we're going to get ourselves in trouble.

    Dave Gaider, Senior Designer:

    On bugs and support: Yeah, but it'd be nice if we could have devoted more time as a developer to fixing the bugs. We found about 10,000 or so, but there's still going to be all the niggly little details.

    Nice to have fans like you who do this work, though. While I expect that the upcoming patch with ToB will be pretty comprehensive, even that I imagine will still be missing some things. Don't know what that says about our industry and I'm not about to touch on the subject, myself...but I can understand how players would expect that out of us (and hence Del's grade).

    Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter

    Steve Bokkes, Designer:

    Bag of holding: I'll see what I can do about getting the Bag of Holding into the Dungeon Pack.

    Ambient sounds in Burial Island: Believe it or not, we trimmed down the ambient sounds for the Burial Isle significantly. Each ambient had its radius reduced multiple times over the course of the area's development, and nearly half of them were eliminated all together. In the end, the Burial Isle ended up having less ambient sounds than most of the other 6X6 (large) maps. Go figure.

    J. E. Sawyer, Designer:

    War Chant of Sith: I asked at least a dozen testers in QA, as well as several other designers, what they thought about the War Chant of Sith. They said that it was powerful, but not overly powerful. 2 HP/round = 20 HP/minute. For a fighter with 80 HP to heal, that's four minutes of solid singing. The testers said that they often still used their clerical healing spells just because the War Chant of Sith required a significant amount of time to get the tanks back up to full HP. War Chant of Sith vs. Heal... well, there really is no comparison there. One is useful for regenerating HP for the whole party, and the other is useful for instantly raising a character to 1-4 HP below max. When testing begins on the downloadable expansion, I'll try to observe how much they use it, rather than trying to draw opinions out of them.

    Shield of Lathander was reduced to a two-round duration for the patch. Perhaps it and Greater Shield will undergo further revisions during the downloadable expansion's testing cycle.

    Axes: If there is any weapon in IWD that gets an undue amount of attention, it must be axes. Having the axe proficiency allows you to use:

    * Battle Axes
    * 2-H Axes
    * Throwing Axes

    That allows for a lot of versatility. There are also a lot of axes in the game: The Celebrant's Blade, the Axe of Caged Souls, the Throwing Axe +2, Lonesome Road, Faith Killer, Young Rage.

    Contact Other Plane: You can use Contact Other Plane to answer questions in every chapter of the original IWD and the expansion, including the Prologue. The same goes for the ranger's tracking ability.

    Old areas modified in HoW: Many (75-80%) of the areas in the original IWD were edited in the following ways:

    * Random treasure tables were modified.
    * The number of creatures scale to the level of difficulty. When the difficulty is set to Easiest, you don't have to fight as many monsters. When the difficulty is set to Hard to Insane, the number of monsters increases dramatically.
    * "Boss battles" often have additional support. For instance, Presio has an apprentice and a warrior bodyguard on Hard difficulty. Maiden Ilmadia has two drow priest-mages with her in Lower Dorn's Deep. Malavon has... you get the idea.

    Happy Easter!
    Posted Sunday, April 15, 2001 - 12:16 CET by Sorcerer

    On behalf of the whole Sorcerer's Place team, I wish each and every one of you (or those of you who celebrate it anyway) a very happy Easter! Have a blast and know that we're not going anywhere, so come back to check the new happenings around here regularly.
    I'll have a nice big site update ready sometime tomorrow so be sure to check this space every once in a while.

    (Easter Egg Morte making a cameo for the second year in a row)

    Irenicus Sighting
    Posted Sunday, April 15, 2001 - 12:04 CET by Sorcerer

    Here is a short notice we received from David Kroll, a dedicated fan:

    I was flipping through the channels when I heard a familiar voice: Irenicus!

    It turns out that David Warner, the actor who portrayed Irenicus in Baldur's Gate II, is appearing in the A&E movie "Horatio Hornblower: Mutiny". According to the A&E website, it will repeat on Sunday April 15th (today), from 5 to 7. He portrays a tyrannical sea captain who is at odds with the title character.
    Although I'm not a big fan of the show, it was interesting to be able to put a face to the voice.
    Anyone who didn't get enough of Irenicus in BG II should definitely check it out.

    Last Week's Poll Results
    Posted Saturday, April 14, 2001 - 21:22 CET by Sorcerer

    What we asked:

    Q: What do you find most interesting to read about on our front page?
    (176 votes total)

    Game previews (52) 30%
    Message board clips (30) 17%
    Polls (27) 15%
    Developer interviews (27) 15%
    Game reviews (22) 13%
    Site news (18) 10%

    I won't bother to comment much on this poll since I made it mainly to satisfy my own curiosity, and since I know that these kinds of polls are not exactly popular.

    The votes have been spread quite evenly among all available options, with game previews being the most interesting to read about and site news the least interesting.

    According to the previous week's poll, 26% of our daily visitors come to Sorcerer's Place for the first time, so this low result the site news received is not surprising. Site news were posted only once in that week, and even that when the poll was practically over already. I am guessing quite a few people didn't even know what kind of things get posted there. ;)

    Latest Poll
    Previous Polls

    Throne of Bhaal Item of the Week
    Posted Saturday, April 14, 2001 - 17:42 CET by Darien

    The latest Item of the Week from PC IGN is a spear called Ixil's Spike. Here's a bit of background and some stats. You can read the rest and see some screenshots here.

    Shortly after the Time of Troubles began the nomadic bandit tribes of the Calimshan desert were united under a single leader; a cruel and brutal giant of a man, the warlord Ixil Xaxsha. From their outposts in the forbidding desert waste, the nomads raided merchant caravans and terrorized travelers who dared journey over the road from Calimport to Myratma.

    Rumors and legends quickly spread about the invincible Ixil, who rode at the head of every raiding party brandishing his infamous magical spear. Some believe he was not truly a man, but a demon in human form, drawn to Faerun by the chaos and confusion of the Time of Troubles.


    Equipped Abilities: Permanent Free Action

    Combat Abilities: With each successful hit opponent must save or be pinned for 3 rounds, taking an additional 1D6+5 damage each round.

    THAC0: + 6 bonus
    Damage: 1D6 + 6
    Damage type: piercing
    Weight: 5
    Speed Factor: 2
    Proficiency Type: Spear
    Type: 2-handed
    Requires: 5 Strength
    Not Usable By:

    Heart of Winter Patch Released!
    Posted Saturday, April 14, 2001 - 4:19 CET by Darien

    Black Isle Studios has released the new patch (VERSION 1.41)for Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter. Download it here. Below is a list of fixes from the readme.txt file.

    - Fixed a problem with invisible stalkers attacking the party if the difficulty is set to Insane in Lower Dorn's Deep.
    - Made some minor adjustments to the fight with Malavon in Lower Dorn's Deep.
    - Already-fatigued druids that hit 15th level and acquire "Timeless Body" should now correctly be rid of their fatigue.
    - Fixed a problem where monsters that were damaged by a thief's sneak attack could gain a +20 damage adjustment.
    - Characters now receive the new class changes added in Heart of Winter when the game is loaded so it is not necessary to level up first in order to get them.
    - Fixed a graphic bug with the final Heart of Winter battle when using 24-bit color in 2D.
    - Some users reported a cutscene mode hang after completing the final Heart of Winter battle, which has been fixed.
    - Permissions set in multiplayer games were carrying over into the single player game, which has been fixed.
    - Druids who shapechange will not lose the assigned spells in their Quickspell slots when reverting back to "human" form.
    - Incorrect feedback for luck bonuses/penalties has now been removed.
    - Effects that grant a bonus to a character's casting time now work correctly. the item Kossuth's Blood is one example that now works.
    - The journal entry for Vexing Thoughts incorrectly reported that he wanted nine people slain instead of one.
    - Summoned creatures in Heart of Fury mode have had their hit points and to hit adjustments reduced somewhat.
    - Fixed a problem with bags automatically identifying unidentified items.
    - Some problems with multiplayer permissions carrying over into Single Player after playing in a multiplayer game have been fixed.
    - Some lizard men in Dragon's Eye were marked as friendly, and this has been corrected.
    - Innate spell-like special abilities (like the druid shapechange) can no longer be interrupted by damage.

    - The Blur Deck can no longer be used before being identified.
    - The Girdle of Beautification now correctly grants its Bless bonus.
    - The Lucky Scimitar now properly grants its equipped luck bonus.
    - "The Robe of the Watcher" now correctly grants a 10% bonus to magic resistance.
    - The tooltip text for the Sceptre of Tyranny's daily magical uses now displays the correct effect, instead of the name of the item.
    - The tooltip text for the Singing Blade of Aihonen's daily magical uses now displays the correct effect, instead of the name of the item.
    - Throwing Daggers may now be purchased in multiple quantities.

    - Fixed a potential problem in the final Heart of Winter scene where the game could be stuck in cutscene mode in multiplayer.
    - Increased network packet efficiency by reducing size and frequency of some packets containing potentially redundant information. This should help decrease lag in all multiplayer games.

    - Effects that grant strength bonuses in conjunction with effects that set strength are now correctly evaluated after area transitions and loading saved games.
    - In some cases, Blood Rage would leave a PC with a Strength of 3. This has been corrected.
    - Chant and Prayer now properly adjust THAC0, saving throws, and damage bonus instead of luck.
    - Fixed a bug with Chant, Prayer, and Recitation incorrectly factoring in a creature's magic resistance when the beneficial effects were applied.
    - Fixed a bug with Barkskin not appropriately modifying your AC at higher levels.
    - Improved the speed of Cone of Cold effects and it's derivatives.
    - Spell effects based on Confusion now consistantly display the icon in the Character Record screen.
    - Fixed problem with Decastave crashing the game if a shield is equipped when it is cast.
    - Dispel Magic now correctly removes the special abilities granted by Seven Eyes.
    - Power Word Silence is now correctly recognized as a conjuration/summoning spell, not an invocation spell
    - Prayer now correctly modifies THAC0, damage, and saving throws instead of luck.
    - Static Charge now works correctly in multiplayer when someone other than the host casts it.
    - Fixed a bug where Wall of Moonlight would not appear or work properly when a game is loaded or quick-loaded if it was in effect before the load.
    - Fixed a minor targeting problem with Whirlwind.
    - Fixed a problem with Whirlwind displaying different movement patterns between clients on multiplayer games.
    - The spell progression table for Wizards above level 20 has been corrected. Please see the section regarding Manual Corrections above for the new table.
    - Shield of Lathander's duration dropped from 3 rounds to 2 rounds.
    - Druids no longer have access to Slay Living.

    Neverwinter Nights Interview
    Posted Saturday, April 14, 2001 - 4:00 CET by Darien

    Stomped has interviewed Rob Bartel, the co-designer of Neverwinter Nights. Be sure to check out the screenshots scattered through the pages.

    Bartel: It’s weird developing a game for which there aren’t really aren’t any previous models. It’s like a circus without a net – exhilarating and dangerous all at the same time. Other games have had toolsets, other games have had multiplayer, other games have had Dungeon Masters, other games have had wonderfully rich rulesets, other games have had great stories, other games have placed their trust in the creativity of their fan base. For whatever reason, however, we seem to be the first game that is bringing all of those elements together into a single package. The one model that we find ourselves always going back to is that of the pen-and-paper D&D experience. It’s been a true joy to work on a project like this in the midst of all of the exciting changes introduced by the 3rd Edition rules and, while its been hard and sometimes even overwhelming, the fan community has really been behind us, all the way. They want Neverwinter Nights to be a truly revolutionary title and we’re doing everything in our power to make that happen.

    Read the interview.

    Neverwinter Nights Board Update
    Posted Friday, April 13, 2001 - 21:40 CET by Darien

    Here is another update from the Official NWN message board.

    Bob McCabe, Writing & Design

    European Chats: We have in the past had European chats. There was one recently for Baldur's Gate II... it started at about noon MST. We consider our European fan base to be very strong, and we will make sure to keep in mind whatever we can do to accommodate you all :)

    GenCon: Well, not too many people are aware of our Gen Con plans right now, because the next show in order is E3 in Los Angeles (a little over a month away!). However, we do have some nice ideas for Gen Con, and we do intend to send some people from BioWare in that direction. What exactly our plans are, and who/how many is/are likely to be going, is something we will talk about more in the post-E3 time frame, especially as we get closer to the actual Gen Con event.

    Cord Grimwinder-8d, Interplaygames.com Moderator:

    Killing NPCs: Pretty much yes, if you murder an "innocent" NPC of goodly alignment it will push your PCs alignment toward Evil. Actions of this type (killing, stealing, harming, helping, etc) will all have alignment modifiers attached that will swing your PC's "karma" back and forth. In your own modules you'll be able the set how actions like this affect the alignment, because in your world you may consider killing that same NPC a good thing. It's going to be fully open to the DM to decide the morals of their worlds.

    Rolo Kipp, Interplaygames.com Moderator:

    System Requirements: That min. req. is for using the combined client/server for playing the 3-8 areas per Chapter of the boxed game, as that would be the most resource intensive combination.

    Running either a straight client or straight server should require quite a bit less resources, and different ones (video card only needed for the one, massive RAM for the other, for example).

    Tilesets: There is rocky terrain included in the Rural tileset that may be used to simulate rocky desert or mountainous terrain. You *will* be able to make mountainous terrain.

    Overweight characters: Graphically, yes. What other way do you want them supported (has flash visions of Baron Harkonen)?

    All black as clothing colors: If you mean the True Black(tm) of UO, I sincerely doubt it. They have worked up a set of 10 palettes that apply to separate layers. These palettes have been designed for the best looking effects, and that almost never means true black.

    Beholders: There will be no beholders in the initial release. In addition, you will not be able to recolor most non-humanoid creatures as the color is baked into the texture. Their reason for not including boulders remains the same regardless of what you want to use to simulate it. They do not want large objects bouncing around the world uncontrollably and randomly.

    Portrait: You will have complete control over your portrait... make it look however you want :-).

    Brent Knowles:

    Negative Modifiers: Yes, the game applies negative modifiers to low ability scores.

    Throne of Bhaal Developer Profile at RPGVault
    Posted Friday, April 13, 2001 - 15:20 CET by Darien

    The latest developer profile at RPGVault features Kevin Martens, Lead Designer on BGII: Throne of Bhaal. Here's a bit from the interview:

    Jonric: How would you summarize your background as a gamer? When and how did find yourself being drawn to them?

    Kevin Martens: I started being a gamer when I first had access to Pong and Pitfall II on my aunt and uncle's Atari. I played Coleco Vision, Intellivision, and arcade games on a regular basis. My obsession with computer games began when I picked up Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord for the Apple II computer system. O Glorious Monochrome! This was quickly followed with Ultima III and IV, Conan the Barbarian, Return of Heracles, Moon Patrol, and Karateka.

    I bought a Nintendo and a copy of Final Fantasy (my favorite game of my Nintendo Years). I bought a Genesis and copies of Phantasy Star I, II, III and Genghis Khan. With my purchase of an IBM-PC, I picked up Sopwith, Ancient Art of War, Hero's Quest (later became Quest for Glory), and Pirates. I've been playing primarily PC games ever since, although I've recently picked up a PlayStation 2 and am playing Summoner, Chrono Cross, and The Legend of Mana.

    Bioware Interview
    Posted Friday, April 13, 2001 - 4:43 CET by Darien

    An interview with Bioware was recently posted at Massive Multiplayer.org. Trent Oster, Producer of Neverwinter Nights, and Teresa Stevenson, Communications Co-ordinator, spoke about expansions, 3rd Edition rules, and other topics. Like this question about the Fudge Factor:

    Is there going to be any way to introduce the DM's favorite tool, the Fudge Factor, without making it blatantly obvious to the players? Kind of like allowing them to get through that door they really need to get through, but the Thief blew their picklock roll.

    Ah, the Fudge Factor... While players rarely notice it, the so-called Fudge Factor is a vital tool for any DM. Within Neverwinter, we plan on giving the DM quick in-game access to an all-encompassing difficulty slider that manipulates all sorts of stats and rolls behind the scenes. Aside from this, the DM will also have a number of more specific powers at his or her disposal such as locking and unlocking doors, giving temporary skill or combat bonuses to a creature, temporarily protecting a creature from damage or death, and so forth. Additionally, the DM can always spawn and/or possess NPCs and manipulate the situation in that manner (the city guard arrives on the scene, providing the player with some extra backup). We’ll have more details on the DMs specific Fudge Factor powers closer to release.

    Read the entire interview here.

    New Neverwinter Nights Screenshot
    Posted Thursday, April 12, 2001 - 16:57 CET by Darien

    Bioware brought a new screenshot along to last night's chat at NWN Stratics. See it here.

    From the Black Isle Studios Board
    Posted Thursday, April 12, 2001 - 16:54 CET by Darien

    Here's rather a long editorial by Dave Gaider on the romances in BGII (will people ever stop arguing about this) and women in gaming, taken from the Black Isle Studios message board.

    Dave Gaider: We've received a lot of feedback on the romances in the game...some of it has been surprising, but all of it is useful.

    I do take issue with a few things you said, though.

    1) 'My Lady' is appropriate for the genre and the ideal of courtly love. If you saw anything else there, then you were looking for it.

    2) I'm not making excuses. As I've said, it would have been great if we could have included more romances, period, including more romances for female players.

    I don't apologize for Anomen, either. I am proud of the work I did on his story. The only thing I would change, if I could, would be his verbal responses once the romance starts...but that couldn't be done at the time, so that's not much of a regret.

    I suspect Anomen's gotten a worse rap simply because he's the sole choice for female PC's, but then I'm sure some people just don't like him, period, and that's nothing new. Lot's of people loathed Jaheira, too, as I recall...and there were even Anti-Jaheira boards out there. Personally, I'd rather that kind of reaction to a character than none at all.

    Anomen's a character who starts off naive, unintentionally rude and a bit needy...but sexist? I think Haer'Dalis is far more sexist when it comes down to it, and his language more flowery than Anomen's to boot, but hey that's just a designer talking.

    3) I find your accusations of sexism, both against me personally and against the company I work for to be a bit specious.

    You must have really hated Planescape: Torment. I mean, despite it being a classic game with a great story, they didn't even give you the option of being female, never mind include a romance for female characters.

    Icewind Dale...hmmm...good game, but no romances at all, there, or even party interaction.

    Let's see...I played Final Fantasy VII, VIII and IX. Once again, male protaganists throughout.

    You could play a female role in Daggerfall, but we won't even go into what you'd find in just about every inn.

    There are a few games that do it about right (Fallout and Fallout 2 come to mind, though I wouldn't call those romances), but here we are being kicked for trying to be inclusive.

    Could we have done more? Yes, obviously. And as I said in my last post on this issue, I look forward to the day when female gamers will be a given. Right now this isn't the case, though, and I fail to see how my saying so makes me a sexist. I said the ratio of male to female gamers is something like 10 to 1...a big gap...and hopefully by encouraging women to play that will narrow. But does encouraging women to play have to mean exactly 50% of everything right off the bat? That'd be ideal, sure (and I wouldn't mind it at all), but is this the requirement? Oh...and make sure that what you do offer is bland and politically correct enough so that nobody could possibly dislike it or be able to read anything into it, right?

    I mean, had we chosen Haer'Dalis instead of Anomen, as you suggest, absolutely everything would have been better, right? Everyone would be happy with the one romance, everyone would just adore Haer'Dalis because, of course, everyone enjoys the same things, right? Right?

    And then you say that a woman 'obviously' wouldn't be able to get ahead at a company like Bioware. Are you aware that the Director of Art in BG2 was Marcia Tofer, a woman?

    I'd like to see more women in the gaming industry. I'd like to see more women specifically in design and QA. I'm not alone...and while I suspect that it's not so much an assumption of inequality as it is a lack of interest in the field on the part of most qualified women , your willingness to alienate people who would otherwise be the biggest supporters of your cause doesn't bode well for the future. I can only hope that yours is an isolated case.

    I've probably talked too much about this issue, such as it is...and this is probably the last time I'll respond to it (even if people claim later that I haven't). I hope you read this and take it in the spirit with which it was meant.

    Screenshots from Throne of Bhaal
    Posted Wednesday, April 11, 2001 - 17:48 CET by Darien

    GamePro has posted a brief introduction to the expansion pack for Baldur's Gate II and 12 screenshots. Read what the author had to say:

    Were the 200 hours of gameplay in Baldur’s Gate II just not enough to satisfy your voracious RPG appetite? Then hail the arrival of the Throne of Bhaal expansion pack, introducing over 50 skills, 100 items, and 70 areas to explore! This second chapter in the Children of Bhaal storyline will start your characters—either imported from a previous game or fashioned anew from 20-sided dice—at ridiculously high levels, and will raise the experience cap to 8 million…that’s roughly level 40 for those who don’t speak AD&D. The expansion pack will feature new classes like the Wild Mage, given to fits of random magical expression, and enormous dungeons like Watcher’s Keep, and will tack on 30-40 hours of gameplay to the already enormous BG world. Bah, who needs real life anyway?

    Throne of Bhaal Preview at PC GamerWeb
    Posted Wednesday, April 11, 2001 - 17:20 CET by Darien

    PC Gamer has posted a preview of BGII: Throne of Bhaal, which includes a handful of screenshots. Here's an excerpt:

    Since Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhall is an expansion, you'll need to have Baldur's Gate II installed in order to play, and Throne of Bhaal picks up immediately where Baldur's Gate II left off. Actually, part of the expansion--a massive dungeon called Watcher's Keep--will be accessible even before you've finished the main Baldur's Gate II quest. Altogether, the expansion will comprise at least 40 additional hours of gameplay.

    Baldur's Gate II has a rich, satisfying story in its own right and Bioware knows its fans expect an epic quest and doesn't intend to disappoint with Throne of Bhaal.

    Picking up where BGII left off, Throne of Bhaal continues and eventually concludes the child of Bhaal saga. As you would expect, you can opt to bring your party of adventurers from BGII, or you can scrap everyone and simply start anew with two million experience points, which is the equivalent to about 14th or 15th level for most character classes.

    Read the rest.

    Biofiles Continues with Baldur's Gate II
    Posted Tuesday, April 10, 2001 - 19:19 CET by Darien

    EUniverse games has posted the first installment of their latest regular feature: Biofiles. The column will be written primarily by James Ohlen, the director of BioWare’s writing and design department. This week the file focuses on the first three chapters of Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn.

    Chapter 1 was the introduction to the game. We set up the backdrop for the story, acquainted the player with the main villain and gave the player his first major goal. We also allowed the player to fill out most of his party slots with NPCs familiar to those who had played the first Baldur’s Gate.

    The Good: Chapter 1 had some really interesting puzzles, fun easy battles to ease players into the strategies of higher level combat and a great sense of ambience. However, the best part of chapter 1 was the character interaction. There were some great scenes between the player and his old friends Jaheira, Minsc and Imoen. Jaheira discovering her dead husband Khalid was one of the sadder moments in BG2. Jon Irenicus torturing the player was creepy, and the fight the player witnesses between Irenicus and the Cowled wizards was awe inspiring.

    The Bad: In the BG Chronicles poll chapter 1 was the least popular of the chapters. While chapter 1 was linear, that wasn’t really the problem. Chapter 1 was about twice as long as it should have been. If we had cut out the entire second level of Irenicus’ dungeon, the story would have progressed faster. In future games we will probably make it a priority to have faster paced introductions.

    Read the verdict on Chapters 2 and 3 here.

    From the Official Neverwinter Nights Boards
    Posted Tuesday, April 10, 2001 - 13:50 CET by Darien

    Here are some interesting comments to fix your Neverwinter cravings, straight from the official NWN message boards.

    Cord Grimwinder-8d, Interplaygames.com Moderator

    On the single player game: Actually, the "single player" game you mention shipping with NWN isn't; single player designed that is. It's a multiplayer game that *can* be played solo. The game is designed to dynamically scale to match the number of players playing it, that includes the number "one" ;-). The only real difference with the single player game is that you will have more NPC hireling opportunities and that you'll be able to pause the game without the DM doing it. So, to make a long story shot, you can design modules for one player specifically, or set it to scale to meet the needs of varying numbers of players from one, up to as many as your server can support.

    On area transistions: You may set up area transitions pretty much however you please. You can make a door a transition point, a single tile edge or the entire edge of the area. You can set up teleport points as well. Because NWN is a real time multi player/ multi party game there will not a be a overland map where you click and travel from point to point and time passes, this would cause players to get out of sync on the clock. When you cross a area transition you will merely step into the linked area on the other side immediately. Travel time will have to be directly controlled by a DM if it is desired.

    On tilesets: Well, there's something you have to understand here, when you say "lack". First, it takes a *team* of programmers and artists anywhere from 1 to 4 months to complete a tileset. Given that, it'd be sometime in 2004 before we actually got to play NWN if they were to expand the initial release tilesets to include the rest of the Forgotten Realms.

    That's because those same people are also putting together the rest of the game in addition to tilesets. Sorry, but that's just the realities of game making ;-). Think about PnP D&D, did you see everything in the first book/boxed set? No, and if you're like me you have *several* book shelves full of source books and rules and *still* don't have half of the "world" of D&D covered. NWN is the first boxed set so to speak, and it focuses on the cities of Neverwinter and Luskan and their environs, simple time and resource constraints prevent more for now, not a lack of wanting to. SO, they aren't trying to compensate now for any outside perception that NWN lacks tiles because from the view point of their design goals, it doesn't.

    The upside is that in expansions all the underlying rules and such will be in place so they can focus almost fully on things like more tilesets ;-).

    On the cut scene editor: Since the cutscene editor will use the game play content and there isn't any climbing, I doubt they'll include any extra climbing cutscene animations. After all, they would have to include an animation for all of the possible models to really make it "suspend disbelief". That would take a rather large chunk of the artists' time for a limited use feature. So, we're probably going to have to rely on imagination in this case, and wait to see what we can do with camera angles in the editor mode.

    On Torches: Ubless there's been a change of plans, yes you can add and remove torches.

    A Bioware Profile
    Posted Monday, April 9, 2001 - 22:19 CET by Darien

    The Toronto Star has posted an article that takes a look at the successful history of Bioware Corporation, with a glimpse of its founders and some of the companies most successful projects. Here's an introduction:

    It has all the clutter and magic of a child's playroom.

    At Bioware Corp.'s headquarters in Edmonton the ratio of plastic action figures to people is easily three to one.

    Paint, pencil and ink sketches line the hallway walls and every so often the sound of laughter or the whir of a remote control car travels down the corridor.

    But the video game developer isn't run by a bunch of slackers. Quite the opposite, in fact. The three founders are all doctors - medical doctors who now operate in business.

    Site News - New Additions, Changes etc.
    Posted Sunday, April 8, 2001 - 20:32 CET by Sorcerer

    Subsection Updates -> Community

    There has been some confusion regarding the Friendly Arm Inn (our official chatroom), and the other one listed in the Chatrooms subsection. Since we have completely abandoned the old EFnet channel by now, I decided to remove it from the list. That should clear things up a bit.

    Subsection Updates -> Fantasy Books

    Two new additions to the 3rd Edition D&D Books subsection were made. First is a new guidebook to clerics and paladins called Defenders of the Faith (pre-order), and the second the Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas, which is a very cool product and a must for any serious FR player or DM.
    The atlas is a computer program, but since I don't really have a separate section for them (it's not like there are any others like that anyway), I simply put it in the most fitting place on the site. Just in case you were wondering. ;)

    As always, your support in the form of purchases through the links at Sorcerer's Place is much appreciated.

    Subsection Updates -> Games

    Our game store store has been updated again. Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk now both have a Icewind Dale & Heart of Winter double pack available for purchasing.
    In case you do not have these games yet, make sure to get this cool bundle, it is definitely worth the money.

    Subsection Updates -> Fantasy Worlds

    Thanks to Erran, our AORTA guildmaster we now have a nicely laid out section dedicated to "finding" out where in the Forgotten Realms your character hails from. This will undoubtedly be very helpful to anyone who is putting together an application for any of the online Neverwinter Nights worlds like ALFA for example.
    Two versions of the document are available. You can either view it online in full, or download both tables as Excel spreadsheets. Check them out in the Forgotten Realms subsection.

    Subsection Updates - Games -> Icewind Dale

    There is a new version of the Heart of Winter walkthrough I have made available for download in the last update. You can download it from the Walkthroughs & Guides subsection.

    Subsection Updates - Games -> Planescape: Torment

    A while ago one of the members of our message boards expressed frustration at not being able to find more hankies required in one segment of the game after he dumped them all. I don't quite remember if we found a better solution to the problem than reloading, but I did a little digging and found out that the items list for TormentHack has been updated with the very same item codes - for hankies among others.

    So if you find yourself stuck with the same problem, make sure to download TormentHack from the Editors, Hacks & Cap Removers subsection. With it you can replace any of the items in your inventory with a hankie for example.

    Subsection Updates - Games -> Baldur's Gate 2

    Deborah Norris has let me know that there is an updated version of her Baldur's Gate 2 desktop theme available. Several little things about it have been fixed, such as: the code errors experienced by Windows 95 users, a My Documents theme association, black background behind "Baldur's Gate II" title in wallpaper has been filled, etc. Get the newest version of the theme from the Miscellanea subsection.

    As usual, I have made another huge update to my Throne of Bhaal features list. If you are interested in the upcoming expansion, checking it out is a must. You can find the list in the Walkthroughs & Guides subsection.

    On a similar note, Interplay has finally put together a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list for Throne of Bhaal. There is not much news there for anyone who has read my ToB features list, but you might find it informative all the same. The FAQ can be found in the Tips, Tricks & Hints subsection.

    A guy named Moff has sent over a small collection of character portraits which he names NeoUgly portraits. Don't ask me why, I haven't a clue. And no, they are not THAT bad. ;)
    Anyway, the portraits can be found in the Editors, Hacks & Cap Removers subsection. Download them and see if they fit your style.

    Subsection Updates - Games -> Neverwinter Nights

    We have updated out AORTA guild roster with new members. In case you are wondering, we are up to 12 members already. If you want to find out more, surf over to the AORTA guild pages.

    The latest version of NWMap, a freeware graphical tile-based mapping and module design utility has been added to the Miscellanea subsection. NWMap has been substantially improved over the previous version, so be sure to get this latest installment.

  • Direct Links

    Throne of Bhaal Diary: Vol II at Gamespy
    Posted Sunday, April 8, 2001 - 20:21 CET by Darien

    Gamespy has posted the second volume of Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal Developer Diaries. This time we meet Matthew Goldman, member of the ToB art team, who lists his priorities for improving gameplay. Here's the first:

    Number One Priority: Reduce and eliminate the bottlenecks that had been such a nuisance during BG2. I decided to adopt several different software packages. 3D Max allowed us to integrate animation and area art to a much better degree than previously. The animation speaks for it self. We have more, and better looking areas, fly-throughs, and spell animations in the game than ever before! I won't pretend it was a perfect transition, it caused me many late nights (and Russ to invent several descriptive and colorful phrases), but in the end it was well worth the switch.

    Read the rest here.

    Neverwinter Nights Forum Update
    Posted Sunday, April 8, 2001 - 20:12 CET by Darien

    Here are a few bits of information from the Official Neverwinter Nights message board.

    Trent Oster, Producer:

    Release Date: We haven't released a ship date for NWN. Our policy is to not state a date until we are completely confident of hitting it. NWN is a massive undertaking and everyone on the team is pushing as hard as we can, but we are still a way off from shipping.

    Saving a Game: We plan on allowing the server operator to save the game at any point. This means in the single player game you can save at any time. The save game files might get a wee large if there are a large number of objects, etc... in the game though.

    Combat strategies/Scripts/Customization for Monsters: NPC combat strategies are completely scripted. Customize at will.

    Scripts are called by creatures, areas and modules through AI driven events. You can attach scripting to items through area scripts looking for the "tag" of the object you wish the custom script to work for. We built the system this way to cut down on AI time running the game. If every weapon in the game had AI time this would quickly become a slide show.

    Yes, creatures have skills, feats and spell like abilities. Creatures also can have up to three classes, one of the classes is a "monster class". So you could have a dragon who has 10 levels in Dragon and 10 levels as a sorcerer. In short, we've gone overboard with customization for monsters.

    Hope this helps. Sorry for not posting more frequently lately (Too few hours in a day).

    Cord Grimwinder-8d, Interplaygames.com Moderator:

    Number of players: You can have as many people in your party as there are on the server, as people join your party their portrait will appear on the right side of your screen (if you chose to view them) and if you get more than your screen can hold it will scroll. Also they are putting in an option to just have each PC's name and condition without the portrait to take up less room if you prefer.

    Various comments: Yes, there will be a set of tools for making your own in game cutscenes.

    Yes, and you can even control light levels on a per tile basis through a simple slider bar in the toolkit.

    Trent on Trading: Quote(Trent Oster, NWN Producer, when asked if there would be trade windows and secure trading.): Yes. Secure trading is a must. If you had to drop items and trust the other person, very little trading would occur.
    :End Quote

    Logging events: There will be a world log/journal that will record major events that you'll be able to view.

    Throne of Bhaal Item of the Week
    Posted Saturday, April 7, 2001 - 21:12 CET by Darien

    IGN PC has posted their Item of the Week from Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal. This time it's Foebane, a magical bastard sword. Check out the item description and the stats here.

    The Archmage Demron crafted this magical bastard sword for the Elven hero Fflar, Captain of Myth Drannor. The most powerful of six such enchanted blades Demron fashioned, Foebane can drain the very essence of life from its opponents with every blow, and bestow that life energy on the wielder. There are those who believe soul stealing capability has cursed the blade, for though fashioned as a weapon of right and justice, Foebane’s dark history is one of murder and death.

    Black Isle Studios Forum Updates
    Posted Saturday, April 7, 2001 - 20:43 CET by Darien

    Here are some more comments from the developers at Black Isle Studios message boards. I hope you all enjoy reading these, because these guys seem to have a lot to say lately. :) Check out Dave's thoughts on the romances. He makes some good points, that I happen to agree with.

    Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal

    Derek French:

    On a worldwide release for ToB: Worldwide releases are very hard to do. The reason for this, especially in a game like BG, is that many text and dialog lines end up changing at the last minute. When they change, the new lines must be sent out so that they can be translated. The returned text needs to be verified, rebuilt into the game, then sent off to Interplay for testing by someone who speaks that language. Now if that tester is actually in Europe it may take even longer. If text for spoken lines change, then VO might need to be done again. More delays.

    What it comes down to is the distance between BioWare and Interplay and Virgin Europe all contribute to delays in getting the game out outside of North America. The farther away your publisher, the longer the lag time between finished and published and store shelves.

    Heh, what I don't understand is why they don't release English, Spanish, and French in North America. =]

    David Gaider, Senior Designer:

    On new NPC sounds: A few of the characters get some updated sounds... Nalia, in particular, was one I wanted to alter very badly, since as you point out she's hardly the naive little mage/thief she started out as. Didn't have room to change all the characters but we got the important ones. So no more 'For the needy!'

    This was the original plan, actually. In the dialogue where Aerie and Haer'Dalis break up, Aerie sets a "AerieHardened" global and was supposed to get new dialogue... but at the beginning we couldn't 'replace' NPC dialogue with scripting and so we ended up not recording any for her.So Aerie's battle cries now change when either the Hardened global is set OR you enter the expansion... either one.

    Personally, I think Nalia is WAAAY easier to take, now.

    Nalia: (battle cry) "Evil falls today!

    So is the CN Anomen.

    Anomen: (rare action) So long as I never have to breathe the same stuffy air as those rusted suits of armor in the Order; well, I'm with you.

    On more dialogue and the book: We've got lots of new dialogue for Imoen in the expansion, which is nice as we would have liked to have had Imoen talk more in BG2 after you rescued her. If you're wondering if we're adding dialogue to her for BG2 itself, though, the answer is no... Just the expansion.

    As for the book, if you didn't like the first two you might still want to check out the Throne of Bhaal BG book when it comes out... Our very own Drew Karpyshyn (one of the writers on ToB) is writing it this time around.

    On NPC romances (again!) and female players: Anomen's is not longer in length, but it is longer and was more difficult to script because it has two seperate paths, 'lovetalk' globals notwithstanding.

    And personally I'm getting pretty tired of the whole claim at how 'unfair' it was for us to have only one option for female PC's. Sure, it would have been nice (great, in fact) to have more options... but there are just as many guys out there wanting Nalia or Mazzy to be included (if not every NPC in the game) as romances as there are girls who want another option besides Anomen, and believe me... everyone has a different idea on who would be more 'suitable'.

    It'd be great if we could accomodate every player, but the plain fact is we only had time for four romance stories, period. We had wanted to include a fifth romance (Haer'Dalis, in fact), but just didn't have the time to complete it. I'm happy that we got four in with the resources we had (it is, after all, just an added bonus and not a focus of the game), and I'm happy with how Anomen's romance turned out. And, yes, Anomen's not for everyone... but neither is Viconia, Jaheira or Aerie.

    Considering the timespan of the expansion, fitting a new romance into it is hardly feasible. It's more important, I think, to bring the four romance plots we have to a satisfactory conclusion. As I said, it would have been nice to do more, but there's no satisfying everyone.

    Well, there you go. While many might agree, many would also disagree. I've heard from fans who enjoyed Anomen thoroughly just as often as I've heard from those who hated him. People's tastes on something like this are very personal... I imagine that even had we done one or two or even three more romances there would still be those who would be incredulous at our choices.

    Oh, I know. I accept the criticism and know where people are coming from. Everyone has a different idea on what they'd like to see in the game, and romances are no different. Personally, I think a lot of the reaction to Anomen comes from the fact that he's the only choice... some people were obviously expecting to have an opportunity for romance with every character.

    And, again, that would have been nice to try. Had it been a focus of the game, maybe we would have gone that route...darn it, though, the game has to go and be an adventure instead of a romance.

    Thanks for your comments, though. I always love passing along these posts to James and Kevin...next time we dabble in this kind of thing, maybe we'll approach it a bit differently. Who knows?

    Incidentally, what do you think the balance ratio is with relation to male players and female players? Notwithstanding the fact that of course we'd like to promote more girls becoming interested in playing our game, ideally, I'd still suspect that it's something along the lines of 10 to 1 (if not more). When you look at a harsh number like that, I'm glad we were given the green light to plan two (even if we only got to put one in, in the end).

    Of course...is it 10 to 1 because, normally, those kinds of female-friendly options aren't there? Hard to judge. Part of me says that had we made made four male-PC romance and none for females, there wouldn't have been much said at all...we'd have simply been living up to low expectations.

    Of course, I could be wrong. And hopefully the industry will continue to gravitate towards a situation where such a thing as considering the female point-of-view in an RPG (or computer game) is a given rather than something you have to work at. I'd like to see way more girls working in the industry, itself, personally. (You know what, though? Hardly any women apply. Not sure exactly why that is.)

    Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter

    Steve Bokkes, Designer:

    Heart of Winter music: Good news. I've heard tell that the HoW music scores composed by Jeremy Soule will be released as part of a CD compilation. Supposedly, the CD will include music from the BG2 expansion as well. Happy days are here again.

    Electric Games Reviews Heart of Winter
    Posted Saturday, April 7, 2001 - 19:41 CET by Darien

    Electric Games recently reviewed Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter, and gave the expansion high marks. Scoring the game at 4 1/2 of 5 stars, the review gives HoW high marks all around. Here's why:

    The new plot content is fairly short, but keep in mind that this is an expansion, not a whole new game. If your original Icewind Dale party meets the level requirements, you may march right into the new content. If you're new to Icewind Dale, it's a great idea to get the expansion at the same time, so you may experience the interface and graphics overhaul throughout the entire game. This is a worthy expansion to what already is a great game.

    Neverwinter Nights Developer Journal
    Posted Saturday, April 7, 2001 - 19:32 CET by Darien

    From IGN PC comes the first installment of the Neverwinter Nights Developer Journal. Rob Bartel, Co - Lead Designer, talks about Bioware's E3 preparations. Um, at least I thought it was Rob...

    Rain shattered against the sidewalk like glass. It was spring in Edmonton, nine o'clock, and I had a job to do. Behind the gray windows of BioWare, strange things were afoot and I promised myself I would not rest until I had the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The job of an undercover reporter isn't easy but I had the jump on them this time – I knew a dame on the inside. Agnes Goldman. She worked the front desk. Pulling my trenchcoat tight about me, I stepped inside.

    "Hi, Rob," she said, her fingers never leaving the keyboard's clatter. "There's a call for you on line 1." I had barely breached their outer defenses and they were already onto me. Whoever the brains behind this operation were, they were good. Uncannily so. I had to move, and now. "The name's Promo Incognito, doll," I muttered. "You've got the wrong man." With that, I ducked into the shadowy labyrinth of corridors that marked BioWare's inner offices.

    Follow the adventure.

    The Art of Neverwinter Nights
    Posted Saturday, April 7, 2001 - 19:04 CET by Darien

    Daily Radar has gotten a look inside at the development of Neverwinter Nights. This column is by Marc Taro Holmes, Art Director, who talks about the process of creating the artwork of the games.

    When artists first think of doing concept art, most think about the creature designs - all the hideous monsters they get to draw. That's certainly important - what's a roleplaying game without sword fodder, after all? But in the case of an RPG, people spend a lot more time looking at themselves than they do at any other creature. The player is going to be with his/her character for a long time. A *very long time* in our games -- hundreds of hours, in fact. So player character designs are a big part of the project.

    Interview with Bioware
    Posted Saturday, April 7, 2001 - 18:49 CET by Darien

    Planet Neverwinter has posted and exclusive interview with several of the developers of Neverwinter Nights. Some players from the Bioware Dungeons and Dragons playgroup got together to discuss their own experiences playing the game. Here's a short excerpt from this entertaining interview.

    Bob McCabe (Writing and Design-Neverwinter Nights): We've certainly had quite a few humorous moments during our game. Preston has a couple of good ones he wants me to relay. The first came during one of our early battles, when we were still working out the rules. During a battle, Grin tried to fire past Richard with his light crossbow, to hit a creature. We determined that he missed, and actually struck Richard in the back, with the hit killing him; what a way to go! After a round or two of combat, while Preston researched the next character he was to play, we realized the hit was made in error, and so we reset time. Since Grin had not officially killed anyone, he therefore tried the risky shot again, this time firing from behind me. 8 points of damage to my rear-side later, we thereafter banned Grin from using his crossbow anywhere near the party.

    Black Isle Studios Forum Updates
    Posted Friday, April 6, 2001 - 21:11 CET by Darien

    Once again, the latest from the game developers at the Black Isle Studios developer boards.

    Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal

    David Gaider, Senior Designer:

    On the possibility of a new Drow NPC: I personally thought Solaufein would have been a great NPC... if a bit drow-like. But part of the reason I think everyone thinks about him in that context is because you can actually ask him in BG2 to join your party (to which he refuses).

    Good character, though. I enjoyed writing him. Had we had the option of including multiple NPC's, I would have added the following:

    Sarevok (of course)
    Saemon Havarian
    the Spectator Beholder

    And, for crissakes, it's Solaufein, not Soulafine or Sauleifin or however many other ways I've seen it spelt. Sheesh. If I knew people would have this much difficulty, I would have called him George.

    Mind you...I still see Imoen and Anomen spelt wrong half the time. Heh, oh well."

    More on options for evils: Well, I won't claim that was the best example. I can see how someone might look at that and think that the fourth option was the only 'evil' one, but that's not what I was trying to convey. I was simply trying to say that we're including as many options as possible...and that the evil paths will be as rewarding as the good ones. I know of a couple plots in particular where the player gets to do some pretty nasty stuff and not only gets away with it, but gets a reward that the good path wouldn't.

    (At least, this is the attempt... seeing as how there's always someone to pounce upon something I write and criticize it, even if it's not something from the game, I doubt we'll satisfy everyone.)

    So nyah, nyah I say. Stick that up yer pipe and smoke it.

    Heh. Ok, back to work.

    More on crowded cities: No, I'm sure that could be done.

    But what would that mean? The person on the low-end machine gets the deserted city, while the high-end machine doesn't? The person on the low-end machine gets sparse battles against armies (that are much easier) vs. the person with the high-end machine that gets the full, intended battle?

    Our goal has always been to provide the same experience regardless of the power of the computer involved. Yes, that means we have to scale down a lot of the battles involved, especially those that have a lot of animations or magic... but the only alternative would be to restrict low-end machine-users to simplistic battles, and why even include them under the min-spec at that point? (Never mind the impossibility of trying to balance combat if you have to include another variable such as processer speed... yeesh).

    I realize you're probably only talking about how crowded a city would look, but this is the sort of thing we have to decide up front when building an engine, and it was decided against.

    As the min-spec bar raises, though, the sort of thing you're talking about will definitely become more of a possibility... either that or we'll find some way around it (when the infinity engine was made, crowded cities weren't exactly on the top of the list).

    Mark Darrah, Lead Programmer:

    Equipping more than one bow: The reson you can't have more then one bow is that in the case of missile weapons its actually the ammo that is the current weapon. Due to the way that things are set up, the weapon doesn't know which launcher it is using and just uses the first one that matches. If we allowed you to equip more then one bow, it wouldn't actually matter as it would still use the fist bow that it found.

    I'm going to play a little bit of devil's advocate, here. This isn't necessarily my position, but I'd like some of you to think about it.

    In regular D&D rules, the higher level you get, the greater the XP increment between levels. Which is funner... increasing the XP rewards so that people can increase at least several levels over the course of their game or leaving the XP rewards as per the rules and the characters raise, say, 1 level throughout the game?

    Note that I didn't ask which is closer to D&D canon rules. I asked which is funner. And, yes, I realize one can go too far to the extreme... 15,000 XP for a 2-second plot is a bit extreme, sure, but would it be worse if the characters didn't advance? Or is the difference, like in PS:T (Planescape: Torment)and BG2, simply that there was more gameplay to spread out those massive XP rewards and so it was disguised better, that compacting that much XP into the smaller IWD just made it too obvious?

    Something to consider. Personally I totally understand the reasoning behind what IWD did. And crying 'that's not D&D!' is maybe missing the point at this stage when you're dealing with such high levels.

    On Boo: Boo is a hamster.

    He does not really go for the eyes, either, although I could imagine Minsc throwing the poor rodent at a foe and scared little Boo scurrying off until Minsc found him again.

    But, regardless, Boo does not have any special powers. He cannot 'call' other hamsters and while I suppose he could trip traps like the original hamsters did for that character, I'm not sure that's the fate we'd want to subject Boo to, himself.

    At best, Boo is an animal companion for a ranger. But that still makes him a normal hamster, wishful thinking aside.

    On the Elf bonus in BG2: You are correct, the Elf bonus is comming straight from the BG1 proficiencies which are much more generic then the BG2 ones.

    Mike Geist, Designer:

    On time sensitive quests: In my opinion, the response to some other games that involved Time Related quests was less than overwhelming. Given the sheer number of quests involved in BG2, it already seems overwhelming, and adding a time restraint on top of that might have been a bit much.

    Some of the quests started out with some restrictions, but when it came down to playing the game, we ended up feeling more and more 'rushed' in order to complete them if there was a time restriction involved. So we had to be careful about where we included these types of quests.

    The way I think of it, if you're in the mood to just explore, or go to a tavern, or just kick some kobald butt, it would be a bit frustrating knowing you have to kill a dragon, free some slaves and locate that hidden treasure all before dinner time.

    Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter

    Scott Everts, Designer:

    Music mp3s: Hi all, I have permission to put up 2 tracks of music from HOW. They should be up in a day or two. The first piece is the Seer music you hear in the ice caves, the other is a piece from Dragon Isle. They have the same theme, but one is a beautiful slow piece, and the other is more actiony. I think you'll enjoy them.

    Throne of Bhaal Developer Diary II
    Posted Friday, April 6, 2001 - 17:02 CET by Darien

    RPGPlanet has posted the second of their ongoing series of Throne of Bhaal Diaries. This one is from Scott Langevin is Lead QA for Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal at BioWare. Here's an excerpt.

    It's now time for the BioWare QA team to come along and try to break Throne of Bhaal. Although we've been on this project from the start, we now get the chance to run the game through its paces and see if it can handle some rough treatment. We'll be completing the final Item tests this week in which we will be making sure that everything works perfectly, looks great, and most importantly has been placed in the game itself. After that, we'll be hitting the new high level spells and special abilities with extreme prejudice. So far, QA on ToB has been relatively uneventful due to the Programmers supplying a robust engine to begin with, the Designers being very proficient with the scripting language, the Artist's getting a ton of content in early, and having QA from the start. All of these factors will contribute to a stress reduced rush down the home stretch.

    Now read the rest.

    From the Official Neverwinter Nights Boards
    Posted Friday, April 6, 2001 - 15:53 CET by Darien

    Here are some comments from the developers of Neverwinter Nights, straight from the Official Neverwinter Nights message boards.

    Rob Bartel - Co-Lead Designer:

    On scripts and scriptwars: A few of us at were actually discussing this very idea just this aternoon. It's certainly possible. If anything, the scripting language is too powerful - you'll have to lay down some rules disqualifying any scripts that 'cheat' (ie: don't play by the D&D rules).

    Also, you might want to consider a more flexible approach. Rather than a single pre-fabricated character, you could open it up to any character that meets Vault standards for a given level (including the allowable value of his items). To take the idea even further, you could start thinking in terms of parties, as well - scripting the cleric to cast Sanctuary in order to heal party members, scripting the sorcerer to use Dispel Magic on the buffed-up enemy fighter, etc.

    In short, if you get enough people interested, you could have all manner of categories and tiers to your competition, as well as in-game rewards for the competing scripters and a robust betting system to accommodate the spectators, too (maybe the scripters get the 'proceeds' from the betting). It's a great idea and I wish you all the best with it.

    On spells: Just to clarify, the Strength spell effect that you're discussing was a prototype that we created for last year's E3. On the one hand, we wanted to test the engine's mesh animation system but, at the same time, we also wanted to get some feedback from fans and press regarding the overall art approach to spells: should it be iconic (like Strength's muscleman) or abstract (like the cure spell).

    Based on some of the feedback we've received (this certainly isn't the first time this discussion has cropped up), you'll be happy to learn that our Lead Artist, Marc Holmes, has opted for a more abstract approach.

    Also, while we won't be altering spell visuals based on your Spellcraft check, we will be re-using our conjures and casts across multiple spells. As such, a successful Spellcraft check will still be the only means of knowing that a 'fireball' is on its way instead of a 'burning hands' or 'fire shield'.

    More on Spellcraft: Yes, our current plan is to automate Spellcraft checks. A successful check will not only allow you to counter the spell but it will also spit out a text string identifying the spell being cast and the person doing the casting. It will do this as soon as the other character begins the conjuring process. People who fail their Spellcraft checks or don't have the skill will see the visual effect but not the text message.

    To use some BG spells as an example, Dimension Door and Shadow Door shared the same visuals but had two very different effects. The average adventurer is going to be fooled but not someone with a high rank in Spellcraft.

    Derek French:

    On minimum requirements: As with most games that state minimum system requirements, you can play the game with less than is stated, but expect the game to perform poorer and you may run into other unknown issues.

    On 3dfx and graphical display: If by "enhanced for 3dfx" you mean use the Glide API, sorry, NWN is an OpenGL game. There will not be a Glide, nor a Direct3D version of the game. The main reason is that it needs to run across 4 platforms and only OpenGL is cross-platform.

    Cord Grimwinder-8d - Interplaygames.com Moderator:

    On text pop ups: You will be able to place text pop ups where ever you please, attached to objects or just locations. You can set these pop ups to appear in a number of ways, including but not limited to -

    - When a PC approaches a locale.
    - When the PC examines something.
    - When an action is performed.
    - When a spell is cast nearby.
    - When a keyword is spoken.

    To only appear to PCs based on any number of criteria from level to race to class to skill, and so forth on and on in near infinite combination. That means only one PC in the whole party may see the message depending on the requirements you set. In other words the use for, and placement of, text will be entirely up to the DM ;-).

    Neverwinter Nights and Throne of Bhaal Chats
    Posted Friday, April 6, 2001 - 15:23 CET by Darien

    Two chats are coming up soon with the developers at Bioware. Check these out.

    From Neverwinter Stratics:

    Neverwinter Nights House of Commons
    Wednesday, April 11th, at 8pm CST.

    Neverwinter Stratics is proud to host another Neverwinter House of Commons developer chat this Wednesday, April 11th, at 8pm CST. The conference will occur in #nwnhoc. Bioware, the developers of Neverwinter Nights, will be on hand to answer your questions about this terrific new game.

    To join the chat, connect to one of the following Stratics IRC servers, and type /join #nwnhoc. Or, use our Stratics Java IRC Client. The topic will be announced prior to the discussion.

    From RPG Vault:

    Baldur's Gate II:Throne of Bhaal
    Thursday, April 12th, at 6pm PST

    Together with Black Isle Studios and BioWare, RPG vault and the IGN Vault Network are pleased to announce a chat event next Thursday evening, when members of the Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal team will be on hand to answer questions from the series' huge fan community. Here are the details:

    WHO: You and members of the Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal team.

    WHAT: Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal IRC Chat

    WHERE: RPG Vault Chat (IRC clients connect to: host17.webmaster.com in channel #ignvault)

    WHEN: Thursday, April 12, 2001
    6:00 pm Pacific Time
    7:00 pm Mountian Time
    9:00 pm Eastern Time

    WHY: A million happy fans can't be wrong!

    Throne of Bhaal Developer Profile
    Posted Friday, April 6, 2001 - 3:46 CET by Darien

    RPGVault's latest interview is a profile of Throne of Bhaal's Assistant Producer Alan Miranda. Read what he has to say about his favorite games, his experience at Bioware, and more in this latest developer profile. Here's an introduction:

    Jonric: To get things going, please introduce yourself. What is your position title on the team, and what are your major responsibilities on Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal?

    Alan Miranda: My name is Alan Miranda and I'm the Assistant Producer on Throne of Bhaal. My duties are primarily to organize the development process and ensure that a great game is put out. The position is in effect the team lead. Getting specific, I have to be involved in all aspects of the game - design, art, programming, QA, sound - making major decisions on content, scheduling out the macro view of the development cycle, and being on the lookout for problematic issues before they become critical. I am very much the "oil for the machine" to run smoothly, but also the co-lead designer, which makes for quite a challenging and rewarding job.

    Neverwinter Nights Interview
    Posted Thursday, April 5, 2001 - 22:22 CET by Darien

    The guys at eUniverse Games recently posted an interview with Rob Bartel, Co-Lead Designer on Neverwinter Nights. Rob talks about multi-player gaming, the Neverwinter Toolset, and the 3rd Edition D&D ruleset. Here's a short excerpt:

    eUniverse: My biggest frustration with games that put multiplayer as a focus right now is the attitude of the players that seem to focus on items or finding the best class/skill combinations in the game. From full-scale massively multiplayer games to smaller scale titles like Diablo II, this attitude seems prevalent. Is Neverwinter Nights going to be any different?

    Rob Bartel: This is a good example of where the new 3rd Edition rules come into play, actually. 2nd Edition was a “min-maxer’s” paradise where every class had two or three key requisites and every other ability score (usually Charisma, Intelligence, and Wisdom)could be dropped to almost nothing. In 3rd Edition, however, it makes sense to play an intelligent fighter, a dexterous wizard, or a strong sorcerer. At the same time, there are many cases where it also makes perfectly sense to play an entirely unexceptional character, receiving neither bonuses nor penalties to your various skills and abilities.

    Check out the interview here.

    Last Week's Poll Results
    Posted Thursday, April 5, 2001 - 21:09 CET by Sorcerer

    What we asked:

    Q: How often do you visit Sorcerer's Place now that we constantly post daily news here at the front page?
    (268 votes total)

    Once a day (81) 30%
    My first time here (69) 26%
    Once every few days (58) 22%
    More than once a day (42) 16%
    Once a week (10) 4%
    Less than once a week (8) 3%

    The huge drop in votes when it comes to polls that do not directly concern any of the content here at Sorcerer's Place never ceases to amaze me. (This week's poll fares even worse.)

    But no matter, we have still managed to collect some interesting data about the visiting habits of the people who were kind enough to give their vote.

    About 30% of people visit us daily. Although this is not a bad figure (still highest in the poll), it could certainly be better. We hope to lure even more of you into checking us daily for news, so we will do our best to continue supplying news at the rate we are going now. A big Thank-you to Darien, our Daily News Editor is in order here.

    A surprisingly high amount of newcomers voted - 26% to be exact. It is good to know that so many people manage to find us in this crowded web that the Internet is. Welcome and enjoy your stay! :)

    22% of people visit us once every few days. I imagine these visitors to be the kind that don't bother to check every single newsbit that comes up, but prefer to have a wide selection of news online to only sort through what interests them. Site news are most likely included in this group.

    16% of people are our greatest fans - they visit us more than once a day. News hunters and members of our message boards and chatroom fall under this category.

    4% of people visit us only once a week. These are probably casual gamers who do not care for daily news or anything else, but simply come around every week to look if anything new was posted in the Site News.

    And finally, 3% of people visit us less than once a week. Honesty counts. ;)
    I can't imagine anyone who is seriously interested in any of the games we cover that could do with such an infrequent dosage of Sorcerer's Place, so I suppose this bunch has their own favorite hangout, which obviously is not SP. *sniff*

  • Latest Poll
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    From the Black Isle Studios Board
    Posted Thursday, April 5, 2001 - 20:22 CET by Darien

    Apparently Desslock's review has sparked a few flames. The Black Isle Studio developer boards are jumping! Read what J. E. Sawyer had to say about the review.

    Desslock's review states that we didn't have enough canonical monsters in the expansion, because we relied on "generic" monsters.

    The review at Bubble Dream states that the monsters are mostly forgettable since they're all "just basic fantasy fair".

    Christ, why did I even make burial isle? Why did Rich and I even go through the effort to expand the spells and items in the expansion?

    I've seen plenty of critcism for HoW, and I accept a lot of it as valid. Thanks for the cheerleading, but it's not necessary. There have been a *lot* of negative reviews of HoW. While most of them say the same thing, I think most of the things they criticize are quite understandable. I don't think Desslock's review was even-handed, especially in its comparisons to BG2. There are a lot of things you could compare between IWD/HoW and BG2. In many of those comparisons, you could come away justifiably saying that BG2 is a better game than IWD/HoW. However, when I see a review that slams HoW because it deviates from canon, unlike BG2, I feel kind of annoyed.

    There are a whole bunch of spells in BG2 that don't appear in anything I've ever seen. There are about four in IWD:HoW that don't appear anywhere, or are so modified that they are unrecognizable. Is that bad? No. Some of the spells and items that BioWare added to BG2 were great, and a large number of people loved them. However, a lot of those items and spells were made up. Whoop-ti-do. Almost every module I've ever seen has one or more of the following: new monsters, new spells, new items. I could rant about this for a long time (as I did in a rambling letter to Desslock), but I don't think I'd really be arguing as much as venting.

    Throne of Bhaal Interview
    Posted Thursday, April 5, 2001 - 6:04 CET by Darien

    Jonric, over at RPGVault, has written up an excellent interview with Kevin Martens, Lead Designer on BGII: Throne of Bhaal. They talked about several different aspects of the game covering topics such as storyline, the implementation of 3rd edition rules, and new items and spells.

    Jonric: How does Throne of Bhaal mesh with Shadows of Amn? Is it an extension of the original story, a series of side quests or a mix of both?

    Kevin Martens: As far as playing the Add-On Section goes, we have several options:
    1) You can import from your final save in Shadows of Amn. Like BG1, this is just before the end encounter. All of the equipment that you've loaded yourself out with for the final battle will be imported over into Throne of Bhaal. Alternately, you can do the final battle and the game will flow directly in Throne of Bhaal from the end movie of Shadows of Amn.

    2) We have tons of importation options. You can import from any other Shadows of Amn save games. If you left something behind or have not yet finished Shadows of Amn, you can still import into Throne of Bhaal. You can also import any of your created characters into the game. Any characters that are below two million XP will be bumped up and be given a bag of holding full of appropriately powerful goodies. We insure that you will be at an appropriate level to be able to face the new challenges in the Add-On section regardless of where you've imported from.

    3) You can start a new game in Throne of Bhaal - you can go through the character creation just like in Shadows of Amn, including new options like the Wild Mage, which is also available from the start of Shadows of Amn. You will build a two million XP character who will also be given tons of spells and items appropriate to his or her class and/or level.

    4) All of these import or new game options give you access, in your new stronghold, to all of the Shadows of Amn characters who are not dead. There is also a new joinable-NPC who you meet in your new stronghold.

    In short, you have options. Approximately half of the expansion takes place in Shadows of Amn, although it is also accessible in Throne of Bhaal. So, anyone who's worried about items or tying up loose ends should take some time there and gather up everything you want to take with you before moving on. If you're not interested in this, we always make sure that you have enough good loot to make it through the game, regardless of what you have when you start the Add-On section.

    Read the rest of the interview here.

    Black Isle Studios Board Update
    Posted Thursday, April 5, 2001 - 3:05 CET by Darien

    Well the boards have been busy, so there's a lot here. Here's the latest update from the Black Isle Studios message boards.

    Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal

    Dave Gaider, Senior Designer:

    About revealing too much about Throne of Bhaal: We'd post more responses, but most of the posts are speculation. And speculation is funner to watch then address...not that addressing would help, much.

    There's only so much we're willing to tell, after all. Much of the things you've heard about will make much more sense when you actually play...and the only way to address them before-hand is to explain the whole story. Which we will not do.

    Ending the rampant speculation:

    Sarevok IS the new joinable NPC. Period.

    The only one. Period.

    For lots of reasons that will make sense once you play and will not be revealed before-hand. Like any other NPC, you will not be forced to take him in your party. It's up to you how you react to him.

    On Jaheira's age: She's only supposed to be 23? Well, that's according to her bio, I suppose. I've always thought of her being in her early 30's.

    But, then, I think of her as acting like she's in her early 30's. I've known people in their 20's who were very mature for their age...and from Jaheira's background, you can probably tell she's packed quite a bit of living into a short amount of time.

    I wouldn't consider her Harper background to be all that extensive. She was still an agent when you met her, after all, and not a full Harper (she hadn't earned her pin, yet).

    But, then, she did speak of Gorion like he was an old friend, so that always made me think of her as a bit older.

    But there you go.

    On Viekang and Wild Mages: Did we not say that the whole Viekang thing would be solved in ToB? Those of you who were confused by his sudden disappearance in Trademeet will finally understand what that was all about.

    And, no, he isn't a wild mage, either.

    Good lord, man, pull yourself together! The Wild Mage was a kit we almost had in BG2 and have polished up to include in the expansion for those people who enjoy that sort of thing. It's not the focus of the expansion, nor did we ever even hint that the NPC had anything to do with the kit.

    I guess this means you'll have to replay the game more than once. Perish the thought, eh?

    Including more evil playable options: Right now, we're trying to include as many real evil options as we can. I know personally I've been adding more 'evil' replies into dialogue...sometimes just for effect, sometimes a path of its own.

    Some guy: "Excuse me, sir... I would not disturb you, I know how powerful you are and I... I would not think of, uhhh... but I need your help! I beg you!

    1) "Certainly, what is the problem?"
    2) "Is there a reward involved?"
    3) "Yeah, well, things are tough all over. Take a hike."
    4) "Let me put you out of your misery, then, fool." (Attack)

    Stuff like that. As far as the game overall goes (including the ultimate ending), let me just say is that we're keeping all options (including evil ones) open."

    The Amulet of Power class restrictions: If it's in the description, then yes...paladins and rangers are supposed to be restricted. I don't know what the original concept for the item was supposed to be, but the general tendency for us is to stick with the description as written rather than change the description itself (if possible).

    Attacks by Familiars: That rabbit is just wack. When I was going through the familiars for their upgrade, the rabbit had all sorts of strange stuff I don't remember it having last time I looked. Fire damage? Yeesh. Code creep, I guess. As far as the individual attacks go, no...they were never set out to do 1d6 damage each. It depended on the creature type. The cat should have an attack though.

    Well, I won't go into the gross details of what's being done with the familiars, but they are being powered-up a little overall. Keep in mind that's it's still a small extra and a 1st-level spell...we're not looking to make them into monsters, here.

    HP's are being increased, resistances that they had are increased, plus they get either a new spell-like ability (or two), better attacks or better skills (each of the neutral animals now has one thief skill that they are a master in).

    But for details on exactly what's what, you'll have to see in the game itself."

    Regarding crowded cities: Actually, we've found an OK way of doing it, recently. We have the ability to keep a certain number of sprites 'on-screen' at any one time. As soon as they go off-screen, they DestroySelf. So it's a constant re-spawning process. On a decent-level processor, you can get quite a crowd without too much speed-loss.

    Thing is, we have to keep min-spec machines in mind, as well, so we're always going to have a limitation on the number of animations that can be processed by the computer at any one time. If you have a big area loaded in (like, say, Waukeen's Promenade) you have to account for all the 'placed' characters that aren't just random crowd members, as well...and that takes up a lot of processing power, as well.

    That said, we've got some spectacular mass-combat situations in store for you guys. Imagine being able to keep 20 opponents on-screen constantly. Blow away 5 soldiers, here come another 5 charging in from off-screen...it's pretty intense.

    But you'll have to see it for yourself, I'm sure.

    Mark Darrah, Lead Programmer:

    On Wild Surges: Wild surges: The level modification is in. The code is pretty close to the Tome of Magic. The surge chart is slightly different and the item control does not happen.

    And Wild Magic: Except for some specific in game exceptions, single classes Wild Mages are the only ones affected by Wild Magic. They are certainly the only ones who have access to the Wild Magic spells.

    On Deleting spells from spell book: In TOB you will be able to erase spells from your spell book.

    On multiclassed characters: Multiclassed characters get a mixture of abilities from the 2 classes. As to being underpowered. At 4000000XP (half of 8 million) you will be able to cast 9th level spells. Now triple classed characters on the other hand... Then again the wide selection of abilities does go some way to balancing this.

    Charles Deenen, Director of Audio:

    Regarding music in Throne of Bhaal: TOB will have additional new music, about 20-25 minutes of stuff. The music is made to fit with the area and story of BG2-TOB.

    Currently, Mr. Hoenig's involvement will be fairly limited, since he's working on 2 new TV shows. However, the music will be following his style and themes. If you liked the music in the opening and ending movies of BG2, you'll like the new stuff as well. From what I've heard so far, it'll be very fitting and think you'll be pleased.

    Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter:

    Kevin Osburn, Line Producer:

    On the status of the game patch: The Heart of Winter patch should hopefully be ready this week. QA is testing it right now, and we are very close to finishing it.

    As soon as it is ready we will let you know.

    J. E. Sawyer, Designer:

    On Improved pathfinding: Danien Chee actually spent a long time trying to improve the pathfinding for HoW. When I played through the game, it seemed pretty good. However, I usually play parties of four characters.

    Steve Bokkes, Designer:

    On item suggestions and new monsters: Hello all. It's nice to see that you've all been busy little beavers this weekend. I just finished reading through all the new posts, and I must say that I'm impressed. I've got enough item suggestions to do an entire sequel (hmmm....). Seriously though, I do appreciate the input. Now it's time to get to work on getting it into the game. Thanks again to everyone who took the time to participate in the polls.

    BTW: I just got the final word on our new monster for the Dungeon Pack. The latest addition to the Icewind Dale bestiary will be the _ _ _ _ _ . (you didn't really think I'd just give it away, did you?)

    Pool of Radiance Screenshots
    Posted Wednesday, April 4, 2001 - 19:34 CET by Darien

    You want screenshots? Well here you go! 4Players has a huge gallery of Pool of Radiance screenshots for your viewing pleasure.

    Neverwinter Nights Screenshots
    Posted Wednesday, April 4, 2001 - 19:27 CET by Darien

    Online Game Review has a few more screenshots from Neverwinter Nights. What else can I say? Just go look! ;)

    Desslock Reviews Heart of Winter
    Posted Wednesday, April 4, 2001 - 19:14 CET by Darien

    Desslock's RPG News has reviewed the expansion this time, with one of the lowest scores I've seen yet. Most harshly criticized are the value (of course) and the gameplay. Here's one reason why:

    But Heart of Winter takes Icewind Dale's few flaws and emphasizes them. Not only are there numerous, generic monsters, Black Isle has distorted the entire D&D combat system in its design. D&D combat has always been open-ended - use missile weapons, close combat weapons, offensive/defensive spells, at your discretion. A few very powerful creatures have magical resistances (in addition to creatures that, by their nature, are immune to certain attacks, such as fire elementals being immune to fire), but generally the D&D system allows you to succeed using a variety of tactics. Not so in Heart of Winter, which has abandoned D&D's traditional system in favour of an unintuitive "rock/paper/scissors" system, where almost every creature is virtually immune to all but one class of weapons. Even the included D&D monsters, such as the impressive Rhemoraz worms, are given a bunch of new immunities, solely to make the game "harder".

    Read the rest of Desslock's review here.

    Throne of Bhaal Developer Diary
    Posted Wednesday, April 4, 2001 - 19:05 CET by Darien

    Volume 1 of the Baldur's Gate II:Throne of Bhaal Diary has been posted by GameSpy. ToB Producer, Alan Miranda, talks about the expansion pack. Here's an excerpt about the name "Throne of Bhaal":

    The epic saga of the Baldur's Gate series has focused on the player's dark heritage in relation to the dead god of Bhaal, Lord of Murder. In the upcoming game we'll be bringing the story to its dramatic conclusion.

    The title of the expansion originates partially from the name "Throne of Blood." In actuality, this term doesn't refer to some massive, gilded throne inset with skulls (however impressive it might sound), but to Bhaal's own realm (quite a horrific place). In order to impart finality to the title, we related it more directly to the story's greater antagonist, the Lord of Murder himself, and came up with "Throne of Bhaal."

    Interview with Bioware's CEO
    Posted Wednesday, April 4, 2001 - 18:51 CET by Darien

    PCGameplay has posted a short interview with Ray Muzyka, BioWare's CEO. Scroll down the page and you won't miss it. These are some of the new gameplay features he mentioned:

    Machine of Lum the Mad: A bizarre machine that lets you create random events by pressing switches and pulling levers.

    Whirlwhind Attack: A powerful attack that lets characters finish off first level creatures very quickly.

    Dragon's Breath: A high-level mage ability that causes ancient red dragon to come out of the ground.

    Globe of Blades: A high-level cleric spell that turns the caster into a walking Moulinex and damages anyone that comes close.

    Storm of Vengeance: Another high-level cleric spell that produces a tempest of biblical proportions which comes together with storm clouds. Fire and acid rain down and lightning strikes. Low-level characters get slain right away and any that remain get poisoned.

    Heart of Winter Reviews
    Posted Tuesday, April 3, 2001 - 6:13 CET by Darien

    Does anyone want another IWD: Heart of Winter review? Great, because I've got two more for you!

    New Zealand Infotech gives HoW a good review, obviously impressed with the expansion.

    The review at BubbleDream scores it only a 6/10, and breaks the game down to its pros and cons:

    (1) All the interface and gameplay improvements from Baldur's Gate II are here
    (2) More spells and weapons and a higher experience cap
    (3) Excellent music and voice acting
    (4) Heart of Fury mode gives a real challenge for the high-levelled party

    (1) Doesn't add much gaming hours to the original Icewind Dale
    (2) Dreary and uninteresting in-game locales
    (3) Forgettable and boring monsters

    New Neverwinter Nights Screenshot
    Posted Tuesday, April 3, 2001 - 5:43 CET by Darien

    Well, it's not much, but it is new. GamespyDaily has posted a new screenshot from Neverwinter Nights, showing a spell casting effect in action.

    ALFA Player Applications Online
    Posted Tuesday, April 3, 2001 - 0:57 CET by Erran

    Just in case anyone missed it, the ALFA Player Applications for NWN are now online and open for business. Our next generation of members are being accepted even as I type!