Never Winter Nights
Another group is working on a modification of Never Winter Nights using a scenario editor. The group, lead by instructor Michael Eilers, is almost ready to start testing. After that phase is completed, they plan to make the Scales of Decision game available for free downloads. Eilers talks about how the project has gone so far:
What have the students learned the most about game development with this project?
The class was originally designed as a portfolio class for graduating Multimedia candidates, but due to low attendance we shifted the priorities and included anyone interested in the Gaming track at UAT. The purpose of the class was to allow them to apply in a hands-on way the techniques and theory they have learned, as well as the ability to work as a team -- a critical game design skill.
What were the unique challenges to your MOD? How did you overcome them?
In all honesty, one of the biggest challenges was simply getting the game and toolset to run on the UAT lab systems! While they are quite capable PCs, the video cards (ATI FireGL) are not designed to run a realtime 3D game, and single-digit frame rates and crashes were quite common. Due to this situation I would estimate 90% of the work on the MOD (with the exception of the custom 3D models) was done outside the school. Another challenge we faced was the fluid nature of NWN itself -- in our time working on the mod, the game and its toolset went from version 1.1 to 1.27, making changes all through the game and toolset; a lot of things we tried early on "died" with these updates and had to be re-done.
What were your groupís goals for the semester? Have you reached them?
Our goal was to create a polished, complete and innovative product. We're still in Beta testing now, so it is a little early to declare victory, but overall I'm happy with what I see. Many of the NWN modules posted online tend to focus on one aspect of design. For example, a mod may function as a cool collection of scripting tricks, but have no battles or storyline, or a mod may be an extremely difficult "dungeon crawl" but not innovate in other areas. We wanted to make a "balanced" mod that has a little of everything, with no one element of the design crowding the others out.
Why did you pick Never Winter Nights?
Clint [Clint Allen, a game instructor] and I as well as Dave [Dave Bolman, Dean of Academic Affairs] decided upon this game because of the extreme ease-of-use of the toolset and the flexibility of the pseudo-C scripting language. While there are many, many limitations on what you can do with the tools (not to mention that you are limited to creating within one narrow genre of game, RPG) we decided it was more important to have students be able to start producing content on Week 2 of the course, rather than spend the first 6-8 weeks just getting "up to speed."
What kind of editing/software tools did your team use?
We used the Auroroa toolset (of course); the Web site was created with DreamWeaver, and our 3D modeler/art genius Joshua Guarno used 3D Studio Max and PhotoShop for his work.
How much did your team modify in terms of character and story line?
All of our characters in the game are 100% unique, as is the storyline we chose. While NWN is an excellent CRPG [character or computer role playing game], it is also a complex and powerful device for nonlinear storytelling and interactive experiences -- areas of game design that are now only beginning to be explored. From the outset we wanted to emphasize the "role-playing" aspect of RPGs, and we wanted to create a story that involved moral choices and the consequences for those choices. The lack of true emotional involvement, in my opinion, is what excludes large segments of the potential consumer audience for video games. If UAT can graduate students that grasp both the storytelling/artistic and the technical aspects of game design, they will be much stronger candidates for taking part in the future of electronic gaming.