Sunday, July 26, 2009

So what's the point?

First, thank you all for your last comments, they boosted my morale a little bit again. Guess what, I already sat down and rebuild the whole thing. Well, I'm in the process, I have the same old walkmesh troubles again I had every time when I worked on the docks, and the terrain looks still very plain and simple. But I'm on it. And I've had a little success, I was able to configure the autodownloader and from now on could theoretically host the mod whenever I want, the multiplayer side is done. Not that there's anything in there to see yet, but so what, one thing less on the list.
But after all those troubles, I guess the question why I'm still doing this is more than justified. I'm not really sure where to start, there's a lot of reasons, and also a lot of reasons why I don't want to go back to NWN1, which has a stable, easy to use toolset and a lot of very polished community content. And last but not least, I'm envious of what Squatting Monk was able to set up, especially in regard of staff and helpers. NWN1 has a great community, and if I had sticked to it, Middleforest would probably be almost finished at this point. The decision to switch over meant being on my own on most parts. So what's so great about NWN2 then?
At first sight, nothing. When I started playing NWN2 I hated it in almost every aspect. The areas in the official campains looked worse than most NWN1 areas. More polygons, great. Terrain editor, wonderful. But what a bad artwork, so easily outshone by The Witcher for example, which was even built with NWN1's engine that was oh so old and oh so outdated and limited according to NWN2 forum posts. And, NWN2's performance was ridiculous. Such shitty artwork, zero eyecandy but crawling at 10 FPS? No thanks, we wait for Dragon Age.
Now, I think most credit for changing my mind goes to two persons. The first being lowfatpretzels, who I played a lot with in NWN1 and who insisted I should try some NWN2 PWs. The first of them was Abyssya, and my first steps in this world were exactly the same I later saw Michael do: A torrent of hatred against everything NWN2. "Why is the camera doing this, why can't I do this, why is my view blocked, why does my toon do that, why are my FPS so low when nothing here looks good... hell, I crashed" etc. etc. It wasn't really Abyssya's fault, I think that was a well made world, but I just wasn't ready. Neither was NWN2. I saw absolutely no reason to continue playing, went back to NWN1 and done.
A few months later Pretz tried again, and this time it was Dammendrech, the world he co-founded. I was a little frustrated with NWN1 back then, my old server Nexus was growing too old, nothing happened anymore and the few players who were left all fought each other. I was still absolutely sure I wanted to stick with NWN1, but I had no server to play on at that moment, so I gave Dammen a shot. Now, two things need to be mentioned here that are really important: 1. NWN2 had seen a few patches in between, 2. I had a better graphics card.
Yes, NWN2 is very demanding, but nowadays all midrange graphics cards should do the job fine, and boy, NWN2 can look so much better when you can actually enable a few more options and, this was the case in Dammendrech, someone actually knows how to make nice areas. Vulpina is a really good builder, and Pretz knows how to handle area lighting and all that eyecandy stuff, and both together are a very different experience than the areas Obsidian did.
Furthermore, customization. NWN2 has actually a very high level of customization, even though as a player you might only see that you can't change your armor as nicely as in NWN1. Still, it gave me some ideas of what is possible. There's a lot of potential in this game, you just have to dig a little. But there's also one more point, and that was simply Roleplay. After a while Dammendrech was just great to play on, I had wonderful Roleplay there, which hooked me up and made it more and more difficult to go back to NWN1 again where I actually had no idea where to play anymore.
So, three points:
  • Gaming hardware: NWN2 is a different experience when you can actually make it run smoothly (nowadays this is a cheap thrill, in 2006 it was expensive)
  • Players: If you enjoy playing with community one, why building for community two?
  • Customization: NWN2 offers more of it, especially in area design. I just love eye candy.
Now I mentioned two persons, and now we're at Mask's comment about Monty Python's Black Knight. That one has a name, and that's Rob McGinnis, Obsidian's former assistant producer and Community manager(?). I think nobody in NWN2's community was closer to that wonderful example than him. Whatever was wrong in NWN2, if a patch broke the whole game, if your computer exploded after entering Act 2 - Rob McGinnis fought for this game like a cat in the corner and was a good example for what I think was Obsidian's role in this story: They knew they f...ed up at the beginning, everyone knows Atari cracked the whip behind them and made them throw out a half-finished game. Obsidian/Obtusian/Osidiots did wrong whatever could be done wrong when it comes to game development, but hell they had dedication, and first and foremost Rob McGinnis who held the whole NWN2 community together all the time with his countless Developer posts. All that gave me the impression that there is indeed a community for NWN2, and even a likeable one. Hands down, NWN1 has a great community, but there was a lot of elitism there too, and often PW projects only seemed to exists as a show-off of what is all possible and who makes the greatest systems and whatnot - NWN1 just worked. NWN2's community was more like "Hell, this is crap, but somehow I like it, let's try to fix this up as good as we can and make the best out of it". And I think for he most part it succeeded, at this point NWN2 is very enjoyable, even with it's 1000s of bugs I can see it catch up with NWN1 and even taking over. It's like making a sculpture out of garbage.

Now, there's one more point, and I think this is a relict from NWN1 times. Competition. I admit, even with my limited skills I sometimes think I just want to do it better. I've played on some great servers, but I always see room for improvements, things I absolutely not like or that I just would approach differently. Especially in NWN2. I've seen a lot of good area design, but much more really bad area design. Just take all the official campaigns for NWN2: The artwork is just not what I would sell to anyone, I think I can do it better. Yes, it's an immense amount of work, but I want to show that more is possible with NWN2, there's so much potential.
Then of course there's the setting. I want to make a different approach than the others, not quite as different than Michael or Ben, but in details. I want to make the world I want to play in. And of course there's Michaels great S&S core system. Even in NWN1 it will outshine most others, and I'm a huge fan of it, even though in the beginning I just wanted a 1 to 1 copy of the Vives xp system. But in NWN2 I haven't seen anything like this yet, and I think making it work in a PW will immediately set the world apart from any others out there, as long as the quality of the building can live up to it. I like playing NWN2, and there's a system that makes playing a lot more enjoyable, but there won't be a NWN2 world ever using it if I don't. Someone's got to be the first, no?
Anyway, that's why I go back to the toolset now.

1 comment:

Michael A. Sinclair said...


Wow, that was the most inspiring thing I've ever heard anyone say about NWN2. I see how you find the strength to keep going, even in the face of all the bugs. Keep up your faith; I'm sure the end result will be astounding.

Re: Elitism in NWN
Heh, I'd gone back and forth on this back in the day. It seemed every server was staring down its nose at all the others and poo-poo-ing their pitiful attempts at role-play. Lots of infighting. Maybe it's that my perspective has changed from that of a player to that of a builder, but I don't see it as much now as I used to.

Of course, there's still the whole thing of "NWN1 s good enough for me. As far as I'm concerned, that crappy 'sequel' was never made!" I admit I'm guilty of that. In light of your post, though, I know I'm wrong. Sure, the technical problems of a game can weigh it down. However, as we've seen with NWN1, what makes a game is community. If the NWN2 community sticks to it, it's because there's potential that can be unlocked, a diamond in the rough.

Hope to see the diamond you've found before too long. :)