Saturday, January 7, 2012

The state of my (our?) NWN2 depression

Time for another rant. As you can see from my last posts, this blog has more and more drifted away from it's original purpose - being a diary of my building efforts in Neverwinter Nights 2. By now, most of the posts are probably reviews of and rants about other games. So have I completely lost the connection to NWN2? No... I wouldn't say so. I actually think about building every day, and all the games I play on the side are a great source for inspiration. But taking this inspiration and making something out of it, that's the main problem.
I said it before and it still hasn't changed - it's become too much and I have so many ideas I just can't make real use of because I wouldn't know where to start - and the technical hurdles are often too frustrating and making me drop the whole thing before I even really started.

Another thing though that frustrates me is the state of NWN2 and it's community. I often get the impression it's not only me who's depressed and frustrated, it's the community and the game itself. NWN2 has been in a constant state of being half dead, comatose maybe, for the last two years or so. When I look at the multiplayer tabs in Gamespy, there are maybe 5 worlds that share all the remaining player population, and a lot of very promising PWs (often of much better quality) hang there with zero players, maybe 4 on a lucky weekend. Do I really want to add another one to those?

Then there's the custom content scene. The good old NWN Vault is dying slowly too, hardly anything new and exiting anymore, instead it's overrun by Spambots and only sours my mood everytime I browse for something. I often thought the Vault might need a relaunch like the TES/Fallout/DA Nexus sites, they really show how to keep these games alive and interesting. Not to mention the ease of use with their download manager. And I think it's fantastic what modders do with the games, I mean, Skyrim hasn't even it's Creation Kit yet and still you can already turn the game completely upside down.

So, why don't I just follow the crowd and hop over to the TES/Fallout modding crowd? Because yeah... Multiplayer for one. And second, I never saw much on the story side from any Beth games and their modding scene. A lot of eye candy, lots of weapons, locations, etc. etc. But I believe the real storytellers can't be found over there, they stick to games like NWN.
Also, the Beth games never allowed you to make real standalone modules, another thing I would sorely miss. As nice as it is to discover new, community-made locations in Skyrim or New Vegas, I prefer making my own world. Still, I think the most immersive roleplay you can have in a game is not with an AI, but with a real person who enjoys roleplay as much as I do. That's why I believe in multiplayer.

Now for those who never play Neverwinter Nights 2 in multiplayer mode - you might say "join a MMO and be happy", and I'd have to yet again explain why NWN2's multiplayer is so unique. I spare you, the few people who read this are aware of that anyway. But this winter I tried out pretty much every free or free to try MMO I could get my hands on. Lineage 2, Age of Conan, Rift, DDO, you name it. The only effect it has on me is that I appreciate NWN2's unique multiplayer more than ever, and it will probably be the last of this kind. It is, for me, the lone king of multiplayer games.

So, back to NWN2 and it's custom content. As I said above, it saddens me to see NWN2 in this state, because I still think it is a diamond in the rough and has extreme potential, even these days. Everyone goes on and on about how moddable Bethesda games are, and yet NWN2 is even more moddable than any Bethesda game. Where are the multiplayer capabilities of Beth games, where can you make your own PWs, where can you DM a campaign or make the whole world like you want? And all the rest, all the custom content you see popping up for Fallout, Skyrim etc: It just needs someone to do it, NWN2 can do.

Now comes my bitter view back to some really innovative things the community started for NWN2, which showed how capable this game is. If we starts with models and custom content, NWN2 saw great things and I wish people wouldn't have stopped making more of it so early.
Some of the greatest things that never really got used came quite early by the way. YATT is an example. Creating maps with it IS geekish, I admit, but if someone knows how to use it the results are amazing. With terran like that, NWN2 doesn't have to hide behind Oblivion. I don't know of any PW that uses YATT but one that is still in the making (good luck, Cipher!), but I recently decided that if I give Middleforest another chance, I must make more use of it.

RWS is probably the most shining example of making great community content, but yet Hellfire dropped the ball just when things got really exiting. The swimming hak was a masterpiece that's at least useable:

... but the horse riding, although looking as good as done, will remain unseen as it seems.

Or what the hell happened to Qk's Custom animations? He had so much in the pipeline...

I'm still having wet dreams of those commando crawl animations I added to the wishlist.
Animations have always been a huge point for me in NWN2, and when people actually started making new ones I got very excited because I was hoping for a similar thing like in NWN1 (combat animations, romantic suite etc.). Sadly, nothing came out of it. 

These are some of the most exciting projects, but there have been so much more. There are smaller things like... my small requests (coughs). Or outfits, hell, I'm such a junkie for nice armors! If I had any idea HOW, I'd start right away with wonderful community-made things like this or this. I know it's possible, I know people who know how to use Blender or 3DSMax would convert them within an hour. I tried to use Blender, I know I can import a .nif file from Bethesda and export a .mdb file for NWN2. The steps in between, i.e. translating the outfit to the NWN2 skeleton and making a lower resolution version, are totally beyond me. No biggie for someone who knows what he does, but nope, I'm clueless. And then we have some who do what I'm trying so hard, but have a problem with the community, which saddens me even more. If someone could at least provide a step-by-step... these are some things the Bethesda community did much, much better, I'm afraid.
To sum up, during the past two years NWN2 was a constant rollercoaster between high enthusiasm and, well, huge disappointments. A lot of great stuff never got release, some high hopes were shattered, and the community died out slowly.

At this point I think we have a catch 22 - the modders slowly give up because they think nobody's interested anymore, and the players/users of mods give up because they think the CC Creators have left the field.
If anyone's interested in hearing it, I could make a very long list of very specific requests - from changing the clouds over some models to armors. But I guess I'd have to switch to Skyrim for that. :)

Anyway, at this point I have no idea how the dying community could be revived again, but I wish it would happen because I still see no alternative to NWN2 on the horizon. If some skilled people would give it another whirl, I'm sure NWN2 could be modded upside down just like all the Beth games. I mean, there's no technical reason why the ENBSeries that are so overhyped in Skyrim and other games shouldn't work with NWN2 too, is there? Just needs somebody who knows that stuff to make the adjustments and we'd have an almost new game.
Ack, if I just had the skillz...

Rant over.


Anonymous said...

NWN was a blast. Try Unity or CryEngine though.

Kamal said...

I've personally been waiting for Middleforest. The screenshots I've seen look great.

Eguintir Eligard said...

Well I am not sure if I have seen this blobg before but hello. Your impressions echo what I've been thinking, and posted in my blog about not long ago.

I guess it's just something that's hard to real in. The community like you said, has been half-dead/comatose for about 2 years, but the lack of an alternative doesn't seem to bring people back once they leave. This the ultimate frustration as custom content ability seems to be at peak, but the audience has left the theater. There are a few modders who have also left due to the lack of audience (see Elysius' most recent post) who were huge contributors at the higher skilled level of things, 3d moddelling and so on.

Personally I am in a limbo myself, and really hoping something new comes out in the coming years.

I am not sure what middleforest is, it sounds like a PW from your post, but if it's a module that would be great news.

Casa said...


Thanks for the comment. The main problem for me is that I'm still only a player who just wants to build the world I want to play in. That is NWN2 with it's unique multiplayer. Of course there are much better engines with many more possibilities out there, but NWN2 is the game I enjoy playing in multiplayer mode, it's what my friends play and what I really want to use to build my world in. Last but not least, it's one of the few toolsets I understand. I'm not much of a modder really, but with my limited abilities I try to make the best out of what we have.
That said, could you make your Watervilla into a NWN2 hak please? ;)

Kamal: Yes, I've been waiting too. :(

Eguintir: Middleforest has always been a PW project, it's the multiplayer that made me stick to NWN1 and NWN2 such a long time - because there is no alternative. I don't care much about D&D, actually it's quite nerdy and I'd happily build with Fallout's S.P.E.C.I.A.L or whatever as long as the game allows me to build a nice world I can enjoy with fellow roleplayers. But there is no alternative.
A few times I considered scratching the whole thing and try my hands on a Singleplayer module, even just a NWN2 conversion of A Dance with Rogues came to my mind because I honestly believe I could capture the atmosphere and make it stand out - visually. I even started with the first area, but after a short while the mod totally bugged out and corrupted itself, and back I went into familiar Middleforest territory.
I adore the patience and skill of some singleplayer module makers, the person above you being one of them, but since my personal enjoyment in NWN2 was always based on multiplayer and I have enough other singleplayer stuff to play on the side, I decided to stick to that. However, my original plan was to include much more singleplayer stuff than most other PWs, think maybe of SWTOR. But that's sooo far away by now, I'd be glad if I could even get the basics done.