Friday, May 24, 2013

The big Casa interview: Missing the role-play fix and other brainfarts

Oh, hello there...  how did you find me in this quiet dark corner? Let me just dust off that chair... oh no, not a cold, just not used to talking much anymore... ... 

So how's your roleplay been lately? Oh? Well, mine... pretty much nonexistant really... your NWN project? Good? Mine... oh... um... chest over there, last drawer... oh yeah, that's dirty sheets and pistachio shells, look on the left... yeah, looks a bit roughed up, doesn't it? Oh! Don't toss that away, it's not a rug but my 3D pro... oh, whatever, just put it in the ashtray there. What I'm up to? huh... let me just get a smoke and refill my glass...


So, Casa is sad because there's no roleplay fix to find anymore anywhere and the faith in NWN has apparently left finally. "But why is that?" you ask? Hmm, where do I start... Why not start with an interview by my cat? He's watching me all day, maybe he asks the right questions.


Interview: Dalaigh the Casa-cat
Dalaigh: Welcome tin-opener, glad you found the time to make it from your desk to our couch. First of, let me ask you a basic question: Why did you start creating a Neverwinter Nights Persistent World in the first place (instead of cuddling me)?

Casa.: Thanks for having me on my couch, cat. Well, I started as a player on Persistent Worlds back in NWN1 times and enjoyed the roleplay very very much, however I always thought something could be done about the environments we played in, making them more immersive and role-play-friendly. So as soon as I could finally get a Windows PC (I started playing the Mac version without a toolset and for a long time could only complain about other people's areas) I learned the basics of the toolset and offered help to the people who hosted the PW I played on... 

D.: Make it short, I'm getting bored 

C.: Okay, so I made some area designs, but was constantly unhappy about the limits set by the PW (rules, hak sets etc.), and since not all my ideas were met with applause and praise, I thought I'd make something where only my own rules apply and I'd not have to fight for it.

D.: I see you can't wait to give us more insights on why you just can't play by the rules of others and had to do your own genius thing. Let's start with area design, I know you want me to ask about that and rules seperately because I'm your cat. So, area design... have you always been so picky about that?

C.: To tell the truth, yes. My main concern has always been immersion and truly immersive gameplay, whereas many other builder's and player's concern has been gameplay only and going along the building "rules" for optimal performance. There are some building "rules" for PWs out there most people applied to, while I never liked them and went by the rule "everything's possible as long as it doesn't seriously breaks things", where "serious" of course is always in the eye of the beholder. One example would be the so-and-so many placeables per tile rule of thumbs, or where on the grid to place them... or, so and so many heartbeat scripts or... many of those rules led to boring area design, while I threw together stuff for the looks and only changed it when it broke stuff. Anyway, yeah, I wanted the game to look as good as possible, and as immersive as possible. And strangely all the stuff I build was perfectly playable in multiplayer. Just like very large areas are perfectly playable, depending how you build them... most rules of thumb are outdated or only apply to servers that are almost as crowded as a MMO, which never happens in the roleplay niche. On a huge action PW totally different things matter than on a small roleplay PW, a roleplay world can get away with some pathfinding bugs.

D.: But you never finished your NWN project anyway, so no proof for that. Let's go over to gameplay then, I'm sure you nitpicked a lot about that too and claimed you can do better. 

C.: Yes, definitely. I always wanted to get away from the "I need to kill lots of stuffs to proceed", also rewarding teamplay instead of punishing for it was a big deal - how often I heard "I'm better off fighting alone" or "you're ruining our xp"... bah! The base xp system of NWN is rewarding solo play, so a different form of xp distribution is preferred, and also rewarding non-combat activities and roleplay. I learned very early on that this is possible, witnessed a very good attempt on Vives and totally wanted something like that.

D.: There are other systems for hardcore roleplayers too, like HCR (eat and drink, sleep, fatigue, resting limitations etc.), have you considered those?

C.: I'm impressed how well informed you are about these things, my cat. Considered yes, but not seriously. I like realism, but hate if it's packed into too many limiting rules. Eating, sleeping, all that should be a matter of roleplay only, once role-play is forced by game mechanics it becomes a burden, and playing should be fun. No, I'm not a fan of those hardcore systems, I like having fun and now and then ignore the rules too. 

D.: I did my research. 
The interviewer researching

D.: So let me get this straight, you want roleplay and immersion, but without enforcing it by game mechanics? Do you think you can get away with that? How do you think you can keep people away from simply hacking and slashing away in your world?

C.: By area design and general atmosphere. You have no idea how much an immersive world can actually "make" people want to roleplay, simply because everything else would be unfitting. That said, I don't want to keep people from having some fun now and then, everyone needs to let some steam off or enjoys a dungeon crawl from time to time. Roleplay nazis are no fun. A too strict ruleset is no fun either. I'm all for freedom, as long as it doesn't ruin the experience for others. 

D.: What about the setting, doesn't that define the rules and roleplay too? What about classes, are there roleplaying rules for those?

C.: Setting, yes... of course the roleplay should fit into the setting. As for classes, here we are at the main problem I always had with D&D, I don't believe classes shouldn't be taken too seriously and enforce a certain kind of roleplay that is defined by standard rulesets. Nothing is more boring than yet another stereotype, I hate stereotypes. 

D.: Can you elaborate on that? I know you want to. So you're basically okay with building any kind of character and not roleplaying the build at all? Intelligence 8 and a smartass because stats don't matter? Hardly a roleplayer's approach. 

C.: No no, don't get me wrong, I'm all for playing out your build and stats, but not in a narrow ruleset or stereotypic way. I don't think the classes should matter much, more it's abilities. I like class-less systems, but D&D is not one of those, and actually I also like a certain kind of build "guidance" they provide, however I'm very much for giving people as much freedom as possible as to how to play them out. Some people don't think in class categories, but have a certain idea of a character in mind that has this and that ability to spice them up and make them interesting. All that with roleplay in mind - I'm not talking about cherrypicking for a power build, more like... well, maybe a roleplaying power build. "My character is a badass soldier, but he has a soft heart, so he needs a rabbit in his backpack to cuddle". Take a wizard level for the rabbit, no problem... or, I want to make a charming hippie elf. She's singing and dancing all day and loves nature and has a thing for exotic spices... so, bard/druid it is... see, it's about weird and fun characters, this is what I like to see in a RP world, and I hate to ruin it or limiting a player's creativity by saying "no no, if you take that class you must play it so-and-so". 
Of course, if they WANT to play a class out in an oldfashioned manner, all fine with that, I've seen wonderful examples of roleplay "by the rules". Just, no enforcement. 

D.: Well, that's all good and fine... do you have any other examples of changing the rules to your liking or doing stuff others don't? 

C: First and foremost getting rid of the Forgotten Realms setting and lore of course, it comes with a huge amount of rules on it's own and frankly, I neither care nor know much about it. It bores me to tears. Also, getting rid of that allows me to go more into european and non-Tolkienesqe folklore, at least partly. Second, the black&white alignment system. Nothing good to say about that. 

D.: Tin-opener, this all was another huge advertising for your strange project that so far still hasn't seen the light of the day. Did you notice you talk a lot and do nothing at all? Why is the progress so slow, or should I better ask, will you ever go public with this project of yours or are you done with it?

C.: That's a very good question cat, and honestly I don't know the right answer. I'm feeling a little itch to build almost every day, actually I'm thinking of areas all the time. When I see something inspiring or beautiful I think "wow, that's an idea I should try in the toolset". When I see what content people like Tchos work on, I'm feeling the itch to use it too. But... at the same time I just feel that I've lost all faith in NWN2's future, especially in it's multiplayer, and that it's not worth the effort. 

D.: Can you explain what led to this hopelessness? 

C.: Aside from all the building problems I've had you mean? There are a few things, let's see... 
  • The shrinking community and the overall lack of enthusiasm for the game. Apparently I'm not the only person who's had a NWN depression, it seems to affect a lot of builders, content creators...
  • My experience with Dammendrech and the end of that PW. It meant a lot to me as a RP haven, I think it was a wonderful world that did at least a lot of things right and had wonderful area design, along with some of the most wonderful roleplayers I've ever met. I never understood why the world wasn't more successful - I mean, it lacked some advertising, the autodownloader came way too late, there wasn't much to do for one player alone etc... but still, this world deserved better, and seeing how a PW with so much heartblood in it just failed to attract more players discouraged me a lot. After Dammendrech's end I had a hard time finding an alternative and after trying some PWs gave up. Without playing NWN2 anymore I guess my interest in building faded too. 
  • The fail of the Nexus. I honestly believed that move would bring some fresh blood into NWN again, getting support by the most popular mod site on the net. First it even looked like finally NWN would get some publicity again, but sadly that didn't last long - it didn't help that half of the community felt like supporting the Nexus would mean a betrayal to the NWN Vault I guess. It was never meant to, and it was a publicity stunt trying to get NWN closer to the big modding scene again. That this was not only a fail but actually was met with some hostility was very discouraging. 
  • Gamespy support, which was dropped. The community made a fix, but it still means NWN is even less accessible to new players than before, because they have to find the fix and have the will to use it, which is already too much to ask of most people who just got the game on a GoG sale out of curiosity. If the multiplayer for such an old game with such a small community left doesn't work right out of the box, I don't think any new player would go through the effort to research. It might be a small thing for long-time players, but it was another huge discouragement to me.
D.: So does that mean you're done, you end the project with this?

C.: I don't know, I think I'd never say "it's over" as long as I still have the toolset on my computer and feel a certain itch to build from time to time. But I honestly don't think I should make any more promises or even speculate about a future. At this time it has collected dust for I don't know how many months, and as much as I want to I don't see any future in NWN2's multiplayer. 

D.: Have you ever thought about making a single player module then?

C.: Briefly, but no... First, this is something even harder with my limited scripting abilities. I once considered a conversion of "A Dance With Rogues" because I think I could make beautiful areas for it, but that's too much for me alone. Also, frankly it was never the singleplayer I played NWN for, it has this unique multiplayer role-play experience no other game in this world offers and that hooked me up on it. If I wanted to do singleplayer stuff I guess these days I'd sooner learn the Skyrim toolset, this game REALLY needs better stories - NWN2 has great storytelling from people who are better at it than I am. 

D.: So where do you get your roleplay fix nowadays if not in NWN2? 

C.: Nowhere, and I miss it a lot. It's funny that every shit game on the market these days has a multiplayer mode and that there are more MMOs than anyone can count, and yet there's no roleplay to be had anywhere that comes close to NWN's PW experience. I tried a lot, but there's nothing. Strangely there are singleplayer games like Skyrim that offer everything a good multiplayer roleplaying game should have, like I don't know... countless emotes, useable furniture, shitloads of RP items... just no multiplayer. MMOs on the other hand, you can't even use a chair there and you're constantly overrun by some stupid player mounts. 

D.: That's a very sad tale and I'm horribly bored by it's lenght and all your unproductive whining. Feed me now. 

C.: okay. 


Sherincall said...

Wow, did not expect to see anything here. A very pleasant surprise!

Nice read, I'm sorry about your lack of enthusiasm, I know exactly where you're coming from..

For a few months now I was hoping to talk to you about RP fixes, and area design and a few other things, but never got around to it.. So, do you maybe use some IM/chat service we could talk over? You can email me the details at

Nice to see some signs of life here again. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

play a mud instead of roleplaying with your cat at 2:00 am, you nerd butt.

bam, done. but if that is too dark sun for you, then: >research and work your way down >learn to settle.

there are plenty of classless systems out there, too.

Tchos said...

I was reading this post, and was surprised to see my name mentioned! Even though my project wasn't enough to inspire you to resume modding, it's good to hear that it made you think about it. :)

I don't share your despair about NWN2, myself, but I'm a player and modder of single-player modules, not PWs.

If I were particularly concerned with the number of players who would download my work, I'd probably be modding a different game, but as you said, there's really nothing else like NWN2, and that's the kind that I want to play and mod. Popularity is fleeting, but quality endures.