Developer Interview: Ben McJunkin
Profile by Jay Watamaniuk
What other modules have you created for the Neverwinter Nights community?
Ben: I created two modules for NWN: Lone Wolf Chapter 1 - Test of the Sun, and Lone Wolf Chapter 2 - Mysteries in the Night, both based upon the Lone Wolf gamebooks from the 1980's by Joe Dever.
You were the first Neverwinter Nights community member to be approached to create a module exclusively for BioWare. What were your thoughts when you heard the news?
Ben: I was extremely flattered that BioWare would want me to do custom work for them. I was a big fan of NWN already, and it was great to be able to work on a module that BioWare might put their name on.
Describe the process you went through to create the world that ShadowGuard takes place in? What inspired you?
Ben: The world of ShadowGuard (called Abaran) originally began during an old, old, old Dungeons & Dragons campaign I created around the age of 13. I always envisioned Abaran being a world where magic and technology once reigned, but those mysteries had been lost during the passage of time. I also always envisioned the majority of the world being under the control of a demi-god type of figure. These elements have remained in the ShadowGuard module, albeit changed greatly from the original plan. And that's all I really want to say on the matter for the moment...
What can we look forward to in ShadowGuard?
Ben: As far as gameplay goes, it's a pretty standard module. I think the biggest difference with ShadowGuard is the setting and atmosphere. The game revolves around the player becoming involved with a group called the ShadowGuard, secret agents of the Sharakhan Empire. The ShadowGuard's primary focus is stopping the activity of a mysterious rebel sorcerer called the Crimson Prophet, whose actions threaten the security of the Empire.
I tried to incorporate different gaming styles into the module in new, inventive ways, and I think I was fairly successful at it. I hope players will be happy with the outcome.
What were some of the toughest challenges you faced during the development process of this module?
Ben: Writing. Always the writing. I'm extremely picky when it comes to plot and writing (probably overly so), and have often found myself bogged down trying to come up with a new idea. In contrast, the programming portion became much easier, so it was often doubly frustrating to not know which direction I wanted to go next.
What advice do you have for novice module builders out there who want to raise the bar on their own work?
Ben: Always think of what others would enjoy most. Something may seem like a great idea to you, but if no one else likes it, there's really not much point in putting it into a module (unless you just want it for yourself). That being said, have fun with it. If you enjoy working on a module, then it shines through in the final product.
Also, don't get in over your head. Stick with small areas, villages and towns as opposed to cities, that sort of thing. Cities are the worst thing in NWN to build, as it just takes SOOO much time to make one feel right.