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Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer Interview - Part 1
Obsidian's story-driven expansion that will include genasi, half-drow, wild elves, a strategy mode and plenty more

- Primarily populated by humans, Rashemen is known for its fierce berserker warriors and the spirits that protect the land, which lies within a part of Faerun called the Unapproachable East. Its ruler, known as the Iron Lord, resides in the capital of Immilmar, but witches called hathran hold the true power. Among its neighbors, the most powerful may be Thay. Controlled by the dreaded Red Wizards, practitioners of powerful circle magic, many of whom dwell in the main city, Eltabbar, it's a nation that still allows slavery. The inhabitants are a mix of humans, gnolls, orcs, dwarves, goblins and halflings who are accustomed to living in an environment where peace is practically unknown; the realm is almost constantly engaged in some form of conflict if not outright warfare, often as the result of its own attacks on nearby smaller countries.

Due to ship this fall, Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer is Obsidian Entertainment's expansion pack for its highly regarded RPG and toolset. It takes place in Rashemen, beginning shortly after the events of the base game. Following the climactic battle against the King of Shadows, the player character, which can be newly created, awakens somewhere deep in the bowels of the earth, alone and with evil spirits all around. Thus begins an adventure said to offer approximately 25 hours of play, culminating in the revelation of the protagonist's true destiny. Having tracked the title's development since it was announced, and after recently seeing an impressive demo, we were already aware of its Red Wizard character plus many other features and elements. Still, when an opportunity arose to question Lead Designer and Producer Kevin Saunders, we grabbed it instantly.

Includes an exclusive screenshot and an exclusive model composite



Jonric: To start with a bit of background, what was your target vision for Neverwinter Nights 2, and how well do you feel it was realized?

Kevin Saunders:
At the core of Neverwinter Nights 2 is a powerful and flexible toolset. More than most RPGs, this property is about bringing the entire D&D experience, including creating your own adventures and playing them with friends, to a computer game. How we chose to use this toolset for the official campaign, and also for Mask of the Betrayer (Mask), was to create a story- and character-driven role-playing experience.
The new genasi appearances look awesome, with great use of specularity and special effects to make them stand out.
Many very talented people put a ton of effort into the project, but it was a massive undertaking and an ambitious project. While Neverwinter Nights 2 is a good game, I feel we fell short of what we were striving to achieve. In my personal experience, that's almost always true in game development - this industry attracts a lot of perfectionists, and we're rarely truly satisfied with our work.

Jonric: How will Mask of the Betrayer build upon the base game, its strengths and your initial goals for it? What aspects have you focused on improving?

Kevin Saunders:
Our goal with Mask of the Betrayer was to get it right, to build upon what we learned on NWN2 in order to craft and convey a rich story and a compelling RPG experience. One of our difficulties with it was an initial scope that was unrealistic. So from its conception, Mask's focus was to emphasize quality above all else. We were highly conservative in many respects, and quite a few cool ideas were discarded because they were too risky. We considered how much any specific idea would really add to the players' entertainment, and chose our battles carefully. We didn't try to reinvent what NWN2 was - we built upon the design and decisions of the original game and concentrated on polishing it.

Thus, the Mask team has placed emphasis on strengthening the core NWN2 product. Throughout the course of the project, we fixed many bugs, optimized performance, made better use of the graphics technology, and in general, tied up loose ends. For example, we revamped the camera and party controls, adding an RTS-like strategy mode that makes combat much more enjoyable.

We greatly improved upon the Dungeon Master client (courtesy of programmer Anthony Davis), making it easier for players to run their own NWN2 games as a virtual DM. We made numerous improvements to the toolset, thanks to the efforts of programmer Josh Verrall. When possible, we've included these general improvements in updates (patches) to NWN2, but these enhancements have been part of Mask's development. Our goal is that when gamers pick up Mask, they view the overall NWN2 product as one of the best computer role-playing experiences created.

In all respects - graphics, gameplay, story, characters, audio, performance - Mask is a much more polished product. We built upon all of the amazing work that had been done on NWN2 and tapped into the experience of the team to show what we're really capable of achieving.

 

Jonric: Are you prepared to provide some details as to what we can expect in these various areas? For instance, what are some of the graphical improvements?

Kevin Saunders:
Yes, that's enough vague rambling when you undoubtedly want specifics.

The new genasi appearances look awesome, with great use of specularity and special effects to make them stand out.

In our environments, we specifically designed in vistas that make the most of what our engine and our artists can really do. Wait until you see what Ed Lacabanne and Justin Cherry created for the Astral Plane; we've intentionally kept screenshots of it under wraps. Or the Thayan Academy of Shapers and Binders modeled by Roger Chang.

The new spell effects, many created by animators Jay Bakke and Andrea Bobick, are even more impressive than those from NWN2... what else would you expect from epic level spells?


Neverwinter Nights 2 Minute View
Obsidian's keenly awaited sequel combining a Forgotten Realms adventure and the tools to let you create your own
Neverwinter Nights 2 E3 View
Following its well received appearance at the show last week, some observations and thoughts on Obsidian's sequel
Neverwinter Nights 2 Team Q&A #2
Favorite locations, memorable moments and personal points of pride in Obsidian's widely praised role-playing game
Neverwinter Nights 2 Team Q&A #1
Three Obsidian staff members offer their opinions on key elements including player characters, enemies and magic
Neverwinter Nights 2 Peek #3
The team at Obsidian introduces us to Crossroad Keep, a decrepit ruin that was once the site of a famous battle
Neverwinter Nights 2 Peek #2
In Obsidian's impending game, we'll visit Old Owl Well, the only source of water along part of a major trade route
Neverwinter Nights 2 Peek #1
Obsidian takes us to an important location in the game, the city of Arvahn, which is said to hold unspeakable secrets
Neverwinter Nights 2 Interview - Part 3
Enemies, quests, multiplayer, the tools and more as we finish our edifying interrogation of Obsidian's Lead Designer
Neverwinter Nights 2 Interview, Part 2
Continuing our query session with Obsidian's Lead Designer, we ask about various topics related to the protagonist
Neverwinter Nights 2 Interview, Part 1
We begin an extensive examination of Obsidian's upcoming sequel with the team's Lead Designer, Ferret Baudoin


Related Articles:

- Neverwinter Nights 2 Minute View
- Neverwinter Nights 2 E3 View
- Neverwinter Nights 2 Team Q&A #2
- Neverwinter Nights 2 Team Q&A #1
- Neverwinter Nights 2 Peek #3
- Neverwinter Nights 2 Peek #2
- Neverwinter Nights 2 Peek #1
- Neverwinter Nights 2 Interview - Part 3
- Neverwinter Nights 2 Interview, Part 2
- Neverwinter Nights 2 Interview, Part 1


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