Kevin Saunders: In the gameplay area, I already mentioned the new strategy mode option. We've added dozens of spells to fill in more of the gaps, including the addition of some powerful druid spells and illusions. We've made enchanting items easier and more useful, and also given the warlock a fairly accurate Imbue Item ability. We've moved to a more faithful interpretation of some D&D rules, such as implementing the concept of deity favored weapons - including revamping the War domain to take advantage of this. We've incorporated AI improvements, both of our own, courtesy of scripters Charles Mead and Michael Diekmann, and those designed by community member evenflw.
Mask of the Betrayer is a story-driven game, so there's definitely some degree of linearity. But we've got a lot of side content interspersed throughout the campaignOur gameplay programming lead, Andy Woo, implemented the epic levels, feats and spells, including an epic feat that allows rogues to deal some sneak attack damage to undead, constructs et al. and Mass Fowl, which polymorphs all nearby enemies into chickens. Eric Fenstermaker designed an entire new gameplay aspect we're calling "spirit energy" that increases the strategy required in combat. The spirit energy design includes its own special interface, created by artist Jean-Eric Khalife, and intertwines combat, dialogue and story - it's one of the few campaign-specific features we implemented; in general, we want anything we spend time on to be something that is directly useful to the community.
Jonric: Since you included the story in your earlier list, what did you set out to accomplish in this element of Mask of the Betrayer?
Kevin Saunders: The Mask story is very personal, very dark, and carefully woven throughout the entire game. Written by the project's creative lead, George Ziets, I sincerely believe it's one of the best-presented RPG stories yet. Our module designers, Jeff Husges, Tony Evans and Eric, did a great job of creating entertaining and exciting areas that complement and support the overall story arcs and themes.
One thing NWN2 players will specifically enjoy in Mask is a sense of closure. While not slamming the door shut completely, by the end of the campaign, the story of your NWN2 character will reach a highly satisfying and complete conclusion.
Jonric: What objectives did you lay out for yourselves in the other three areas you listed, namely characters, audio and performance?
Kevin Saunders: With respect to the characters, we strove to make the companions in Mask more realistic and reactive. With the exception of the very beginning of the game, your companions are never forced upon you. Written by Matt MacLean, Chris Avellone, George and Tony, they each have unique goals and objectives that are deeper and more complex than simple alignment.
We expanded upon the influence system to include gameplay effects instead of only RPG ones. Basically, understanding and supporting the goals of your companions will result in both new dialogue options and reactivity and combat bonuses. And if you repeatedly alienate your companions, they'll eventually abandon you.
The voice acting for the companions is incredible, and even though Mask is about half the length of NWN2, several of the companions actually have more lines of dialogue than the most fleshed-out ones from before had.
In the area of performance, veteran NWN2 programmers Frank Kowalkowski, Adam Brennecke, and Brock Heinz all lent their skills, implementing countless improvements, such as shadow optimizations, terrain undo in the toolset, and interface improvements - despite the fact that they're all primarily assigned to the Aliens RPG we're working on.
Jonric: How did you approach selecting the locations that make up the gameworld? Overall, do you feel they differ from those in the original game?
Another major goal with our choice of locations was to pick places such that the new art we created would be great for the community. The snow-covered forest of Ashenwood, a wizardly academy at Thaymount, a sunken Imaskari ruin - all very interesting settings that give the modders many more options.
When compared to NWN2, I think Mask's areas in general are more focused and have more distinct personality. Scott Everts' depiction of Mulsantir, for example, feels very different from Neverwinter City. Our audio director, Alex Brandon, took special care to make set the atmosphere of the areas through both the music - much of which was composed by Womb Music - and the ambient sound effects.
Jonric: While it's often tricky to discuss the story without giving away some spoilers, what are you willing to tell us about it? To what degree will it be linear vs. open-ended?
Kevin Saunders: The story for Mask of the Betrayer stands alone from NWN2's, so you don't have to have played the original campaign to enjoy or understand it. You are continuing the story of the Shard-Bearer, and we have incorporated some references to NWN2's characters and places, but they're not central to the story.
Mask of the Betrayer is a story-driven game, so there's definitely some degree of linearity. But we've got a lot of side content interspersed throughout the campaign, largely due to the extra-hours efforts of Brandon Adler, Olivier Pougnand and Jesse Farrell - quality assurance members with considerable design talents. One major region of the game (an entire module) is, in fact, completely optional. The game is more difficult if you don't go there, but you're never forced to.
Neverwinter Nights 2 Minute View
Obsidian's keenly awaited sequel combining a Forgotten Realms adventure and the tools to let you create your ownNeverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer First View
Obsidian's impending expansion pack set in Rashemen, a rough and tumble region widely known as rich in spiritsNeverwinter Nights 2 E3 View
Following its well received appearance at the show last week, some observations and thoughts on Obsidian's sequelNeverwinter Nights 2: Mysteries of Westgate Diary #3
Ossian fills us in on new content in its adventure pack including creatures, a sewer tileset, audio and toolset toolsNeverwinter Nights 2: Mysteries of Westgate Diary #2
Lead Designer Luke Scull tells us about the contending factions and the companions in Ossian's upcoming add-onNeverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer Peek #3
Obsidian's Eric Fenstermaker introduces us to Thaymount, a region where Red Wizards go to learn their arcane craftNeverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer Peek #2
Ashenwood, a snow-covered forest that's home to many spirits, is a place we'll visit in Obsidian's upcoming titleNeverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer Peek #1
Obsidian Designer Jeff Husges on the Barrow of the Bear-God, a location filled with treasure but guarded by spiritsNeverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer Diary #1
Lead Designer Kevin Saunders on the Obsidian team's goals for the title and why he doesn't look at it as an add-onNeverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer Interview - Part 2
New henchmen, creatures, items, spells, editor improvements and more that we can expect in Obsidian's expansionNeverwinter Nights 2 Team Q&A #2
Favorite locations, memorable moments and personal points of pride in Obsidian's widely praised role-playing gameNeverwinter Nights 2 Team Q&A #1
Three Obsidian staff members offer their opinions on key elements including player characters, enemies and magicNeverwinter Nights 2 Peek #3
The team at Obsidian introduces us to Crossroad Keep, a decrepit ruin that was once the site of a famous battleNeverwinter 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 routeNeverwinter Nights 2 Peek #1
Obsidian takes us to an important location in the game, the city of Arvahn, which is said to hold unspeakable secretsNeverwinter Nights 2 Interview - Part 3
Enemies, quests, multiplayer, the tools and more as we finish our edifying interrogation of Obsidian's Lead DesignerNeverwinter Nights 2 Interview, Part 2
Continuing our query session with Obsidian's Lead Designer, we ask about various topics related to the protagonistNeverwinter Nights 2 Interview, Part 1
We begin an extensive examination of Obsidian's upcoming sequel with the team's Lead Designer, Ferret Baudoin