Suzie Ford had a chance to talk to Alan Miranda, the CEO of Ossian Studios, who is at work on the Mysteries of Westgate adventure pack for Neverwinter Nights 2. The former BioWare dev answered a slew of questions on the add-on.
Mysteries of Westgate Adventure Pack
Answered by Alan Miranda (CEO of Ossian Studios, Producer and Co-Lead Designer on Mysteries of Westgate)
Questions by Suzie Ford
Much has been written about the adventure pack, Mysteries of Westgate, which Ossian Studios is developing. NWN 2 WarCry would like to take a slightly different tack with regard to this interview.
WarCry: What is the background of Ossian Studios? When was it founded and by whom? How has it grown since its founding?
Alan Miranda: A couple of months after BioWare shipped Neverwinter Nights (in June 2002), my wife Elizabeth and I decided to return to Vancouver, which is where we had lived the previous decade before coming to Edmonton (where BioWare is) for two years. After I left BioWare, we both had the idea of starting a company together, as I had the development and production experience from working at BioWare and Relic, and she had the great organizational expertise to handle the more administrative aspects.
Neither of us had any previous experience in running a company or truly knew the extent of the work required (you'll only know if you've actually done it). But the thought of working together really appealed to us; now we could support each other through the tough times as we were both part of the process. So we founded Ossian Studios Inc. together back in early 2003, an incorporated company in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Ossian started off with a team of people from the game industry in Vancouver to develop a new PC game that was a mix of an RPG and a strategy game. For a variety of reasons, we weren't able to start production on it, but during that time we decided to simultaneously branch into doing something smaller: a NWN1 premium mod for BioWare called Darkness over Daggerford.
Development on Daggerford was difficult because Ossian hadn't built a NWN1 mod before, but over time we found good people from the NWN community to bring onto the team. Unfortunately for us, the premium mod program at BioWare got cancelled, so we released Daggerford for free. However, we think it gained far more accolades that way (such as the IGF 2007 Best RPG Mod award) than if it had been released commercially.
Even as we were wrapping up Daggerford, we recruited the best people who had been working on the other cancelled premium mods to start work on our next project, which was NWN2: Mysteries of Westgate for Atari. It was at this point that we began to expand and hire more people from the NWN community, and we continue to hire them for the other projects we're working on. Ossian has grown considerably from the time it was founded by Elizabeth and myself (just 2 people), to a company employing 16 people. We're happy at how far Ossian Studios has come and very proud of our teams.
WarCry: What was the original philosophy with regard to development of adventure packs for NWN 2? Has it changed since the studio's founding?
Alan Miranda: The philosophy behind the NWN2 adventure packs was to make larger and more complex downloadable role-playing games than what had been released as the NWN1 premium mods. We really wanted to make an expansion-quality adventure but on a smaller scale. This viewpoint hasn't changed since finishing Mysteries of Westgate (MoW), except for the fact that we continually like to challenge ourselves at Ossian, so to that end, we would like to create a larger amount of content for the next adventure pack.
Underlying that philosophy, which is specific to the adventure packs, is simply the directive that all our games be games of the highest quality. Our goal is to always give fans epic adventures to play, and we succeeded in this with both of our games, Daggerford and Westgate. In their May issue, PC Gamer said MoW was "top-notch" and "a real gem," which is fantastic to hear because that's exactly what we strive for. The fact that it took the RPG reviewer (Desslock) around 20 hours to play, instead of our official 15 hours, further reinforces our adventure pack philosophy of larger, more complex downloadable games, because it puts MoW in the same gameplay length and quality category as an expansion.
WarCry: Originally, Ossian Studios was going to work on "free" modules for the community. What was the timeline/process for being considered for professionally developing a module for Neverwinter Nights 2?
Alan Miranda: Actually, that's a misconception. Ossian has never planned to work on free mods for the community and was never a mod group in the sense of a community group of fans getting together to build a module purely for fun. We started Ossian Studios as a professional game development studio to be run as a business, and we just happened to develop a commercial premium mod for BioWare (Darkness over Daggerford).
Because the premium mod program shut down, we decided to finish working on Daggerford for another couple of months and release it for free. It would have been a great shame to abandon or shelve that game because it was such a great adventure and the team was very proud of all the work they had done. Something that you work hard on for over a year isn't something that you simply drop - you want to be proud of it and put it out there for the world to enjoy. So that's exactly what we did.
For developing the NWN2 adventure pack for Atari, they contacted us shortly after we released Darkness over Daggerford back in August 2006, and we started talking with them about what Ossian could do for Atari with NWN2. Since BioWare had been the driving force behind the NWN1 premium mods, and not Atari, it took a little while for both of us to work out the details for doing adventure packs. We started pitching ideas to Atari and WotC (Wizards of the Coast) during the fall and began production on Westgate around the start of 2007.