The Eye of the Beholder Project
Profile by Jay Watamaniuk
The Eye of the Beholder Project
The original Eye of the Beholder grabbed gamers by their keyboards and wouldn't let them go. Its simple, fast, and door-bashing gameplay was fun and exciting. Now, some 14 years later, a team of community members have made a gigantoid mod of the original adventure for Neverwinter Nights; plus they've added a bevy (a whole flock even!) of new NWN content. We deployed a crack team of BioWare ninjas to track down Eye of the Beholder team members Rick and Mika and put them to the question:
Where can I find download the Eye of the Beholder NWN mod?
Can you give us a brief history of how this huge project came to be?
Rick: For me it began with the original Eye of the Beholder that was released by Westwood Studios in 1991. I would sit up all night and play the game until three in the morning. I would sit in the dark playing and try to figure out the levels, mapping each of them out on graph paper; it was a lot of fun.
Eye of the Beholder has a deep following of fans and I always wanted to see EOB remade with a more modern game engine. When I got my hands on the Aurora Beta that was released before NWN came out, I saw how easy to use the editor was and how the levels could be laid out almost exactly like the original game. I realized that this was the perfect engine to remake Eye of the Beholder. So I began recreating each level one by one using the original EOB clue book until I got each of them done. After that, I started populating each of the levels.
What about Eye of the Beholder would be of interest to veteran NWN players?
Rick: Veteran players of the old classic and new players should like what we have done with our version of the game. We stuck with the original map designs and plot, but added over 25 new side quests that build on the original story. We also wanted to bring Eye of the Beholder up to today's gaming standards.
We took several liberties with changes to the weapons and armor. For example, in the original EOB you would find a +3 long sword with no enhancements to it, but in ours that same sword will also have some of the newer enchantments that NWN has to offer and what players have come to expect. Players will also be delighted to discover that we have created a set item system. There is a set for each core D&D class, and each consists of 3 similarly named items.
These powerful items are entirely appropriate as our mod is rather heavy on the hack and slash side. We understand many players are still looking for that roleplaying element, and although it isn't the main focus of our mod, there are still some opportunities for roleplay sprinkled in.
TOne of the complaints I have always heard from veteran players is: "how come I just killed that creature and he had that big sword and I can't pick it up." We fixed that problem! If you see a creature with a big sword and kill him, you will find that sword on his body. I know many might think if all these creatures are dropping items, the game economy will be quite unbalanced. However, unlike the original Eye of the Beholder, we have provided the player with merchants along the way to sell off excess items and upgrade with new and more powerful items. Still, we wanted to make sure you didn't have a ton of gold left over at the end, while still providing meaningful equipment choices. There will be times when you see a couple of sweet items at a merchant and you are going to have to make a decision as to which one you want more.
Speaking of decisions, we are rather unforgiving of bad player choices. There are many ways to influence the outcome of your adventure in both positive and negative ways. For example, if you decide to be evil and kill some of the NPCs that you meet on your journey, it could cost you dearly in the end.
One of the best aspects of our mod is that we designed from the ground up so that four players can play the mod from start to finish. To support solo players, we have implemented a unique henchman hiring system. Most henchmen are adventurers who have died in the dungeon and are found lying in a pile of bones as in the original game. From this point you can either pick up the bones and put them in your inventory and try to resurrect them later, or you can place the bones back down on the ground and cast a raise dead or resurrection spell at the bones and your henchman will be resurrected. After you have resurrected the henchman you will be able to speak with him or her and hire them on to help you on your quest. You can take a maximum of 2 henchmen per player. Each henchman you encounter has a special background story. After talking to your henchman you will learn what brought him or her down into the dungeons in the first place. Additionally, some of the henchmen have special quests to complete.
Finally, we have taken a lot of time and put a lot effort into making each level in the mod seem authentic and original. My favorite area is the Death Section. This is the home of the evil lich, Darokin. This area is visually stunning; it has the appearance of having been decorated by a mad butcher gone to work. Here you will discover many connections between the events surrounding the adventure. The reasons for events the player has encountered thus far in the dungeon are revealed. This is the kind of attention-to-detail you will find throughout the mod. We've done our best to maintain this level of detail in all parts of the adventure, even though it is rather long. The game is almost as long as some of the official expansions, and it will take most players around 30 hours to complete.
Mika: We have resurrected some very old RPG features that I think will be of special interest to veteran gamers. Most notable among these are pressure plates and illusionary walls. Our pressure plates respond to players stepping on them as well as items being laid down upon them. The original version had some inconsistent behavior with the plates, however many of these problems have been fixed in the latest patch. We are planning on improving the plates some more in the next patch, if possible.
The illusionary walls in this module consist of placeables that the player can physically walk through. We have done our best to match the appearances of these walls to the other walls on the level. This may be an unexpected source of frustration for some players used to finding secrets through search checks or other systems, but we felt it added a sense of nostalgia to the remake experience.
What new content can players expect? New creatures, new henchmen?
Rick: Ryuujin created many new creatures for Eye of the Beholder: the Kenku (half bird half humanoid creatures), Giant Leeches, Kuo-Toa (fish-like creatures that resemble giant, walking frogs), Skeletal Lords (very powerful undead warriors wearing long robes), and Mantis Warriors also known as Thrikreen that look like giant Mantis. In addition to the basic versions of these creatures, he also made several variants like females and enlarged boss versions. Ryuujin also created many of the placeable items we used like the Kenku nest. He was our head modeler and did a great job on all of the new creatures and placeables. We also have tons custom artwork created by Anthony Marinakas. You will also get to choose from seven new henchmen created for the mod. They range from thieves to clerics to warriors and mages, and even a dog named Dof that you can rescue early in the game. There are two secret levels that can be found along with a few other added levels like the Waterdeep dungeon where all of the criminals are being kept. This is also where you can speak to the Drow spy that was captured at the start of the game.
Mika: We have included some very interesting puzzles in the module; many of them are direct reproductions of the originals. One of the more interesting remakes I was responsible for was the circular locking mechanism at the beginning of level 11. In this puzzle, you must rotate three rings on walls to open up different directions of exploration. The puzzle is a lot less disorienting in the NWN version, but still rather clever.
Amazingly, after our release, we picked up a new team member, Paul, an English major, who has gone through all our text and spruced it up a bit. Paul has even gone further and has added extra background story to several henchmen. Make sure you get the 2.2 patch!
If you could go back and do something differently in the development of this project what would you pick?
Rick: That would be the naming scheme we used for Resref's tags and the scripts. The best advice I can offer to anyone who is going to make a mod for NWN is to come up with a good naming scheme first before you do anything. Plan out the way you are going to build you mod and follow that plan. Also, make sure you put together a good team you can count on, especially if you're making a mod that is on as grand of scale like we did.
Mika: I joined the project rather late and at a rather busy time in the real world. It would've been nice to be involved with the scripting from the beginning. Our current script set is sort of a mishmash of varying quality and sources. Many have been cut and pasted by dark from various sources until they appear to work correctly. Since I joined the project, I have tried to go through and clean up many scripts, but it is a particularly nasty job to try to clean code that appears to work fine.
Another feature that could've been improved had I been involved earlier is the secret doors and illusionary walls system. Just before I joined the team, I released my system on the vault. However, at that point it was unfeasible to remake all of the levels using this new technique. The notable improvement in my system over the current one is that secret doors and illusionary walls are not revealed by empty spaces on the automap.
Plans for the future?
Rick: The team has been talking a little bit about Neverwinter Nights 2 and how we would like to continue the Eye of the Beholder series with the new engine. We are very anxious to see what all-new features it has to offer.
Mika: I joined the NWN community working on the Eye of the Beholder 2 remake project, and it looks like the future of that project is somewhat uncertain. I think a NWN 2 remake would really bring out the best in the module, especially in terms of visual experience. I have high hopes for improved organizational capabilities in the NWN 2 toolset, which are especially needed for epic-sized modules with hundreds of scripts and conversations.
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