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First look: Neverwinter Nights

August 12, 1999
Web posted at: 4:38 p.m. EDT (2038 GMT)

by Andrew Bub


screen shot

(IDG) -- BioWare announced at Gen Con that it is working on an online role-playing game called Neverwinter Nights. We liked what we heard.

Neverwinter Nights is AD&D for your PC. Using the same angled-down perspective found in Baldur's Gate and the upcoming Planescape, gamers will use the Internet or a LAN to approximate the experience of sitting around the dining room table with friends and killing monsters.

Though set in the Forgotten Realms, Neverwinter Nights isn't a remake of (or a sequel to) the old AOL online game of the same name. Controlling a single character, players will take part in four-hour adventures constructed in the style of AD&D modules based on the new 3rd Edition rule set, including all the spells, races, classes, weapons, and magic items in the game.

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But that isn't the real kicker.

A player can launch a server and that player can be the Dungeon Master (DM). As in its pen-and-paper counterpart, the DM will control monsters, spawn new ones, interact with player characters and portray non-player characters. A DM will even have the tools necessary to make their own modules, tweak existing ones, create traps, and create their own game engine videos to serve as cuts-scenes.

Neverwinter Nights will take place in AD&D's Forgotten Realms game universe, but it won't will not have an story beyond the ones the DM or players create for themselves--just like real D&D. It hasn't been decided if the "modules" will be based on existing adventures, or created by the BioWare team.

The DM will have tools to "rescue" doomed players by bringing in a wandering Paladin, or simply rendering them invulnerable during key moments (as real DMs often do). Computer RPGs aren't forgiving to players with one hit point left; AI doesn't care whether your character survives its just punching numbers.

In NWN the DM, at her discretion, can shift the balance at will. DMs will also be able to lock games to ensure that only their party may participate, but the game should be able to handle up to 64 characters in one adventure, according to BioWare.

Baldur's Gate and Planescape used the Infinity engine, which apparently wasn't up to snuff for NWN. Instead, NWN will use the Omen engine, originally developed for their upcoming MDK2 title. A 3D accelerator will be required and the graphics already look stunning.

Neverwinter Nights won't try to compete with persistent world RPGs like Ultima Online, EverQuest, or Asheron's Call. Instead, it promises an approximation of the AD&D experience on your PC. With a great DM, and avid players, this could be a true tour-de-force for RPGs. When it arrives sometime in late 2000, maybe you'll be able to retire your Dungeon Master's Guide once and for all.

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