Ever since its launch in 2006, Neverwinter Nights 2 has been a mixed affair.
While the toolset provided a wealth of opportunities for RPG fans to create their own adventures, the original game campaign was seen by many as lackluster.
So when the second expansion pack was revealed last week, we dropped lead designer Tony Evans a few questions to see how this would improve on what had gone before.
SoZ seems to be catering for the neglected hardcore role-playing fans. Is this a case of casual players need not apply?
Tony Evans: Though many elements in Storm of Zehir are a "return to roots" which we think hardcore role-players will appreciate, we're also adding refinements that help make the game easier to play and more accessible to casual gamers.
The end result will be a blending of traditional RPG gaming and sandbox-style gameplay.
In SoZ, you're dealing with a postwar society. How to plan to deal with a gritty subject matter whilst staying true to the licence?
Evans: The Realms may be falling apart around the party, but this just makes for interesting opportunities to explore and make an impact on the world.
The noble party will delight in solving problems, assisting the downtrodden wherever they go, and reaping gratuitous rewards for their good deeds.
On the other hand, a party of mischievous or greedy adventurers can choose to take advantage of the misfortunes of others, either for fun or for profit.
To accomplish this, the party has the freedom to get involved in the troubles of the lands they explore as deeply as the player wishes, but players also have the freedom to remain aloof and go off and do whatever they wish.
In terms of staying true to the Dungeons & Dragons license, we have a few people on the team that I would consider experts on the subject.
One of our goals is to come as close to the experience of table-top roleplaying as we can on a computer, while keeping the game accessible to everyone.
It's not hard to argue that Mask of the Betrayer and Storm of the Zehir are far more interesting than the original Neverwinter Nights 2 campaign. Why save up your best stuff for the expansion packs that less people will play?
Evans: We haven't been "saving up" our best stuff, but rather have been able to create better stuff through experience.
Through the process of developing those previous titles, we learned a lot about how to improve and refine our gameplay, art style and technology. As such Storm of Zehir is able to deliver the "best stuff" to our loyal fans.
How much does morality play in the game? Will players be tied to the "Spare your money, I will help you / Pay me money and I'll help you / Give me money or I'll kill you" decision making that was prevalent in the OC.
Evans: Players can decide the morality of their party however they wish. Storm of Zehir offers significantly more choices than in our previous games, with lots of different rewards and reactions to the player's actions.
One of the ways we are doing this is with our new Party Conversation system, crafted by another NWN2 veteran, Anthony Davis.
Party Conversations offer different player responses and reactivity based on the numerous choices players make when creating and levelling-up their party members. This includes race, class, alignment, gender, deity, attributes and more.
What level will the players start at?
Evans: The cap is the same as Mask of the Betrayer - level 30. The party begins at level 3, and we expect the average player to reach level 15 or higher throughout the Storm of Zehir campaign.