The original Neverwinter Nights was released in 2002, and a sequel has been the works for nearly four years now. J.E. Sawyer, lead designer for the game, discussed the development of the title and the changes undertaken in recent updates to the coding.
"Removing the old Aurora renderer and implementing Obsidian's new Electron renderer required a lot of changes in the code," he said. "We're patching all of that stuff together and finalizing the major revisions to the editor. It's been a bumpy right, but the editor is now an even more powerful tool for both designers and end users."
The story of Neverwinter Nights 2 focuses on a figure called the King of Shadows, a dark figure in the history of the Sword Coast. The King of Shadows appears to be a sentient embodiment of shadows, and Sawyer said that holds a clue to his involvement in the game's story. Main characters will begin in the village of West Harbor, which is a fairly pleasant place until the King of Shadows attacks it. Each character will have to survive that attack before being caught up with larger events in the city of Neverwinter. Lord Nasher, ruler of Neverwinter, is concerned by the King's attack, and soon the player will be swept up in a storm of political intrigue and moral struggles through the Forgotten Realms.
Neverwinter Nights 2 will feature a real, believable world where a player's actions increase his or her reputation over time, and NPCs will react accordingly to that reputation. Sawyer said, "When you first arrive in Neverwinter, people don't think much of you. Your actions help build your reputation among people. Over time, you become increasingly feared and respected. Your role in the story increases in a manner that is believable within the setting. The reactions that people have to you are reactive and sensible. By the end of the story, you're entrusted with matters of grave importance because you have built up a reputation befitting a heroic figure." The game will also make use of Dungeons & Dragons Rules 3.5, the latest version of rules updates for the popular gaming series.
Some companions and friends of the main character are integral to the plot of the story, and may even affect how it unfolds for the gamer through actions or dialogue. These companions can be directly controlled in combat and have their inventories manipulated by the player. Sawyer also hinted that some romantic possibilities may be available ("e-smooches," he called it).
Multiplayer online gameplay was also mentioned by Sawyer: "Players and dungeon masters can expect the same level of multiplayer functionality that existed in the original Neverwinter Nights, but I really think that the expanded flexibility of the toolset is what will help make online experiences more enjoyable." On the matter of editing tools and map creation, players will be able to create both outdoor and indoor environments with ease. Interior sets will function in a manner similar to the original Neverwinter Nights, but selecting and placing individual props will be easier, as any freestanding item can be stacked or rotated as needed, and even more changes are still being planned and made to the Neverwinter Nights 2 editor.
When asked about hardware specifics, the only requirement listed thus far is that the video card must support shader model 2.0 or higher. More specifics may be listed at a later time, as the game comes closer to completion. Neverwinter Nights has no specific release date at this time, but Sawyer said gamers can expect to see it for sale by Summer 2006.