Neverwinter Nights 2 toolset • Page 2

Bad workmen blame their tools. And not reading the manual.

Well, at a very basic level anyway. There's a section on scripting, which looks a little too much like programming to me, and I just page-downed past that. And despite all this information I've been given efficiently, I still don't know how to scroll the map. The only guidance in how to do it is a note near the top saying that you can rotate the map with by holding down the third-mouse button, and zoom in and out with the mouse-wheel, but that can't be the only way of moving around the view, surely? I'm tempted to go hit a NWN forum to see if I can get more help, but that'll be breaking my self-imposed rules. Instead, I work from one side of the keyboard to the other, desperately pressing each key. None of them seem to do anything which I'd like to. Man!

Still, it doesn't matter. I can actually get it to do what I want to via this bizarre rotate and zoom approach, so I set a time. 8th November, 10pm. Finish time, 12 midnight. Let's go!

I've already got a vague conception of what I want to do. Basic "find object for reason" sort of set-up. To do that, I'll need two zones, one external and one internal. By 10:35, both are constructed to my vague satisfaction. Despite the instructions saying that making a decent outside zone is much more work than an internal, my outside - er - turns out far better. Experienced with the bio-lab floor in Startopia, the raising and reducing of ground, then retexturing it is very familiar. A small lake. Some trees. A tiny village - in fact, a hamlet. A cave. What a veritable world of fantasy clichés I've created!

Underground is more problematic, which makes me feel dumb when it's clearly far easier. My problem is that I basically skimmed over the section on clicking together tiles, and my resultant dungeon has some visible holes in it where I've put the wrong pieces in place. Still, aesthetics are secondary here, and I haven't time to be perfectionist. I connect the two with area transition bits, as I haven't time to work out how doors work, and boot up to test. It works, but I discover that the doors work just the same way as area transitions. No time to fix.

The third option in any RPG must always be 'YOU MUST DIE!!!'

Next sweep adds the NPCs to the world. I've got two major speaking characters, one which involves creating my own villager template and the other involving gleeful experimentation with the object-scaling. Both are set up so they'll wander up to the player when they reach a certain area. Since I haven't read the section on scripting, I end up having all the adventurers' weapons in a closet in the village. Why a closet? Chests just seemed a bit played out. Assorted unimportant villages are lobbed down for colour. I wonder how I could make them wander around? Probably something with waypoints, but... well, minor details. Heading underground, I select the lizardmen and lob down half a dozen or so to guard the treasure, which I make (a unique plot item "thing") them store in a chest. Yeah, chests are back in. Deal with it.

This has actually taken longer than you'd think. The thing with the toolset is creating big-scale content is easy. Zones can come together, in a remedial, undecorated sense, enormously quickly. But having someone chat to you, that's content that requires an actual degree of work. Still, I've got enough time to made some secondary conversations for the main NPCs - including some branching and moderately clever stuff - and playtest it a couple of times. I discover I've been a bit too optimistic in how hard a level 1 NPC is, so remove some of the lizardpeople and add some healing potions to the closet in the village. Also, there's a major graphical problem in the dungeon which I haven't the time to read the documentation to work out how to fix, so instead I do something I do know, and set a third conversation to a Lizardman NPC.

Try and ignore the holes in the walls. I was (er) in a rush.

The two hours click around and... well, I'm finished, and a quest - of sorts - remains. The basic fantasy story arc's there - villagers in trouble, you going to solve the problem, end up having to retrieve an object from a place of peril. If I had another hour, I'd have actually read the scripting and got it to do the very basic thing I needed it to - that is, recognise when you were holding the object you had to rescue, and only run the victory conversation then. Oh yeah - and actually entered a Quest dialogue in the player's journal. They'd have probably been time to elaborate in a few other areas. The dungeon's incredibly bare, but stocking it with interesting objects - pots, perhaps. Or maybe pans - would have been as easy as clicking. Traps would be another simple thing, a case of marking the area and selecting what's hurting. More jokey NPCs...

And that hour would have been eaten up. Role-playing games devour content, which is where the strength of a toolset like NWN is. Rather than wrestling with the toolset, you're wrestling with the enormity of the task you've set yourself.

Anyway - my adventure. Two hours. Forgive me. It's not exactly Planescape Torment.

And the toolset generally? It does exactly what it promises. It won't make it easy to make your own adventures. Nothing will, as it's always going to be a lot of work. But even for the total layperson, there's the ability to incarnate your fantasy into some manner of digital flesh. Just wasting a Sunday afternoon in a pleasurable way, never bothering to learn how to make the map scroll because that'll involve reading the documentation. And for someone who's more serious - well, it's probably your first step to being the next Chris Avellone.

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About the author

Kieron Gillen

Kieron Gillen


Kieron is one of the founders of the lovely Rock, Paper, Shotgun and nowadays writes comics for Marvel starring characters that even his mum has heard of.


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