Neverwinter Nights 2: An Extraordinary Experience?

Yet another great article by Segal Soulsaver.

An Extraordinary Experience…

I mentioned this phrase in a prior post and I was hoping that some of you might be interested in a discussion about things that could contribute to an Extraordinary Experience. A concept that I would like to bring forth is the idea of dynamic content and storytelling; how is could work or how it might work better.

To start with, I think most Persistent Worlds need a story…

My first PW created a world with deep history and interesting backgrounds based on a 25 year old PnP campaign. What it did not do very well was tell a story; it was very flat, non-moving, and had no reaction to the actions or inactions of the players. I want NWN2 to be a moving tale of adventure and glory; that is my mission. I want to create the best of both a MMORPG with its wonders to explore and of the single player CPRG, with its story to become immersed in.

There are some very important parts of any story. The story must have a beginning, it must have a progression, and it must have closure to some parts of the plot as it moves forward. The story does not necessarily need to have an ending because the very nature of a Persistent World is something that is always developing. But there does need to be closure to different plots lines, enough so that the player feels they are moving forward.

I think the answer most people come up with to make the world less static is to have dynamic content that physically changes the world. I would argue this is not the best solution for a number of reasons;

  • You have new players that come to the server and they do not know the story behind why the Great War destroyed the elven village. All they know is that the elven village is in ruins; in essence, they have missed out on the beginning of the story.

    [li]Physically changing the module is in reality destroying the old story, destroying maybe 100s of man hours of work, for nothing more than a new starting point for a continued static story.

My answer to building a non-static world is to create a story that flows at the player level. I am sure this is not new, you are all smart folks and some of you may have already implemented something like this in your own worlds. As always, I am a bit slow so it takes me awhile to figure things out.

So what techniques would you use to develop this player level dynamic world?

  • I would start by implementing factions that are permanent and change based on the actions of the character. Factions are really one of the few avenues by which MMORPGs make the experience different between players.

    [li]We also use reputation very heavily, which we call Fame. They differ from faction in that factions determine if a group of people like/dislike you; fame is more focused on individual NPCs. For example, if you have a score of 15 fame with the mages guild, you are eligible for certain quests.

    [li]I would create content that is different based on the prior deed of the player. Let me give an example of this that I already have in place. One of the many quests on Shroud World involves a story about a Knight and a girl that fall in love at first sight. The father of the girl has ambitions of turning himself into a Lich and in order to do that, he needs a virgin (i.e. his daughter). So he destroys the Knight by changing him into a ghoul and then he puts his daughter into a magical slumber while he prepares the ceremony to become a Lich. It is at this point the player comes in and does several quests to free the girl and restore the Knight. The dynamic aspect comes in a bit later as the player can now go to a small house in a local village and if he has completed the quest, he can enter the house and speak with the now happily married Knight and his lovely wife.

    [li]As I stated earlier, my goal is to take the best of both the MMORPG and the single player CRPG. What better way to do that than to actually build a single player CRPG into the Persistent World, which we are simply calling the “Campaign”. While it sounds rather daunting, it is really nothing more than one huge over-arching quest that every player proceeds through at his own pace. I am implementing it in chapters so that each release of new content will include an additional chapter to this story. It is very simple to build dialogue to check what chapter the player is currently in and give distinct and applicable conversation based on that.

    [li]To further the dynamic aspects of this campaign and to enhance replayablity, the story differs at certain points between certain characteristics. One chapter might have 4 different paths based on class type while the next chapter has three paths, one of which is just randomly chosen. Each chapter of the story starts and ends with the same relative events so that each chapter dovetails into the next.

What ideas do you have that help breath life into a static world? What ideas or criticism comes to mind about our design concepts above?

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