Neverwinter Nights 2: Warcry at Obsidian Part I: Toolset

Arriving at Obsidian’s offices on July 10, 2006, my Warcry compatriot Josh and I were greeted kindly by the receptionist, Jessica Edge, not coincidentally a former Black Isle employee who has only recently come back to the fold. We chatted a bit and discovered that she had been the webmaster for several of the Black Isle games including Icewind Dale 2 among others.

In the course of our conversation it was revealed that OE is comprised of over a hundred employees, having added approximately thirty in the last several months. Because of this expansive growth, the offices now encompass an upstairs suite and a downstairs office group. The move is apparently a work in progress as several pictures still decorate the ground rather than the walls though several KotOR 2 posters were in evidence. I wondered idly if they’d notice if one went missing though I was unsure how I would spirit a poster-sized framed picture into my laptop bag.

After a short time, senior producer Ryan Rucinski came down to let us know that Shane was running a bit late but nearly in mid-sentence, Shane popped in the door. After introductions, we determined a basic schedule for the day and headed off to the art department for a look at the toolset. Environmental artist Scott Everts gave us the grand tour and the largest impression I came away with was the sheer immensity of the thing.

Here is a smattering of what we saw and heard, keeping in mind that there’s little new under the sun at this point until the game comes out:

[ul][li]Areas are 32×32 with each of those units being 9mx9m. When an object was placed in one unit for perspective’s sake, it illustrated the immensity of the area as a whole
[li]Lighting is colored in both directions (reflective)
[li]Shadows drop off in intensity, darkest next to the object and lighter the further away, for example
[li]Absolute control over objects: x-y-z scaling and scaling does NOT have any effect on processor use
[li]Placeables are:

  • Dynamic: can be interacted with and scripts can be assigned to them. Dynamic objects block paths
    [li] Static: these block pathing
    [li] Environmental: no interaction, walkmesh goes around them (unpathable)
  • [b]Effects [/B]can be attached to most any object including placeables and NPCs
  • [b]Characters [/B]are always visible since objects “blocking” the view of one’s character fade out to allow it to be seen. Additionally, the camera can be moved to allow for constant visuals of characters.
    [li]Water reflects all surrounding it including objects, spell effects, and environments. Water interacts with anything nearby.
    [li][b]Water [/B]in interior areas reflects the ceiling and walls. Conversely, it reflects onto the walls and objects
    [li]Water variants can be placed in any grid unit. For instance, a river in one, the riverbank marsh and a nearby pond can all be in adjoining units.
    [li]Tilesets (each one listed is further broken down into subsets):

    [ul][li] Standard Interior
    [li] Standard Castle
    [li] Crypt
    [li] Standard Mine
    [li] Caves
    [li] Illefan
    [li] Shadow Fortress
  • [/ul] [li][b]Tilesets [/B]all have matching secret doors and rooms remain darkened on the map until opened
    [li][b]Day and night cycle [/B]is astounding and gradual with the moon and stars following a logical path. The day’s light gradually dims as the sun goes down moving to the full darkness of night and then the sky lightens as day approaches. [/ul]

    Scott showed us concrete examples of each of the above using the toolset. He is a very articulate teacher and very passionate about his craft (and coffee!). The impression he left me with is that the toolset is a highly polished piece of software that is going to open the floodgates of creation. Yes, the learning curve is high but once mastered, it should give modders and builders an incredible opportunity to create professional modules and worlds for players.

    Thanks to Scott for his answers to rather *coughs* naïve *coughs* questions.

    Stay tuned for Thursday’s article: Warcry at Obsidian: Persistent Worlds and the DM Client

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