Tuesday, March 27, 2007

State of NWN2

Alazander has a great post over on his blog about the current state of productivity of the Neverwinter Nights 2 modding scene. He notes that productivity is down--substantially--compared to where it was for NWN1 at this point in time. The list of high-quality modules that were out 5 months post-release of nwn1 is a bit staggering compared to what we have now.

I can think of three explanations for why this might be:
  • The toolset is harder to use. Honestly, I think these claims are far overstated, as my experiences with the toolset have been largely positive. It does take longer to do some things--especially rough out basic areas--but other things, like writing conversations and scripting (especially when swapping between windows like I like to do) goes much faster in my experience. But there's no question that a module involving a lot of area construction will probably take longer to make in NWN2 than NWN1.
  • Several prominent and productive builders from nwn1 have been gobbled up by groups like Ossian Studios, Rogue Dao Studios, and DLA. Some of these individuals might have released modules for NWN2 by now had they not had other distractions.
  • Finally, and by my estimation, probably the most important factor, is that builders have a choice of platforms now whereas they had little or no choice when nwn1 was released. NWN1 is still a great game to design modules for, even as the player base is shrinking. There are a bunch of builders for nwn1 who have yet to switch over, either because they are in the middle of projects, or because nwn2 won't do some things that nwn1 can do already. Or, because they're comfortable with nwn1 and don't feel like changing.
I still have every bit of confidence that nwn2 will continue to grow and flourish as a community. But I am a bit, well, disappointed is too strong of a word, but I will say surprised, at the sparse number of modules that have been released thus far. At two months, it was understandable not to see much out there. But at 5 months, we certainly could have seen some progress by now. Still, when you look at Hugie's thread on all that is currently in the works, it's very hard to be pessimistic for long. There's a lot of great stuff to look forward to. :)


In the meantime, I'm sort of on a break from NWN2. I didn't mean for it to happen, and I doubt that it will last long. But baseball season has begun, and as usual, I'm feeling a great draw towards my Cincinnati Reds (following and writing about them is my other hobby). I've also been playing a bit of Galactic Civilizations II, as well as the recently released Out of the Park Baseball 2007. But I'll still be around and keeping tabs on things--and I intend to keep updating this blog whenever I have something to say. :)

Update: Maerduin, who is one of the new breed of nwn2 builders, posted his take on this issue on his blog. An excerpt:
What are we builders supposed to do? Keep building, and, at those times when building has gotten the better of us, talking to each other and making our conversations visible. Keeping discussion about the game alive is vital, which is part of the reason I think blogging about mods is a good thing (the other reason is that it is psychologically motivating for builders).


  1. I agree with most of these points. I think you can probably add the World of Warcraft factor, as well as the general decline in PC gaming (save for World of Warcraft).

    I agree that the toolset isn't significantly tougher, save, of course, for the terrain builder. That said, the user-unfriendliness of it (including such things as soundsets and appearances not being sorted alphabetically) on release was absolutely baffling. Some of these are being addressed now, but some lazy programming and the refusal to do some basic optimization doubtless proved the straw that broke the camel's back for a number of builders.

    Up there with the choice of platforms fragmenting the community is the "been there, done that" factor. I don't believe NWN2 has drawn a significant new audience of builders. Those inclined to have spent months modding will already have done so with NWN1. The dream has already been fulfilled, as it were, and many don't have the enthusiasm this time around.

    I agree that Ossian, DLA, and Rogue Dao have had *some* effect, although I'd note that the latter is comprised (wholly?) of former PW builders.

    As far as Ossian is concerned, Alex Hugon is already doing a side-project for NWN2, and Challseus needed a break from modding after the 15 months spent on "Rose of Eternity 2" and possibly wouldn't have started anything yet, regardless of Ossian. Several other members likely would, though. I don't think the brain-drain effect (from a modder PoV) has been that significant... although there's no doubt that DLA now commands a hefty chuck of the custom content community.

    One theory that does seem to have been disproved is that new, unknown folk would step into the breech and take their place. As mentioned, both NWN games will have targeted exactly the same, generally mature audience. If they weren't involved with NWN1, chances are they're unlikely to be involved with NWN2.

    That said, there is still a lot to look forward to.

  2. If you're a fan of Galactic Civ II... you should really try space empires V. With the recently releases patch 1.33 and the latest AI mods, its (IMO) leagues beyond Galactic Civ II.



  3. Possibly,

    But I don't think that's the problem either Alazander, When NWN2 first came out there were a ton of people who were willing to build. Everyone and their mother was posting screenshots of worlds and modules they were making...

    Do you have any idea of how many of them experienced the toolset crashes and corrupted areas?

    Quite a significant number. The NWN1 toolset had the same crash and corruption problems as well, but this time around building an area and everything in it takes a lot of TLC and some serious effort.

    This wouldn't have been a problem for people, because the returns in building a this time around have rewards far greater than anything NWN1 could ever deliver.

    But to build it... and lose it to an are corruption... isn't just a minor matter this time around, its soul crushing.

    Some of them didn't keep backups.

    I won't lie to you, I had it happen 3 times on the Ruined Keep area, 4 times on the Abyss, 2 times on the Escape from Tragidor area.

    If not for the fact that I had Backups I would have lost it all and had to rebuild from scratch.

    But for a while it was 1 step up and two steps back.

    I had the entire module crash and burn once and if I hadn't figured out how to open directory I would have lost 275 megs worth of module and would have had to start all over from scratch at base zero again...


    I have an immensely strong willpower... most people will crumble long before I do...

    If I went through all that just to get Tragidor on the market... How many other people do you suppose gave up entirely after losing things only once?


    The irony is... Player wise... NWN1 is losing them, constantly... NWN2 is gaining them at a wild pace... everything but multiplayer, they are dying for and constantly demanding modules from module makers.

    Tragedy in Tragidor is upwards of 100-200 downloads a day STILL...

    The players are all over here...

    The Builders?

    Well the stabillity issues in the toolset seem to be improving, but how many do you suppose created something wonderful only to suffer a spirit crushing module corruption or loss...

    Funny... the players LOVE NWN2 and have for some time... but it was the initial issues with the toolset that hurt some builders... deep down.

    Multiplayer? Naw it's really not having that much impact. Most of the multiplayers are over in the MMO market nowadays, and MMOs do a much better job at it. We'd be lucky to even pull the "less than 10%" that Bioware had regardless of how this thing plays and looks.


  4. As a former fellow fly-pusher, I recommend you give "flOw" a play. A very short, but beautiful, game of "eat and evolve"...


    As to the lack of modules, I'd also add the pitiful amount of monsters available. Two dragons for a D&D game, for example.


  5. Phoenixus,

    There have been a number of reasons put forward, and I think they all have merit. The toolset crashing and corrupting areas is doubtless another factor.

    I simply think that the ultimate, overriding factor is that NWN2's fanbase isn't as big or as willing as NWN1's, for all the reasons Berliad and I put forward. If area and module corruption had been the major factor, we'd have heard a great deal more outcry, I believe.

    I do disagree with several comments you made:

    "The irony is... Player wise... NWN1 is losing them, constantly..."

    It's certainly lost them, but I don't think that it's drying up any time soon. Darkness over Daggerford was released in August 2006 and has so far received 41,000 downloads. Tyrants of the Moonsea (my module) received 15,000 over a similar time.

    Remember, the downloads for NWN1 modules are split very, very thin due to the vast number available. If the number of top modules for NWN1 was comparative to the number of top NWN2, we'd be looking at roughly equal figures, I believe.

    "NWN2 is gaining them at a wild pace... everything but multiplayer, they are dying for and constantly demanding modules from module makers."

    I don't believe this is the case. The download rates for all but the top modules (including yours) can be measured in double digits. 100-200 per day is comparable to the Rose of Eternity 2, the best recent NWN1 module, which according to the Overlooked Module Report had 1832 in February. Given the vastly greater competition the latter has to fight with for attention, I have to conclude that the potential player base for both games isn't that much different. It's just spread much, much thinner for NWN1.

  6. "This wouldn't have been a problem for people, because the returns in building a this time around have rewards far greater than anything NWN1 could ever deliver."

    I have to disagree with this in particular. It's an extremely subjective statement. What returns are we talking about? Money? Nope. Downloads? I've been around since the beginning and present since, and I'm quite sure the first flood of NWN1 modules had more in comparision. (Check out the D/L numbers for the modules I mentioned on my blog.) In not, it's because there was roughly 10x as many for players to choose from!

    Inherent quality? I don't think a single NWN2 module can thus far compare to the best NWN1 modules. I'm talking about writing, design, and innovation here, not visuals. If the last is what weighs most in your own personal satisfaction, that's cool, but I certainly wouldn't think that was the case for many players.

  7. By Phoenixus,

    With all due respect Alazander,

    Tyrants of the Moonsea has been out since 7/1/06... and has 15000 downloads... That's 8 months.


    Tragedy in Tragidor has been out since 1/6/07 and has 13700... that's about 3 months.

    Rose of Eternity has been out 5 months and is at 7000 and is at the top of the Hall of Fame listings. So it's not like its not getting attention... It just doesn't have the players available to it that NWN1 used to. They are steadily declining.

    Heck Yours is still on the front page of the HoF listings too.

    You guys aren't competing with much, you're on the top of the food chain, just like I am, yet neither can approach what Tragedy and Pool of Radiance for NWN2 can in such a short amount of time.

    And this doesn't even include Adam Millers up and coming release of Dark Waters for NWN2 that will most likely in time surpass even Darkness over Daggerford.

    Either way... that we will have to disagree on... but I believe the trend is clear.

    To answer your other question...


    [b]By Phoenixus:[/b]
    "This wouldn't have been a problem for people, because the returns in building a this time around have rewards far greater than anything NWN1 could ever deliver."

    [b]By Alazander[/b]
    "Inherent quality? I don't think a single NWN2 module can thus far compare to the best NWN1 modules. I'm talking about writing, design, and innovation here, not visuals. If the last is what weighs most in your own personal satisfaction, that's cool, but I certainly wouldn't think that was the case for many players."....

    My Response to you...

    [b]By Phoenixus[/b]
    Let's put it this way to help you understand...
    Anything you want to do in NWN1... you can also do in NWN2 (writing. design, innovation, by your example)... you can do in NWN2 much more beautiful, stunning, and seemless... the returns in building a this time around have rewards far greater than anything NWN1 could ever deliver.

    If you don't believe me... go take one of your NWN1 mods, and convert it over to NWN2... the difference is noticable and marked.

    ... And if you feel the way you do about NWN1 Modules over NWN2 modules... then lets see you put your money where your mouth is and convert some of your old NWN1 modules to NWN2, then you'll see just what I am talking about.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Hey Guys,

    I read the original message but not all of the posts (yet), so sorry if I cover old ground.

    I do think it takes longer to build a mod in NWN2. The terrain builder is powerful but as noted it takes longer. I spent three days fighting walkmesh issues. I also corrupted a section of my mod with the speak trigger (this is a documented bug on the bioware forums).

    Coversations have more options, animation options for body, facial expression, who is the speaker looking at.

    The overland map is great, but it's something else that is new.

    Customizing the look of NPCs is terrific but again it requires additional time.

    The capabilties are great, but it takes TIME.

    Personally, I've got three great kids and the weather is getting warmer. I will probably finish up what was suppose to be my short project, a conversion of Keep on the Borderlands. It will likely be my only project.

    I LOVE THIS STUFF. But I just don't have the time. It's taking me twice as long to build and on a personal level I've got other interests and priorities (my kids).

    I am eager to get my module out soon.


    Ernie Noa

  11. Great discussion folks! :)

    I think I agree with pretty much all the various reasons I've seen thus far for the relatively small builder community, including those put forth by Maerduin on this blog (see update to original post).

    The good thing is that I do think there's enough momentum to keep this community moving forward--my hope is that there will be a decent enough foundation of modules by the time the first nwn2 expansion pack comes out that the community of both players and builders will get a nice surge of fresh blood. The game will be polished by that point and these horrible corruption bugs will hopefully be a thing of the past.

    We just need 10 or so individuals to release some high quality work. That's totally do-able, and would really change the feel of the community. -B

  12. P.S. Mungo, that little game is awesome. :) I'm going to spend more time with it later on.

    Reminds me a bit of Spore. -B

  13. I'm pretty sure the author has also worked on Spore... And this one is free :)

  14. oops, forgot to sign that last comment.

    In an aside comment to the main argument, another module from the FRW stable is entering beta-testing and another author is looking for the same help on the NWN2 forum, so slowly (way too slowly) things are coming together for the community...


  15. Most of the reasons given here are legitimate reasons that have sliced off a portion of the modder community. Any one factor wouldn't be that bad, but in total, you're seeing a dramatic reduction in output. I'll add one additional reason. Remember that a lot of those early NWN1 builders have since gone on to be hired full-time by various groups (for example Rick Burton, but there have been others).

    I will say that I would have already published a mod had my efforts not been redirected elsewhere. Several well-known authors working together do reduce the total number of mods that are released, as there is some level of inefficiency when multiple cooks are in the proverbial kitchen. That said, you'd expect the end result would be much more spectacular... but I'll refrain from saying anything more for now.