Wednesday, April 4, 2007

A Shot in the Arm - Obsidian NWN2 Mod-Making Contest

Tonight, Obsidian announced that the long-awaited NWN2 Mod-Making contest is on! From the news announcement on the Vault:
For this first contest, the theme will be "Grimm's Fairy Tales." The final day to submit modules will be Monday, April 30th at noon Pacific Time.

You can remake one of Grimm's Fairy Tales or do anything else as long as your mod has something to do with the theme.
I'm really excited about this. We've talked about how the builder community hasn't been very productive thus far, and this contest could be just what we needed. It offers a chance to get a lot of good modules pushed out in just one month's time...and even if some of the entries aren't very good, it might help a lot of people get their feet wet with the toolset, who might then go on to do great things in our little community.

The immediate comparison one might make for this event is the Bioware Writing Contest of February/March 2006. In that module, conditions were extremely cramped: one 4x4 area, a maximum of three NPC's, no combat at all, and a cap on word count. Most modules took about 5 minutes to play through, though some of the clever ones, including the eventual winner, Myranni's Magic by Mat Jobe, might have taken 15 min. The result was 300+ modules being submitted. Unfortunately, due to the severe constraints, many of them weren't terribly fun or engaging. Still, in my role as one of the nominated community judges, I played through around 90 of them, and saw a lot of really good ideas out there (as an aside, Mat Jobe's module was luckily in my initial batch of modules to review as a judge, so I felt some level of pride to see it win it all...not that it wouldn't have won had it gone to anyone else's batch!).

This new contest has much more open-ended rules, though the expected product must be larger in scope: between 30 minutes and two hours long, two to five areas (one must be an exterior), and must follow (on some level) the Grimm's Fairy Tales theme. It also doesn't carry with it the opportunity to gain potential employment in the gaming industry like the Bioware writing contest did. Therefore, I think the result is going to be that there will be far fewer modules that are submitted, but the ones we get are almost certainly going to be more enjoyable than those of the writing contest.

I can't wait to see the entries start to pour in. I briefly (like...for about 3 seconds) toyed with the idea of trying to come up with a submission of my own, but with the start of the baseball season and everything going on at work, I have too many distractions. :) Instead, I'm going to try to play and give comments on as many as I can, as I think this could be a cool feature for the blog. Stay tuned to this space...

Update: Maerduin is apparently planning to put in a contest submission. Great news!

Update2: It looks like a lot of folks in the NWN2 Mods forum around going to give it a whirl.


  1. Man, that's a tight deadline. I'll frankly be amazed if people can produce high-quality stuff in that time. At the risk of sounding negative, I think the downside here is that this could distract builders from other, worthier projects.

    I'm also a little puzzled by the theme. If one of the goals was to increase the number of playable mods, you'd think they would have required a Forgotten Realms setting, which would have allowed players to easily transition their characters between mods. Not only did they not require a FR setting, but they picked a theme that's pretty much incompatible with FR.

    Regardless... good luck to all the contestants!

  2. Well, we'll see. I have a lot of confidence in this community, and I remember the large modules that were made in about the same time frame for the SoU-HotU and post-HotU contests. These don't have to be that large (which is good, 'cause the toolset takes longer to build with), so I think they're doable. As far as distracting builders, we're only talking a month here. And it might be good for some builders to shift their focus onto a smaller module for a while so they can have the experience of completing a project and putting it out there.

    As far as the theme, I'm not sure why you think it conflicts with FR. It only needs to be inspired by Grimm's fairy tales. I think a Hanzel and Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood-type story could easily inspire something in FR.

  3. I guess my issue is that Grimm's fairly tales is in some ways a competing mythology. It has its own specific stories, settings, and characters, and I think it's natural for people to build mods around those elements rather trying to fit a Grimm's tale into FR.

    In contrast, I think if they had a more general theme ("stranded" or "horror," for example), or just required a certain item as the bridge module contest did, you'd see more people building in FR.

    Just my opinion... I could be way off.

  4. I guess the question is how creatively you want to interpret the requirement that it be part of the theme. My understanding of the rules--and Rob McGinnis has repeatedly emphasized something along these lines--is that the mod must be inspired by Grimm fairy tale, but the way in which that is incorporated into the module can be pretty loose. I think if you allow yourself to be creative, you won't have much trouble with that requirement. And it could result in some really interesting modules.

    It'll be interesting to see what folks come up with. -B

  5. Hmm... I was kind of suprised by the choice of theme. It's not something that would stoke my imagination enough to break out the toolset, even if I wasn't already so busy that me participating was a possibility.

    I tend to agree with Toop that it seems strange to use a toolset optimized for working with one mythology to build something for another. It seems to me that FR (or other high fantasy settings) may draw more interest. Still, I might might well be wrong. As Berliad says, the theme is quite open to interpretation.

    Berliad, maybe you'd like to enter this one? I wonder, perhaps, if this might be an ideal time to utilize that remarkable setting idea you were telling me about. :)

    Good luck to all who participate!

  6. I think the theme is good. The genealogy of modern fantasy would reveal more than one fairy-tale ancestor, I'm sure. Anyway, I love constraints--The more bizarre the better (though I don't find this one particularly bizarre).

  7. Berliad, maybe you'd like to enter this one? I wonder, perhaps, if this might be an ideal time to utilize that remarkable setting idea you were telling me about. :)

    Heh, no, I won't be entering. Too busy of a time in my life. Maybe some future contest... -B