NWN: The Emperor Has No Clothes

I am glad everyone is having such a fun time with NWN, scripting their adventures for the talking toilet and attaching a flush sound to the invisible object to make it fit with the scripting engine. Here is the news for you: the multiplay in this game is boring. Check that, I meant it is fucking boring. Spend all the time you want telling your clever fantasy stories, boys, because when it comes time to run them, they will suck. And here is why.

Five guys get together to go through a dungeon. Actually it’s a carefully laid out, story-driven adventure over hill and over dale, through a town and into a dungeon. Fine so far. Early on, the party meet a NPC. Who will speak to him? One of us. But wait, not everyone was listening to or (actually) READING the dialogs. So we click through them again. What was that? Too fast? Fuck. This is taking forever. What do we do? Wait, I am re-arranging my inventory. Dudes, I am encumbered. Who can take this stuff off my hands? Are you listening? Hey, I’m getting fucking killed over here!? Oh man sorry, I was shopping, this armor sucks. Did you not hear my cries for help? No I did not. All the text is in the same window. Why can’t it beep when you need help? And so on into ever-greater chaos. We all quit. True story. Happened just recently.

How can this be? It must be the fault of the MODULE DESIGNER! No fear among the smarty-pants quartertothree-ers. Oh no, they cry, my module is not so tedious, it is the height of inspiration and divine storytelling! No it isn’t because listen up, and this includes you Ben Sones: the best type of adventure in this game is one where everyone gets to fight a lot of monsters. The more text you have, the more the game slows down, and the … more … boring … it … is. Because I am controlling one guy, and I am bored right NOW. And now. And again now. Oh I killed one monster, or a small group of monsters. Now I am bored again because thief-man ran over there because HE was bored, because we can’t fight that golem until one other dillweed re-spawns because HE got bored and wandered off and got killed by a trap.

Hahaha! And so he should have! He is not a good role-player to do so and wander off unawares, and thus his comeuppance is served! Only through careful and coordinated cooperation of Ernie, Bert, and Mr. Hooper can the Snuffleuppagus be snared. But that is the whole problem, ladies and gentlemen: on a computer it does not work. Ever try to coordinate a group in Everquest? There you are camped, and the goal is common and clear and fucking simple. In NWN it is far, far worse because you have to FORCE yourself to spend most of your time just following people around in a group. The more story, the harder it is to stay together. The more fighting, the less plot. In EQ, you are fighting, and then you are fighting. You have leveled! You can run where you will. But in NWN you have to stay until storytime is over, and then you can only run in one direction.

After playing it for three hours, I can see what would have worked best: a series of scripted, set-piece combats against ever-tougher monsters where a balanced party is needed for success. Engage! Defend! Cast a spell! Cast a counterspell! Oh, a sneak attack by master rogue! All action-oriented endeavors. The computer is about action. The sit-down, talk-it-out, DM-led think-tank approach to medieval problem-solving only works face-to-face, because once you remove all that multi-person interaction, you realize how little there actually is to DO. Unless you are fighting nearly all the time. This is not a theory, citizens. It is now proven fact. Bioware has brought pen-and-paper multiplay to the PC, and it blows ass.

I can hear the reasoned yet gratingly verbose tones of the Brian Rucker Brigade: oh dear, this sort of wanton combat does not satisfy my need to explore the many complex interactions of a fictional world riven by factional strife in a dynamic setting using multivariable calculus! Guess what, gentlemen? While the pen-and-paper scenario is a truly worthwhile pursuit on a rainy Saturday afternoon, it does not work via networked computers because --I said it already-- it is not suited to a guy with a mouse in one hand (and the other in his pants, that’s for you Met_K). Standing around together building storybook scenes in the midst of a desolate land sounds like a ripping good time, until you actually have to do it, and then it is nothing like what you thought it would be like, because you didn’t think it would suck, but it actually does.

Mark my words, people: the “design-your-own” multiplayer experience, complete with or without cyber-DMs, is going to fall flat on its fucking face. Dead. You will not be able to play through a gripping adventure with your friends, because all you will be gripping by the end is your head in exasperation (and your cock, Met_K a shout out again). After all the hoopla about shared adventures and the pen-and-paper D&D finally comes to the computer, here is what you will have: a mod-able solo RPG game in which your are fatally, show-stoppingly stuck with a single player-character and one henchman, and a battle royale throwaway skirmish combat mode that won’t last longer than the average beat-em-up in terms of popularity.

Wait for it. The GameSpots and RPG Vaults are all aglow with the solo game, which isn’t so hot either, but at least it isn’t terrible. Fuck, it’s not even as good as Baldur’s Gate. One. But it’s 3D and the combat looks cool with the circling and slashing. No matter. The acid test is whether years from now, the boys and girls will be curled up in front of their computers reading text box after text box while cats purr in their laps and their compatriots all stand at respectful attention while they find out who Lady Desmerelda wants slain, or smoten, or delivered of a secret package. It ain’t gonna happen. You’ll see. The enthusiasm is gonna leak outta this one like any coital metaphor my homey Met_K wants to throw down.

This is the way the fantasy world ends, not with a bang, but in mind-numbing boredom. Goodnight, gents.

I agree that DMing NWN online like a pnp session seems nearly impossible, unless you’re a great DM with great skills at handling the NWN interface WITH great players. PnP gaming is episodic, whereas NWN online is fit best for a fast pace with rarely a story. I think Bioware did AS good a job as they could with this game, but I think the problem with NWN is that for a mutliplayer game it leaves too much work for the player to make the game fun. Also the Real Time aspect of combat goes completely against the pnp feel of DnD. Where once one dungeon in a pnp session can last hours (or even days), can last mere minutes in NWN. This isnt really a fault of NWN, its more a fault of the dynamics of PnP gaming vs online pc gaming.

I think the real roleplaying experiences in online gaming only can take place in a predetermined place ala a persistent world type game. This leaves both the GM and players time to manage the real nuts and bolts of a tabletop feel, but it will still be a computer game, and not a pnp game feel. I actually think that with a turnbased battle system, it actually would be more engaging as an online pnp game. Having to decide round by round want to do by turns actually imo lends itself to more roleplaying… especially fleshing out the combat. Maybe NWN being too graphical in presentation takes away the pnp roleplaying aspect?

anyway, I cant judge the online experience too much since the online sessions I played were all pickup games… so its to be expected I would get hack n slash. Also, its still too early to lay this game to rest. I still thinks its a good step forward for a new type of online experience. Albeit i still think theres more to do to make this pnp aspect work online…

PS Legolas you leave Met K and Brian alone. They do nothing wrong to you. You act like they beat you up. You so mean. You should stick to EQ and camp with the uber dicks! :lol:


So do you normally light up before you game? Or do you just like to hear yourself talk?

I had a lot of experiences with online multiplayer games – I didn’t even know these guys – in the beta. I haven’t pulled myself away from the SP game yet since it went retail long enough to see how those hold up now.

But on a LAN, with friends, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’ll rock. Sorry, Legolas, but I disagree with everything you said, based on my own experiences. Especially the part where you said that, years from now, nobody else will be playing this game. I’ve been wrong before, but I’d be shocked if that turned out to be true.

I truly wish all Trolls were this interesting. Scrape the muck away and there are some disturbing insights. Particularly this one:

This is actually what I most wanted and expected from NWN, so I don’t find it “show-stopping”. D&D can’t work over the Internet, unless you’re playing with close friends… and if you are, odds are you could probably play better in person. The best D&D sort of requires voice and eye contact. And frankly Murph, if you’re on a Lan I’d still argue you’re better off using dice and sitting at a table. The computer is too limiting to compete with the imagination.

This is why I was so disturbed by the single henchman limitation in the other thread. If all I wanted was modable Baldur’s Gate, and if Legolas (if that is his real name) is correct, all I’ve got is modable Baldur’s Gate, then I want a damn party. But what I ultimately want to do is play some dramatic off-beat modules filled with prose and unexpected stories. I like what Ben and Jason have been discussing and I can’t wait to play their modules. Playing online never sounded particularly interesting to me.

Still, I think this Emperor is totally clothed. Thanks for the post anyway Mr. Golas.

(Desslock, can you still figure out who people are? This guy’s a local, he knows us too well methinks.)

I think Legolas has some valid points. I tried some multiplayer tonight in public games and none of it was satisfying. MMOGs do online RPGs better from the little I’ve seen.

I need to play more multiplayer to get a better feel for it, of course.

“…and if Legolas (if that is his real name) is correct…”

First, isn’t it obvious that Legolas is a screen name? Second, what difference does his name make?

“First, isn’t it obvious that Legolas is a screen name? Second, what difference does his name make?”

Third did you also think I believe he should be addressed as “Mr. Golas”? Because I did that too.

This games been out like a week. Everybody is still getting used to the tools, and the DM client. But you have already judge the game and its future already? The potential of this game has barely started and some people want to write it off already.

Here’s my rant now. This post is a perfect example of how pathetic our society has become in terms of wanting to be entertained. Its give me total and perfect satisfaction now or I’m gonna say it sucks. Tottally lame…

>MMOGs do online RPGs better from the little I’ve seen.

Yep, and I think the original poster raises a number of good points. But all that they highlight is that multiplayer story-driven games lack the broad appeal of multiplayer games that focus exclusively on combat. It takes effort, and interest, to have a decent role-playing game session – and it’s difficult to have the necessary interaction without being able to freely speak to each other.

I don’t think that multiplayer NWN works any better than multiplayer Icewind Dale, or BG2 – but for gamers like me who loved those games in multiplayer, Neverwinter Nights is even better, because you can further customize the experience. It’s just because there was so much hype, and accordingly anticipation, for Neverwinter Nights – much of it focused on the multiplayer game – that a broader range of gamers are trying it only to realize they don’t have the patience or interest to deal with all the “downtime”, busy-work, associated with RPGs. Add any complexity or depth beyond what the Diablo games provide and you’re going to run into that 'problem".

But for gamers who’ve been waiting for the opportunity to play D&D on the computer (with compromises in freedom and linearity in exchange for a more visceral experience), Neverwinter Nights does the best job yet. I have much more interest in this style of multiplayer game than MMORPGs, but the latter type of games are much more viable with strangers – like pen and paper D&D, you need a fun group of motivated players to have a good experience in multiplayer Neverwinter.

Hey, this the first time I’ve been mocked in the forums here. Cool! Do I finally get a t-shirt?

I was never that much interested in NWN because it’s essentially the miniatures aspect of roleplaying not the imaginative aspect - the graphical and combat-focused engine will limit what’s possible no matter how many mods and custom files are made. If I have friends to roleplay with around we’ll play at a table. If I’m playing online, at this point, I’m much more into text-based environments with scores of roleplayers, that have to apply for the priviledge, online rather than a graphical environment with four or five guys. I mean, it could be fun for a while but it’s really nothing I’d probably spend money on. And hardcore hack&slashers probably won’t like it for the reasons Leggy states.

Somewhere in between the roleplayers and the munchkins, I’m sure there is a real market for it and only time will tell where it goes from here. I might even break down and try it out if I hear enough good stuff.

I think that modules built that want more NPC interaction over fighting are going to have to be very thorough in their use of the journal to keep all party members informed of the current game state, to try and avoid the issue brought up in the first post.

In my tabletop days, the responsibilty of talking to NPCs always fell to a particular player, chosen by the group, to be the representative. While everyone has a right to participate, I would think that having one person (high charisma? high persuade?) do all the talking up front would help the text aspect out. It then falls again on the module designer to have sufficient Conversations built that allow anyone with the quest to get “So, tell me about blah blah blah again?” options with the quest giver.

I think the one thing that’s almost a requirement, however, for any mod that’s not just hack&slash oriented, would be a hand picked group, who knew what they were getting into beforehand. Random people would certainly frighten me if I were trying to run a “serious campaign” in public space.

About the amount of fighting - some friends and I were talking about this yesterday. If I were making a module for tabletop PnP, for a 4 hour session, we might get into 5 big fights. If I were to port that module over to NwN for a 4 hour session, I might adjust the module to make sure there were at least 5 big fights every half hour. It is a video game, after all, and why the default module reduces official critter XP to 10% of its original value.

Hopefully we’ll (or Ben, and we’ll steal all his work) get good enough at the toolset that some good intelligent conversation-based mods will have less empasis on combat while still being enthralling to the average player.

I don’t get what you’re saying, or why you’re blaming the game. The game speeds up the hack and slash of PnP, yes, but how is that a bad thing? You really like spending 5 minutes on a turn to figure out who hit what for how much, like a real PnP game?

If you’re trying to do something the engine doesn’t handle, then you could roll virtual dice (there’s a console command for it) and see if they succeed. So, the game is not really limited by the engine, you just have to suspend belief which, if you’ve been playing PnP all this time, shouldn’t be TOO difficult.

Example… If a player wanted to bribe a guard to let his party pass, which is something the mission might not be coded for, the DM could pause the game, roll the player’s charisma plus the bribe amount… And if he succeeds, the DM could make the guard simply ignore him and subtract the gold from the player with a few mouse clicks.

Sounds to me like you’re just complaining that computer gamers don’t have the patience for a true PnP style game… Which on the other hand, I WOULD agree with… Which is fine; password your server and know the people you’re playing with aren’t retards.

Yes! And you get your choice of styles:

  • “I’m With Wumpus”
  • “Fuck Star Wars”
  • “Coed Naked Qt3 Lacrosse”
    Or one with the Royal Tenenbaums banner ad on it. REAL BIG.

Ok, I didn’t realize you were jabbing at him.

A few things.

As a multiplayer experience, NWN is going to require a lot more work on the part of both the players and the DM in order to be fun compared to “jump in and play” games such as Counterstrike and Diablo. Which is true of tabletop gaming as well, for what it’s worth. Mostly the people that are going to enjoy playing NWN multiplayer are people that already enjoy tabletop role-playing. If pen and paper D&D doesn’t do it for you, then I’d guess that playing NWN online (especially with strangers) won’t, either.

Running a good NWN game is also going to take work, even if you use somebody else’s module. Some people, particularly people that are used to diving into Diablo and playing for half an hour, won’t like that. And that’s fine. I’m sure we’ll see some hack-and-slash module designed to cater to a group of strangers that just want to team up and slog through a series of combats, but I’ll grant you that the game doesn’t cater to that very well (or at all) right now.

On the other hand, it seems a bit unfair to criticize the quality of the available modules when the game has only been out for, what? A week? Most people haven’t even tried editor yet, or are busy playing the official campaign. All of the modules (and there aren’t many) floating around out there have been cobbled together quickly by people that aren’t used to the toolset yet. Do most of them suck? Yeah, they do. Including the one I threw together (although that wasn’t really meant to be played for fun). Get back to me this time next month, and this conversation will be more relevant.

Bub: I agree that tabletop D&D is a superior experience. But many people don’t know enough people locally that play. I just moved to a new town, and I don’t know many people, let alone people that play D&D. I’m putting together a campaign with my old group from college (one is in LA, one in Boston, one in Austin… you get the idea). Tougher to do that with a tabletop game.

Legolas: Actually, I don’t have much to say to you. You don’t like it. That’s fine. I’m not inclined to try to convince you otherwise. I do thank you for extending ME that courtesy, however, by explaining that I am wrong for liking NWN. Or was your point that I don’t really like it at all, and that everyone that’s having fun with the game is really just deluding themselves? If so, I wish more games sucked this badly.

I’ve been enjoying the single player game quite a bit. I’m still on the 1st chapter of the SP module, but it’s been a hoot.

As for the multiplayer…I have to agree with the general sentiment of the first post. I’ve tried several pick up games, all of which ended up being too annoying to stick with. I also tried a couple of games with some folks that I’ve been playing EQ with for years. Even with people I know and know how to work with, the multiplayer gameplay just wasn’t compelling at all. Maybe there will be some quality player made modules that will change this opinion, but I somehow doubt it.

My biggest complaint about multiplayer so far has been the “yawn” factor of the battles. Monsters seem to be geared towards the 1 person + 1 henchman mentality. When you have 6 people playing together, 2 with familiars and 2 with Summon Monster, suddenly you have to find a way to challenge an army. You have 2 choices for setting up an encounter: 1) swamp the party with a horde of critters hoping that a few monsters will live long enought to hurt someone or 2) have the battle consist of a boss monster that smacks down the party so fast that they can hardly respond. There seems to be a lack of things in the critter library that are challenging for a 6 group party + henchmen/pets to take down that also doesn’t kill people in 1 or 2 hits.

Once again, this opinion might change once I’ve seen some high quality player made modules. For now, the multiplayer is uncompelling and totally unbalanced.

I’d like to think the people who were part of my E3 multi-player demo had a good time. But hey, I could be wrong, and my DMing skills could be absolutely horrible and useless.

No problem. Heh, I even used to write “Anonymous, if that is your real name” at the old board… I hold screen names in only slightly higher regard than anonymous posters. Unless their a screen name that’s been around a while with the same tone.

I love you Sparky.

To keep this thread on topic:
Brian Rucker wrote: “because it’s essentially the miniatures aspect of roleplaying not the imaginative aspect”

This is brilliant and exactly what I’ve been thinking. I’m going to use this for a NWN column, hope you don’t mind Brian.

The game we played was actually run by an experienced pen-and-paper GM who had played a lot of the NWN beta, and the five players (me included) were all old pen-and-paper buddies who spent more time than we want to admit publicly playing Twilight 2000 and other paper RPGs (together), so it’s not like we don’t know how to role-play. This is my whole point: in pen-and-paper gaming, there often isn’t a lot that you, as the gamer, are actually doing. But the interaction between you and the other players, both through their physical presence and the fact that you are all drinking beer or Coke and probably occasionally petting the dog completely makes up for that. Separate the players, though, and give everyone his own screen and mouse, and all of a sudden the need to interact through a computer interface actually becomes cumbersome. You can try and use Roger Wilco or something (we did not but we will try it next time) but the conventions of CRPGs are all built on single-player gaming. The stupid dialog trees, “Poor soul, I will help you / Stupid fool, I will never help you! / Draw steel, ruffian! / Farewell” just don’t work well with five guys standing around, even if all five of those guys have regulalrly sat in the same living room for years as part of the same Morrow Team. My friend Josh is a great role-player, but with a screen in front of him and a mouse in his hand, even he could not stop himself from wandering off to explore another part of the city because, well, standing around just got boring. It’s not what computer games are built for. The pacing, as someone mentioned above, is all wrong. Mount Kafka may be onto something that a turn-based combat model might actually work better than the real-time one for multiplayer, because when a player has absolute freedom, he is going to want to use it absolutely all the time. It’s just the way computer games are. And having the DM pause the game to make rolls and such is just awful. There is nothing quite as jarring as having total control and then having it taken away from you intermittently, unexpectedly, and suddenly by having the screen freeze while someone does something else. It sucks in Freedom Force m/p and it sucks here.

NWN actually demonstrates pretty convincingly what is compelling about the single-player CRPG experience, and how it is completely different from what works in multiplayer on the computer. It’s almost a case study. I’m telling you: instead of opening a new set of worlds for m/p online gaming for years to come, the m/p NWN experience will wither to a few hardcore nuts not unlike the text-based MUSH crowd, and some slash-n-bash pseudo-Gauntlet. But the miraculous cooperative, shared, happy-fuzzy epic adventures with soaring stories ain’t gonna happen, no matter how good your skripting skillz.

To Ben Sones: Hi Ben! I’m sorry your reading comprehension is so bad, that you can’t decide whether I’m telling you that you are wrong for liking NWN, or that you actually don’t like NWN in the first place, because neither one of those choices is correct. All I’m saying is that no matter how much time you spend crafting dialog trees and making the well talk so a man is trapped inside, it isn’t going to translate into gameplay the way you think it is. No matter how much “work” the DM and players put into it, it’s going to suck. In fact, the MORE “work” everyone does (better story, more choices, everyone controls themselves and doesn’t wander off) will just make it clear how not fun it is to do this. But you’ll find that out for yourself, I suppose.

If the whole point of playing NWN is that you’d rather be playing face-to-face D&D but you cannot, then how bad NWN is as a multiplayer game doesn’t matter because you have no choice. Instead of having sex with a person, you can buy a blow-up sex doll and use that, but it’s not so good either, according to Met_K. Again, you don’t really have a choice. But the point I am making is that all the conventions of both pen-and-paper role-playing and single-player CRPGs totally unravel in a point-and-click multiplayer CRPG, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Unless you just force yourself to sit in front on the screen, not touch the mouse for long periods of time, and repeat over and over to yourself, “I’m really having fun, I’m really having fun, I’m really having fun.” Or you just like to compulsively make modules and adventures that no one will ever play. I know a lot of pen-and-paper guys do this, too. So in that way, the games are exactly alike.