Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark Interview

As many of you already know, BioWare will be releasing Hordes of the Underdark, their second expansion pack for Neverwinter Nights, in December. However, we felt there were some unanswered questions floating around concerning the addon, so we tracked down BioWare’s Darcy Pajak (Assistant Producer) and Tom Ohle (Public Relations Specialist) to see if we could shed some light on the Underdark. Our questions and their answers to follow:

GB: First of all, how is Hordes of the Underdark coming along? Are you still on track for a late November release date?

Darcy: Hordes is coming along great. It’s a lot of fun creating this expansion pack. With all the new features we are jamming into it, it will be fun for the community as well.

Tom: The team right now is working hard to hit our target release date. The game’s fully playable, and it’s tons of fun. I think the campaign is superior to anything we’ve done in Neverwinter so far. The designers have done an amazing job with it.

GB: For those players unfamiliar with epic levels, can you explain how they work and what benefits they will provide for existing characters?

Darcy: In the 3rd-edition D&D rules, epic refers to levels higher than the normal 20 players can achieve in the core rule books. It means that players can keep growing their character to become more and more powerful. In Hordes of the Underdark, we have added many new feats and spells for all classes that achieve greater than 20th level.

GB: Can you provide any hints as to what the remaining prestige classes, feats, or spells that you’re adding with the expansion will be?

Darcy: We are adding 6 new prestige classes for Hordes of the Underdark: the Dwarven Defender, which turns a Dwarf fighter into a immovable battle machine; the Champion of Torm, which is an absolute bane to evil and can kill powerful evil creatures in one hit; the Pale Master, who specializes in the black arts of the undead; the Shifter, a class that can take on the shape and abilities of both animals and monsters; and the Weapon Master, a powerful fighting machine. Last but not least, there is the Red Dragon Disciple. This class gains some of the strength and abilities of a red dragon. The BioWare community requested all of these new classes and we hope they enjoy them.

GB: How many new magic items are you implementing into HotU? Care to detail any of the more powerful ones?

Darcy: There are quite a few new magic items we are integrating into Hordes of the Underdark. We’re upgrading all the current weapons and items to have attack bonuses ranging from +5 to +20, and adding a Djinni Bottle which contains a store so the player can buy and sell items as long as he has the bottle and gives it a rub once in a while. We are also adding an intelligent weapon the player can find. This black blade gives the player great attack bonuses, and it has a terrifically sour disposition. I guess I would too after being stuck in the hands of a skeleton for centuries.

GB: Other than new tilesets, items and creatures, are there any extra NWN Toolset additions or features, such as new wizards, handy scripts, perhaps a higher resolution?

Darcy: There will be several new toolset features. We have added a new Area property that allows you to set the fog distance. This will give module creators more options in creating the look of areas, and it takes advantage of the new unlocked camera in HotU.

In terms of new graphics, it is possible now to attach wings and/or tails to creatures if they use certain appearances, including all the playable race appearances.

In addition, we have added a Hak Pak sync feature. It will list all the features of Hak Paks and show those that are duplicated, have the highest priority, and which ones override game resources. There’s really quite a bit of new stuff for the awesome custom-content community that exists for Neverwinter.

GB: With the new D&D 3.5 ruleset in full force, are you finding it difficult to stick with the 3rd edition ruleset in any way? Have you considered blending the two?

Darcy: We are perfectly happy with the 3.0 ruleset right now. They have allowed us to create some fun and exciting features and adventures, and have no plans to blend the two.

GB: Will users that make use of HotU modules also require Shadows of Undrentide installed? How will compatability work between the main game and two expansions?

Darcy: Shadows of Undrentide is not necessary for people to play Hordes of the Underdark. The two expansions are independent from each other, but we include epic features for the prestige classes that appeared in Shadows in Hordes, so those that own both expansion packs get an extra boost in features.

GB: How is the addition of another henchman working out? Will there be many more henchman customization options this time around? How about formations?

Darcy: We just love the second henchmen! The addition of the second henchman has increased the tactical aspect of combat in Hordes. A party can be configured to take full advantage of the strengths of the player’s class. In addition to the tactical gains of the second henchmen, the writers have added inter-party banter between the henchmen. It is very interesting and sometimes very funny.

GB: Because the new level cap is 40th, is gaining experience going to be a little more lenient in HotU, or is it still set to 1/10th of the amount given in the PnP version?

Darcy: We are making sure that players have a good time and they gain experience in a challenging, and fun approach. The amount of XP given has increased as has the difficulty of the encounters and the puzzles the player needs to solve. All of these, we hope, will provide a very rewarding experience.

GB: Have you ever considered taking Neverwinter Nights and both expansions and making them into one big playable world (instead of their own entities), possibly even including new quests that span across all three scenarios? For example, instead of choosing to play HotU at a splash screen, add an entrance to the Underdark somewhere within the main scenario so players can enter at any time.

Tom: We haven’t given that any specific thought, though it would be a fairly cool feature. However, at the moment, I just don’t think the resources are there to make that happen. The fans, though, could definitely try and take a shot at this. Anything’s possible with the Aurora toolset!

GB: To conclude, where do you plan on taking Neverwinter Nights in the next year? two years? five years? Do you intend to keep rolling out more expansions for quite some time?

Tom: We’ve got a number of cool ideas floating around to keep fans of the game entertained. We’re not quite ready to discuss those yet, but stay tuned, and we’ll be sure to let everyone know.

We’d like to issue our thanks to everyone at BioWare, especially Darcy and Tom, for taking the time to answer our questions. We hope you enjoyed reading their answers!

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