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Codex Review RPG Codex Review: Neverwinter Nights – Tyrants of the Moonsea

Gargaune

Arcane
Joined
Mar 12, 2020
Messages
3,266
I honestly don't think it is that hard, if you make ease of use your goal, rather than trying to make a dev tool. There are plenty of big games that provide the technology to do it, they just put in hard-coded limitations because they clearly don't want their users competing with them when they want to sell DLC. For example, Doom's level editor was in the same vein. The problems with the NWN MMO's level editor were all down to specific design decisions rather than a limitation of their capabilities. It was quite easy to use and good in level-construction regards... but intentionally sabotaged because they didn't want it to compete with them as developers for the main content, so you couldn't have actual loot or equipment rewards, and they eventually removed all XP rewards at all and removed it altogether. It's not a matter of "we haven't figured out how to do this" it's a matter of "we know how to do this, but we don't want to".

For another angle of this, look at first person shooter modding like CS:GO. Obviously, if you allow modding, why would anyone pay 10s of dollars or even HUNDREDS of dollars for a recolor of a gun that already exists? That's literally 1 second of work in a mod tool for any amateur, but it makes companies hundreds of thousands of dollars per "high value" gun.
I think you're understating it. Sure, there can be a material incentive for developers to shut modders out of the loop, but that's not the only factor here, Aurora's authoring facilities go well beyond being just open to "fan competition" and they'd have been a difficult and expensive undertaking at the time.

The easy comparison is to that other flagship open toolkit (so far), Bethesda's Creation Kit. They're both similarly open and powerful, the mostly complete pipelines that were used to make their games' playable content, but Bethesda's was designed for a team whereas BioWare's was built from the ground up with the solo hobbyist in mind (even though it can and was also used by pro teams). The CK is far less ergonomic and more labour-intensive, intended for a crew of developers filling (somewhat) specialised positions, while Aurora enables a single amateur to make a complete adventure from his bedroom in a fathomable timeline. Stuff like having basic automatic script generators or the UI being only two layers deep or how the Lego block levels take manual navmeshing out of the equation addresses that weekend designer (unlike, say, CDPR's Aurora-powered Witcher 1 importing levels directly from Max), and it takes thought, it takes time and it takes money.

Ultimately, the difference is that while Bethesda releasing tools has become a staple for their fan community, it's just an added bonus supplied "as-is", if you can learn it, great, if you can't, screw you. The Aurora Toolset, however, was an integral customer-oriented feature of Neverwinter Nights, as much as co-op or the DM client, as part of BioWare's attempt to bring the full scope of D&D to your computer and the basic tutorial's a half hour affair. Other developers not supplying tools with the same power and accessibility isn't just them fencing their income (or not dealing with third party licensing), a user-friendly solution like Aurora is a major project in and of itself.

But anyway, I see my review isn't faring much better than the other times I've brought up TotM - the discussion will focus on anything NWN except TotM. :lol:
 

lukaszek

the determinator
Patron
Joined
Jan 15, 2015
Messages
12,752
But anyway, I see my review isn't faring much better than the other times I've brought up TotM - the discussion will focus on anything NWN except TotM.
dont take it personally. I did a thing on sharks and people werent discussing sharks. RPGs? Nothing. Did one on poop - same outcome
 

Non-Edgy Gamer

Grand Dragon
Patron
Glory to Ukraine
Joined
Nov 6, 2020
Messages
15,401
Strap Yourselves In
Never been a NWN fan. It was superior to NWN2 in terms of design, but the OC was so boring I couldn't get into it.

Plus, 3e was trash and made it feel like the MMO it was.

I wish Beamderp would just release more Infinity Engine stuff.
 

Bester

⚰️☠️⚱️
Patron
Vatnik
Joined
Sep 28, 2014
Messages
11,247
Location
USSR
I tried TotM. I got my ass kicked by the first fight.

Get out of tavern - win a duel, that's easy. Then there's an infinite amount of demons spawning around. You can try hiding in a barn, but there's a giant spider monster that's unbeatable for my solo mage.

Or I can skip the barn and go into the temple, where there's a boss with minions, who also kick my ass.

I don't know... I guess I could beat it by metagaming & abusing NWN's pathfinding or lowering the difficulty, but I don't like that the module is so punishing so early.
I also kind of hate NWN's RTWP after BG3's TB. It doesn't compare.

I tried 3 times and quit.
 

Gargaune

Arcane
Joined
Mar 12, 2020
Messages
3,266
I tried TotM. I got my ass kicked by the first fight.
You've probably just made half the Codex wanna try it now! :lol:

Guessing this is a fresh character, are you geared up? You can and should visit the Shield Trading Company before meeting Madoc at the inn, put that paycheck to good use. I'm pretty sure the spawns aren't infinite, it's just encounter demons summoning their own minions, but yes, the temple is your eventual destination. I doubt you can recruit henchmen at this stage but I never tried it, you could see if it'll let you go back into the inn or the Boring Pig tavern around the corner. And if you can evict the spider demon from the barn, I think you can rest in there.

I did say the start would be a bit more challenging with a fresh PC, absent all the gold and trinkets of a prior adventure, but I don't remember it being that hard. I'm assuming this is the EE edition, I don't know what the balance was like in the cancelled PM demo, and I can't speak to how a mod like TonyK's AI would affect the experience, I don't use it.

Do keep at it, though, it peters out a bit once you've got a party and start raking in gear and gold (to buy more gear).
 

Grampy_Bone

Arcane
Joined
Jan 25, 2016
Messages
3,720
Location
Wandering the world randomly in search of maps
The thing that keeps me from playing NWN modules is the fact they are NWN modules.

I still remember the disappointment of playing NWN after BG2. 6 man party? Gone. World map? Nope. Free roam? Nah. They pretty much turned it into a Diablo clone with worse loot.

3E is my favorite D&D edition of all time and this version of it completely sucks. ToEE is the GOAT in that regard, and even NWN2 had more accuracy overall.
 

Zeriel

Arcane
Joined
Jun 17, 2012
Messages
13,519
I honestly don't think it is that hard, if you make ease of use your goal, rather than trying to make a dev tool. There are plenty of big games that provide the technology to do it, they just put in hard-coded limitations because they clearly don't want their users competing with them when they want to sell DLC. For example, Doom's level editor was in the same vein. The problems with the NWN MMO's level editor were all down to specific design decisions rather than a limitation of their capabilities. It was quite easy to use and good in level-construction regards... but intentionally sabotaged because they didn't want it to compete with them as developers for the main content, so you couldn't have actual loot or equipment rewards, and they eventually removed all XP rewards at all and removed it altogether. It's not a matter of "we haven't figured out how to do this" it's a matter of "we know how to do this, but we don't want to".

For another angle of this, look at first person shooter modding like CS:GO. Obviously, if you allow modding, why would anyone pay 10s of dollars or even HUNDREDS of dollars for a recolor of a gun that already exists? That's literally 1 second of work in a mod tool for any amateur, but it makes companies hundreds of thousands of dollars per "high value" gun.
I think you're understating it. Sure, there can be a material incentive for developers to shut modders out of the loop, but that's not the only factor here, Aurora's authoring facilities go well beyond being just open to "fan competition" and they'd have been a difficult and expensive undertaking at the time.

The easy comparison is to that other flagship open toolkit (so far), Bethesda's Creation Kit. They're both similarly open and powerful, the mostly complete pipelines that were used to make their games' playable content, but Bethesda's was designed for a team whereas BioWare's was built from the ground up with the solo hobbyist in mind (even though it can and was also used by pro teams). The CK is far less ergonomic and more labour-intensive, intended for a crew of developers filling (somewhat) specialised positions, while Aurora enables a single amateur to make a complete adventure from his bedroom in a fathomable timeline. Stuff like having basic automatic script generators or the UI being only two layers deep or how the Lego block levels take manual navmeshing out of the equation addresses that weekend designer (unlike, say, CDPR's Aurora-powered Witcher 1 importing levels directly from Max), and it takes thought, it takes time and it takes money.

Ultimately, the difference is that while Bethesda releasing tools has become a staple for their fan community, it's just an added bonus supplied "as-is", if you can learn it, great, if you can't, screw you. The Aurora Toolset, however, was an integral customer-oriented feature of Neverwinter Nights, as much as co-op or the DM client, as part of BioWare's attempt to bring the full scope of D&D to your computer and the basic tutorial's a half hour affair. Other developers not supplying tools with the same power and accessibility isn't just them fencing their income (or not dealing with third party licensing), a user-friendly solution like Aurora is a major project in and of itself.

But anyway, I see my review isn't faring much better than the other times I've brought up TotM - the discussion will focus on anything NWN except TotM. :lol:

I'm not saying it isn't an effort. But I'm pointing out that companies are ALREADY making the effort, building the tools, then specifically sabotaging them to avoid what developers in the 90s and early 00's considered a good thing: allowing easy user-created content that competes with what the corporation wants to sell. Back then that wasn't considered a problem. Now it is, and even when they dangle a user-created content tool to excite people, they go out of their way to wreck it.

I don't consider Bethesda's creation kit to be in the same vein as NWN's toolkit, NWN MMO's dungeon creator, or Doom's level creator. Bethesda's creation kit is a devtool that just happens to have lots of uptake and a unique mod-layering system that makes the modding community likelier to grow, but it is not by any means easy to use. Ease of use is not the primary goal, if it was they would do things very differently.
 

Gargaune

Arcane
Joined
Mar 12, 2020
Messages
3,266
-85%. All nwn stuff appears to be
It's a regular on sales, think the last one was just three or four weeks ago. Right now NWN EE and TotM together for €3.70, literally cheaper than a London pint.

This game had such great PWs and modules it's incredible
You know, I never got to play NWN online. I've never been big into online gaming and especially back when NWN was young, so I kinda missed out. I might actually give it a shot over the summer, we'll see.
 

ds

Cipher
Patron
Joined
Jul 17, 2013
Messages
1,394
Location
here
The map design and especially the number of carefully placed props to make the whole thing feel more than just a set of tiles in this module is really impressive. On the other hand I wonder if the result would not have been better if some of the time poured into that would have been instead used to flesh the cities out with a couple more quests. Having the areas extend beyond the playable area is effective at making you feel like you are in a bigger city except then there is only one or two taverns to visit, one or two temples, one or two shops, a couple of quests and some random houses you can break into to have the inhabitants mostly ignore the intrusion (with at least two exceptions where the author chooses to poke fun at this). While the city designs are different for each, there is still some formulaic design showing through that I think could be improved. It's not like this is a very short module and there are plenty of quests but they are spread over enough towns and the locations are each so detailed that I kept feeling like there should be more for me to do in them.
Also, I'm starting to think that what Luke really wanted to do in life was become an architect for medieval castle exteriors.

The cutscenes are also pretty but there's just too many of them. Plus a couple commit the mortal sin of denying player agency during crucial plot moments.

Combat was rather easy but I also played with a melee character imported from Crimson Tides of Tethyr - level 14 so not overleveled but the gear probably helped at the start at least. The module does shower you with high level magic items though so I'm not sure if my starting gear and cash made much difference for the later parts of the game. The altar of enchanting in particular felt badly placed as it allows you to get +5 and +7 vs whoever you want to fuck extra hard for your favorite weapon relatively early in the module - something that even ootb endgame loot struggles to compete with. I feel it would have been better if altar couldn't go that high or had the higher level enhancements somehow gated until you have progressed further, perhaps by requiring special ingredients. Even with the restricted vendors it doesn't take too long until you find another one to sell of your stuff - I think there were only two instances where I couldn't just immediately buy what I wanted (including freeing the slaves for 100k).
I also don't like how this game uses dragons as a trash mob instead of (only) using them for memorable boss-style encounters.

That said, I did enjoy the module overall just like I did the previous entries in the series. However I cannot recommend it in the end due to a tiny but nonetheless unforgivable flaw:

2024-03-24-235104.jpg


Where is the damned [Pet] option????!‽ :argh:
 
Last edited:

Gargaune

Arcane
Joined
Mar 12, 2020
Messages
3,266
The cutscenes are also pretty but there's just too many of them. Plus a couple commit the mortal sin of denying player agency during crucial plot moments.
Interesting point, I didn't pick up on any obvious custcenes stepping on the player's agency, what did you have in mind? In spoilers, obviously. As for the dragon, the shadow one gave me a wee bit of a challenge since it can get the drop on you with that fear aura, and the black one is also theoretically set up as a boss encounter, but the white and the vapour are indeed flail fodder.

2024-03-24-235104.jpg


Where is the damned [Pet] option????!‽ :argh:
Checked the Toolset, there's a gated [Animal Empathy] interaction. :-D But I agree, RPG or not, the basics should be covered - Luke Scull, drop whatever you're doing and get patching pronto!
 

Maculo

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Jul 30, 2013
Messages
2,548
Strap Yourselves In Pathfinder: Wrath
I tried TotM. I got my ass kicked by the first fight.

Get out of tavern - win a duel, that's easy. Then there's an infinite amount of demons spawning around. You can try hiding in a barn, but there's a giant spider monster that's unbeatable for my solo mage.

Or I can skip the barn and go into the temple, where there's a boss with minions, who also kick my ass.

I don't know... I guess I could beat it by metagaming & abusing NWN's pathfinding or lowering the difficulty, but I don't like that the module is so punishing so early.
I also kind of hate NWN's RTWP after BG3's TB. It doesn't compare.

I tried 3 times and quit.
I didn’t have much trouble with the demons on my first rogue playthrough, but…

screw that damn Banelich :argh: (Shrazgul?). Unlike Swordflight, I don’t feel like I can be as creative with scrolls/items yet.

I restarted as a sorcerer, but I may just start with the other modules first.

I am a big fan so far. Thanks Gargaune
 

Maldoror

Scholar
Joined
Jun 10, 2015
Messages
175
Location
Junktown
NWN: EH and all DLC are on sale right now on GoG for a very cheap price. Like, "nearly not worth opening up QBittorrent" price. Thanks for the review, going to play this module tonight.
 

King Crispy

Too bad I have no queen.
Patron
Staff Member
Joined
Feb 16, 2008
Messages
1,876,770
Location
Future Wasteland
Strap Yourselves In
TotM is *much* harder than DoD, btw. Be prepared for a real shock, especially at the beginning.

I'm also seeing some odd bugs, like a permanent temporary hitpoints condition that's forcing me to re-load back to before when I saved the game while still polymorphed into an umber hulk (!!!).

Lastly, and please tag me with any replies because I'm avoiding all spoilers, is there any way to permanently drop quest-related items on an imported character, especially ones that show up in the new module as a large red 'X'? Somewhat irritating.
 

King Crispy

Too bad I have no queen.
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Staff Member
Joined
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Messages
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Location
Future Wasteland
Strap Yourselves In
Wow, the fight with that bebilith after defeating the Bron and clearing the rest of the field was extremely difficult, and necessary, because as a wizard I absolutely have to rest before moving on to the town's temple of Bane to just get the damned module going.

In order to kill the bebilith I had to carefully balance summons (who would quickly die) with casting Greater Spell Breach along with at least one Lesser Spell Breach to get its MR down enough to affect it with a couple of Magic Missiles, which then gave me enough of a head start with my Tenser's Transformation (while Hasted and Protected from Evil, etc.) to finally put the thing down. My wizard is a Transmuter, btw.

Yikes. I hope it gets a little less hairy from here, but I *love* the challenge.
 

Gargaune

Arcane
Joined
Mar 12, 2020
Messages
3,266
I'm also seeing some odd bugs, like a permanent temporary hitpoints condition that's forcing me to re-load back to before when I saved the game while still polymorphed into an umber hulk (!!!).
That appears to be a core NWN bug dating back to the original:
https://nwn.fandom.com/wiki/Polymorph said:
Taking a level while polymorphed can easily result in an illegal character.

There is a bug in the game that causes a polymorphed character's temporary hit points to be reapplied each time a (saved) game is loaded while polymorphed. These reapplications stack without limit, allowing sizable hit point totals for players who abuse the bug. Furthermore, only a single application of these temporary hit points is removed if the polymorph is canceled. Additionally the game does not retain what items you had equipped pre-polymorph in savegames and instead tries to re-equipped them after the polymorph ends after loading a save game, this has various side effects like losing bonus spell slots, and is not fixed in the enhanced edition.

Lastly, and please tag me with any replies because I'm avoiding all spoilers, is there any way to permanently drop quest-related items on an imported character, especially ones that show up in the new module as a large red 'X'? Somewhat irritating.
King Crispy, is this your DoD character? The game should've made an automatic PC export right at the end after stripping you of its plot items. The only oversight I noticed in DoD's export is Lady Bronwyn's Signet Ring, which you get stuck with like that. Any X item in your inventory would point to a custom asset which isn't available in the new module, but I don't recall DoD->TotM generating any such glitches and I did take one PC that route.

Anyway, if items are plot-flagged (and you're sure you don't need 'em), the easiest way to address it on the EE would be to login as DM and drop them. Hit CTRL+Shift+F12, expand the Debug tab, check the DM box, hit Login and you'll now be able to just drop the item from your inventory. Then hit Logout and CTRL+Shift+F12 again to get rid of the Debug UI.

Yikes. I hope it gets a little less hairy from here, but I *love* the challenge.
It does, gradually, as you get your companions and start raking in gear.
 

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