When Good Ideas Are Delivered Poorly
I’m going to take you back a bit in time in this post. While the principles of what I’m going to write about can be said for a multitude of examples other than the one I’ve chosen, I’ve chosen it for a very specific reason 😉 The post may sound like I’m trying to be a shill and sell you on something, but I’m really not. I frequent the worlds I will describe to you and love them very much. It is for that reason that I made this post, to express my distaste for ideas that can’t be realized because of something dumb like buggy software 😛 It’s also to inform people out there who may not know close-knit worlds for roleplayers like this exist.
Neverwinter Nights was, in my opinion, a great game. Not only did it give a faithful recreation of the DnD system / world to digital consumers, but the customization level for the game was incredible. You could create living, persistent worlds akin to modern day MMOs, albeit with (sometimes) lower populations. You could change just about everything you wanted in the game, from base mechanics and systems to models for PCs and NPCs and the scripting required in the game was so easy that just about anyone who could read a couple tutorials could figure it out. It was a good game.
Then, Obsidian got a hold of the franchise and delivered Neverwinter Nights 2. P … O … S … at the time anyway. I think it’s improved a bit in stability over the years, but just like any other game, each patch not only fixes things, but breaks others in the process. Hurray for QA teams, right? Anyway, Neverwinter Nights 2 strayed from its easy-to-use roots and introduced a toolset for custom content creation that was so obtuse and un-user-friendly, it’s amazing people were actually able to do anything with it. However, just as the human race has done time and again, despite all odds, there were people who figured out not only how to use it, but use it well and make the original game look like shit compared to what fans could do (Oblivion, anyone?).
What’s my point? Well, it begins by introducing you to a world called Avlis. Avlis is a persistent world based on the Neverwinter Nights engine (still going, actually) that began in 2002 or so, to not only promote the customization level of NWN, but to give a home to people who felt a bit displaced by the onslaught of digitized fantasy worlds: the roleplayers. Avlis is a world where roleplaying is the key. Sure it has combat and crafting and things like that, but when you log in, you ARE your character. Yes, ((s and ))s apply 😛 This world was and is amazing, as the people who’ve run it for going on 8 years now have churned out content and systems and story arcs like no other campaign I’ve ever seen. Hell, one of the guys I met playing EQ (yes, the original one) plays there now and took a lowly lizard-folk he made and made him into a warlord who now leads half the world in a war.
The best part is … the players make the world and you can SEE it unfold before you. The DMs have the power to change the world according to what happens and that’s exactly what happens! So, fast forward a few years to the release of NWN2 and enter Avlis 2. With improved graphics and all, the Avlis team was super stoked to make a world with the new engine. They have since succeeded, redoing character models, meshes, textures and building a second world set some time in the future as compared to Avlis 1. The world is amazing and the custom content is, once again, second to none. They’ve implemented reputation / faction systems, crafting system, scripts that will actually rewards you with XP if you’re ROLEPLAYING, which means a DM isn’t required to be there to give you XP for playing your character … and the way the world works is just amazing.
The overall feel to one of these worlds is such that … you actually want to believe you live there. You WANT to be your character and metagaming needs like powerleveling or min/maxing become unimportant to the story that’s unfolding all around you. Since the story arcs are custom and can be done at any time, for any level, a new character could be pulled into a story just as easy as a legendary player who’s been around a long time. So, sounds great, right? I mean … a great place for roleplayers to actually roleplay and be rewarded for it … what could possibly be wrong?
Well, Avlis 1 is currently way more popular and successful than Avlis 2, despite Avlis 2 being newer and prettier. True some people like to remain and are less likely to pick up roots and move (considering you have to buy NWN2 and its 2 expansions to log into the world … and no, the team running Avlis doesn’t make anything off that :P), but I don’t believe it’s simply an aversion to change. It’s the NWN2 system and base coding Obsidian messed up that’s keeping people away. There were lots of people to begin with, but with the toolset being unwieldly and unfun to work with, the constant crashes and bugs people had to put up with that the PW (persistent world) coders couldn’t do anything about … all their hard work was in vain because people didn’t want to game on the NWN2 platform.
The server is still up and running (I have recently returned there myself to resume playing after every single MMO out right now has failed to satisfy me) and I find DMs and players there, but it is nowhere near as sprawling a population as its more successful older brother, who is run on a better, less buggy platform.
I hope there’s a NWN3 so Avlis 3 can be made and the legacy can continue because the people there do such an amazing job with their world (the world is based on a PnP adventure the co-creators of the world ran back in the day. They’ve digitized it for others to play in, basically) and being able to have complete control over things like the death system, crafting systems, conversation systems, etc … make for an amazing experience. Hell people with knowledge can even apply to be part of the building or coding or DM team to support the worlds.
Now, there are lots of these persistent worlds out there. I’ve only ever played on Avlis so that’s all I know. I’m curious to know if the platform of NWN2 has kept people from playing on other persistent worlds based on the NWN2 platform as well.
Anyway … if you’re a roleplayer and have been looking for a method to actually roleplay in a computer game and have it be … “real” for all roleplaying intents and purposes, I highly suggest looking at either Avlis or Avlis 2. As I mentioned there are more out there that you can find on the NWN Vault site, but these worlds are ones I’ve had experience with.
And don’t think Avlis 2 isn’t playable or that there’s no one around. Just like Dalaran in the wee hours of the morning, there is a scarcity of players sometimes … but unlike any other game I’ve played online, when you actually get into a group and there’s a live person leading an adventure … it’s awesome. I consider Avlis and Avlis 2 works of art and any artist will tell you their works of art are never done. Even when they’re considered a masterpiece many years after their deaths, if they could come back, I’m sure there’d be something to change.
It’s a shame that creative, innovative and all around fun ideas, concepts and worlds like the two I’ve mentioned can be overlooked or abandoned simply because the platform they were based on is so shoddy. Oblivion would have been great as a MP experience, but the attempts at making it such have since ceased, I think. To see how good a game can be though, take a look at the things true fans make for it. The developers do a helluva job, but the real meat for games like NWN, NWN2 and Oblivion have come from player mods.
In the event the links in the post are hard to see or something, here are separated links for the governing sites:
They actually require an application to see that you are indeed interested in playing IN the world as a character, which I think is a pretty good screening method. All the apps are looked over by a real person so as to gauge whether they think an applicant will fit. It has nothing to do with exclusivity or being snobby … they just want to make sure you’re a good fit for them, and they are a good fit for you. Makes sense, right?