Atari/Ossian Mysteries of Westgate Interview
1) When was Ossian Studios first contacted about the reinstatement of the premium module program, now called the adventure pack program?
Alan Miranda: We started talking with Atari shortly after the release of Darkness over Daggerford for NWN1, back in late August 2006. They contacted us to see if we wanted to get setup with the NWN2 beta, which of course we were very keen on. It was at that point that we began discussing what Ossian Studios could do for the NWN2 franchise, as we had successfully done for NWN1 with Daggerford, a game which has won several awards and had over 44,000 downloads since release. As far as I know, it's always been Atari's intent to support the NWN2 community and release official content to fans, much as the premium modules were done for NWN1, so developing the first NWN2 adventure pack for them has been great.
2) How much work is being done by Ossian Studios versus Obsidian?
Alan Miranda: All development on "Mysteries of Westgate" (or MoW) is being done by Ossian Studios, from concept to finished product. What we receive from Obsidian is mainly technical support and help with questions that we have about NWN2. For the work done on MoW, Ossian handles the design, art, and audio production, as we already have experience in these areas.
3) Was Ossian given the opportunity to select the background for the first adventure pack?
Alan Miranda: Yes, Atari asked Ossian to choose the setting for the adventure, subject to Wizards of the Coast approval, and we eventually selected Westgate. We submitted a few proposed settings for the first adventure pack after sifting through many different Forgotten Realms locales and taking into account what fans had posted on the forums as to their favourite locations. However, we felt that Westgate offered the largest potential.
Strangely enough, our very first proposal was to set the game in Rashemen, with plenty of berserkers, witches, and telthors (and a splash of firewine!). There's a tremendous amount of mysticism there for an epic, role-playing adventure. Of course, we were soon informed that the setting had already been taken by MotB, so we picked something else.
4) Why was the Dragon Coast in general and Westgate in particular chosen for the setting for NWN 2: Mysteries of Westgate?
Luke Scull: The Dragon Coast has been described as a nest of vultures and thieves, a place where anything goes, and nowhere is that more apparent than in Westgate, the most powerful city in the region. We really wanted to tell a story brimming with intrigue and mystery, where myriad factions all tussle for dominance and the player is never sure where his or her true allies lie. With its cutthroat nature and complex political structure, Westgate was a perfect fit. It also represents a new and relatively unexplored setting for players who have had their fill of the Sword Coast over the years.
Alan Miranda: As Luke has said, the nature of Westgate itself is of a cutthroat metropolis of great racial diversity, which offers an ideal backdrop to weave an adventure into. We were looking for something different than the previous NWN1 games as well, and the challenge of doing a city-based game (vs a countryside exploration like in Daggerford) was an attractive one. I think city-based adventures require a lot of work to keep areas from feeling like non-interactive, empty backgrounds, and the team has really tried its best to develop significant sidequest content within the scope of the game.
5) Westgate is considered to be a city full of thieves and scoundrels and is also home to the Night Masks. Will this background play a part in the module and, if so, how?
Luke Scull: The Night Masks go hand in hand with Westgate, so it's no surprise that their presence looms large in the backdrop against which our story is set. Thieves and scoundrels abound, but they are often only minor players compared to the other evils that lurk within the city: some hidden, others not hidden yet masquerading as something else entirely, and yet others not truly evil at all but rather driven to dark deeds because the ends justify the means.
6) What is the basic storyline for NWN 2: Mysteries of Westgate?
Luke Scull: The storyline begins with the player seeking to rid themselves of a cursed object, one that haunts their dreams and threatens their very sanity. After learning from an old sage that the object is inextricably linked to the nefarious organization known as the Night Masks, the player catches the next ship to Westgate in the hopes of uncovering the cure to the curse. Soon afterwards, the player is drawn into a vicious street war between factions. Players must choose their allegiance in order to break the curse and ultimately uncover a plot that threatens Westgate itself.
7) Where in the timeline of Westgate and the Dragon Coast does this story fall?
Luke Scull: The story begins on the 30th day of Marpenoth (October in our calendar), 1372 DR - sometime after the most recent documented events within the region. (Ed. Note: Check out this word doc timeline from Wizards.com)
8) Will any character type and/or alignment fare better than another in Mysteries of Westgate?
Luke Scull: Mysteries of Westgate has been designed to provide a balanced experience for all character races, classes, and alignments. As the module is very role-play-focused, classes with varied skills such as bards and rogues will, in some situations, have an easier time of it than melee-orientated classes. Conversely, characters with strong martial skills may have an easier time overcoming the terrifying array of enemies pitted against them, should combat prove inevitable. Paladins, and priests of good deities, may have a small advantage against the more fiendish or unholy enemies in the game.
I wanted to make alignment a real factor in Mysteries of Westgate. Most modern RPGs allow the player a certain amount of freedom, but draw the line at anything that will really affect the outcome of the story, funneling the player down a certain path as a story reaches its climax. While I appreciate the advantages of this approach, I wanted to do something more, to empower the player to make the choices a real chaotic evil character might. Therefore, in Mysteries of Westgate, actions have huge consequences. Whether the player is the scourge or savior of the city is ultimately up to them.
9) Some fans had suggestions for improvements in the Daggerford module. Have any of those suggestions been included in Mysteries of Westgate and, if so, which ones?
Luke Scull: While Daggerford was wonderfully received, there were some aspects of it identified by players as a little weak when compared to the things the module did very well. The core path story, for example, was somewhat lackluster and short on surprises. The henchmen were bland and underdeveloped. Both these areas have been given huge attention in Mysteries of Westgate. I'm particularly pleased with our companions, who are exceptionally deep and have interesting personalities with detailed histories and strong opinions of their own. We even have unique quests for each companion, all of which have different endings depending on the player's influence - or lack thereof.
Alan Miranda: We do our best to listen to what our fans have to say and to address their valid concerns. There were some excellent aspects to Daggerford, such as the world exploration and area design, the multitude of unique sidequests, and the sheer volume of fun dialogue (almost 200,000 words). But when we shipped the game, we knew the henchmen were still too bare bones, yet there was nothing we could do about it because we had run out of time. On MoW though, I'm extremely impressed with what the writers have accomplished with the companion characters. And MoW's core story, with its branching paths, should easily satisfy Daggerford fans who were wanting more plot intrigue and choice.
10) Who wrote the story for Mysteries of Westgate and is the story based on PnP or tabletop adventures or is it a completely new creation?
Luke Scull: The story is a completely original creation and very much a collaborative effort between Alan and I. We initially discussed the central plot theme, working out how best to fit this within Westgate's complex background and lore. Alan then came up with the first draft of the story, which I filled out further. After many hours spent editing and sending the document back and forth, we finally arrived at a place we were both happy with. I should mention that Mat Jobe, one of our writers, created the original cursed item concept. All of the writers on the team also contributed towards fleshing out the minor story details and coming up with cool additions.
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