Mysteries of Westgate - A TG Interview with Ossian
Alan Miranda, the CEO of Ossian Studios, and Brian Dunn, 3d Artist on Mysteries of Westgate, graciously agreed to answer a few questions for Thieves Guild regarding the Mysteries of Westgate adventure pack for Neverwinter Nights 2. They were also kind enough to provide us with 19 BRAND NEW EXCLUSIVE screenshots showing the Sewer Tileset in all its stunning glory.
Given their backgrounds, it would appear that Mantides and Rinara, or Mantides and Charissa might have "issues" being in the party together. Will having all three characters in the party at the same time potentially open up new dialogue branches or even additional subquests?
Alan: The three companions are definitely very different in character, and as such, they won’t see eye-to-eye on many things. It can make for a rather interesting time when you have all of them together in a party, and you will see dialogues that you wouldn’t otherwise see. Each companion has their own optional sidequest that doesn’t depend on the presence of the other two companions.
According to an earlier interview, each companion has a unique quest, all of which have different endings depending on the player's influence. Is the influence system similar to the one in the OC with end game ramifications depending on your influence level, or does it more closely resemble the MotB system with both the companions and PC gaining special benefits?
Alan: The influence system is similar to the one used in the OC, where the PC’s influence level will affect a companion’s decision, in addition to what the PC says to them in dialogue.
The Game Setting
Will the game be played entirely within the confines of Westgate or will the party travel to locales outside of the city? If the latter, where?
Alan: The game mostly takes place within the walls of Westgate, however, there are a couple of exceptions where the player leaves for a short time. You’ve probably seen the ingame movies we’ve released with the quelzarn attack – that happens out to sea a little from the port. The other case is a small jaunt during one of the sidequests. While we did consider making some rural areas just outside the city walls, we felt that we had our hands full with all the content (areas, quests, etc.) we needed to create within the four city districts, so decided to focus on that.
The Night Mask Curse
How will the curse of the night mask be implemented in terms of game play? Will the PC be under a time-constraint to resolve the issue? Will the curse result in increasingly more debilitating effects as time passes? For example, will the effects be staged for chapter changes or specific points in the plot or simply by the passage of time?
Alan: There is no time constraint from the cursed mask, in terms of requiring you to do something every so often in order to keep you from dying. Rather, the mask gains a power over you as the game progresses (at specific points in the story), which translates into new abilities for you... albeit more danger to your health as well. Use the mask at your own peril...
We've seen screenshots of the quelzarn and the wererat and they look spectacular. Can you tell us anything about either of the other two new monsters?
Alan: I really wish we could, but that would ruin the story surprise. So you’ll have to wait in... antici... pation. :)
TG Postcript: We sort of expected that answer, but we just HAD to try. :D
The Sewer Tileset
According to an earlier designer interview, the new sewer tileset is a totally in-house creation from Ossian with a lot of new placeables. Can you tell us and show us more about what all is included and what is available to the modder?
Brian: The sewer tileset is really two tilesets that work well together. The first tileset represents the “classic” sewer, where every tile is a variation of a round tunnel, and a builder can quickly lay out a network of tunnels that would represent the underbelly of any city. I was very motivated to build this tileset as I felt it was a must-have environment for any classic adventure.
Before I had even confirmed for Alan that we could do a custom tileset, I knew its shape: round walls and ceiling, punctured by the occasional drainpipe, with a flat walkable floor. I wanted the texture detailed enough so that the tiling would be hard to detect and I think we pulled it off. We made it tintable too so you can give it the hue of your choice.
The second tileset is characterized by walled areas with floors and without them (we call the latter pits). With it you can build all kinds of open areas or areas with rooms in a variety of shapes. In my mind, this is where the classic sewer tunnels lead to and from. They are the dens of powerful creatures and the hideouts of shadow organizations. The signature wall buttresses really give these tiles a gothic flavor. I believe the number of tiles in this set is close to ninety and it grew way beyond what I ever imagined. I think my favorite tiles are the stone bridges that can cross pit areas (or you can use your own bridges/planks to span the gaps). With all the tile variations, it’s difficult to even show all the possibilities – it’s one of those tilesets you’ll want to play with a bit so you can see how all the pieces interact.
The final component to the sewer tileset is a prop set of rusty pipe placeables. We considered salting the tiles with pre-built piping assemblies, but opted to leave them clean to extend their usability and avoid pattern recognition. That way you can use the twenty-eight variations of rusty pipes, connectors, elbows, junctions, valves, and grated openings to build your own custom pipe groupings to salt your area as you see fit.
Alan: We’ve taken a bunch of new screenshots specifically for this article, so you can see what Brian is talking about.
According to several comments on the NWN2 forums, the custom content in MoW would initially be "locked" and therefore unavailable to builders. Will the new tileset actually become a "core" part of the NWN2 toolset via a future patch?
Alan: That is correct – MoW itself (and its assets) would be encrypted (i.e., locked) for distribution. But the assets would later be released for free to the community. Whether this becomes a core part of NWN2 has yet to be seen.
Ossian utilized a number of custom built Toolset features in designing MoW such as Subversion and a toolset UI. Are there any plans to release that as content for NWN2 in the future or will they remain proprietary to Ossian?
Alan: Our lead technical designer, Kevin (aka codepoetz), released to the community the PowerBar and SpellPlug plugins that we used on MoW. There aren’t any plans to release our Subversion plugin, but we are looking at other plugins for our own internal development that would also benefit the community.
What are Ossian Studios future plans? Do you envision ever making a complete game of your own? Anything on the drawing board that you can might give us a heads up on?
Alan: Right now we’re working on multiple things that we can’t talk about publicly. However, Ossian’s focus is on making RPGs, so count on seeing more of them from us in the future.
At some point, I definitely do think that making a full game is a project we would take on. Ossian has a very good understanding of what makes a great RPG, and our team members are skilled in what they do, so creating the captivating heart and spirit of a role-playing game is something we can absolutely achieve. It just means moving to a larger scale from the smaller games that we’ve done previously, which would admittedly be a lot of work, but we’re always up to the challenge. :)
Thieves Guild would like to express their sincerest thanks to Alan and Brian for taking the time to answer our questions and to Atari, WotC and Hasbro for their kind permission in approving the use of the screenshots.