I guess you and Kevin Saunders really pushed the game into a different direction from NWN2. What was behind this decision? What are your thoughts, as a designer, on NWN2?
NWN2’s biggest sin was probably ambition. The team tried to do too much in too little time, and everything suffered a bit. It’s an awfully common story in the games industry, as anyone who plays a lot of games probably knows.
So when Kevin Saunders and I started preproduction on MotB (before NWN2 had even shipped), we ended up being pretty conservative… and that was for the best. Credit goes to Kevin for this - he recognized early that we had a short development cycle, and we had to focus on what we knew we could achieve, and nothing more, lest our game feel unfinished in the end.
For me, as creative lead, my unabashed focus was story. That turned out well from a production standpoint, since we could implement story with existing tools and tech. I really wanted to tell a personal story - more on that below - in a different part of the Forgotten Realms. So we devoted our efforts toward telling that story as thoroughly as we could, and we kept the core gameplay largely the same. There were some things we knew we wouldn’t have time to implement properly, like the NWN2 stronghold and a “full suite” of companions, so we dropped those features. (In fact, Kaelyn the Dove - my personal favorite companion - very nearly got cut. Timely assistance from Chris Avellone was all that saved her.)
That strict sense of focus taught me a lot. As developers, we should identify early what we can achieve in the time we have, and we should focus on those features. It’s better to build a game that delivers a smaller number of features at a higher level of polish than to build a game that tries to do more than development time allows, as NWN2 did.