The Plot-Driven Door

By Shamus Posted Monday Feb 12, 2007

Filed under: Game Design 62 comments

Some readers have noted my obsessive, even Kahn-like vendetta against Neverwinter Nights 2. During my brief moments of lucidity I have come to realize that the game has driven me quite mad, and that I am likely to go on ranting about it for some time. I’m comfortable in this madness, although out of affection for the many fine people who visit this site I do suggest you back slowly away from this post before I even get started. However, if you have appetite for a tirade, then perhaps the following will slake your inexplicable craving…

Most videogames in the RPG genre have plot-driven doors. You know, a locked door which may be made of wood and 100 years old, but which is indestructable, un-pickable, and un-openable until some plotpoint takes place. Some games are better about this than others, but it’s a necessity of the medium.

Players tolerate plot-doors to different degrees, mostly depending on the strength of the writing. Some games are really eager to abuse this, and use plot-doors in lieu of coherent writing. Let me bring up the most foul example of a plot-driven door. This one:

The plot-driven door.

Let me tell you about this door…

The door is locked, and the lock is un-pickable. This door is the only gate between the Docks area of Neverwinter city and the Blacklake District. Blacklake is where the nobility live, as well as the knights, the generals, and the king himself. You need to reach the Blacklake District because a man lives there who might be able to answer questions you have about an artifact. But recently a man was murdered in his home in this district. The city watch believe that demons were involved, so they sealed off and quarantined the entire district. Nobody gets in or out. No messages in or out.

Now, if you were a DM and you provided this scenario to your players, they would have a multitude of legitimate objections. Where are those people getting food if nothing gets in or out? How is the king running the city – much less the kingdom – if he can’t communicate with the outside world? Since when are interior parts of a city walled off from one another with impenetrable fortifications? Since when do you quarantine an entire section of a city instead of just one house? Why quarantine at all, since Demons can most likely teleport about and would be unaffected by such measures? How is this quarantine supposed to aid in the ongoing investigation? No messages in or out? What’s the rationale for that one?

And so on.

So, to talk to the guy and ask him about our artifact, we need to open this door. Here is how:

Go to the city watch and let them know you need in. They will insist that you earn their trust by joining their ranks and working for them, after which you may gain access to the Blacklake District.

  1. Do a couple of odd jobs and fight some thugs.
  2. Run around the city and visit the various guard posts. Fight or pursuade each group as needed to weed out corruption within the watch.
  3. Stop an arms shipment directed at the local crime boss. Slog your way through the ghetto, killing dozens of thugs until you reach the weapons shipment.
  4. Now go to a warehouse (I forget why, who cares?) and hack through a few dozen more thugs and gangsters.
  5. Rescue an informant who has been “outed” and is now hunted by the gangs. Even though this is just a commoner, the bad guys sent twenty or thirty assasins. Carve a path through them to rescue the guy.
  6. Confront and kill the city crime boss.

Whew! We cleaned up the city watch and broke the back of the local crime syndicate. Did that “earn their trust” enough to let you in to Blacklake so you can have a conversation? Predictably, no. They feel no shame at all in asking you to do some more:

  1. An ambassador was headed for Neverwinter but never showed. Go find out what happened to him.
  2. Go to a camp which is under siege by orcs. Fend off the attack, then learn that the guy you’re looking for was most likely kidnapped by orcs.
  3. Go into the mountains, muddle your way through various orc ambushes, traps, and straight-up battles against numerous orcs until your reach their lair.
  4. Now battle your way deep into their lair. Down, down, until you defeat their chieftan.
  5. Surprise, the ambasador isn’t here: Another orc clan has him. That’s right Mario: The princess is in another castle.
  6. Same deal again: Locate and assault an orc lair, killing everyone within. Kill the chieftan, rescue the guy, and get him back to Neverwinter city.

That seems like an awful lot of work just to open a door so we can have a conversation with someone who might be able to help us. After single-handedly saving the city watch, defeating the crime boss, and genociding two orc tribes, the Watch Captain feels no shame whatsoever in squeezing some more work out of you:

  1. A spy is arriving from another city (we know this, how?) and needs to be confronted. It turns out he’s a wizard who is not keen on giving himself up. He makes for a nasty fight.
  2. There are assasins holding up here in town (we know this, how?) and you must go and wipe them out. This involves fighting a bunch of extraplanar guys, and a blade golem.

After this, the captain grudginly lets you into Blacklake, although with the additional insult that you must be escorted around by a chaperone. I’m not sure what they are worried you’re going to do. Once you get inside you find a bunch of bad guys snuck into Blacklake just before you, and you are obliged to fight them in order to get what you need. Hey! I thought this place was impenetrable? Then as a parting shot, a final middle finger to the beleagured player, a message that their efforts were naught more than busy-work: The next time you visit town the quarantine is lifted, and everyone is free to move in and out of Blacklake once again.

Now, from a plot perspective I can see why we would want the player to do all of that before learning about the artifact. The problem is that this quest to open the door is so senseless it’s insulting. You can’t “roleplay” this, unless your goal is to roleplay the world’s most eager doormat. I want to be clear that I have no objections whatsoever to making the player jump through hoops, as long as the rationale is sound. Barring that, the game should at least allow the player to act in a sensible way, even if the gameworld and the NPCs do not.

Let’s look at the door again, as players might view it in a tabletop game:

Are you kidding me? Players could do this at level 1.

For crying out loud, we’re talking about circumventing walls and doors. That’s half of D&D, right there. There is an entire character class dedicated to this sort of activity.

This is the key to good writing in a game. KOTOR had many roadblocks and a couple of plot doors, but they were portrayed in a way that made sense at first glance, they didn’t insult the player’s intelligence, and the sidequests kept the player engaged along the way. Yes, the player must be on rails to some extent in a computer game, but a good writer can camoflage those rails. A bad writer draws attention to the rails and quickly makes the player resent them.

I apologize if you’re sick of me banging on about this game. It’s been said that good writing comes from bad experiences. Inasmuch as this is true: NWN2 is a writer’s goldmine.


From The Archives:

62 thoughts on “The Plot-Driven Door

  1. Gothmog says:

    I am so glad I didn’t buy this game.

  2. Rebecca says:

    I look at that and think, “Looks like fun!” And then, yes, I worry that I am a masochist. (I also work tech support and like it. Whoops, I’m late for work!)

  3. Telas says:

    That's right Mario: The princess is in another castle. Please consider this official notice that I am “acquiring” this little nugget of hilarity.

    I think it’s patently obvious that the designers of NWN2 have never actually played a pencil and paper roleplaying game. Perhaps they’ve heard of them from their friends, or maybe downloaded the SRD (wherein there is no DM advice). They’ve obviously played a number of CRPGs, because NWN2 is a sterling example of why I don’t play CRPGs anymore.

    I think this would be a great time to start a rumor that Obsidian has banned their developers from playing actual PnP games, because CRPG designers who play actual roleplaying games return to work as shells of their former self, mumbling endlessly about “too many choices to code”.

    After all, they’re hiring.

  4. Phlux says:

    The brilliance of KOTOR was that it got you to CHOOSE to be on rails. I really felt like I was playing a character in that game, because I deliberately chose not to take certain actions that I thought would be fun to see happen, because I didn’t feel that my character would behave in that way.

    In KOTOR the plot-door usually had two choices and two separate but ultimately equal rewards: The light side version usually meant you had to do an errand, fight a monster, donate some money, and often netted you a cool item. The dark side version usually involved you killing someone and either netted the same item as the light side quest, or a sum of money equal in value.

    Oh and speaking of RPGs…did everyone see that there’s another expansion pack coming out for Oblivion? 30 new hours of gameplay! (not paid to say that, honestly)

  5. Julia says:

    I don’t buy computer games, don’t play computer games, but always enjoy a good story, or failing that, a good rant, about games.

    I’ll read more if you post it, sure!

  6. Stephen says:

    The game also ships with a toolset to let you make your own games; games that maybe look like they use graphics created in the last 10 years since the NWN 1 graphics started a bit outdated. Unfortunately, the toolset is infinitely more complicated than the NWN 1 toolset, so NWVault has only three pages of modules, most of them just people fiddling with the toolset, rather than the hundreds of pages that they have for NWN 1. I keep going back to the vault hoping that some user created modules will show up to make the engine worth having, and yet there’s barely anything after being out for three months or so. I can only conclude that the modding community has mostly decided the graphics gain isn’t worth having to learn a completely new and more complicated toolset when they can tell the stories they want with NWN 1.

  7. Shamus says:

    I was going to mess with the NWN2 toolset, but for me the big issue keeping me away isn’t complexity, it’s the #@%^ing LOAD TIMES!

    Development is an iterative process, and if each test takes you though a minute and a half of loading screens (instead of ten seconds for NWN1), then this adds an amazing degree of friction to the creative process. I can’t believe they developed the game using these tools. How many hours did the Obsidian quest designers / dialog writers spend staring at the loading screens?

    Although I will add: Why so much complexity? I can’t think of anything quest-wise that NWN2 can do that NWN1 can’t.

    1. Groggy says:

      Comment necromancy!

      From what I’ve heard NWN2 was developed in 9 months for a quick christmas buck, and Obsidian weren’t allowed to patch bugs or restore missing content as that would require the publishers paying them for more programming time.

      Could be wrong, could be right.

  8. Yunt says:

    I’m actually enjoying NWN2. I didn’t expect much from it necessarily and I’m taking my time working through it. I think that’s really the key though, I didn’t expect it to be great in terms of writing. The toolset is what irks me. I’d love to build more stuff but there are substantial issues to be overcome.

    The toolset is immensely complicated and would benefit immeasurably from the ability to import NWN1 modules properly. The library of objects doesn’t contain the whole NWN1 library so in importing your module you’ll occasionally have quirks like “there’s no alternate orc model anymore” or “this race isn’t in NWN2, pick a new one for your NPC”. The graphical upgrade would be worthwhile *if* it didn’t require the developer to rebuild the whole deal from scratch.

    To live up to its potential it needs several things. We need to be able to make custom spells and spell lists. We need to be able to make custom classes and races without resorting to unreliable and difficult hacks. We need a random terrain generator that creates a map we can edit as we see fit but doesn’t require us to test (and load) and retest (and reload) for an hour to make sure the walkmesh works properly (I had a threshold that was mysteriously uncrossable until I deleted and rebuilt the whole map). We need backwards compatibility with at least some NWN1 assets. We need plugins to work in such a fashion that they don’t all have to be replaced after every patch.

    More than any of this, for the toolset, we need good and complete documentation. I can’t even put together a blank map with a single goblin spawnpoint without running into the “Here be dragons” part of the documentation. Seriously, the “make monsters happen” part of the toolset is completely free of documentation. That’s a pretty important part of most of the modules I’ve played.

    On the whole, my complaints are all about the unnecessary difficulty of the toolset. The widely recognized camera issues are pretty easily addressed and ignored as long as the modules are playable but they won’t get that way until the toolset is stable and usable.

  9. Stephen says:

    “Although I will add: Why so much complexity? I can't think of anything quest-wise that NWN2 can do that NWN1 can't.”

    I think it’s primarily the new graphics features. Everything has dozens of new toggles and XYZ values. These wouldn’t be too much of a problem if the game had a few “create common feature/NPC with minimal toggles” wizards available, but Obsidian didn’t get those completed. Those fans with the programming skill to make plugins to replace these missing wizards seem to be currently focusing on plugins they find more necessary, like model editors.

    For the end users trying to do a plot and dialogue focused module, without a lot of fancy graphics tweaks, those plugins aren’t as useful as NPC, quest, and terrain wizards would be.

  10. Maddyanne says:

    I can’t even open the toolset. I’m working with a friend on his module for NWN 1 and I really like the toolset for that. I’m very frustrated right now. I want to play with the new toy.

    NWN 2, the game itself, runs fine; but I play rogues and forced PC to the front line cut scenes before every important fight don’t exactly play to my character’s strengths.

    My significant other is running a druid right now, however, and he’s really enjoying it.

  11. Stephen says:

    I’d managed to block all the teleporting cut scenes/conversations from my mind. One time, I set up an awesome ambush for the enemies; hallway full of traps, rogue heading in to drop Darkness, backstab a couple of times, then run, and there my Sorcerer PC is, standing in front of the full room of bad guys, with everyone else a mile away.

    Of course, the poor encounter spawning system and lack of the ability to make formations where warriors moved at the front of the party meant that I should have been used to my poor Sorcerer getting jumped during every fight.

  12. Robert says:

    In the paper D&D game I used to play in, our DM was always very clever about designing cunning dungeon layouts with stone walls and iron doors to keep us on the proper plotline. Unfortunately for him, he was also very bad about remembering that our party had a high-level druid with an addiction to the Stone Shape spell and a homebrew temporal wizard with a repeating “disintegrate” power.

    We never said “piss off, Casey Jones”, because you hadn’t yet coined that genius phrase. But that was certainly our attitude.

  13. jbrandt says:

    Thief did the “walled-off part of the city” a little more believably by filling the walled-off section with zombies. It added to the history of The City by putting something strange and terrible at its heart, and gave a believable reason for having that sector blocked off.

    Part of the reason that cities would be divided into bits separated by impervious giant walls is that originally many cities were walled. That limits growth, though, so as more people arrived, they would build around the outside edges of the wall. Once enough people were there that they might be raided, they’d build a wall around the new part. Now you have a city with 2 parts separated by the original perimeter wall. Repeat until you have a big city with lots of walled-off sectors.

    I am also reminded of the AD&D dungeon “Mordenkainen’s Dungeon.” In it, the entrance to the dungeon was guarded by an absolutely impervious door. NOTHING could open it, period, except for this one fancy magical key that the PCs are supposed to start with.

    A friend playing this module spent, I think, four hours trying random stuff on the door before the DM finally asked why they didn’t just use the key they started with. “Uh,” said the players, “what key is that? You never mentioned a key.”

    I heard it went downhill from there.

  14. Deoxy says:

    Personally, I always wanted to make a game that DIDN’T have the plot-door.

    That is, you can go where you want. Oh, and the monsters in the gam are where they are, regardless of you or your level.

    First levl characters taking on a colossal red dragon? Sure. They’ll DIE (REALLY REALLY FAST), but that’s their choice. Monsters, etc, are the levels they are, and if you go and stick your (1st level) stick in their (20th level) hornet’s nest, well, prepare to be stung.

    That sort of world would help a lot with the “plot door” problem, but it would require a different type of play from what people are used to.

  15. Pixy Misa says:

    That sort of world would help a lot with the “plot door” problem, but it would require a different type of play from what people are used to.

    Unless they grew up on Nethack. ;)

  16. Flambeaux says:

    That sort of world would help a lot with the “plot door” problem, but it would require a different type of play from what people are used to.

    Unless they grew up on Nethack. ;)

    Or old school AD&D. ;)

  17. Robert says:

    Yeah. When I DM (rare these days but I gotta get back in…) I usually tell people “Look, there’s a plot. Things are going to happen in the world, things that have consequences. I will generally make it easy for you to be part of the plot, but I won’t force you. If you see the prince leading a relief expedition into the desert to save the mage’s tower from the lich king’s undead army, and he’s begging adventurers to join the group and save the kingdom, you don’t have to. You can go off dungeoneering on your own, or sit in the pub and get drunk. It’s entirely up to you. But then when you come back to the kingdom, and the lich king has overrun everything and your guild hall is a smoking ruin and your family and dependent NPCs have been taken off to toil in the crypt-mines of Ashkaroth, don’t come whining to me about it.”

    Usually the knowledge that they have free will is enough to keep 90% of players on the plot-rail.

  18. Clarifon says:

    Shamus, have you tried this? Persistent worlds sorta bridge the huge atroscious divide between single player and PnP, they’re sorta like a MMORPG but with no monthly fee and actual roleplaying.

  19. Clarifon says:

    Ack, hyperlinking didn’t seem to work

  20. GEBIV says:

    World of Warcraft is pretty good about not using plot doors. You can pretty much go anywhere that you can survive. (With a few exceptions, granted.) Level 1 druid going to go visit Felwood (a level 50+ zone), fine. You’re gonna die as soon as you set foot in there, but have fun trying…

    Of course there’s no real overall plot to the game. But the many mini-plots can be fun too.

  21. There are some heavy plots running through WoW. On the Alliance side, the mafia equivalent is actually a group that feels betrayed, which ties into the missing king and runs all the way through to quite the confrontation.

    Yet you don’t have to encounter it.

    I’ve been really pleased with WoW. But I’ve been involved in games since 1968 and am 51 now.

  22. Dustin says:

    The Might and Magic series was pretty good about not having plot doors. M&M6 is still a favorite of mine…

  23. Mordaedil says:

    As much as I can understand ranting about the game is all well and fine, there are still borders you shouldn’t cross, because you’ll either be proved wrong or just look retarded. Shamus worded his article pretty well, I can understand the frustration, even though the City Watch wasn’t the only way to get into Blacklake. The Lockdown was described as exclusive access from the City Watch, and thus easily one can assume that the city watch handles all supplies in and out, with only the most trusted members doing everything between then and there. It sure is a lot more sensible than the Blacklake in NWN1.

    The comments that I refer to are such as these:

    “I think it's patently obvious that the designers of NWN2 have never actually played a pencil and paper roleplaying game.”

    Everything the poster said was either not true or just really bitter, as if he holds some sort of resentment, personal grudge against a company who made a really fantastic game (even with a few shortcomings).

    I followed the progress very closely during development and I’ve even made a few friends among Obsidian and I can pretty much vouch for that they are INTIMATELY familiar with PnP and D&D, but that some things just do NOT translate very well to a CRPG and certain things had to change, were cut or are coming up in a patch-fix.

    That said, the proverbial door and the ending are two things that will remain bad. This is sad to me, because Ferret Baudoin was thinking of doing a Trilogy, and instead it ended up as it is, with an open, badly narrated ending.

  24. Ben W. says:

    There’s a feature up on PC Gamer right now describing the influence D&D has had on various game designers.

    Reading through it I was surprised to come across this:

    “Here at Obsidian, we role-played through the opening stages of Neverwinter Nights 2 to test the flow of the game.
    “It’s like instant sounding-board feedback from players before you even build the area in the engine,” Chris continues.
    “You can immediately tell what they like, what interests them, what their first goal is once they reach an area, what NPCs they hate and which ones they don’t, and then you can edit it in your area design for the computer game. Even better, you often can use something that arose out of the gaming session to make the area design even better.

    I have to wonder how far along they got if they didn’t notice the glaring flaws you’ve pointed out. I’ve noticed a lot of games seem to suffer from uneven testing, where the early parts of the game seem much more polished than the ending.

  25. Shamus says:

    INTIMATELY familiar with PnP and D&D but that some things just do NOT translate very well to a CRPG and certain things had to change, were cut or are coming up in a patch-fix.

    Fair enough. I can believe that there are some serious PnP players among the team. That much shows through the moment the character generator pops up – that thing is amazing.

    As I said in another post – there are some truly great gaming moments in there, which makes the flaws all the more mystifying. I’d kill to read a postmortem on this one.

  26. Autumn says:

    Boy am I happy I never bought this. I enjoy your ranting about it quite a bit, too.

  27. Mordaedil says:

    Shamus, this isn’t quite a post-mortem, but you might be interested in reading here as it evolves. Developer blogs from the Obsidian devs.

    Not a lot there right now. A pretty new section of the site, actually.

  28. Justin Cray says:

    “Everything the poster said was either not true or just really bitter, as if he holds some sort of resentment, personal grudge against a company who made a really fantastic game (even with a few shortcomings).”

    I’d be bitter too if I was faced with that door and the unavoidable 10 hours of bad hack&slash (if you include crashes).

    Wait. I _am_ bitter. I guess the horrible ending is still too young in my memory.

    Notice: I really liked Act 3. It’s like a completely different game, one I would like to see a sequel/expansion of. But all other Acts? No Thanks.

  29. Telas says:

    Bitter? No, just hyperbolic. I don’t take myself seriously, and I strongly advise others against it as well. :) (I mean, I advise others against taking me seriously. Take yourself seriously all you want; it’s your pain…)

    Obviously, these guys play PnP D&D. Hell, the game is D&D for the most part. But you have to wonder how all that intelligence and creativity devoted to a game couldn’t come up with a better way to handle the situation. Maybe the current time-to-market formula is too short. Maybe the execs just don’t understand. Maybe CRPGers don’t care. Maybe they just suck.

    Me? I’m too busy rolling dice to play games on a computer. And my occasional forays into the CRPG world do little to convince me that I’m wrong.

    Telas the Bitter :P

  30. Telas says:

    Personally, I always wanted to make a game that DIDN'T have the plot-door.

    Wasteland, one of the Best Games Ever, had this formula back in 1988. If you wandered into the desert before getting the Geiger counter, you died. If you tried to attack the wrong stuff, you died. CRPGs can reload; let’s use that aspect.

  31. DaveJ says:

    I wanted to strangle that lady and wear her skin, then I’d be high ranking enough to enter as I please!

    If I made a nwn3 I would start the game in the blacklake district, just so players know they won’t have de quarantine it for a 3rd time.

  32. Deacon Blues says:

    One game I played, many moons gone, with absolutely no plot-doors (even when they might have come in handy), was “Pool of Radiance” on the C64.

    At one point, my 2nd-level characters walked into a library they weren’t supposed to find for another three or four levels. Fortunately, they had earlier picked up some magic weapons they weren’t supposed to find yet, so they survived finding the basilisk among the stacks.

    Later, they sailed to the island, and entered the Temple of Bane – from the wrong side. They were supposed to work their way through a number of orc groups on their way to the altar. Instead, they walked right into the sanctuary of the Temple, and were fallen upon by somewhere around 300 orcs. (They were 3rd-level at this point.) Party members started dropping, one by one, until the only one left was the fighter, swinging his trusty battleaxe, and managing to kill an orc every swing or two. Abruptly, and just before the other party members could bleed to death, the two hundred or so surviving orcs failed their morale roll, and ran away. (What made the moment particularly memorable was the soundtrack – my TV was on MTV, so long ago they were still playing music videos. The video on at the time was Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down”.)

    That mess you described in NWN2 would put me off having anything to do with the series at all – the game designer seems a bit *too* enamored of sidequests…

  33. Capt_Poco says:

    Good gravy, that last post was epic. That said, there are plenty of ways to make impossible obstacles for players until they complete some inane part of your storyline. One example is Zelda (for the SNES). You can’t lift that rock blocking the road until you get the Atlas Glove, which you get in the 3rd Dungeon. Zelda is also an example of a totally open overworld littered with dungeons you can complete, similar to Oblivion.

    1. WJS says:

      I don’t know about the really early ones, but that certainly isn’t true since Ocarina of Time. There’s a fixed order you have to do the dungeons in, which is nothing like Oblivion.

  34. Ellie says:

    I think your all crazy, but yes, I too have fallen whim to this game and spent countless hours staring at the screen thinking “Why oh why can’t they just crawl under the gate or something?!” It’s true. I’m odd. But I love the ranting, makes me feel slightly better and reassures me that I’m not the only insane person in the world x] Nah, joking about that last part, but nice read. :]

  35. M says:

    I’ve been replaying Neverwinter Nights – the first one, that is – and it strikes me that, while it pales in comparison with true paper-and-dice roleplaying, they really did work on giving you multiple paths through most situations. Every now and then, of course, it comes down to plot-forced railroading (J’nah in the first act of Shadows of Undrentide as a good example), but there is a pretty nice spectrum of what you can accomplish and how you can do it.

  36. Blackbird71 says:

    “3 Telas Says:

    February 12th, 2007 at 12:59 pm
    That's right Mario: The princess is in another castle. Please consider this official notice that I am “acquiring” this little nugget of hilarity.

    I think it's patently obvious that the designers of NWN2 have never actually played a pencil and paper roleplaying game. Perhaps they've heard of them from their friends, or maybe downloaded the SRD (wherein there is no DM advice). They've obviously played a number of CRPGs, because NWN2 is a sterling example of why I don't play CRPGs anymore.”

    I actually know a couple of the designers behind NWN2, and contrary to what you may believe, they’re big pen and paper RPers. I can’t explain the disparities except to say that I don’t know “all” the designers, and it could be the influence of others and/or management. The ones I know work hard on whatever game they’ve been doing to put in richa nd involving story content. It’s a shame that a lot of that gets lost when people focus on these irritating details.

  37. “that’s right mario, the princess is in another castle”
    Shamus I read everyting you write (well almost everything) but that did it for me. You sir are an inspiration of humour, mixed with intelligence… although since i posted this so far back in the archives you probably wont see this. Ah well, truly you are a master.

  38. Morghan says:

    I’d love to try NWN2, but it looks like it will be some time before I can, looks like they’re not putting up a linux client for this one and it’s not running with wine yet from what I’ve read.

    I’ll tell you one thing that would make me happier than a NWN2 linux client, a complete NWN toolset for Linux rather than the little half made hack jobs people gave up on before finishing I’ve been able to find.

  39. camazotz says:

    Oh I had to laugh at this one while browsing through your older blogs….I recently gave in and tried NWN2 again (when it originally came out I was not of the right mind-set to tolerate the almost uncontrollable UI and gave up quickly, plus it ran like hell on my rig at the time). Anyway, I have only last month just slogged through everything you described, and I totally empathize….by the time I got through the gates, I was completely blown away at how much crap my little gang had to go through to get there on what was basically a lark.

    Overall NWN2 is a fun game, but it does require a major suspension of disbelief at spots (due to the poor writing/plotting). The later games improve, thankfully. As a veteran paper and pencil D&Der, I can understand the idea that a CPRG will be necessarily limiting, but I feel it is up to the designers/writers jobs of the CRPG to convince me as to just why my characters aren’t simply scaling the gate in the middle of the night; they did a horrible job in NWN2 of convincing me that my characters would run through hoops like trained circus monkeys to get through that door. It was so bad that after a few weeks between session when I came back I had even forgotten why I was in the mountains slaughtering orcs until I found the emissary from Waterdeep, then returned back to Neverwinter to report in, suddenly remembered that I needed through that gate, and STILL had to do more quests before my regional status went from “scum on the bottom of the commander’s boot” to “well, I suppose we’ll let you in, but you’re still not to be trusted anymore than a pedophile.” Yeesh!

  40. Thirith says:

    Not that it matters much to anyone other than geeks, but Kahn=German football goalie. Khan=Star Trek baddie with a thing for revenge.

  41. acabaca says:

    I do wonder when these newfangled new-gen RPGs are going to catch up with Quest for Glory and 1989 – where you indeed could break the gate, magic it open, or just climb over it. Hell, just getting to climb on rooftops and trees would be a nice change of pace.

    I think the problem may be that the currently employed developers haven’t played enough old games to realize that they are failing to meet _20 year old standards._

  42. Keeshhound says:

    I’ve read through all the articles dealing with NWN2 and I’m truly astounded that no one else has mentioned Mask of Betrayer in any real detail. I can’t fault anyone here for not buying it, but if you’re interested, Lt. Danger on the Something Awful forums has done a wonderful let’s play of NWN2; it can be found at the archive; and is currently following it up with one for MotB which can be found at:

  43. Double A says:

    Since Shamus dug this up, I’d like to post this for posterity.

    There is another way into Blacklake, albeit just as long and convoluted. In fact, I believe most of it is the same. You can join the local thieves guild (which you are tearing apart in the quests Shamus played) and corrupt the city guards. I haven’t played through it myself, but, hey, at least Obsidian didn’t railroad evil characters into being good in addition to a questline unrelated to the rest of the story.

  44. Joshua says:

    Eh, my least favorite questline was the one in the mines where you’re supposed to escort the spirits back to the tree. Many people ran into issues trying to complete the puzzle, because the storyline given doesn’t match the gameplay actually presented.

    Storyline -The spirits would like to get back to the tree, but there are lit lamps that bar their passage.

    Translation: You’ll have to clear their way of any lamps, and they’ll head for the tree?


    What you actually have to do is turn *on* the lamps for every *other* passage that the spirits could go except the one to the tree. When given a choice, the spirits will ALWAYS go down the path that’s not the one you want.

  45. Dev Null says:


    I picked up NWN2 awhile back in a Steam/GOG sale, and – without remembering this article at all – played it right up until about step 2 of this plot door before getting bored and wandering off. Coincidence? I think not.

  46. Segev says:

    The first thought I had, reading about the NWN 2 plot door in question, was, “Wait, demons are suspected? Why not have there be an ACTUAL emergency due to some mysterious supernatural force placing a dome-like (actually spherical, because it continues underground) seal over the forbidden part of the city? Player investigation into it will get him pointed at joining the city guard not just to gain their trust, but to be able to find the key to breaking down this barrier (which, perhaps, is actually in the hands of the Knight Templar Guard Captain: he’s convinced he can’t lower the barrier while an ounce of corruption remains).

    When the player breaks the door (or convinces the captain to bring it down), it had to be done from a distance AWAY from the barrier’s new breach-point, giving time for crooks to get in. (Maybe an alternate scheme wherein you get the captain to lower it for you lets you wait outside it, and SEE the bad guys slip in and even let you fight them beforehand to thwart them.)

    But if you need the player to go through “you’re in the city guard” as the major plot hook for Act 1 of the game, then just start him off as a city guard. Don’t give him the hook about the artifact, except maybe as a distant rumor he hears about periodically. The plots he pursues are compelling enough on their own from the perspective of a PC whose job it is to be a city guardsman! Let him discover the greater mysteries and larger quest as he goes through his job. He can go on to bigger things when he realizes they’re there and the plot doors are ready to open.

    A much simpler plot door would be the “you’re not allowed in here” approach, if the player is in the city guard. Of course, D&D is supposed to support chaotic alignments, so having it be possible to ignore that plot door is good…but also handled fairly well by simply level-dooring it. The guards assigned to the Noble Section are all 3-5 levels above the level you’re supposed to be if you follow the plot by the time you can get in there. Not only are the only enemies on that side going to be too tough for you, but you’re not likely to sneak in very far before the guards catch you and kick you out (and send you to the captain for a reprimand).

  47. Royce says:

    Trying to get a Snorlax and Ghost Pokemon or trying to evolve Haunter and Kadabra in Red, Blue, Yellow, FireRed, and Leaf Green. Enough said.

  48. Jokerman says:

    The pictures in here are gone, not sure if you wanted to replace them.

  49. Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

    Where’d the pics go?

  50. bbot says:

    “blade golum” should be “blade golem”

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  52. Michael Enzweiler says:

    It would have been easy for them to plot the no-access better so that it made sense. How about a dome of impenetrable magical force that covers the district and can only be crossed if a magical password is spoken. Now it makes sense why brute force and climbing over walls wouldn’t work. It also makes more sense if the idea is to prevent demons from crossing.

    If there’s one thing that drives me more up the wall than the plot point door, it’s when the world arbitrarily tells you, “you can’t go there” even when there’s no logical or in-game justification for it. In LOTRO for example, I spent a lot of time climbing over rock piles and seeing if I could further my progress with a well timed jump. Every once in a while I’d encounter what I realized was a place I should have been able to step into, but it acted like a solid barrier because I’d reached the edge of the current zone and this was not a programmed access point to the next zone over. They tried to disguise the walls between zones by cleverly placing natural barriers like mountains so you wouldn’t wonder why you couldn’t proceed, but spots did get missed here and there.

    Even more infuriating were those doors in LOTRO where you were informed you were not authorized to enter because your level was too low, or because you hadn’t purchased the expansion for that region. Talk about slamming you out of immersion.

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