In 2004, I created a custom module for the game Neverwinter Nights, and what I made was a reimagining of Blizzard Entertainment’s blockbuster game, Diablo. I submitted it to the NeverWinter Vault that year, and it turned out to be a big hit in the Neverwinter Nights community. My custom module achieved Hall of Fame status after only a short time, reaching more than 20,000 downloads after only being available less than three months.
As with all Hall of Fame inductees, I was interviewed by the folks at NWVault, and the interview itself is located here.
Below is the full interview, which I put here just in case the article or the site itself gets nuked for some reason. Enjoy
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Hall of Fame Interview With Tolitz Rosel
(The Lord of Terror – The Diablo Campaign)
Tonight we interview Tolitz Rosel whose module The Lord of Terror – The Diablo Campaign was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame in our efforts to expand it beyond just modules. Topics of the interview include his background, some of his team members, the world itself, activities in the world, his plans, and more. – (Jan. 26th 2005)
1.) Could you give our readers some personal background on yourself?
My name is Tolitz Rosel, and I am a 31-year-old web developer in Los Angeles, California. I mostly work at home as a consultant and designer, and I fiddle with games and computers on my free time.
I also run a free technical support site (plugging www.opentechsupport.net, hehe). The site itself was spawned from a channel we hang out from in Battle.net, while playing – you guessed it – Diablo. I am a big RPG fan, and that includes all types (action, hybrid, etc). I have played several CRPGs based on the Forgotten Realms, from Pool of Radiance to Baldur’s Gate, and when Neverwinter Nights came out, I was very glad to finally find a game that came with the necessary tools I needed to recreate the game that got me into computer RPGs – Diablo.
2.) Your module, “The Lord of Terror – The Diablo Campaign”, which has over 20000 downloads and has recently been inducted into our Hall of Fame. Could you tell our readers what the module is about?
The Lord of Terror is a remake (or more rightly, a restoration) of the original Blizzard game, Diablo. The module is set in the world of Sanctuary, which had experienced a brutal war between angels and demons thousands of years ago. The forces of light prevailed, thanks to the efforts of the angels in the High Heavens and a group of mortal magi named the Horadrim, who had imprisoned the rulers of Hell in magical devices and paved the way to a seeming end to the great war.
Your character is thrown into a time when evil is beginning to resurface in Sanctuary. Your adventure begins as you find yourself drawn back to the land of your birth, a small town in Khanduras called Tristram, where you will face the evil beneath the desecrated church – and your ultimate destiny.
The Lord of Terror is my first (and hopefully not my last) NWN module.
3.) How close is this module to the original game? Did you have to make any compromises?
Honestly, the idea to make this module was spawned by someone else’s own Diablo “remake” that did not satisfy me when I played it. It didn’t have heart and was merely a brick-by-brick translation of the original game (y’know, a module with 16 dungeon areas and one town area, etc)…
In this module, I have tried my best to capture the spirit of the original game, attempting to put a lot of attention to the nooks and crannies of Diablo. I would say that it was a painstaking process trying to adapt a game that only had three classes into D&D format that can be played with several more classes. Those who played the original will recognize a huge load of similarities, and then some.
You see, Blizzard tried to get the original game out as soon as possible, and in the process they did not complete several quests that were supposed to be there, either due to time constraints or due to game balance. Fortunately, most of this content was in the Diablo CD, which I extracted and restored as full-fledged quests in addition to the old ones. Diablo fanatics will recognize them right away, while those who only played it casually will welcome the added content. I also tried my best to use the original music and wav files, as well as add all new music for the new areas and quests, courtesy of community content, etc. So all in all, I think this module is more enjoyable than the original game in terms of scope and breadth.
Of course, lots of compromises were made so that it can be translated properly into a D&D based game. Diablo incorporated random dungeons and spawns, and with the NWN engine it was next to impossible to achieve this. I was not very well versed in NWN scripting when I started this module, so finding a way to generate random dungeons is beyond my abilities – not to mention the added areas this would entail (imagine creating 4-6 versions of the same area, then multiply it with the number of areas within the module – with the module already having almost 70 non-dynamic areas, that could be a lot of work and might even exceed the specs of a full-blown persistent world with hundreds of areas – not a good thing for a one-shot module).
There were also quests I wanted to restore that were impossible for me based on my limited scripting knowledge. The Map of the Stars, for example, is a popular incomplete quest in the original, and it entailed a time limit to destroy the Lord of Terror. Obviously I couldn’t work that in at the time. This also goes for a couple other quests, like Grimspike and various fetch-it quests.
All in all, I believe that the Lord of Terror has done justice to the original game, and even enhanced it in terms of story. I hope the ones who played it think the same.
4.) If someone has played the original Diablo game, will they find any surprises in your remake?
Absolutely. The new forest areas and dungeon instances should be a treat, as well as the additional monsters and NPCs. Not only did I include the original items from Diablo 1, but I also included items from its sequel, Diablo 2, which should be great for those treasure hunters. The new quests should also be a pleasant surprise to players, and they can take part more in the Diablo lore than the original game ever mustered.
Players would also be treated to some twists to the old quests, as well as a few Easter eggs they would hopefully enjoy.
Also evident in this module is the enhanced atmosphere once can experience courtesy of the new custom music, most of which have been gathered from community contributions at the Vault. One of the most favorable feedback i have gotten for the module was the background music and overall ambience.
5.) Was there any aspect when you were creating this module that posed an obstacle? If so, how did you overcome it?
There were several problems I encountered when I made the module. One of the most difficult things I had to do was balance it for both melee and non-melee. Diablo was a heavily combat-oriented game, and trying to translate that to D&D rules was hard. Support classes like rogues and bards, and most spellcasters, will most likely find the module difficult if they want to go at it alone. I therefore included optional henchmen for those who want some help getting past the dungeon areas.
Another thing I had to deal with was to make each area different from each other. The original game generated random dungeons that all looked essentially the same. I just settled on creating each area as uniquely as possible.
One of the other bigger difficulties I had was translating item and creature appearance/stats into a D&D environment. This required a lot of custom content and in the end I am satisfied with the outcome.
Of course, making the module as enjoyable as possible without being too monotonous. The variety of creatures I remade/created was daunting, bt in the end, I think I created enough of a variety for players to face and obtain.
Lastly, trying to keep the module as small as possible (including its haks) was a challenge. I don’t think I achieved much in reducing the overall file size, so I decided to split up the required files to allow people with slower connections to have the opportunity to download what they can muster.
6.) Do you have any tips or suggestions for other authors?
I guess being a first-time module maker, I can only say that you should work on something you yourself want to play, and not just think of what other people want. I was intrigued by the Diablo lore, and it made it easier to create the module if you like recreating one of your favorite games. The fun you have in making the module will also rub off on those who play it, as they will notice the care and artistry you put into your work.
I can also suggest taking feedback as much as possible. Whether it is constructive or not, authors should take the feedback seriously and try to find a way to satisfy their target audience in a way that doesn’t compromise their own vision. Make the feedback work for your module, and don’t think of it as an affront or a demand to change it. I feel that I am successful for the most part in making compromises to user feedback that did not affect how I wanted the module to be.
7.) Do you have any other projects you are working on?
I was intrigued by the world of Sanctuary and wanted to create additional modules based on it. I am planning a “prequel” of sorts to Diablo, which is set during the Great Conflict, back when Sanctuary was engulfed in an all-out battle between the angels of the High Heavens and the demons of the Burning Hells, and also the Sin War, where mortals began taking part in this great battle. This is also planned to be a trilogy, as it follow’s the player’s role in helping shape the outcome of the Sin War and possible repercussions that will affect the world of Sanctuary leading to the events that transpired in The Lord of Terror. This will be a totally original story, but will remain faithful to the Diablo lore and serve as an interesting backstory to the Diablo saga. It is also planned to be an epic-level module, which will allow players who went through The Lord of Terror to use their characters.
Unfortunately, real life has not been very kind as of late, hence I have temporarily stopped development of this new NWN project. But I am optimistic that I can resume development of this in the next month or so…
8.) What custom content did you use?
I have utilized a huge amount of community content in making this module, notable of which is the Community Expansion Pack (CEP). The CEP has contributed greatly to the variety and quality of the custom content within this module, especially with creatures, items and placeables. I have also made use of several other works of community contributors, too numerous to mention, but you can check out the readme of the module for credits to their work.
I also used several musical contributions from the Vault that helped enhance the mood of gameplay. Lastly, I have made use of a whole gamut of custom scripting that helped make the quests and other activities within the module work as I wanted them to. Special kudos to Lilac Soul’s script generator for allowing a non-scriptor like me achieve what I wanted for this module.
9.) Have you played another other fan modules that you enjoyed?
I have not played very many of the modules out there, but the ones that I particularly enjoyed were the works of Rick Burton (Midnight), Akkei (Orcs) and Adam Miller (Dreamcatcher). I also enjoyed playing the excellently scripted Good vs. Evil module by John “Gestalt” Bye and I am even planning to incorporate his newest version it into my upcoming project.
I have not played much of the newer ones because of my preoccupation with development of The Lord of Terror, but I intend to try them out during my free time this year
10.) Have you played any of the official campaigns and what do you think of them?
I have played all three of the official campaigns, and like most people, my favorite is the Hordes of the Underdark, due to its compelling story and creative gameplay. I liked the original NWN campaign but wasn’t satisfied with its ending. Shadows of Undrentide was sadly the runt of the litter as it didn’t seem like a worthwhile expansion, but that’s just me.
11.) What are you thoughts on the toolset and what things would you like to see improved?
I like the NWN toolset very much for the fact that it allowed me to remake one of my favorite games in a very user-friendly interface. As for improvements, the only two things I can suggest (or hope for) is an easy cutscene wizard, and an integrated scripting wizard in the same vein as Lilac Soul’s script generator. This would allow more people to make their visions come to life easier and better.
12.) What are thoughts on NWN and the community?
I have to admit that NWN is past its prime, but I salute all the developers and programmers who continue to support it and issue those patches well beyond the product’s prime shelf life. Bioware has always made games I like, dating back from Baldur’s Gate, and I am happy to see that their pursuit for quality is still in the top bracket of the game industry.
The NWN community is awesome, and is a big part of why NWN is still alive and kicking. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game with this much custom content, and most of it quality content at that, and I hope that the NWN community will continue to share their work and know-how to the rest of us who enjoy a good game.
13.) Anything else you’d like to add?
Well, I would just like to thank everyone who played The Lord of Terror and gave it a chance. I would have to say that I was a bit hesitant at releasing this at the vault because I expected a lot of hate from the “non-action” RPG crowd, mostly from people who would say that I am riding on an old game’s reputation and taking advantage of nostalgia to market my work. So I was very happy that the module got as much acceptance as it did, and from the emails I have received, I can say that I did not do such a bad job after all.
With action and “hack-and-slash” modules being given the short end of the stick more often than not, I hope that people will take them more seriously and not skip potentially enjoyable ones. While I enjoy a good story as much as the next person, there are also times that I want to lay back and just kill bad things. Lots of dialogue or cutscenes are not the only things that make an enjoyable module – as long as players have fun playing your work and are engulfed in your custom world, it makes module making worthwhile
We’d like to thank Tolitz Rosel for taking the time to answer our questions.
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You can download the module from the NWVault page here. And if you play it and enjoy it, please let me know by posting here. Thanks!