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A Neverwinter Nights intro to game design | Why I Love

Little Chicken Game Company's Erik Kors shares how the world of Faerūn led him to the world of game development

Why I Love is a series of guest editorials on GamesIndustry.biz intended to showcase the ways in which game developers appreciate each other's work. This entry was contributed by Erik Kors, Senior Game Developer and Project Lead for Little Chicken Game Company in Amsterdam since 2012, who recently launched green revolution game Blaze Revolutions on Steam Early Access.

For as long as I can remember, I've been a little nerd with a wild imagination. I liked school and had good grades, but I was always looking at the clock, counting the hours and minutes until the last bell rang. Then I would run to meet my best friend in the park behind his house where we had dug a hole and set up a little hut. There, our playful minds and imaginations at their height, we would transform the park into a mysterious world of heroes, battles, and fantastic creatures.

This obviously changed when my first computer came into my life. Well not exactly my life, more the life of my best friend's brother. He was old enough to make money and buy himself a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). While he was away, my friend and I would sneak into his room and play games on it for hours on end, but always careful not to get caught when he came back. Eventually, my friend's older brother moved out, and guess who inherited the NES? My friend! Now it was our time to shine! We could finally play freely without the fear of an older brother catching us (only our moms' nagging that we would go cross-eyed. Yeah right...)

Mario Bros., Donkey Kong and all the good ones of those days...you name it, we played it. We would lose ourselves in these games for hours -- Sorry mom, for the times I did not make it home on time -- but they never really scratched that itch of imagining being in a fantasy world.

It was around the same time when my dad, also a nerd, found a group of people through the local comic book store who invited him over to play Warhammer Quest. For those who are not familiar with this game, Warhammer Quest is like Dungeons & Dragons, where a group of players follow a story created and narrated by the so-called dungeon master. These stories would vary from a simple dungeon with treasure at the end to big campaigns with multiple angles and storylines intertwined.

"I was in love with these stories and my wish for my 10th birthday was that my dad would host a Warhammer Quest adventure for me and my friends"

After every game, my dad would narrate to me all these amazing stories of what he and his group came across in their adventures. From small actions like crossing a creepy swamp to stories of outsmarting evil demons with clever planning but...horrible execution. I was in love with these stories and my wish for my 10th birthday was that my dad would host a Warhammer Quest adventure for me and my friends. Which he gladly agreed upon. My mom cooked all kinds of fantasy-themed snacks for us, like witch's fingers from sausages and ketchup, and dragon-shaped cookies. This was only the beginning. Every birthday since then was a new Warhammer Quest adventure.

One night, a little before my 12th birthday, if I remember currently, I heard my dad talking with his friends about a new game that was released, where you could digitally make your own dungeons and fight monsters, disarm traps, and do all the cool stuff you could do at Warhammer but digitally. The game was Neverwinter's Nights by BioWare. I was amazed by the idea of such a game. I had to have it. With a little bit of pocket-money collecting, and a little bit of begging my parents, this was my 12th birthday gift.

The moment I laid my hands on it, I ran to my computer only to find out that it would barely support the fantastic graphics it had (at least for back in those days). However, it was amazing right from the start and lured me into the world of Faerûn, in the city of Neverwinter where it all began. My English was starting to be good enough to follow the rich story that the creators were presenting. A story which took you through a mysterious land full of dungeons and mythical creatures.

Neverwinter Nights include tools for players to make their own adventures

Neverwinter Nights include tools for players to make their own adventures

I cannot even recall the amount of hours I spent in the world of Faerûn, but it was certainly a joyful experience, and I was always eager to spend more. It was not long after I finished the game that I started to imagine creating my own story, my own dungeon with monsters, loot, and a quest to save the damsel in distress. I got my notebook out and made sketches of dungeon layouts with chests and traps and how one would travel deeper into the heart of the dungeon. I really loved the process of creating a place that wasn't real into something tangible, just like the creators at BioWare did.

As mentioned, Neverwinter's Nights had its own content creation tool, so I gave it a try. After spending all this time making my dungeon scribblings on paper, it would probably be easy to pass those scribblings in the game, right? Well... this was a lot harder than I anticipated. Translating your imagination into something tangible and real inside a game is a hard task, and the dialogues I wrote didn't make sense. The dungeon felt a little empty and not as vivid as in my head. But this did not stop me from trying hard and making new plans every day until I made the perfect dungeon, whatever "perfect" meant for a 12 year old.

Now 18 years later, I look back at my games collection and especially at Neverwinter's Nights with nostalgia and happiness, recognizing that this game played an integral part in what I am today. It is not just the game itself that I appreciate now, but more how this game shaped me and helped me discover a world in which creativity and imagination in nerds like myself is celebrated: the world of game design.

Developers interested in contributing their own Why I Love column are encouraged to reach out to us at news@gamesindustry.biz.

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