Icewind Dale 2 Interview with Doug Avery (09/04/2002)
Recently we had the chance to talk about the upcoming sequel to Icewind Dale with the game's Associate Producer, Doug Avery. Since we are eagerly anticipating Icewind Dale II, quite a number of different topics were discussed. Here is what we found out.
SP: Please describe the original Icewind Dale and its expansions Heart of Winter and Trials of the Luremaster for those of our readers who are not familiar with the titles the sequel builds on.
Doug Avery: Icewind Dale brought your party of adventurers from Easthaven to the small mountain community of Kuldahar. Kuldahar was your base of operations for the game and you went to various dungeons in the areas surrounding it trying to get out of the mountains. The plot unfolded through the exploration of these dungeons. The trail eventually ended back in the town of Easthaven with a truly supernatural force being the cause of all of the problems you encountered. In the first expansion to IWD, Heart of Winter, the spirit of a dragon matriarch possesses the body of a recently dead barbarian hero. She then declares war on the Ten-Towns to try and reclaim her ancestral homelands. The second expansion, Trials of the Luremaster has the heroes confronting the spirit of an unjustly slain bard who lures the heroes to his castle in a far away realm. Here they are tested in the hope that they can set his tormented spirit free.
SP: How does Icewind Dale 2 tie in with the story of the original game?
Doug Avery: The story takes place a generation after the events in the original Icewind Dale series. Though the ties to the original story are not immediately apparent from the plot's opening, it becomes obvious over time that the story's antagonists have a direct relationship with characters from the previous games. Let me reiterate that players new to Icewind Dale II do not need to know or understand the events that occurred in the first game, but for those that did, there are some references to the original.
SP: How intricate is the game's plot going to be?
Doug Avery: In comparison with Icewind Dale, the plot is a little more intricate. It is nothing as complex or as story-driven as Planescape: Torment and is still more of a dungeon crawl than Baldur's Gate. However, it is more story-based than the original and I think that players will find it more complex than Icewind Dale. A number of factors are also taken into account by the game to make it a unique experience for a variety of different players. A few of these are your character's race, class and selected skills. I think this will also make players want to go back and play the game again using different character choices.
SP: What will the ratio between questing and fighting be like?
Doug Avery: In true dungeon crawling spirit, combat is still our primary focus. This is not to say that we don't have very intricate quests and puzzles, because we do. Many of the more cerebral elements of Icewind Dale II have never been attempted in an Infinity Engine game before. They are pretty amazing to see in action.
SP: Which areas of the original Icewind Dale are we going to revisit in Icewind Dale 2?
Doug Avery: I will only say that you'll be returning to Dragon's Eye, the huge dungeon where the townspeople were being enslaved; and to the town of Kuldahar. Both of these areas have changed a lot in the intervening years and players may have trouble recognizing familiar features about either or both.
SP: How many and what kind of new areas can we look forward to? Please describe some of them.
Doug Avery: You'll be starting out in the town of Targos, a small trading community on Maer Dualdon, a large lake in Icewind Dale. From there you will head up the Shaengarne River to delve into the mystery surrounding the goblinoid horde that is threatening the Ten Towns. Players can also expect to visit the Jungles of Chult and other exotic locations as well. There are probably about as many areas to explore in Icewind Dale II as there were in both the original game and the Heart of Winter expansion pack combined.
SP: We have learned early on that importing of our characters from Icewind Dale into the sequel will not be possible. Surprisingly, there was practically no negative reaction to this announcement, even though the creation of the whole party in IWD1 must have taken most gamers considerable time and effort. Why do you think the gamers received this news so well?
Doug Avery: I believe that most of our fans realize that continuing an adventure with 30th level characters is something of an effort for a CRPG to tackle. Taking another tack, for a full sequel to continue this level of epic challenges, you would be fighting ancient dragons, the Tarrasque and probably a demon lord or five. This can be really limiting in scope and is probably best done in an expansion pack, ala Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal, which handled it pretty well. This is an all new adventure for a new band of would be heroes kind of like Star Trek: TNG taking the helm from the original cast and crew.
SP: Will most of our adventuring in Icewind Dale 2 be crawling inside dungeons or out in the open space?
Doug Avery: We've actually got a pretty good mix between the two. There are vast dungeons to explore, but also very mysterious and weird wilderness areas that need to be cleared of their dangerous inhabitants.
SP: Icewind Dale 2 features quite a significant chunk of 3rd edition D&D rules. How has implementing 3E rules effected game development? What did you manage to include and what did you have to leave out?
Doug Avery: Icewind Dale II incorporates every 3E rule that we could get to work in it. We now have skills, feats, 3E multi-classing, Base Attack Bonus, 3E armor class and saving throws. Everything is as close to its 3E rule definition as the engine will allow. Some concessions did have to be made particularly with turn-based concepts that don't translate as well into a realtime environment, but I think these pale in comparison to the faithfulness we've shown to the spirit of the rules. The only missing 3E changes have to do with turn-based combat, skills that don't make sense for the game and mounted stuff. The spells that we have in right now have all been changed to their 3E counterparts and we've even changed our items to correspond with 3E naming conventions and damage output.
SP: Has the point buy system been finalized yet?
Doug Avery: It is very close. Currently it is all attributes start at 10 with any racial bonuses or penalties applied and then 16 points to spend in a non-weighted point buy system.
SP: Could you explain how the new Use Magic Device skill works?
Doug Avery: Certainly. When a Bard or Rogue that has the Use Magic Device skill attempts to use a scroll or potion that they normally cannot use, the game makes a roll against their skill level. If they are successful, then the normal effect occurs. If they aren't, then might I direct your attention to page 75 of the 3E Player's Handbook. The picture there is a pretty accurate representation of what will happen to your character.
For those of you that don't have it, there is a picture of a female adventurer with soot all over her and a smoking wand in her hand. She has a very surprised look on her face to say the least.
(Ed. note: Click here to see the picture.)
SP: Can you hint at the identity of our main nemesis and his or her motives?
Doug Avery: Sorry, I cannot. I do not even want to come close to giving away the mysteries that surround the "big bad guy". I will let you in on a little secret, though. The Legion of the Chimera plays a very important role in the story. I know that doesn't help, but hey, it's something for you guys to speculate about.
SP: We hear that some of the NPCs from Icewind Dale will be making a comeback in Icewind Dale 2... Who can we expect to encounter?
Doug Avery: You will get to meet some returning characters from Icewind Dale such as Oswald Fiddlebender, everyone's favorite Gnomish aviator. Some of the other characters have either left the Dale or passed on, but their bloodlines might still live on...
SP: One of our recent polls showed that of the new subraces introduced in IWD2, 44% of our visitors want to play dark elves (Drow) the most. How does it feel to be finally able to offer the fans something they have been asking for since the release of Baldur's Gate?
Doug Avery: It is a real pleasure. I am actually playing a Drow too. They're pretty fun, but that day blindness penalty is a real kicker. Their innate abilities make up for it though. The other sub-races that I've had a really great time experimenting with are the Gold Dwarves, Wood Elves and Aasimar. They all have their pluses and minuses and figuring out various combinations for success is a lot of fun.