Neverwinter Nights appeared in 2002, not so much as a sequel to the classic Baldur's Gate games, but more of a rethink of the way that Advanced Dungeons and Dragons was brought to the computer screen. Gone, at least from the single player, was the old cliche of the six man party - replaced by a single character, his henchman and an optional summoned creature. This departure changed the nature of the AD&D rules, but didn't stop the game being what was without a doubt the best RPG ever to grace any platform - and yet at the same time one of the most unsung.
With the likes of Oblivion on the one hand and a plethora of Final Fantasy games on another, this is a pretty bold claim; but there are two reasons that Neverwinter Nights stands on a plateau high above all these other games. First is the multiplayer, with full support for co-operative play and the innovative inclusion of the playable Dungeon Master role to allow on the fly area and NPC control. The second factor that allows Neverwinter Nights to stand as the clearly superior RPG is the modifications, and these are what we're going to be looking at here today.
Player created content for Neverwinter Nights comes in two principle forms. Firstly we have what are called hak packs, after the .hak extension that NWN added content files use. These are additions to the game content, be they textures, creatures, items or map tilesets. The second type of player add-ons for NWN are modules. These are dungeons, areas, campaigns or in some cases even persistent multiplayer worlds created by the players using the Aurora Toolset provided with the game.
Given that Neverwinter Nights is approaching four years old and that a long overdue sequel is due for release within the year, there are three things to consider. Firstly and most lamentably, the multiplayer aspect to the game is much reduced from what it was in the prime of the game, with fewer servers and fewer players around, although there are still no shortage of populated games to be had.
Secondly, like a fine wine, the body of content available for Neverwinter Nights has matured. The dregs have sunk to the bottom and the cream of the crop of hak packs and modules have risen to the top. Even if there's not so much multiplayer malarkey to be had, there is still four years worth of work from one of the most dedicated and best supported gaming communities in the world to rummage through.
The third thing to consider is that when Neverwinter Nights launched in 2002 it took a fairly good PC to run for the time and it didn't really ever really seem to perform as well as it looked like it should, especially as the years have not been kind to the graphics. That said a modern PC can run NWN in its sleep, which means a lot more scope for modification.
You've got your Neverwinter Nights disks as well as the Shadows Of Undrentide and Hordes Of The Underdark addons lying around, uninstalled since forever, so what does it take to get back into playing NWN?