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|Publisher(s)||Strategic Simulations, Inc.|
|Genre(s)||Multiplayer, role-playing video game|
Neverwinter Nights was developed to be played similarly to the Gold Box series of games. Players would begin play by creating a character, and outside of character creation, game play took place in a screen that displayed text interactions, the names and current status of one's party of characters, and a window which displayed images of geography, marked with large or small pictures of characters or events. When combat occurred, gameplay switched to a full-screen combat mode, in which player characters and enemies were represented by icons which would move around in the course of battle.
There was one aspect of the game referred to as a Ladder, which was essentially a hierarchical ranking of players based upon prowess in battle. The most widely-renowned of such Ladders, the World PVP Council (WPC) Ladder, "rated as 'the' ladder to prove your mettle in Neverwinter".
Don Daglow and the Stormfront game design team began working with AOL on original online games in 1987, in both text-based and graphical formats. At the time AOL was a Commodore 64 only online service, known as Quantum Computer Services, with just a few thousand subscribers, and was called Quantum Link. Online graphics in the late 1980s were severely restricted by the need to support modem data transfer rates as slow as 300 bits per second (bit/s).
In 1989, the Stormfront team started working with SSI on Dungeons & Dragons games using the Gold Box engine that had debuted with Pool of Radiance in 1988. Within months, they realized that it was technically feasible to combine the Dungeons & Dragons Gold Box engine with the community-focused gameplay of online titles to create an online role-playing video game with graphics. Although the multiplayer graphical flight combat game Air Warrior (also from Kesmai) had been online since 1987, all prior online RPGs had been based on text.
In a series of meetings in San Francisco and Las Vegas with AOL's Steve Case and Kathi McHugh, TSR's Jim Ward and SSI's Chuck Kroegel, Daglow and programmer Cathryn Mataga convinced the other three partners that the project was indeed possible. Case approved funding for NWN and work began, with the game going live 18 months later in March 1991.
Daglow chose Neverwinter as the game's location because of its magical features (a river of warm water that flowed from a snowy forest into a northern sea), and its location near a wide variety of terrain types. The area also was close enough to the settings of the other Gold Box games to allow subplots to intertwine between the online and the disk-based titles.
In late June 1997, America Online announced it would be closing down the online game world on July 19, 1997. The company also said it would start a new games channel called World Play, which would cost two dollars per hour to play. Neverwinter Nights was the only game in the company's roster which did not make the transition to the new service.
The capacity of each server grew from 50 players in 1991 to 500 players by 1995. Ultimately, the game became a free part of the AOL subscriber service. Near the end of its run in 1997, the game had 115,000 players and typically hosted 2,000 adventurers during prime evening hours, a 4000% increase over 1991.
Popularity and development
Much of the game's popularity was based on the presence of active and creative player guilds, who staged many special gaming events online for their members. It is this committed fan base that BioWare sought when they licensed the rights to Neverwinter Nights from AOL and TSR as the basis for the later Neverwinter Nights game.
In 1998, development work began on a clone of Neverwinter Nights called Forgotten World.
After the release of BioWare's non-MMO Neverwinter Nights game in 2002, a group of former Neverwinter Nights players used the Aurora toolset included with the new game to reconstruct the content of the original Neverwinter Nights and host it online as a multiplayer game, albeit with limited player capacity. Neverwinter Nights: Resurrection was modestly successful early on in drawing former Neverwinter Nights players, but player numbers dwindled over the years as online gaming options expanded and the underlying game technology aged. A post on IGN from the game's host revealed that Neverwinter Nights: Resurrection shut down its servers on July 31, 2012.
According to GameSpy, "with hundreds of loyal players all adventuring in the same city between 1991 and 1997 when AOL pulled the plug, politics, guilds, and alliances quickly formed a social community that was far more important than the actual game".
In 2008, Neverwinter Nights was honored (along with EverQuest and World of Warcraft) at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for advancing the art form of MMORPG games. Don Daglow accepted the award for project partners Stormfront Studios, AOL and Wizards of the Coast.
- The Original Neverwinter Nights 1991-1997
- Bainbridge, William Sims (2004). Berkshire Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction 2. Berkshire Publishing Group. p. 474. ISBN 0-9743091-2-5 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. "It already had the game Neverwinter Nights, but that could handle "only" five hundred simultaneous players; the demand was much greater."
- Stormfront Studios Honored At 59th Annual Emmy Technology Awards For Creating First Graphical Online Role-Playing Game MCV, January 10, 2008
- Chase, John (June 30, 1997). "Lights out on Neverwinter Nights". Daily Herald. Retrieved September 24, 2012. – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
- Gamers Claim AOL Is Playing Bait-and-Switch Wired, June 24, 1997
- Neverwinter Nights Interview FiringSquad, September 17, 1999
- 12 Forgotten Online Games PCMag.com
-  nwvault.ign.com
- Neverwinter Nights-Offline UA Archive
- Lesser, Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk (March 1992). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (179): 57–62.
- Rausch, Allen; Lopez, Miguel (August 16, 2004). "A History of D&D Video Games - Part II". Game Spy.