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Topic: Golden Dragon Interview: Aristan  (Read 8593 times)
« on: February 14, 2008, 09:38:44 AM »
BenWH Offline
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Gold-tinted Silver Dragon
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Today's interview is with Aristan, the writer of Avertine - A Nation Dreamed, which was the winner of the Best Roleplaying Module Golden Dragon award for NWN in 2006. Aristan tells us about the inspirations for the module, what's happening with the sequel and some of the other work in progress:

What made you start building modules for NWN?

Boy, there isn’t a short answer to that. About three years ago my wife and I had our first kid. I have always had a lot of projects I get myself involved with, some bigger than others (the biggest probably being gutting my old kitchen: new plumbing, wiring, floors and cabinets I built from scratch). Knowing my inability to sit idle and ‘do nothing’ I knew I needed a hobby that could be done at odd hours and for short periods as available.

Enter NWN… I’ve always loved CRPGs. I started back with Ultima 2 and played every CRPG I could get my hands on up through Baldur’s Gate. Round about the time HotU came out I started playing some of the user created modules. I played through the first two Aielund’s, Wanderer 1 & 2 and Harpers Tale before I came across Book of Shaddowe. That was the module that really hooked me with the concept of stories that had a different experience for the player than the usual ‘run in with guns firing’.

In a moment of bad judgment, one thing led to another and I started building. Three years later I can’t really foresee myself ever completely stopping. Perhaps there is a 12 step program out there for me…

What was the inspiration behind Avertine?

The plot really boils down to a story told from a revolutionaries perspective in their struggle against an occupying power. The inspiration comes from a mix of inputs: I've spent a good deal of time living and working in Ireland. Also, the current political/international 'situation' with the US. Last is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Heinlein. Avertine's story really ends up being a melding of the three.

Avertine – A Nation Dreamed really sets the stage, introduces the characters and brings the player up to speed on the plot. By the end of A Nation Dreamed the player will have achieved a significant 'milestone' if you will, but should have enough information to realize that nobody is telling them everything and everybody is trying to use them to their own end. Chapter 2 at a high level will deal with securing Avertine (above and below), though it also has a plot centric disturbing revelation and the continuation of the power struggle between the revolutionary factions (this is introduced somewhat subtly towards the end of ch1). The final chapter is the end game (with a lot of tie in back to how The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is resolved from a strategic perspective).


How is work going for the sequel to Avertine? Have you switched to NWN2?

Slowly. At times, infinitely slow. Ch1 was two years in the making, though I was learning the toolset and scripting at the same time. In an effort to insure Ch2 is no faster I decided to switch to NWN2. Seriously though, I did switch to NWN2, though a lot of that has to do with expected player attrition that will occur with NWN1. While I don’t build for glory, it is nice to think that people are out there playing and enjoying (hopefully) the game. I can go on about this topic, but I won’t bore anyone.

Anyway, back to Avertine Ch2. I work on it occasionally, though I have spent most of my time on the FRW group project I’ve gotten myself involved in (as well as real life complexities). I do really like the story so I do not intend to abandon it. Putting it across platforms is a somewhat unique issue as most authors have decided against that path. What I am currently planning is to do Ch2 and then back up and fill in Ch1 for NWN2 as time is available. It does mean for the continuous story, only ‘long term’ players will get the entire context. Unfortunate, but we’ll see how it plays out. Right now I’m over committed on many fronts so this seems to be the best compromise for now.

What did you think when you first heard about the Golden Dragon Awards?

I don’t post as much as I used to, but I’ve been around the boards for a long time. I’ve seen a lot of people get upset about voting, favouritism, clique behaviour, … you name it. My first reaction was that this could as easily divide the community as much as help. So far it seems that it has gone down without a lot of discord so kudos to you guys and navigating the murky waters. That said, it was also very flattering to even be nominated much less actually win one, so thanks!

Have you tried out any of the other Golden Dragon winners or nominations?

No. In the 2006 timeframe I was not doing very much playing, just building and testing.

How did you get involved in the Forgotten Realms Weave, and has it turned out as you hoped?

Well I think that is easiest answered by explaining what I had originally envisioned for Avertine. If you look WAY back in the Bioware boards you can find many posts by a very wet behind the ears Aristan talking about a ‘vision’. I started Avertine with the goal of providing builders with a setting that they could build from. Cities take so much work to build (and I really like city based stories) so I figured that is someone were to go in and put in the effort to build the setting, many other could use that and focus on the other bits (adventure areas and story). I never saw that vision through in Avertine, though a lot of the shops and areas are really just there to give the city a feeling of being a city.

Fast forward to FRW. I saw a thread floating about with I think someone going off about how the project had no legs. In the thread there was a link to the forums. I clicked the link and saw a post by Vendalus looking to see if people were interested in making a prefab of Waterdeep. Given my earlier goal, I jumped at the chance. So many prefabs out there are just blank areas. Anyone who has released a SP module knows that the physical area is just the tip of the iceberg. Sounds, NPCs (dialog, animation routines, physical design), flavor scripts, shops, documentation… There is some much that needs to be done to make a prefab really a drop in for a future user. I think the project is shaping up nicely and will hopefully be akin to a DM buying a published setting from WotC.

What are you up to currently?

Building wise I’ve mostly been working on the Market of Waterdeep. Vendalus has been doing a great job with the Court of the White Bull and I think we are pretty close to release of the first areas. Lot’s of people have chipped in with different things from Watch uniforms to custom classes. I think it will provide a pretty fun setting. What happens after that depends a lot upon time. I have many plans. One, I want to finish Avertine. That said, I have a plan for a set of Rogue based modules set in Waterdeep. What I envision is a series of modules that would be more like episodes of the X-files than a true series. Modules could be played in different orders with a loose underlying plot, but most being based on being a thief in a big city. I think this could be done really well with the NWN2 engine. We’ll see, though again, I’d really like to see Avertine continued. I have the central castle (starting scene in Ch2) complete using the BCK, which is a really sweet addition for detail oriented builders. I also have a start on the docks and a good deal of what I’ve done with Waterdeep can be used directly in Avertine.

From a personal perspective, my life has gotten more complicated. At home we recently had our second child, which is its own adventure. Work wise, I was a Product Engineer for several years over circuit and MEMs fabrication making inkjet printheads for HP. In the last two years I changed jobs up the food chain a bit and into MEMS fluidic design and am the personal printing platform lab lead for silicon development needs and integration. While a fun new challenge it takes a lot more mental space than the old job. At the same time, my itchy project feet at home have started twitching (I have a basement I want to gut). Basically, I’m going to continue building, though it will have to fit with the rest of my life.

So many plans with so little time... Too bad I’m not independently wealthy. Thanks for the time.

Thanks to Aristan for taking the time to do this interview - and for playing my modules! Wink
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Reply #1
« on: February 14, 2008, 10:27:28 AM »
Tybae Offline
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Devourer of Worlds, Lover of Kittens Posts: 2010



These interviews are really impressing me.  This is yet another good read.  Congratulations Aristan.  Good luck in your ventures!  I look forward to CH 2. 
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Reply #2
« on: February 14, 2008, 02:50:51 PM »
Alban Offline
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Great interview. Thanks Ben and Aristan for it.

Now you made me want to test your module Smiley I guess you deserve an efficiency award here.
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Reply #3
« on: February 14, 2008, 03:20:40 PM »
sirchet Offline
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What a great interview! Easy to read, and keeps you interested. Good Job!
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Reply #4
« on: February 16, 2008, 06:36:53 AM »
Dunniteowl Offline
Former Members
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Posts: 1



Congrats, Aristan!

The more I learn about you the more inspirational you are.  I wasn't brave enough to have a 2nd child, the perils and dangers were all too relevant by the time she was 2.  Give me a module of high adventure where the fate of all I know and hold dear rests in the balance.  Much safer than a kid, any day of the week. 

(Of course, had the opportunity arisen at the right moment, I would probably be saying something like, "I decided to stop having kids after the 6th one.  I come from a large family (5 kids) and I have only 1 kid.  Two of my siblings have 4.)

I look forward to the release of both the Market, the Court of the White Bull and any others that are planned for the FRW+DMFI: Waterdeep project.  You and vendalus are heroes in my book. (That's why I couldn't vote, conflict of interest there.)

best regards,
dunniteowl
AME Member
Admin/Mod; NeverWinter Citadel Project
Comm. Rep/Mod  NWN2 Forums for Obsidian @ Bioware
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Reply #5
« on: February 16, 2008, 08:20:17 AM »
vendalus Offline
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Great interview. Thanks for the mentions. I'm looking forward to more great work!
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Reply #6
« on: February 16, 2008, 11:21:10 AM »
Estelindis Offline
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Thanks for the interview, Aristan!  Keep up the good work.  Wink
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Reply #7
« on: February 19, 2008, 07:44:13 AM »
kookoo Offline
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My Brass Dragon has Brass Balls Posts: 146

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Excellent interview.  It can be rather difficult building a module while raising children and renovating a house.  Especially when the computer is right next to the crown moulding that you're supposed to be putting up.  Well done and good luck on part two (the child and the module)
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