Thursday, January 31, 2008

Learning Games with Neverwinter Nights

Neverwinter Nights is attracting a bit of interest for educational games because of the ability to do mods with its Aurora Tools. NWN is your classic 3D dungeons type game, it can be played single player or multiplayer. Its a bit like WoW and other games where your avatar has an inventory, health and other attributes and goes on quests. Aurora Tools is a level editor, like all those editors in strategy games, but it includes a scripting language and is very sophisticated in what it can do.

So what can you do educationally? You can run round killing stuff, explore dungeons, collect items and talk to NPC's. The ability to customise dialogue is a lot of what is interesting educators. You can deliver content, declarative knowledge. It also has prospects for procedural knowledge, problem solving. It is not too hard to drive and kids could make their own educational games. The best way to learn something is to teach it. It would lend itself to kids making a game in a second language, its style and dialogue editor lean towards text rich games. Kids could make an educational game in any area, learning content, problem solving, programming and computer skills.

I purchased NWN Diamond Edition (from Amazon).

First to note is that you need a DVD drive
Win 98+
P3 800MHz +
128MB, 4 GB, 32MB video

Out of the box, it wont run on Vista but can be patched, see tech support, also I had problems with the CD keys, if it happens to you see also tech support.

After playing the Prelude level, it was time to play with Aurora Tools. There is no help packaged with Aurora Tools but Google found me a tute at

The learning game that you create is a module. Each module is made of a number of areas. The areas might be outside and inside a house or different caverns in a dungeon, but they are areas connected by doors. Each area is loaded separately in memory so there is really no geographical relationship between areas, you effectively teleport out one door of one area and into the door onf another. Like Dr Who's Tardis, there need not be a correspondence with the inside and outside shape of a building.

When you start Aurora, a wizard prompts you to use a tileset, interior, exterior, dungeon etc. For my first area, area1 I chose a city interior. In Aurora, the top view looks like this.

The symbol in the centre is the player's start position. You can run the game (build test module) or F9. Here is a screenshot of the game playing, you can walk round the room.

Quit out of the game and go back to Aurora. On the right hand side is the menu of things you can add. If you click on the "paint terrain" button you get a list of rooms that you can add to the area.

If you click on "paint creatures" you get a list of creatures you can add.

First time I tried it I added a dwarf to the room. When I ran the game the dwarf immediately attacked and killed me. LOL
Add a girl on the human category to the area. Then open the conversation editor (tools conversation editor) Click on add. You can build up a "conversation tree" as shown

The NPC (girl) says the text in red, the blue items are the possible player responses. I saved the conversation as conversation1 and closed the editor.

Right click on the girl and click properties
At the bottom of the dialogue box, select conversation1 for the conversation
Close the dialogue box and press F9 to run the game. Left mouse click will initiate a conversation with the girl.

Next to create an outside area and doors (as in

Click "paint terrain" and add corridor exit

and add to the area

Then run the area wizard to create a second area (wizard area wizard), Name area002, rural tileset, medium size.

Add a house, (paint terrain, features, house1)

Then add a door to the door opening(paint doors, tileset specific, door)

Paint the start location outside the house in area 2

Add a door to the door opening in the inside scene, area1. Right click on one of the doors on the list on the LHS, eg the door in area 1, properties, area transition tab, destination type door, set up area transition.

The target area is area2, target type door, connection type both ways, select the door. Yes, Yes,Yes to confirmation.

Run the game, you can walk inside and talk to the girl.

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Blogger Bill Kerr said...

You bought something from amazon :-) Now you can comment on mark guzdial's blog!

Monday, February 04, 2008 10:15:00 PM  
Blogger Tony Forster said...


Tuesday, February 05, 2008 12:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Daniel Livingstone said...

Hi Tony,

Think you can have a lot of fun with NWN. Judy Robertson here in the UK has done quite a bit of work getting children to create their own stories with NWN, and I've used it with my undergraduate students in the past too.

You'll find more stuff on the page ,
including a useful pdf tutorial which prints out quite nicely.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008 10:54:00 AM  
Anonymous super mario said...

Very nice article. Thanks...

Sunday, March 01, 2009 3:20:00 AM  

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