Game Development Reference
Case Study: BioWare Corporation
BioWare is perhaps one of the most widely known and respected developers, espe-
cially in the role-playing game (RPG) world. BioWare's mission is to produce the
best story-driven games worldwide, and it is succeeding based on all the awards
and recognition the company has received for its games. Although an exasperating
amount of work is contributed by everyone at the company to produce their
exceptional games, many fans just see the finished product. This is unfortunate
because the tools and the people who build them play a critical role in the pro-
duction of a successful AAA title, but with the exception of mod builders, they
often are unnoticed by the fan community.
A couple of years ago, BioWare released the critically acclaimed RPG NeverWinter
Nights , which has won numerous writing and technology awards. The game was
based on the Dungeons & Dragons rule set placed in the Forgotten Realms world,
and it took players on a compelling story-driven fantasy adventure. The game had
hours and hours of game time, but that didn't stop the fan community from build-
ing custom campaigns and adventures. The game shipped with the NeverWinter
Nights Aurora Toolset , which gave players the power to build custom adventures
using the same tools that BioWare utilized in the production of the original game.
The Aurora Toolset produces campaigns and adventures in the form of modules,
which are composed of various components, such as areas, creatures, doors, con-
versations, scripts, and triggers, to name a few. The toolset offers functionality to
build either an indoor or outdoor world, and then populate that environment with
entities and triggers.
Figure 3.1 shows the main user interface for the Aurora Toolset, where other child
dialogs are launched and where entity instantiation and placement occurs. On the
left is a tree view that shows all areas in the module and all the instantiated entities
that are associated with each area. Additionally, there is also a listing for conversa-
tion dialog as well as module scripts. Module developers do not have access to a
core low-level API, but instead interface with the game engine using a scripting
language developed for the game and toolset.
A multitude of assets and source art that can be reused across custom modules is
included, with the ability to add your own custom work if so desired. All the mon-
sters and items from NeverWinter Nights are available to module developers, and
can even be customized from their original properties and attributes. The tree
view on the right lists all the assets that can be instantiated and placed in an area.