This Year, The Original Neverwinter Nights Turns 25

This Year, The Original Neverwinter Nights Turns 25

In 1991 this game became the first MMORPG to display graphics. It continues to live on today in the form of an MMORPG, although the technology has changed substantially over the decades.

That game is Neverwinter Nights, and the game — along with the franchise built on its name — turns 25 this week.

Image courtesy of Bladekeep

It sounds a bit like a computer replicating short bursts of chalk, but in 1991 the collaboration between TSR, SSI, Stormfront Studios and AOL that brought Neverwinter Nights to life was a marvel. “These games are not just entertainment,” Don Daglow, who accepted an award at the 59th Annual Technology and Engineering Emmy Awards in 2008 on behalf of the group.

Anyone who’s gone deep in EVE Online, World of Warcraft, Runescape, Ragnarok Online or even something like PangYa! can attest to Daglow’s remarks. MMO’s aren’t entertaining in the same way other games are, courtesy of the way they foster and rely upon communities.

Of course, it can be hard to detect that looking back at the original game all those years ago.

Mentioning the name Neverwinter Nights often stirs up other images, however. My mind will always go back to the traditional RPG crafted by Bioware. It’s still one of the more accessible RPGs from that era, and the availability of the Aurora toolset allowed for modders to craft campaigns of all kinds.

I always preferred the original NWN to the the sequel for me, not least of all because of the performance. NWN 2 was notorious for being a resource hog back in the day, and the adjustments to the UI felt a little too much like Obsidian was trying to lift what was popular from World of Warcraft.

More recently, Cryptic Studios and Perfect World (the latter of which has the rights to operate Dota 2 in mainland China) teamed up to transform the Forgotten Realms city of Neverwinter into an MMO. Neverwinter (2013) isn’t in the same universe as the Neverwinter Nights games, although Bioware’s games, the original MMORPG and Cryptic’s version are all based off the Forgotten Realms campaign setting.

Neverwinter’s intriguing in that it was sold as an story-centric MMO, going against the grain of MMOs for the time. It wouldn’t be alone, of course. Funcom’s The Secret World launched in 2012 and is still the benchmark for developer-driven narratives in an MMO, while Bioware earned praise for their efforts with the various quest lines in The Old Republic.

But when we think of the Neverwinter Nights name, chances are it won’t be for its groundbreaking roots as an MMORPG but the sheer competency of Bioware’s work — and for others, Obsidian with the sequel. Still, that won’t take away the fact that Neverwinter Nights turns 25 this year. AOL did shut servers for the original down in 1997, although there is an online home dedicated that has kept it alive through various means.

What do you remember of Neverwinter Nights — and what were some of your experiences with the franchise like?


  • BioWare’s Neverwinter Nights is, in my opinion, hands-down the best multiplayer RPG ever made. Dozens or hundreds of high quality persistent worlds with rulesets to suit different tastes, from hardcore role-playing to hack and slash action.

    The shutdown of my favorite server for the game and the subsequent shutdown of Gamespy meaning the death of the server browser (although its still possible to find server details through websites and join them) kind of signalled the end of an era for me. Although I still play the occasional campaign with old friends from the community.

    I was really hoping Sword Coast Legends would be a new NWN but sadly it’s nowhere near. I don’t think developers want to make games that have infinite lifespans with no particular need for official DLC anymore.

    Of course, Neverwinter Nights was ALSO a fairly early success for DLC with its Premium Modules (most of which are now completely impossible to get access to even if you own them because of issues with Atari) and engendered a huge amount of fan loyalty… which was sadly pretty poorly served by NWN 2, since that game wasn’t able to support PWs on the same scale or with anything like the same grace.

    • Likewise I spent alot of time on a couple of custom made servers based on actusl Faerun location but their numbes dwindled after server browsers were cut. These days there are only 5/50-20/50 players off and on peak shich isn’t many with servers that involve entire cities and interiors. You’d be lucky to encounter one other player.

      Hopefully this “shard” online game I’ve been hearing of will be the spiritual replacement to NWN.

  • Although not online
    I still crack out the SSI/TSR “Gold Box” games from time to time
    So many awesome memories!!!!

    Personal preference: The Dragonlance series
    – Champions of Krynn
    – Deathknights of Krynn
    – Dark Queen of Krynn

    The range of options for characters was amazing for its time
    Really felt like I was playing through a true AD&D campaign

    • I still find it a shame that Dragonlance didn’t get more attention from the video game scene.

  • This is off topic but i dont know where else to ask, did someone disable the comments for the women in gaming piece?

    • Based on the subject matter, I would assume the comments section devolved into the usual run of aggressive insinuations and insults. So yeah, probably was 😛

  • 25 years? Damn, i feel really old right now. Think I might pull out the old pools trilogy for a bit of nostalgic gaming.

  • Never new this existed. I only knew (and played) the Gold Box games (ie Pools of Radiance, Hillsfar, Curse of Azure Bonds).

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