Modding Neverwinter Nights Into Serious Games

Modding Neverwinter Nights Into Serious Games

Christian Sebastian Loh (Southern Illinois University Carbondale, USA) and Jae Hwan Byun (Southern Illinois University Carbondale, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-322-7.ch022
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Game Modification, or Modding, is a unique and valuable way of learning with digital games as well as a means to earn beginners’ stripes in the game design world. Beginners who emerge successful from a modding experience, having created at least one playable game, have stepped out of the comfort zone of being gamers, and shown the courage in taking on a real-world adventure. Their rewards are altogether different from having beaten the toughest boss in a game. A team of modders share a unique bond with one another as comrades, as members of a fellowship. It is an experience found, not in the retelling of ancient epics by others, but in the making of one’s own adventure. This chapter is an account of one such undertaking that shows the potential and value of game modding for education, Readers who are contemplating the use of game modding for creating serious games should find the chapter useful.
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“Ludologists love stories, too.”

—Gonzalo Frasca (2003)



School teachers and video games have something in common. People can usually remember their favorite teachers and what they have done; similarly, avid gamers are often able to recount their favorite video games and their favorite moments of playing. In the 30 years of video game history, titles such as Castlevania, Final Fantasy, and The Legend of Zelda were extra special because they were able to capture the hearts of many players through a blend of memorable plots and game play. A number of games employed cinematic “cut-scenes” during game play that added realism to the game world and heightened players’ emotions. It is small wonder that these titles quickly outsold other games upon release.

Although many of these video games are of eastern (Japanese, in particular) origin, this did not mean that westerners were no good at storytelling. Bioware, Inc. based in Canada, is a video game company that prides herself on delivering “the best story-driven games in the world” to her customers (per company vision statement). Those who have played games created by Bioware (such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect) will readily attest to the memorable plot twists in these epics. (We have purposely chosen words like “written” and “epics” in attempt to describe the games created by Bioware, Inc., to commend their story-driven approach to making games.)

Among the titles developed by Bioware, Inc., it was Neverwinter Nights (hereafter, NWN) that received the highest acclaims. The games saw several official expansions and premium packs by Bioware, and other third-party developers since its debut July 2002. Although NWN has to be classified as an “old” game by the video game industry standard in 2008, it continued to receive strong support from the NWN gamers’ community. Apart from a good narrative, the success of NWN has much to do with Bioware’s decision to share the game development kit (GDK)—also known as the Aurora Toolkit—with the gamer community at large. Anyone who purchased the game immediately gained access to the GDK that was distributed on the NWN game discs.

The dissemination of the GDK to the NWN gamers community not only allowed the owners to create their own game content using the 3D models and resources available but also opened up the world of video game creation to casual players. Any NWN player with the will to learn the GDK could potentially become a (self-hired) NWN developer. As gamers learned how to make new game contents and shared these “home-brewed” modules with other gamers, more players became motivated to do likewise. According to the Bioware website, over 3 million copies of NWN were registered and nearly 5000 “home-brewed” NWN modules have been created from since 2002 (as of May 2006). Put in another perspective: anyone who had purchased NWN gained instant access to 5000 playable games instantly with a single payment of $20! [Note: new game contents created using the Aurora Toolkit could only be played using a compatible game engine, in this case: NWN.]

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Rhonda Christensen, Gerald Knezek
Chapter 1
A Simulation Primer  (pages 1-24)
Katrin Becker, James R. Parker
This chapter provides an introduction to digital simulations for those interested in using or designing them for instructional purposes. There has... Sample PDF
A Simulation Primer
Chapter 2
Youngkyun Baek
This chapter expands upon the definition of a simulation with two categories: experiential and symbolic. It discusses the interactive, experiential... Sample PDF
Digital Simulation in Teaching and Learning
Chapter 3
Peter R. Albion
Interaction is fundamental to the learning process and game-like 3D online spaces present opportunities for enhancing learning through supporting a... Sample PDF
Virtual Spaces for Teaching and Learning
Chapter 4
David Williamson Shaffer
Multiculturalism is an essential tool for democratic citizenship in a world made ever more closely interconnected by information technologies. In... Sample PDF
Computers and the End of Progressive Education
Chapter 5
Celina Byers
The desired outcome of instructional game design is to combine the powerful attraction of games and the proven effectiveness of instructional system... Sample PDF
Combining Instructional Design and Game Design
Chapter 6
Helyn Gould, Michael Hughes, Paul Maharg, Emma Nicol
Game-based learning and simulation is a powerful mode of learning, used by industries as diverse as aviation and health sciences. While there are... Sample PDF
The Narrative Event Diagram: A Tool for Designing Professional Simulations
Chapter 7
David Gibson
In order for a digital simulation to provide an artificial teaching environment there needs to be a computational model of the act of teaching... Sample PDF
Modeling Classroom Behaviors in Software Agents
Chapter 8
Sara Dexter
The new technology-enhanced conception of assessment stands in contrast to the traditional view of assessments as tests of a learner’s ability to... Sample PDF
Design Principles for Interactive Learning Environments with Embedded Formative Assessments
Chapter 9
Penny deByl
Three-dimensional virtual learning environments provide students with pedagogic experiences beyond traditional two-dimensional textbook and Web page... Sample PDF
Hybrid 2D/3D Development of Interactive Simulations
Chapter 10
Len Annetta, James Minogue, Shawn Holmes, Meng-Tzu Cheng, Elizabeth Folta, Marta Klesath
This chapter will provide concrete examples of how a research group at North Carolina State University is using case studies as the... Sample PDF
Using Case Studies as the Narrative to Game Design and Development
Chapter 11
Mark Girod
Teacher education is currently facing pressures to demonstrate efficacy in preparing teachers who can affect P-12 student learning gains. Teacher... Sample PDF
Exploring Teacher Problem Solving Using Simulation
Chapter 12
Donguk Cheong, Bokyeong Kim
A computer simulation for improving teaching is expected to remove the potential negative effects on real students while creating an environment... Sample PDF
A Simulation for Improving Teachers' Motivational Skills
Chapter 13
Damián Piccolo, Anna Oskorus
Nearly half of all new teachers leave the field of education within the first five years (Ingersoll, 2003; Alliance for Excellent Education, 2005).... Sample PDF
Designing Commercial Simulations for Teachers
Chapter 14
Scott J. Warren, Richard A. Stein
This chapter discusses the design and use of simulated teaching experiences contextualized through role-play in a multi-user virtual environment as... Sample PDF
Simulating Teaching Experience with Role-Play
Chapter 15
Bokyeong Kim, Donguk Cheong
This chapter presents the theory, structure, and development process used in designing a teaching simulation. simClass was designed to help teachers... Sample PDF
simClass: Simulate Your Class Before You Teach
Chapter 16
Karen Schrier, Charles K. Kinzer
Teacher education that emphasizes the understanding and assessment of ethics can support the creation of an ethically aware and critically engaged... Sample PDF
Using Digital Games to Develop Ethical Teachers
Chapter 17
Shelby P. Morge
Recently adopted 21st Century goals stress the importance of preparing students for a globally competitive society by providing them with... Sample PDF
Modeling in the Classroom Using Squeak Etoys
Chapter 18
Mary Jo Dondlinger, Scott Joseph Warren
This chapter discusses Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) as simulated experiences, and presents the conceptual framework that informed the design and... Sample PDF
Alternate Reality Games as Simulations
Chapter 19
Caitlin Kelleher
Self-directed, open-ended projects can enable students to pursue their own interests and lead to deep learning. However, it can be difficult to... Sample PDF
Supporting Open-Ended Programming Assignments
Chapter 20
Kay Kyeongju Seo, Aimee Byk, Chris Collins
How can one bring cognitive apprenticeship into the virtual world? This chapter addresses how to construct a 3D online digital environment that... Sample PDF
Cognitive Apprenticeship Inspired Simulations
Chapter 21
Jae Yeob Jung, Hyung Sung Park
The purpose of this chapter is to explore how learning, by making games, can provide opportunities for higher-order thinking such as problem... Sample PDF
Learning by Doing via Game Making
Chapter 22
Christian Sebastian Loh, Jae Hwan Byun
Game Modification, or Modding, is a unique and valuable way of learning with digital games as well as a means to earn beginners’ stripes in the game... Sample PDF
Modding Neverwinter Nights Into Serious Games
Chapter 23
Teresa Franklin, David Chelberg, Chang Liu
Virtual environments are a topic of discussion for many in the business and commerce fields. However, K-12 school systems have been slow to embrace... Sample PDF
Changing Middle School Science through STEAM
Chapter 24
David Gibson
This chapter discusses how a teaching simulation can embody core characteristics of a complex system. It employs examples of specific frameworks and... Sample PDF
Complex Systems Concepts in Simulations
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