Neverwinter Nights (MMORPG) - History

History

Neverwinter Nights was a co-development of AOL, Stormfront Studios, SSI, and TSR.

Neverwinter Nights was the first multiplayer online role-playing game to display graphics.

Don Daglow and the Stormfront game design team began working with AOL on original online games in 1987, in both text-based and graphical formats. At the time AOL was a Commodore 64 only online service, known as Quantum Computer Services, with just a few thousand subscribers, and was called Quantum Link. Online graphics in the late 1980s were severely restricted by the need to support modem data transfer rates as slow as 300 bits per second (bit/s).

In 1989, the Stormfront team started working with SSI on Dungeons & Dragons games using the Gold Box engine that had debuted with Pool of Radiance in 1988. Within months, they realized that it was technically feasible to combine the Dungeons & Dragons Gold Box engine with the community-focused gameplay of online titles to create an online role-playing video game with graphics. Although the multiplayer graphical flight combat game Air Warrior (also from Kesmai) had been online since 1987, all prior online RPGs had been based on text.

In a series of meetings in San Francisco and Las Vegas with AOL's Steve Case and Kathi McHugh, TSR's Jim Ward and SSI's Chuck Kroegel, Daglow and programmer Cathryn Mataga convinced the other three partners that the project was indeed possible. Case approved funding for NWN and work began, with the game going live 18 months later in March 1991.

Daglow chose Neverwinter as the game's location because of its magical features (a river of warm water that flowed from a snowy forest into a northern sea), and its location near a wide variety of terrain types. The area also was close enough to the settings of the other Gold Box games to allow subplots to intertwine between the online and the disk-based titles.

In late June 1997, America Online announced it would be closing down the online game world on July 19, 1997. The company also said it would start a new games channel called World Play, which would cost two dollars per hour to play. Neverwinter Nights was the only game in the company's roster which did not make the transition to the new service.

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