Aurora toolset

Aurora toolset

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The Aurora toolset is a set of software tools developed by BioWare
BioWare
BioWare is a Canadian video game developer founded in February 1995 by newly graduated medical doctors Ray Muzyka, Greg Zeschuk, and Augustine Yip. BioWare is currently owned by American company Electronic Arts...

 for use with the Aurora Engine, the game engine
Game engine
A game engine is a system designed for the creation and development of video games. There are many game engines that are designed to work on video game consoles and personal computers...

 first used in BioWare's 2002 computer role-playing game Neverwinter Nights
Neverwinter Nights
Neverwinter Nights , produced by BioWare and published by Infogrames , is a third-person perspective computer role-playing game that is based on third edition Dungeons & Dragons and Forgotten Realms rules. It was originally to be published by Interplay Entertainment, but the publisher's financial...

. The toolset is included with the Windows
Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows is a series of operating systems produced by Microsoft.Microsoft introduced an operating environment named Windows on November 20, 1985 as an add-on to MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces . Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world's personal...

 version of Neverwinter Nights, and allows players to create their own adventures
Adventure (role-playing games)
An adventure is either a published or otherwise written collection of plot, character, and location details used by a gamemaster to manage the plot or story in a role-playing game. Each adventure is based upon a particular gaming genre and is normally designed for use with a specific game or gaming...

 and share them with others by using a module
Mod (computer gaming)
Mod or modification is a term generally applied to personal computer games , especially first-person shooters, role-playing games and real-time strategy games. Mods are made by the general public or a developer, and can be entirely new games in themselves, but mods are not standalone software and...

 (a game made in the toolkit). The tools include a visual tile-based terrain editor, a script
Scripting language
A scripting language, script language, or extension language is a programming language that allows control of one or more applications. "Scripts" are distinct from the core code of the application, as they are usually written in a different language and are often created or at least modified by the...

 editor, a conversation editor, and an object editor. Players using the toolset have created many modules that are available to download.

Background


Aside from using the supplied content built into the default game, aspiring game developers can add their own custom content in supported files called "hakpacks" (or "Haks") using third party tools. Creature and object models can be created using modeling software
3D computer graphics software
3D computer graphics software refers to programs used to create 3D computer-generated imagery. This article covers only some of the software used.-Uses:...

 such as 3D Studio Max
3D Studio Max
Autodesk 3ds Max, formerly 3D Studio MAX, is for making 3D animations. It was developed and produced by Autodesk Media and Entertainment. It has modeling capabilities, a flexible plugin architecture and can be used on the Microsoft Windows platform. It's frequently used by video game developers, TV...

, and media composers can create their own music files and intro movies with appropriate software, all stored in the Hak file.

The customizable nature of the game has inspired entire communities of independent scripters and content creators to develop additional tools, haks, and expansions that build on the Aurora toolset. There are also many third-party software programs written by independent developers for Neverwinter Nights. One program of note is the NWNX2/APS package, which allows persistent storage of game server information. By interfacing with MySQL
MySQL
MySQL officially, but also commonly "My Sequel") is a relational database management system that runs as a server providing multi-user access to a number of databases. It is named after developer Michael Widenius' daughter, My...

 technology, builders can script persistence of object inventories, states, and variables. This package is of particular usefulness to persistent world
Persistent world
A persistent world is a virtual world that continues to exist even after a user exits the world and that user-made changes to its state are, to some extent, permanent...

s, which require massive amounts of data manipulation above the capabilities of the scripting language.

BioWare
BioWare
BioWare is a Canadian video game developer founded in February 1995 by newly graduated medical doctors Ray Muzyka, Greg Zeschuk, and Augustine Yip. BioWare is currently owned by American company Electronic Arts...

 no longer supports the toolset after the release of NWN v1.69. The success and longevity of the Aurora toolset (and by extension, Neverwinter Nights) lies in the hands of a dedicated and talented community of hobbyists, custom content creators, and independent developers.

The complexity of creating and writing a good module still creates significant barriers to the average gamer, making the following claim:
Despite the technical learning curve, the Aurora toolset still is a powerful and versatile tool, which makes Neverwinter Nights a unique and long-lived role-playing game. As Greg Kasavin from GameSpot
GameSpot
GameSpot is a video gaming website that provides news, reviews, previews, downloads, and other information. The site was launched in May 1, 1996 by Pete Deemer, Vince Broady and Jon Epstein. It was purchased by ZDNet, a brand which was later purchased by CNET Networks. CBS Interactive, which...

 writes in his June 24, 2002 review: "Some games are memorable, but years from now, people won't just remember Neverwinter Nights--they'll also still be playing."

However the developers never ported
Porting
In computer science, porting is the process of adapting software so that an executable program can be created for a computing environment that is different from the one for which it was originally designed...

 the toolset to the Mac OS X
Mac OS X
Mac OS X is a series of Unix-based operating systems and graphical user interfaces developed, marketed, and sold by Apple Inc. Since 2002, has been included with all new Macintosh computer systems...

 and Linux
Linux
Linux is a Unix-like computer operating system assembled under the model of free and open source software development and distribution. The defining component of any Linux system is the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released October 5, 1991 by Linus Torvalds...

 versions of the game. As a result, neveredit and neverscript have been created as open source
Open source
The term open source describes practices in production and development that promote access to the end product's source materials. Some consider open source a philosophy, others consider it a pragmatic methodology...

 versions of the tools for those platforms.

Script syntax


NWScript
NWScript
NWScript is the scripting language developed by BioWare for the computer role-playing game Neverwinter Nights. It is based on the C programming language and is implemented in the Aurora toolset...

 is the scripting language
Scripting language
A scripting language, script language, or extension language is a programming language that allows control of one or more applications. "Scripts" are distinct from the core code of the application, as they are usually written in a different language and are often created or at least modified by the...

 of the Aurora toolset. The language itself is similar to C
C (programming language)
C is a general-purpose computer programming language developed between 1969 and 1973 by Dennis Ritchie at the Bell Telephone Laboratories for use with the Unix operating system....

 and Java
Java (programming language)
Java is a programming language originally developed by James Gosling at Sun Microsystems and released in 1995 as a core component of Sun Microsystems' Java platform. The language derives much of its syntax from C and C++ but has a simpler object model and fewer low-level facilities...

, which can make NWScript daunting for the novice scripter. However, it allows for the creation of complex behaviors and sweeping changes to the rules inherent to each module. One set of scripts developed shortly after the release of Neverwinter Nights is the HCR ("Hardcore Rules"), designed to bring the flavor and difficulty of the game closer to the original "Pen and Paper" form of Dungeons & Dragons
Dungeons & Dragons
Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy role-playing game originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. . The game has been published by Wizards of the Coast since 1997...

.

Neverwinter Nights


The Aurora toolset of Neverwinter Nights
Neverwinter Nights
Neverwinter Nights , produced by BioWare and published by Infogrames , is a third-person perspective computer role-playing game that is based on third edition Dungeons & Dragons and Forgotten Realms rules. It was originally to be published by Interplay Entertainment, but the publisher's financial...

is a piece of software allowing the construction of custom modules by the user. Thousands of these modules have been and are being made by the players and most are still in use by the players.

Neverwinter Nights 2


The Electron toolset that comes with Neverwinter Nights 2
Neverwinter Nights 2
Neverwinter Nights 2 is a computer role-playing game developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Atari. It is the sequel to BioWare's Neverwinter Nights, based on the Dungeons & Dragons pencil and paper fantasy role-playing game...

is an evolution of the Aurora toolset. The NWN2
Neverwinter Nights 2
Neverwinter Nights 2 is a computer role-playing game developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Atari. It is the sequel to BioWare's Neverwinter Nights, based on the Dungeons & Dragons pencil and paper fantasy role-playing game...

 toolset has been rewritten by developer Obsidian Entertainment
Obsidian Entertainment
Obsidian Entertainment is an American video game developer founded in 2003 after the disestablishment of Interplay Productions' Black Isle Studios, for PC and console systems...

 from the ground up in C#.

Obsidian has announced the following enhancements:
  • Camera placement options.
  • More wizards
    Wizard (software)
    A software wizard or setup assistant is a user interface type that presents a user with a sequence of dialog boxes that lead the user through a series of well-defined steps. Tasks that are complex, infrequently performed, or unfamiliar may be easier to perform using a wizard...

    .
  • Conversation nodes will be able to pass parameters
    Parameter (computer science)
    In computer programming, a parameter is a special kind of variable, used in a subroutine to refer to one of the pieces of data provided as input to the subroutine. These pieces of data are called arguments...

     to scripts.
  • Tools will be "modeless", e.g., the builder will be able to have a dialogue window open and change things on the map at the same time.
  • Tabbed
    Tab (GUI)
    In the area of graphical user interfaces , a tabbed document interface is one that allows multiple documents to be contained within a single window, using tabs as a navigational widget for switching between sets of documents...

     interface to easily jump between features.
  • Tree
    Tree
    A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

    s will be built using SpeedTree
    SpeedTree
    SpeedTree is a group of vegetation programming and modeling software products developed and sold by Interactive Data Visualization, Inc. that generates virtual foliage for animations and in real time for video games and simulations...

    .
  • Objects (including creatures) can be scaled (larger or smaller) along one (or all) of three axes
    Cartesian coordinate system
    A Cartesian coordinate system specifies each point uniquely in a plane by a pair of numerical coordinates, which are the signed distances from the point to two fixed perpendicular directed lines, measured in the same unit of length...

    .
  • Support nearly any TrueType
    TrueType
    TrueType is an outline font standard originally developed by Apple Computer in the late 1980s as a competitor to Adobe's Type 1 fonts used in PostScript...

     font.
  • The GUI
    Gui
    Gui or guee is a generic term to refer to grilled dishes in Korean cuisine. These most commonly have meat or fish as their primary ingredient, but may in some cases also comprise grilled vegetables or other vegetarian ingredients. The term derives from the verb, "gupda" in Korean, which literally...

     will be skinnable.
  • Color palette are not used, because everything can be modified with 32-bits of color precision; up to 3 different tints can be applied to objects.
  • The toolset also has a plugin ability so module creators can interface their own components.
  • Can change and create new palette categories.

Application outside of fantasy gaming


The Education Arcade, which began as a collaboration between Microsoft and MIT's Comparative Media Studies program, has used the Aurora toolset combined with custom content to convert the game into a teaching tool, simulating the environment and setting of Colonial America
Colonial America
The colonial history of the United States covers the history from the start of European settlement and especially the history of the thirteen colonies of Britain until they declared independence in 1776. In the late 16th century, England, France, Spain and the Netherlands launched major...

 during the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

. A city in Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 circa 1773 was recreated, providing a stage for teaching grade school students about the life, culture, and history of Colonial America.

A group of graduate students working in the Computer Writing and Research Lab at the University of Texas at Austin used the toolkit to develop a prototype version of a game to be used in undergraduate rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

 courses. The game, whose working title is "Rhetorical Peaks," asks players to come up with an argument that explains the mysterious death of a rhetoric professor. To gather evidence for their argument, players explore the virtual environment and interact with non-player characters in order to gather testimony and other clues. The game builds on case-based pedagogy
Pedagogy
Pedagogy is the study of being a teacher or the process of teaching. The term generally refers to strategies of instruction, or a style of instruction....

, which was first elaborated by Lynn Troyka and currently being pursued by a group of researchers and teachers at the Iowa State University.

External links