The Aurora Toolset is a powerful and simple-to-use tool that allows players to change many aspects of Neverwinter Nights, create new modules using themed tilesets and turn many ideas into in-game reality. It does not, however, support plug-ins or other third-party extensions. This is the same tool used internally by BioWare to create the official campaigns (and the modules comprising those campaigns can be viewed in the Toolset, once they are played through or otherwise unlocked).
The Toolset was intended to be as intuitive and easy to use as possible. All buildings, terrain, and dungeon spaces, for instance, can be painted down using intuitive and context-sensitive tile paintbrushes. At the same time, NWScript allows a builder to weave stories and create characters that behave in an intelligent fashion. There are extensive libraries of pre-existing content that can be drawn from, but these are aids, not limitations. Players can write their own dialog chains, create new creatures and items, and design entire worlds. These creations (in addition to being part of the builder's module) can then be shared with others via the Toolset's ability to export and import resources using .erf files.
The Toolset is also intended to be powerful enough to translate most pencil-and-paper modules and homemade campaigns into Neverwinter Nights modules. While not every detail will translate well into Neverwinter Nights (nor to a computer-based game in general), easily recognizable facsimiles should be possible. Also, some monster or terrain models might not be available by default, but it is possible to add new models through the use of hak paks.
While the game is available on more platforms, the Toolset is only available for Windows. BioWare's initial goal was to create a cross-platform toolset for the gaming community. However, they were unable to obtain a viable cross-platform solution to assist in porting the Aurora Toolset, so no Mac or Linux versions of the Aurora Toolset were created. Some people have been able to get the Toolset to work on Linux using Wine, though.
The Aurora Engine is an evolution of the Infinity Engine, which was used for the Baldur's Gate series of games. While the Aurora Engine is a huge advancement, its roots still stem from the Infinity Engine — all files types, methods of data storage, etc. are the same. Surprisingly, Baldur's Gate II had a wonderful modding community. They even went so far as to create their own toolset for editing the game. So, when Neverwinter Nights was released, it was a great gift to the Baldur's Gate II modding community, and from that, Neverwinter Nights has flourished into what it is today.
The Aurora toolset (sometimes called the Aurora toolkit) is a set of software tools developed by BioWare for use with the Aurora Engine, the game engine first used in BioWare's 2002 role-playing video game Neverwinter Nights. The toolset is included with the Microsoft Windows version of Neverwinter Nights, and allows players to create their own adventures and share them with others by using a module (a game made in the toolkit). The tools include a visual tile-based terrain editor, a script editor, a conversation editor, and an object editor. Players using the toolset have created many modules that are available to download.
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 such as 3D Studio Max, 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 technology, builders can script persistence of object inventories, states, and variables. This package is of particular usefulness to persistent worlds, which require massive amounts of data manipulation above the capabilities of the scripting language.
BioWare 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.
Given the technical complexity presents a steep learning curve, the Aurora toolset is a powerful and versatile tool, which makes Neverwinter Nights a unique and long-lived role-playing game. GameSpot: "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 the toolset to the Mac OS X and Linux versions of the game. As a result, neveredit and neverscript have been created as open source versions of the tools for those platforms.
NWScript is the scripting language of the Aurora toolset. The language itself is similar to C and Java, 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.
The Aurora toolset of Neverwinter Nights 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
Obsidian has announced the following enhancements:
- Camera placement options.
- More wizards.
- Conversation nodes will be able to pass parameters 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 interface to easily jump between features.
- Trees will be built using SpeedTree.
- Objects (including creatures) can be scaled (larger or smaller) along one (or all) of three axes.
- Support nearly any TrueType font.
- The GUI 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 during the American Revolution. A city in Virginia 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 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.
- Bioware builders community
- Educational Arcade--Aurora toolset used as learning tool
- The Builders Project
- Wine for running the Toolset under Linux