The original Neverwinter Nights was the first ever graphical Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, released in 1991, nearly a decade before Sony coined the phrase as a marketing term for EverQuest. Using a modified version of Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition ruleset, it was exclusive to AOL for its entire 7-year history. NWN is a part of the Forgotten Realms universe, and was initially one of the Gold Box games, though eventually it was made free for all AOL subscribers.
Successful for its time, Neverwinter Nights had to continuously increase server capacity, starting with 50 in 1991 (when users had to pay hourly fees to access it) and ending with 2000 in 1997, about a year after AOL shifted to monthly fees. It ended abruptly due to a disagreement between the companies involved (SSI, TSR, AOL) though various reverse engineering efforts have tried to revive it in various ways: private servers, single player mods, and the like.
It is remembered fondly for its community as well, which was quite active: Hosting unofficial events, maintaining guilds, with some even gaining ascended status (with AOL's support) as new player guides. Even AOL's president Steve Case got in on the action from time to time, playing as his alias Lord Nasher, who was also the regent of Neverwinter (akin to Richard Garriott playing Lord British in Ultima Online).
This game provides examples of:
- Ascended Glitch: Player Versus Player, initially just a holdover from the other Gold Box games' friendly fire, was slated to be removed altogether. Due to a Broken Base over the role of PvP in the game (a debate that rages to this day) a compromise limited PvP to some of the western maps.
- Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: In an era where perma-death was commonplace , death in NWN merely returned you to town with a lighter coin purse.
- Fan Nickname: The two most popular multi-class combos had their own shorthand nicknames that could genuinely confuse newer players: Clam was used for Cleric-Mages, a popular combo for Player Versus Player due to its quirky mechanics, and Ram was used for Ranger-Mage, a popular combo for Player Versus Environment due to a number of monsters being immune to magic.
- Peninsula of Power Leveling: An area north of Luskan was popular due to one square having multiple Dracoliches, which were used not only as a source of easy powerleveling (10-20 battles will max a player out), but was also a source of valuable loot.
- Player Versus Player: While more of a happy accident, PvP was a feature that was eventually restricted to certain zones. It also had a quirk where melee attacks could not be used to attack other players.
- Random Number God: NWN is not-so-fondly remembered for having a twofold importance in random luck when it came to statistics; first for rerolling your character, which could take hours if you wanted to get something "perfect" for your character class. After that, HP on level was also randomized, which cause one four-perfect to be far weaker than another four-perfect.
- Turn-Based Tactics: Common to the Gold Box series, but a bit problematic in MMORPG form, for while there was a time limit for moving, this time limit was client based. Cue the groans from players waiting for someone with a slower machine to take their turn.
- Useless Useful Spell: A number of the spells in the game just aren't used in this entry, which is a common with Gold Box games. What's special about this entry is how lackluster the Thief's signature Back Stab is. Most higher level creatures aren't humanoid, and melee is not usable in Player Versus Player, which made thieves a rarity.