I am back playing two favourite games, Baldur's Gate (works on my laptop) and Neverwinter Nights, and today I even got time to play some while at work. The revelation today was that playing a game while I am in work-mode makes the analytical approach kick in rather than the "let's just sit here and kill some bad guys instead of watching television" mode. I have made a new character - a sorcerer rather than the fighter types I normally choose - and playing I noticed details in the game I never saw before.
First I started noticing the visual effects. Fighters have little of fancy visuals in Neverwinter Nights. There is a certain goryness and goo factor, but it's most about checking for damage points. The sorceress had interesting visuals, each spell different and with different words as well. It could be possible to recognize the type of spell being cast from the words spoken and the images accompanying the spell - the colour of the rays, the shape of the power.
Then I started noticing the consequences of the spells inside the game. Casting light caused the sorceress to be the source of the light. When she moved the shadows moved with her, long grey shadows creeping across the floor at some distance from herself. This was one of the really impressive effects to me. Flashy, short-term and highly demonstrative effects appear simple, but this kind of consistent and fairly long-term effect is such a showoff of the skills of the programmers. Subtle and unecessary detail which still flesh out the illusion - I love it.
I find I am a lot more aware of how this character performs. I have been in most of the areas already. I haven't gotten all the way through even the first part, there's a young man who hogs the one home computer I can play Neverwinter Nights on, but I have been through the early scenes. This means that I can focus more on the skills and abilities of the character and less on surviving. The challenge is actually to survive with the mage. After playing powerful constitution-rich fighter types that can take a hit it's a challenge to learn to send the henchman into danger and stay far enough away that my character will survive. At the moment there is this dire spider that just keeps killing us off, so I am haunting some other parts of the area, collecting some experience points and money, hoping for a new level and perhaps enough gold to hire another henchman, one that kills better and quicker than the current one.
And there are a few new quests I haven't been able to do before, as they are exclusive to the classes. This makes playing it again a whole new and different experience from reading a book over again. Some is similar, like discovering new details, some is totally different, like the class-exclusive quests. Fun fun fun - even if it is, actually, pretty painful to see the character die over and over again...