Cryptic COO Jack Emmert seems excited about the firm's foray into the world of Neverwinter and according to the man himself, the developers looked really hard at the 4th Edition D&D rule set, and are even thinking of allowing players to create their own adventures.
It all sounds like a rather interesting idea.
Old school dungeon crawling with tactical elements
Speaking in a excellent interview with RPS, Emmert revealed Cryptic already had the idea of creating a western-style RPG before being acquired by Atari. After which, it seemed obvious to the studio NWN was the way to go, especially with Atari controlling the license for it.
"We want to make an old-school tactical Western RPG. We want to get back to the roots of Neverwinter and we want to taste the strategies of those D&D games where you have to maneuver around, select your abilities carefully, and so forth," he said.
"It’s not turn-based, and it’s not isometric, but that old school model was our focus to start with. Secondly we wanted the game to be immersive, so we want the experience to be inspired by games like Oblivion and Dragon Age, and to take a cue from fantasy products that created incredible worlds to delve into. Thirdly we wanted it to genuinely represent a D&D experience! We looked at the 4th Edition rules and tried to make sure that we could bring that alive as much as was possible with our tools."
Persistent zones in a co-op RPG experience
According to Emmert, character creation is based on the 4th Edition D&D process, and the firm has provided customization tools for the player with this in mind. Once a character is created, the player will go through a tutorial level, before entering into the world of Neverwinter.
"Once you are through that you will enter one of a number of persistent zones," he explained. "Now these are much smaller in terms of population, it won’t be the same numbers of people we’ve seen in previous games from us, it’ll be just a few score.
"So it’s enough that you will run into others, but it won’t feel crowded. The focus here is on the co-op RPG experience, so we want you to be able to meet new people, or meet with friends, but then get on with adventuring. You will get to that from the persistent zones, although these contain storylines too. Some missions will take you into instances off of these persistent zones, and sometimes you will just stumble across them. It depends."
A more complex Mission Architect for user-generated content
One of the most interesting nuggets of information regarding Neverwinter Nights, is the plan for user-generated content. According to Emmert, the plan is for players to create "interior quests or missions, with monsters, dialogues, different mission objectives" - at the very least.
How the studio plans to implement this component into the game is through a program similar to the Mission Architect in City of Heroes, but more in-depth. It won't, however, be as "as technically complex" as the tools in Dragon Age.
"It will be flexible however, there will be assigned behaviors and assigned dialogues and so on," he said. "Once you’ve created that, the creator will be able to attach that to pre-existing entrances, or even attach it to contacts, NPCs in the Neverwinter persistent world. Players will be able to click on them, talk, and then launch into a UGC mission."
It's not an MMO, it's an OMG
Neverwinter, for all its online modes, isn’t an MMO - at least not in the traditional sense. What it is, according to Emmert, is an online multiplayer game - an OMG if you will.
"It’s an online multiplayer game, an OMG. But what makes it unique in the industry is that we’re putting it out there like any other fantasy RPG, like Dragon Age or Oblivion, but we’re going to be supplementing it with content, month after month," he said.
"Maybe with these other games you will get a DLC here or there, but it’s not continual and there is no persistence. What we’re doing is taking the living, growing elements of an MMO, and attaching that onto a traditional RPG experience. That’s why this OMG model is relatively unique. A sustained effort to grow the game like in an MMO."
The price of such "sustained growth" hasn't been outlined yet, but Emmert said previously neither Cryptic nor Atari plan on just putting “a price on the box” and leaving it at that.
So, expect fees to go along with it.
Neverwinter was announced after much rumor-mongering last month, and is slated for a Q4 2011 release on PC.