Cryptic boss Jack Emmert has admitted the studio has been guilty of building "hundreds of hours of mediocre content" for its MMOs, and that Neverwinter, the co-op D&D RPG announced yesterday, needed to represent a huge increase in quality for the company.
"From our point of view, we just had to take a look at ourselves and kind of change the way we were doing things, and with the tools and the resources with our previous MMOs, we knew that Neverwinter had to be the highest possible quality, and we had to improve, dramatically, everything that we did," the exec told Massively.
"The best way to do that was to sort of change the style of gameplay so that the focus wasn't on hundreds of hours of mediocre - some would say even worse than mediocre - content, but instead create a rich story-driven multiplayer game."
Emmert said that Neverwinter would show a change in philosophy for the firm, especially after the releases of Champions Online and Star Trek Online, MMOs brought to market in double time.
"Super-fast doesn't mean super-good," he said. "That's what the reviews said, that's what the players said.
"City of Heroes was great for its day, but we can't just keep repeating the same methodology over and over - we've got to make stuff that's great."
"Nothing was polished"
Emmert said that by spending more time on the new game and focusing on completion, Cryptic hoped to shrug off past criticism's of half-bakedness.
"Coming into the launch of STO and Champions, I made sure we had something for everyone," he said.
"Here was the problem. By following that philosophy, nothing was polished.
"We ended up having lots of half-done features in some quarters. What I forgot was, in as much as a consumer or a player, if it isn't there at launch it might as well not be there.
"If it's in half-done or half-done well, that's what you get remembered for."
Emmert said, though, that Cryptic is now on the right track with Neverwinter, and explained what Atari meant by calling the game a "co-op RPG" yesterday.
For a start, "there is no offline play" and "yes, you will have to connect to our servers; just like an MMO, that is a similarity."
Emmert said the general set-up would be similar to Phantasy Star Online, where groups of players team for instances.
"Players will have lots of controls over whether something's public or private and so forth, and we're working on those various options now," he said.
Basically, it's not an MMO in the traditional sense. As for a business model, that remains unannounced, but Emmert said, "We've got some kooky plans that I think people will like."
Neverwinter, based on an upcoming RA Salvatore book trilogy, releases in the fourth quarter of next year for PC.