Is anyone else excited? The servers go online in just a few hours… and I’ll once again be able to explore the wilds of Neverwinter! To kick off the second beta weekend, we managed to corner Jack Emmert of Cryptic Studios and sweet talk a few moments of Q&A. I’d call that opening with a bang!
Once you’ve read this, if you’d like some more details about the game, I’ll be posting up a preview of the second beta weekend after I’ve played it for a bit. You can also check out my previews of the last weekend! First Beta Weekend Preview #1, First Beta Weekend Preview #2, First Beta Weekend Preview #3. We’ll also be livestreaming tomorrow, March 9th, at noon EST on the LoreHound Twitch channel. Hit the jump for the interview!
LH: Thanks very much for taking the time to talk with us! For any readers who aren’t familiar with Neverwinter, I’d like to start with a little about you. Who are you, and what do you do? How would you describe Neverwinter?
JE: I’m Jack Emmert, the CEO of Cryptic Studios. I’m one of the original co-founders and my claim to fame is probably being the lead designer of City of Heroes.
Neverwinter is an action MMORPG featuring the fantastic lore of D&D’s Forgotten Realms and an amazing user generated content system that allows for endless gameplay. If you like MMO’s, if you like action combat, if you like D&D, if you like creating content…you must play Neverwinter!
LH: What excites you the most about Neverwinter? What single feature are you most looking forward to seeing how players react when they first encounter it?
JE: My personal favorite is the UGC system, called Foundry. I remember fondly playing D&D with my friends around kitchen tables. There, we vanquished monsters and conquered kingdoms. All the special magic of those gaming sessions are now brought to life with the Foundry. I can sit down and create full campaigns that not just my friends, but people from all over the world, can enjoy. I feel like a kid again.
LH: Let’s talk about henchmen. What kind of/how big a role will they have in gameplay? Will they be like pets, everyone can have one out, or something more like SWTOR in that they take up a player slot in a
JE: I think our companions are more like a pet, in that a player will almost always have one out. I think where our companions differ is that each companion has different strengths and weaknesses. The cleric, for example, is terrific for healing. The man at arms tanks quite effectively. I think players will use different companions for different situations.
LH: How much control will players have over their henchmen? Are they like a standard combat pet with general NPC AI, or can players directly guide them?
JE: Companions are like a standard MMORPG pet.
LH: Are there many different henchmen, or is there a standard “fighter” or “wizard” etc henchmen? Do they have different personalities?
JE: Each companion has different tendencies depending on their powers. Some, like the wizard, keep their distance in combat. Others, like the hawk, dive right into the fray.
LH: Are there different ways to acquire them? Like a questline that will grant access to a new henchman, or perhaps a rare encounter in a dungeon?
JE: Definitely! Players have a variety of ways to earn companions.
LH: And speaking of dungeons… will there be a lot of them? Large, sprawling complexes you can get lost in?
JE: Of course. When we sat down to design Neverwinter, we wrote on the whiteboard two necessary elements. #1 Dungeons. #2 Dragons.
In Neverwinter, dungeons are huge, epic quests that require 5 man teams. Typically, players queue up and then enter into the instance together. We’ve done similar systems for our current titles, Champions Online and Star Trek Online.
LH: One thing that Cryptic does very, very well is character customization. It’s hard to beat you guys in this area! Will Neverwinter follow suit on previous titles and provide lots of character customization?
JE: Certainly. I think Neverwinter has an added bonus because much of the high end armor and weapons are visually stunning. So players can look forward to outfitting their character in some really amazing stuff.
LH: Is there a cosmetics tab or some way to customize armor? Will all clothing and armor seen on NPCs be available to players?
JE: We’ve got two ways for players to make sure they wear what looks coolest. First, each character has a number of fashion slots that override whatever else a player is wearing. So if a player wants to wear his Moonstone Mask regalia stuff, but wants to make sure he still gets the benefit of his latest gear, he can slot the Moonstone Mask in his fashion slot, but he’ll still get the stat benefits of his armor. Secondly, players can hold onto their cool looking gear as long as they’d like by removing the stats of higher level equipment and assigning onto his current gear. We call this process transmogrification. Let’s say I run across an orc helm at level 15. Normally, this would probably be subpar stat wise within a half dozen levels or less, but a player can take a level 20 item and put its stats onto that orc helm.
LH: The biggest draw for me is the Foundry — I really can’t wait to get my hands on it and start creating! But one thing that is concerning a lot of players is the possibility for exploits. After ‘oooh awesome!’ the almost universal second thought is ‘wait – exploiters!’ What’s concerning me the most is that many of the safeguards that players keep coming up with whenever it’s discussed would throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater, and put a serious crimp in the fun of the Foundry. What are your thoughts on how to limit exploits without tossing fun along with it?
JE: My number one priority is to make sure that the Foundry isn’t just fun to play, but that it also has rewards at least close to what a player can earn in Cryptic authored content. I don’t want to nerf user created content simply out of fear of possible exploits.
LH: I recall hearing about a volunteer group that will be checking over Foundry adventures before they are published to watch for exploits – is that still in the works? If so – are there safeguards in place to prevent long delays during this vetting process?
JE: We don’t vet the content for the Foundry. Just like Youtube, we let the community rate and rank. We do however identify outstanding content and promote it. We’ve learned from Star Trek Online that there are many outstanding creators out there.
LH: What kinds of adventures are you hoping to see from players?
JE: I’m hoping to see the in depth storytelling that I enjoy when I play D&D.
LH: Will there be events? What kinds? Will there be lots of them?
JE: We’ve got events associated with every single zone in our game. Every zone has something new and different. Like dungeons, players queue up and quickly enter into this content.
LH: What kinds of items will be in the cash shop?
JE: We haven’t yet announced the precise items, but I think our two other live games are pretty good guides to how we approach it.
I can tell you our philosophy. If you know my background, I’m a huge comic book fan. I’ve collected for 35 years. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t read at least one comic book. And if you look around my office, you’ll see posters and even statues. Now, am I required to purchase the posters and statues in order to enjoy the comics? No, but they’re things that reflect and enhance how I feel about comic books. That’s how we’re trying to create a cash shop. We want to offer things that people who enjoy Neverwinter want to buy.
LH: Is there anything I haven’t asked that you’d like to share?
JE: I think one of the biggest things is that Neverwinter is free to play from launch. No box to buy. No client to purchase. No subscription. Nothing. Just download and play. From day one. We’re not building a subscription game and switching it. We’re building this from the ground up as a game that everyone can play as much as they’d like without every requiring payment.