Neverwinter the MMO: What We Know

Editor’s note: This post is still a good overview and critique of Neverwinter’s features, but it’s a little outdated. My apologies. I can’t control where search engines send people. I have since played and commented a lot on the Neverwinter beta. Try the Neverwinter category in the column to the right under “MMOs We Follow”. Thanks for visiting.

~.~

When Cryptic’s Neverwinter was originally announced, I wasn’t interested. I assumed that it would be a crackerbox game that would insult a real robust D&D game system. In some ways that has proved true, as Cryptic has translated D&D into the action combat popular today, including a targeting reticule. The demo videos show a third person shooter flavor and a focus on rampaging through kills using a handful of repetitive skills.

Still, reports are praising Neverwinter left and right, and this crotchety old D&D player is at least willing to give it a chance. Maybe the demos are simply trying to avoid looking boring, and there is a D&D spirit in there somewhere. The Foundry dungeon creator is a big plus.

I built a NWN2 campaign at launch, but due to Obsidian’s game design, it never came to fruition. I wouldn’t mind making a similar project into a reality. A big, central question is what exactly can be created. Can I make an entire town? Can I make a campaign with adventures around the town?

I don’t know the beta disclosure rules at this point since I haven’t been invited, but I can legally say two things at the time of this writing. I’m a Champions lifetime account holder. Cryptic promised all Champions lifers will be offered a spot in the beta. They didn’t say when or what beta, though. That’s the trick.

Seems like there’s always a trick with a F2P game, and I’ll use that format in the following points, lumping pro and con together since nothing is perfect in this world. Haha. Ha. So this blog post is a condensed summary formed from some hours of reading and watching Neverwinter preview media, with my opinions. This is a game blog, after all!

The Foundry:

Good because it’s supposed to be the great goddess of all UGC (user generated content) tools. It’s available at launch, ready to let all players easily make dungeons and even “full campaigns” (but how, exactly?) if they wish. Supposedly everything in the game is in the tool, and nothing will be left out or require unlocking like the tool in EQ2. You can also really design snap-together dungeons like in the original NWN tool instead of using preset templates. You can also custom shape body parts of monsters and NPCs, which is amazing (Shacknews article.)

Bad because it’s a given that Cryptic will release more content, and designers will likely have to buy it to use it. Cryptic will profit off of your creative work in exchange for this service, a lot more directly than NWN. Highly-rated designers may be compensated by perks or currency for their work. This feature is not currently clarified.

UGC is a really interesting concept, really, and I haven’t personally played an MMO that features it yet (i.e. City of Heroes) so I’m not prepared for a real debate or critique of its implementation.

An addition note: player-made dungeons will be highly integrated into the game world itself, which makes me wary in terms of immersion. When you start the game, you get a “landing page” on your screen, which is “meta”. You can find quests and missions on this landing page a lot more conveniently than talking to the traditional barmaid in the world. You’ll quest based on 4-star user ratings for the convenience. Not too immersive.

Free to Play:

Good because the game is free. 100% free OMG. Store items will only be cosmetic or convenience boosting. Per Craig Zinkievich, the goal is “want to buy, not need to buy.” (GC demo.)

Bad because yeah right. I’ve heard it all before, and I no longer believe anything that game devs or publishers say. If there is one sure thing about promises, it’s that they are broken. Still waiting for LotRO‘s store to be “convenience only”. Still waiting for the promised LGBT romance in SWTOR. Won’t be waiting long for Guild Wars 2 to widen their whale-catching nets. Craig Zinkievich says they aren’t supposed to talk about the “pet system” yet, but I would think it will play into the store.

Open World:

Good because it’s super important for immersion. This is what Perfect World made Cryptic develop in order to make their game better, into a real MMO.

Bad because the world is still highly instanced a la Guild Wars and every area is fragmented into multiple layers like Cryptic’s previous MMOs. Neverwinter uses that same architecture but with the addition of the open world that was added.

Dungeons:

Good that there are tons of dungeons, and each zone has its own end-story dungeon similar to Rift. You can queue for 5-person (come on MMORPG.com, get with the gender correct verbiage) dungeons from the UI. You also know player designers will create plenty of solo dungeons.

Bad is the glowing quest trails that will lead you through dungeons to the quest objective (GC demo.) This is another hand-holding console game feature, and like in Dungeon Siege 3, it can be turned on and off. Also, the game will auto-control loot in player-created dungeons when you use graded pre-set encounters that support loot. (i.e. preventing you from designing a dungeon that hands out powerful artifacts to level two characters.) So it appears that yes you will be able to solo dungeons, but you won’t get “parity” of gear that way.

Leveling and Endgame:

End game is dungeons with uber loot and PvP (GC demo.) Cryptic is underscoring that landscape content will be solo friendly, and you know players will create solo dungeons, so the game should support a variety of playstyles. There are supposedly no raids, unless that changes due to the launch date delay.

Combat:

Bad because there is no tab targeting. They are using an aiming reticule. Get ready to aim that magic missile at the monster, only to have it move and you miss (Edit 3/12/13: in the beta, this wasn’t that bad. Healing spells are indeed difficult, but offensive spells are not too hard to target. Emotes are more of a pain. You have to face and target something to emote to it, at the time of this writing, instead of just clicking.)

4th ed. D&D rules are used, so your skills are now powers, including spells, and you can generally use them at will off cooldown instead of having to rest. Wizards of the Coast is responsible for changing the D&D rules to make them more officially friendly to modern video games, so don’t blame Cryptic.

There is also apparently in-combat fellow revival given to all classes (E3 Dungeon Delve Demo), like GW2. I’m not a fan of this mechanic, trivializing death. It isn’t in the spirit of D&D any more than the focus on console action that involves jumping around while attacking to avoid damage. In fact, each class has an active dodge/block type ability to mitigate damage (see E3 Dungeon Delve Demo).

I’m sure Neverwinter is a much richer game than just this, but this is not how I want to play an MMO. In my opinion, as a roleplayer who played 100+ hours in the 2nd edition days, it’s not really how D&D should be played. My finger tendons also cannot handle much more than LotRO, making me often prefer a PS3 controller. Maybe these new console action MMOs will be a boon for using a console controller, actually, but in Neverwinter I’m more interested in calmly designing dungeons and writing stories.

I loved the original Neverwinter Nights by Bioware. In the NWN “persistent world” UGC that I played, a level one or two character against a single skeleton with 8 HP could be a hard fight. Pulling two skeletons at once could be death and a trip from the graveyard. That was real danger and adventure in a dark crypt! I don’t know what Neverwinter is, except catering to a new generation of gamer.

Lastly, the simplified hotbar is fine for console games, but will it hold long-term interest for MMO players? How interesting will group mechanics be? Part of the fun of leveling a wizard is a big bank of spells that slowly grows as a measure of your arcane power. In Neverwinter, that is squelched. A wizard will have to pick and choose, filling the small number of available slots that he or she shares in size with a fighter. With the spammable “powers” on your bar, what will the differences now be between a wizard and a sorcerer, if Cryptic adds a sorcerer class at some point?

Character Creation:

Good because there are supposedly a bunch of races at launch, including Human, Elf, Half-elf, Dwarf, Tiefling, Drow, and more to come. Per Gillrmn in the Neverwinter forums, post 4e (as in after Gauntylgyr novel by RA Salvatore), “Tieflings are not half-devil child but humans who went into now-defunct devil pact. Drow have come out and Drizzt is in the region. So they are quite common than before especially in Neverwinter as it is being reconstructed and has always been multi-racial city.”

Bad because there are only four classes. Fighter. Cleric. Wizard. Rogue. No druid, sorcerer, bard, paladin, etc. although there are class branch specialties. Also, Cryptic decided that 20 levels wasn’t enough levels for today’s players who need lots of levels as a reward system. Neverwinter will feature 60 levels at launch (MMORPG.com). Don’t reach for that handful of nacho chips–you might miss hitting a level.

Lore

Good because Faerûn, the land of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, is of course the greatest and most storied setting in D&D, home of the legendary Drow Ranger, Drizzt, Bruenor the dwarf, Cattie Brie, and others. Andy Velasquez says Neverwinter will be canon alongside the stories of R.A. Salvatore. The pen and paper 4e campaign book “Neverwinter” was supposed to release with the game, but due to the delays, the PnP version was released earlier.

In fact, according to Jack Emmert the game setting is influenced by Salvatore’s FR novel, Gauntlgrym, as well as its sequels, Neverwinter and Charon’s Claw. So the land is in the aftermath of the Spellplague, offering a lot of convenient opportunities for adventure.

The more immediate story is that Neverwinter is in local upheaval due to the volcano erupting (Mount Hotenow gives the northern city its warm climate.) The volcano eruption caused devastation and unleashed baddies. Good swords and magicians are needed to help restore order from the chaos. (Massively article.)

Graphics:

The visuals are supposedly spectacular, and look good in preview videos. I’m not so impressed yet with the overall artistic presentation as I was with Kingdoms of Amalur recently, for example. The special effects look fine. You get the feeling that your skills are making things happen in a way that’s exciting. You’re still spamming a few non-CD skills while waiting for your few more powerful ones, then triggering those, repeat, like in GW2 and the Elder Scrolls MMO next year.

Crafting:

Crafting is in the game.

That’s all for now. At the time of this writing, after reviewing a bunch of available videos and articles that have come out in recent months, I agree with a reader comment on Massively that recognized how little we really know about this game besides the Foundry, which Cryptic continues to show off as Neverwinter’s crown jewel. I have to think that when Neverwinter is held up against other contemporary games that call themselves MMOs, there are going to be a few deficiencies.

The best scenario is that Neverwinter is the next great D&D game. It’s something to hope for, but based on everything I’ve seen, Turbine’s DDO looks like it will retain its position as the more serious D&D game for real fans. Eberron suddenly seems fitting as a setting for stodgy old DDO when held up against the light of the much-marketed and much-used Forgotten Realms, which seems more fitting for Neverwinter’s casual, commercial, loose-with-the-rules style.

I’ll be adding more to this post as I have time. This is just my own personal game research, shared in blog form. For more reading, see below.

Further Reading/Sources:

Jan. 5, 2012: I’ve posted a newer post with updated information here.

Official Neverwinter Forum
Neverwinter Forum What-We-Know Thread
Neverwinter Previews: Cryptic’s Dark Horse Rising (MMORPG.COM)
Neverwinter Wikipedia Entry
PAX 2012 – Neverwinter Foundry demonstration and Q&A with Andy Velasquez
Helm’s Hold preview video
PAX East Developer Preview
Neverwinter Gameplay Demo Gamescom 2012 with Craig Zinkievich (30 minutes)
E3 Dungeon Delve Demo with Andy Velasquez
Massively article
Official Foundry Blog Post
Lore Trailer article on Massively.
Shacknews Foundry article 9/11/12.

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12 responses to “Neverwinter the MMO: What We Know

  • Wilhelm Arcturus

    “…the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, is of course the greatest and most storied setting in D&D”

    Preach it!

    That is one of the key draws for me. Whether it will be able to live up to the setting, we shall see.

  • iamthetruthseeker

    even if it was not your intention.

    We all agree we want more races and classes. Levels can progress a lot faster than tabletop however. That’s based on 4-6 hours a week. People can play this a couple hours a day or even more. The ratio increase was a necessity of about 3 to one, but from what I saw, it’s not sneeze and you’ll miss leveling though. Based on the demos,it looks like it scales like all the other Cryptic games I’ve seen so far. The speed you can progress is up to you, but 20 was too short based n an MMO setup vs tabletop.

    There’s plenty of lore and we are promised a lot of hidden things if we knew the settings from earlier D&D playing.

    Oh, a technical thing. Skills in D&D mean non-fighting talents. D&D MMO “Skills” are called powers for this reason.And yes it looks like certain D&D “skills” are being put in this game.

    Hearing “Yes we have Crafting and it’s Great!” is equally hair-pulling when we only have that to go on. Besides knowing we have it, you’ve exhausted my knowledge.

    For all new users (or users new to the community if not D&D and/or MMO’s,) I’ve taken the diligence of collecting a lot of these questions (and answers of course) and placed it in one compendium or FAQ to help New users. If you have future questions on what Neverwinter Online (we acronym it NWO) offers that we know of, feel free to visit my thread at http://nw-forum.perfectworld.com/showthread.php?t=5211

    The only thing I ask people who have any opinion on NWO is for it to be informed. The rest is up to you.

  • iamthetruthseeker

    (Dagnabbit the site timed out and the repost got cut off…)

    Here’s what I had before:

    I noticed some things not accurate and wanted to go through them in the order they were posted. :

    The foundry will NOT charge Authors to use or access content, period. No clothes , monsters, NPC’s etc. Foundry Authors will be revered. As a matter of fact, they can win things like custom costumes, unique titles, be tipped secondary curency, even get extra slots for favorable reviews (BTW, unlike STO’s Foundry the Neverwinter Authors do NOT have to pay to author modules and get a starting amount of free slots (unknown but possibly up to 8) without paying in-game currency. The foundry will use almost all thesame tools Cryptic authors use and will have the same options when it comes to “in game items to place” that the employees have.

    I too go with the Actions speak louder than words so we’ll see how theF2P and cash shop is handled. One thing that’s being enforced is they are NOT going down a Pay to Win path. We understand PWE’s rep and if people also want to wait and see on this.

    Adventuring actually is mixed between “instanced” and “open world” combat. I’ve seen demonstrations that confirm this. However, instanced adventures scale to the party/level you do while open world enemies appear fixed based on the “gateway quests you need to do to advance” and minimum/expected levels to be there. That’s all I can say we’ve seen publicly released.

    Dungeons are not just that named. They can be anywhere and anything indoors and out. Urban and Rural. If the Developers can build it, you can see it as a “Dungeon.” Going back to Foundry, and so can you.

    Dungeon instances can be done solo or up to 5 players total. It seems that we have some sort of companion unlocked at a level or accomplishment flag, but that also appears septate from other players and won’t take away from this “party spots” thing.

    However, at the end of a quest-line, you get an unlock or opportunity to a “Delve.” These ARE the Multi-player required up to 5 people with the toughest monsters and “phat lewtz” as Andy Velasquez likes to say. They are repeatable and can be done in about an hour’s time. Unfortunately I have not heard anything else about a RAID or 10-person (or two group) setup, but we have wish-lists for this kind of thing.

    And the “Golden path” is OPTIONAL. You can toggle it on or off. Many times we get stuck with invisible walls or graphical collision confusion or even not see an NPC that should have “popped up.” This path helps us get guided to that or is for the very new user who never used this type of game before. If you don’t like it, turn it off.

    Combat is if you can’t see/aim them, you can’t fire based on the demo. This may change hit or miss opinions. As for whether it;s right or not I’ll leave that to the players who bicker in their own D&D/MMO groups before clashing with other groups even.

    I will say default setup is WASD movement with Q and E keys for 10 second cool-down powers, 1 and 2 number keys for ultimate or daily powers you fill up like limit breaks, and the mouse is your facing with the left and right buttons for your two at-will powers. All these things are re-mappable and also be moved to optional game-pad/joystick setups that Cryptic offers in their games.

    Before going on to the next topic, I’d like to address something,
    “This is not how D&D should be played.”

    Some people over on the official forums felt you were telling the people how to play these games. We certainly understand that methods will differ from different generations and camps, etc. But do not tell gamers how to play! It doesn’t matter from a complete outsider to the CEO of the company. Let feedback and surveys and tests and awards instead of complaints and panning be the deciding factors. Just be clear when it’s your and ONLY your opinion. To some, it came across like ordering…(see above reply)

    • Jacquotte

      Thanks so much for taking the time to clarify, iamthetruthseeker. :) Of course my opinions are my opinions, and facts are facts. My writing style is “snarky” like my moniker. I think sweet, angelic blogging is a little boring. I certainly wasn’t trying to bashing the game before it’s released or anything. Mainly, I try to help people with my blog.

      By far my most popular posts, as you can see, are educational guide-type writing. I am a non-profit casual blogger and fan of RPGs. Based on Massively comments, I saw that people out there aren’t very aware of the features of this game. I wanted to honestly try to educate myself as well as readers with this blog post.

      If anything here does need to be literally changed due to non-factual, I am embarrassed, and I apologize and would ask that you please clarify further. I’ve read your post and the comments in the official forum, and I’m not identifying lots of wrong statements. Some things aren’t 100% clear, but that is due to time and length considerations, as well as making my opinion point, focusing on the aspect that I think is noteworthy or debatable.

      Yes, I know you can turn off the golden path. It was said in the dev videos that the forum people seem to think I didn’t really watch. Players always tend to follow the path of least resistance. I protested against the quest objective arrows in Oblivion and LotRO much more loudly. What if the party leader wants to use the path and you don’t?

      I didn’t say that the Foundry will charge authors to use content, or charge players to use creations. I only said the *future* can change things. I am approaching Neverwinter based on my experience with LotRO. Business needs can reverse previous good intentions in a heartbeat. Who is “enforcing” not going down a pay to win path?

      Thanks again for being reasonable. When I write a post, I have no idea if anyone is even going to read it, and I honestly don’t care. I write because I enjoy it and want to help people, and it shocks me sometimes how well this little WordPress blog does with SEO. O.o

  • wumpus

    I’m still trying to figure out how player created content is added to the game. D&D requires the DM to balance the rewards and risks. To many DMs absolutely destroy the dungeon, and somehow Cryptic has to handle this.

    I’ve heard that earlier (Morrowind?) Elder Scrolls mods were notorious for leaving ultra high level loot in the open. I’ve known plenty of new DMs do the same, with a similar group that makes dungeons with certain death.

    I’m guessing that the loot automatically drops depending on the monster. No idea how they will handle traps.

    Oddly enough, earlier this week the already existing f2p D&D MMO took a sudden lurch toward advertising its own pay2win schemes.

    • iamthetruthseeker

      I’ll leave out any comment about DDO and let them go their way, which looks like another direction from NWO.

      The way Foundry works with the end reward is based on the total (average if in a group) level at the time the foundry quest is selected (as well as factoring how long you play for certain range of power factors of items and their power.) The game itself also uses a random drop mechanic based on this level range for when you fight monsters if they too drop any magic items, but the rarity of powerful items for this is very low to emphasize the end chest reward (you get only one per adventure for Foundry UGC.) We can’t choose the loot levels to prevent explouts so no “too,high loot levels left in the open” or “kill one kolbold and win big” missions here. If you make a kill one orc and win, you’ll get a magic item chest drop that you’d find if you were to get the lowest possible junk on a game like this that drops anything. There is also a max UGC missions platyable per day for those who think loading up on quick 2 minute missions junk to sell /baby xp to build and profit is a good idea. I guess it takes all types to decide what is fun….

      Traps are selected by the author and paced justl like monsters or NPC’s.

      As for how “balanced” each module is, that’s up to the user to rate with the usual 5-star rating range.

      .

      • Jacquotte

        Thanks for summing this up, Truthseeker. I have some further questions about this, but they can wait until launch. i.e. will this one end chest system favor short adventures, so we won’t see any epic multi-boss dungeons? Will the same random loot tables applied to all adventures make them seem more generic (i.e. you can’t have your Temple of Evil monks all drop the same robes and themed weapons–they will drop the same things the orcs in the sewers are dropping.)

        Looking forward to getting into this and exploring the creative possibilities.

        @wumpus I hope this answers your concerns. It’s not the best of worlds, but it’s not the worst either as you can see. Turbine scares me sometimes with their tactics. I tested the waters in DDO and hit the road quickly. On the other hand, I am a big LotRO fan, and very invested in that MMO.

        LotRO F2P I could cope with because I was there with a sub in the beginning. I wasn’t trying to jump in and boggle through learning it all at once. Hopefully with NWO F2P starting up at the beginning, it won’t be too horrible to deal with. Take it or leave it.

  • iamthetruthseeker

    No and unknown in answer to the questions.

  • wumpus

    “Turbine’s DDO looks like it will retain its position as the more serious D&D game for real fans. Eberron suddenly seems fitting as a setting for stodgy old DDO when held up against the light of the much-marketed and much-used Forgotten Realms, which seems more fitting for Neverwinter’s casual, commercial, loose-with-the-rules style.”

    Nearly everything was well answered by iamthetruthseeker about NWN, so I better take on this.

    DDO may have matched D&D 3.x pretty well at launch (and probably a few more updates, maybe to when cap was 12 or so), but my understanding of 3.x is that without heavyhanded DM intervention, 3.x becomes “the wizard casts a spell that makes the encounter trivial, and codzilla mops up the rest (they already fixed the “everybody rests for the day” bit). Turbine has done pretty well to make all classes fell somewhat at home, although rogue (rogues really don’t fit the DDO model and should be only used by those wanting to play solo or in static groups), ranger, paladin, and bard haven’t been feeling the love lately.

    DDO is roughly six years old, and is what you might expect after 6 years of a Monty Haul DM. I wouldn’t say that Eberron fits a “more traditional D&D experience”, but I would say the steampunk ambiance fits its unbelievably overpowered (you can fight the avatar of the Lord of Blades: ~800k hit points) nature. From what I understand, AC becomes a problem in 3.x, and got even worse in DDO (at level 20 you could hit AC ~80 on a 1, but only hit ~100 on a 20. At this point high level players tended to wear robes or monk outfits as that gave them two magical effects over armors single effect plus armor bonus. As of last summer, the whole d20 system (for combat) has been scraped and replaced by a system I still don’t understand (I have been concentrating on a sorcerer) but seems to work a bit better (fighters are at least wearing armor now).

    DDO isn’t quite what it was when it opened, or even what it was when it went f2p (I think cap was 20, or it was shortly thereafter). Unfortunately, Turbine decided on going through the full blown deathmarch to do an expansion for last summer and was less than concerned with leaving a stable codebase. As you can imagine, Warner (the company that owns Turbine) is less concerned with fixing bugs and more concerned will selling new content (which adds more bugs). You can no longer assume you will finish a quest without either being stuck in a wall, or having a “must kill” enemy disappear into a wall (some spells can still finish them off). Other bugs are driving players away and I really can’t recommend anyone new deciding to invest a serious amount of time in this game. The pay2win advertisement was also done in a way that only slowly angered long term players, new players may get tired of it being in their faces on every screen (warning: the stuff they try to sell you at low level is often pay2lose).

    • iamthetruthseeker

      Unfortunately that does seem accurate, and why I have not returned to DDO at this time.

    • Jacquotte

      Non-mages wearing robes for their build has been a part of D&D since forever. Based on the numbers floating over the heads in the Neverwinter preview videos, I’d be surprised if the biggest boss at launch isn’t over 100k. Based on what I’ve seen lately in LotRO, agree that the “b” in the middle of Turbine is starting to mean bugs.

      F2P and P2W–you don’t think it will be all over Neverwinter? This is a solid, thoughtful, and contributing post Wumpus but the skeptic in me can’t see Neverwinter as being at a level of paradise that really exceeds these criticisms of DDO.

      The traditional thing is partly an observation of the commercialism and popularity of Forgotten Realms, which seems to fit Neverwinter’s style more than DDO. I didn’t mean to say the Eberron was a more traditional-feel setting in and of itself. Thanks for the comments!

  • iamthetruthseeker

    Personally, I love Eberron as a campaign world, just feel the idiots who thought it was a good D&D MMO way to introduce a core gaming group to an MMO should be rounded up and flogged, then left in Lloth’s web to be shown the “error of their ways.” Not that I have any strong opinions on it :)

    I think the NWO game should neither be raised up too high nor dashed to the rocks below. It will be a heavily-lore-related game, but will have its fans and detractors based on the action style.

    As for prominence of F2P and the threat of P2W being bandied about, no clue. This is the first F2P MMO by a big western company I can remember that didn’t come off of a failed subscription model. That doesn’t mean there will or won’t be lockboxes (and if so if they will or won’t be the level of spam they are in STO/CO.)

    We all will have to wait and see, but if I were to hazard a guess by the toxicity of its discussion alone (and the closed thread it caused,) it’s likely lockboxes are not being supported and a more “traditional” item shop with such “cosmetics” as respecs and extra character/inventory slots next to that special looking mount will be done.

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