We've more-or-less known that Cryptic Studios has been working on a new Dungeons & Dragons game for some time now, but there's one place where we were wrong - it's not going to be a traditional MMORPG. As revealed in GameSpot's exclusive Q&A, the game will be a smaller and semi-single player friendly cooperative CRPG:
GameSpot: Give us an overview of Neverwinter. What is the game and how will people play it? Will it be a full-on massively multiplayer online role-playing game, like City of Heroes or Champions Online? What do you think? Does Cryptic have the chops for this sort of thing? Does the game's use of the 4th Edition ruleset turn you off at all?
Jack Emmert: I wouldn't say MMORPG at all--Neverwinter is a cooperative RPG. You can play with a bunch of friends and experience Neverwinter and D&D in a brand-new way. We're trying to create new sorts of games that we call "OMGs" (online multiplayer games).
In terms of Neverwinter itself, players will find it's a brand-new Forgotten Realms. Years and years have passed, and Neverwinter has fallen into ruins. A brave few are trying to eke out their lives and to rebuild the once great metropolis, but many threats stand in the way. And this is where the players come in.
GS: Since this is an official Dungeons & Dragons product, can you explain how the tabletop game's systems will come into play in the game? Will it use a modified version of D&D rules, or will it use rules from the most recent edition of the tabletop game (4th Edition), and if so, in what aspects of the game: combat, saving throws/difficulty classes.?
JE: We're working hand in hand with Wizards of the Coast to translate 4th Edition into our game.
As far as translating the mechanics, there are, of course, the time-honored D&D attributes (strength, dexterity, etc.). One of the best things about 4th Edition is that poor little charisma is useful (that's a shout-out to any old gamers like me). You'll also find D&D's character classes, at least the fundamental ones, in the game.
In terms of class abilities, we're using the same concept of "recharge," which breaks a player's abilities into three categories: at will, once per encounter, and daily. General abilities like a basic sword attack are at will. Slightly more-powerful abilities can only be used once per encounter, and even-more-powerful abilities can be used only once per day.
Instead of that hard-and-fast division, we're using actual time increments, where at will means usable at all times, a once per encounter is a power designed to be used once every encounter, and dailies are used once every few hours.
I think there are two very unique gameplay elements in 4th Edition that we've done something interesting with: action points and healing surges. In the tabletop game, an action point lets a player perform a reroll or add an additional die to a roll. In our game, action points are earned through combat and spent to power special abilities called "boons." These boons give players special boosts, but only in certain circumstances. Healing surges represent the amount of times a player can heal himself before resting. In D&D and Neverwinter, various abilities let players use a surge immediately or perhaps replenish the number of surges available. It's a precious resource that players will need to husband as they adventure in the brave new world.
Positioning, flanking, tactics, and using powers with your teammates are also all things that come from the 4th Edition that are interesting.
Of course, we're using power names and trying to keep power behavior consistent with the pen-and-paper counterparts. Neverwinter will definitely feel familiar to anyone who has played the 4th Edition.