Neverwinter Story Trailer, Free-to-Play MMO Business Model Revealed

We've been expecting a not-so-massively co-op multiplayer RPG out of Cryptic's Neverwinter, but if this report on IGN is accurate, Perfect World Entertainment's influence has shifted the game down a standard free-to-play MMO path instead. Before we get into what exactly that means, have a look at this new "story" trailer:

Prepare yourself for microtransactions, Forgotten Realms style:
This new home for Cryptic has allowed the developer to continue their MMO-development tradition with Neverwinter. That's right, Neverwinter is shifting from the co-operative multiplayer game that was announced last year and into full-fledged, free-to-play MMO territory. In fact, it's shifting towards the action end of the MMO spectrum. Transferring a Dungeons & Dragons universe into an action setting might sound strange to D&D veterans, but it's been done before with some of the Baldur's Gate games. The 4th Edition of D&D also has some new rules that lend itself well to action games, which is exactly why Neverwinter is using 4th Edition as its ruleset.

The developer says Neverwinter will be closer to a game like Nexon's Vindictus, where combat is controlled by mouse clicks, and where pattern recognition and reflexes are the keys to successfully murdering hordes of monsters. Vindictus is also session-based, with each action foray designed to last about twenty minutes (Rusty Hearts, mentioned above, also follows this pattern). It's entirely possible that Neverwinter will follow this session-based structure as well, though it's worth remembering that both Vindictus and Rusty Hearts were developed for an entirely different market. Neverwinter is one of a very small number of games designed for the Western market to be free-to-play from its very inception. This is probably going to have and an effect on leveling curves, character designs, questing, skills and, well, virtually every aspect of the game.