GameInformer had the opportunity to chat up Neverwinter lead producer Andy Velasquez about the forthcoming co-op friendly MMORPG, how they intend to adapt the D&D ruleset to the online world, what their plans are for monetizing the game, and more.
What sets Neverwinter apart from other online role-playing games? Do you think of it as an MMO or something different from that?
We're absolutely an MMO. We're a free to play, action combat MMO. Those are the key touchstones for what we think will set us apart. With free to play, obviously the MMO market is skewing heavily that way. We're trying really hard to approach developing this game the same way we would a subscription game. We're trying to buck those preconceived notions out there from players that free to play is crappy, or free to play is eastern-style money-grubbing stuff. We're developing a fun game in the same way that we developed our previous subscription models. We just believe that this is the right way to monetize moving forward with our genre.
Action combat is our big focus for the moment to moment gameplay. We've made here at Cryptic Studios four MMOs that have done more traditional combat. So our take on action combat is obviously an in-vogue thing to be doing right now for MMOs. We feel like we're approaching it in a more sure way. Other MMOs that are doing action combat take MMO-style combat in gameplay and skew it faster by lowering cool downs or changing to mouse-look targeting. We're trying to make a fun action combat game and just happened to put that in an MMO setting instead of a third-person, single player RPG. In our totally biased opinion we feel that when we play our game versus Guild Wars or Tera, it feels more like an action game. And obvioiusly, D&D is a big pull for us. We're in the Forgotten Realms, which is the most famous of all the D&D subworlds. There's Dragonlance and Greyhawk and all of this other stuff. Forgotten Realms is where Drizzt and Wulfgar, all these iconic characters come from. The surrounding area is where Baldur's Gate took place, so we're able to leverage all that lore and built in fanbase a lot with this product.
How have you approached implementing fourth edition D&D rules into an interactive video game setting?
That's been a really interesting challenge for us. One of the things that D&D Online has done, the other Dungeons & Dragons game, is they took a literal rule-set translation, although I think they used 3.5. And to be clear, we're not specifically a fourth edition game we are a Dungeons & Dragons game. So we use a lot of the same name-space and we use a lot of the emotional context of what the power is supposed to be. So for example, cleave which is every fighter's first ability for the most part it's an ability that is intended to attack multiple enemies in the arch in front of them, we're not worrying about whether it is 2D10 plus weapon power or anything like that, but we're making sure that it's evocative of that feeling so when you cleave in our game you'll be swinging and hitting multiple enemies in front of you.
So you're thinking along those lines of pieces of content that players could purchase in a microtransaction format?
Yeah we'll be micro-transaction based. When you say content, if you mean items and boosts and other things, yes. In terms of missions and maps and all of that absolutely not. We expect that as a free player you will be able to play game in its entirety without having to pay anything. You'll be able to access all of the classes without having to pay anything, and we will not be selling powers. It's not like you can just go to the store and buy a level 30 sword as a level 10 character. So we haven't talked too much in terms of the details yet but that's our high level approach. It's interesting; we found again going back to that data side of things, what makes successful free-to-play monetization is perfectly aligned with what makes a game that your users are going to like. You actually look at the data and you have to evaluate it: (What are my players looking to do right now, what are they looking to buy, what could they want?) It's an interesting perspective because normally as developers you go into your think tank and think about what you want to make and all these cool things in your mind, so I think our games that have been free-to-play have gotten infinitely better because of their transition to free-to-play.