[Update #2: the real answers have since been recieved (22nd of July; posted on the 23rd). They can be viewed here.]
[Update #3: The answers belong to (and the questions were asked by) James Moorehead of pwgaming.co.uk who graciously allowed us to keep them up!]
In April, the opportunity to interview Craig Zinkievich, the COO of Cryptic Studios and Executive Producer of Neverwinter, arose. Due to Neverwinter being an MMORPG, Gareth Newnham and I thought that it might be interesting to present Craig Zinkievich with community sourced questions—an important part of any MMORPG is the community after all!
On the 1st of May, Gareth Newnham took to Reddit to rustle up some juicy community based questions. From the response, I cut the questions down to avoid repetition and sent them off on the 13th of May.
Despite my pruning, it was nevertheless a lengthy selection of questions, so happily I further cut it down as per the request of Derek Reeve of Freeform Communications. We reached a number of questions that we were both satisfied with, and so the questions were sent along to the upper echelons of Cryptic Studios.
On the 17th of July, thanks to the tireless chasing of Derek Reeve, we were finally supplied with the answers we had been waiting for—or not… Instead of answers to the community questions posed by Neverwinter’s own fans, the attached document featured a strange, schizophrenic conversation between Andy Velasquez, Lead Producer of Neverwinter, and Andy Velasquez, dissociative identity of Andy Velasquez—or at least we assume so as the questions were uncredited.
Perhaps instead of answering our sourced questions Craig Zinkievich supplied Andy Valesquez with his own, and Andy Velasquez in turn accidentally forwarded the answers on to Derek Reeve! I, personally, hope this is the case. If not then I, and everyone at Laser Lemming, can only hope that Andy Velasquez receives the help that he so desperately needs! We’re all thinking of you buddy…
Below is Andy Valesquez’s fascinating Q&A with himself as presented to us, and below that are the original questions—out of kilter as some may be.
ANSWERED BY: Andy Velasquez
TITLE: Lead Producer – Neverwinter
1. What did you and the team learn from Star Trek Online that you could apply to Neverwinter both in terms of gameplay and launch?
So many lessons were learned from releasing STO and managing STO over these last few years that it is really hard to trim it down to just a few things.
Leading up to OBT one of the biggest lessons learned was that we didn’t have to come out the gate with everything and the kitchen sink in the game from day 1. In fact it was more important to have a smaller feature set but those features be of a high quality first, and then we can release more features later.
Now MMO’s are huge endeavors so certainly NW is still a monster of a game but we ended up postponing many features and options leading up to launch so we could focus on releasing high quality versions of what existed in the game to start.
2. What were some of the challenges in creating Neverwinter?
Oh wow! This could be an entire interview by itself!
Obviously one of the main issues that we came across is how we chose to deal with such a beloved IP. D&D in general and more specifically the Forgotten Realms means different things to different people and so trying to appease so many fans was a bit daunting at first.
But that being said since MMO’s are such large scale games they allows us different avenues to appease to all manner of D&D and Realms fans. So for example, we have tons of lore all throughout the game that big time readers of FR books will get tons of references for. We have tons of monsters and dungeons that table top players will totally recognize from their monster manuals dating all the way back to beginning of D&D.
We’ve been getting tons of positive feedback from all manner of D&D/Realms fans so we are feeling good about how we handled this particular challenge.
3. Did you look at the previous Neverwinter Nights games as inspiration or did you and the team prefer to work from a fairly blank canvas using only the world itself?
Certainly there were things that we wanted to capture the same feeling of from the previous Neverwinter games. That rich vibrant digital representation of the fabled sword coast and the focus on user generated content are two big things that are aligned with what the old NWN games set out to achieve as well.
That being said we also knew from early on that we were not making a direct sequel to those titles so we really approached this game from the “let’s make the best MMO we can make” stand point.
4. In this title you’re deploying a the foundry system much like in Star Trek Online, how important do you feel user generated content will be for MMOs in the future?
We obviously feel that it is very important or we wouldn’t have put so much time and effort into make the Foundry as awesome as it is! As developers we work for years to create content that players consume in single marathon sessions of gaming. With UGC tools we can allow the users themselves to help sate the masses hunger for more more more!
Particularly with a D&D game the idea of UGC is right in line with our IP’s roots. When I describe D&D to non-gaming friends I say that it is group story telling. UGC is a very similar idea but in the digital world.
5. What do you feel is the future of the MMO market?
For the short term I think we are going to continue to see the expansion of MMO games away from just the traditional gameplay styles and see moves towards all kinds of different genres and styles getting the MMO versions made.
Games like Neverwinter are exploring action combat styles, Shooter MMO’s are on the rise now as well. So I’m pretty sure we’ll keep seeing more dabbling from these other genres into MMO’s.
Not a bad time to be an MMO fan.
6. Obviously it is still early in the life cycle but what are you looking at for expansion content?
We are very excited about going to many of the awesome and recognizable places that exist in the Realms. Our upcoming modules will be filled with new zones, classes, monsters, features and more!
In fact, we just recently released a ton of information on our first module here http://nw.perfectworld.com/furyofthefeywild
7. With several MMOs going strong at the moment, where next for the Cryptic team? Can you perhaps give us any clues for your next project?
More Neverwinter is in store for us! Though we’ve now gone LIVE we still have a TON on our plates. From responding to LIVE player feedback, fixing bugs and doing quality of life improvements to existing features to continuing to develop new expansions for the game we are going to have our hands full.
8. Thank you for the opportunity, and I look forward to seeing what your team does in the future.
Neverwinter Nights was well loved for its accurate recreation of Dungeons and Dragons’ battle mechanics, and its wonderfully rich fantasy world and lore. But since 2009 we have yet to see another Neverwinter Nights game released, despite the series’ well loved status.
Well, that’s all about to change! Now in an open beta, Neverwinter has already been shown off to the world. An MMORPG set in the Neverwinter universe which will form part of a multimedia project involving books by R.A. Salvatore and a tabletop game by Wizards of the Coast. It’s certainly ambitious, but given that it’s already in open beta we thought we’d open up the questions to the public; an MMORPG is a communal experience after all!
Craig Zinkievich, Cryptic COO and Executive Producer of Neverwinter decided to meet the community’s demand and answer their pressing questions below. Thank you for your time, Craig!
Pentara asked: “Hows it hanging?” [introduce yourself/overview of Neverwinter and where it’s at developmentally]
Jaspor asked, “what will the Foundry focus on in the future: Boss fights, group content, [or] PvP as user generated content?”
Skrowl wondered why there aren’t more launch servers: “WHY YOU NO HAVE MOAR LAUNCH SERVERS!?” [other community members also indicated that there are presently issues with the number of servers during the beta period; with that in mind are you confident in your number of lauch servers?]
Andromansis pondered fantasy genetics: “Are halflings just elves with dwarfism?”
Clusterfuckoflove and Cothurn both desperately wondered: “WHEN WILL THE DAMN RANGER COME OUT (BOTH DUO AND RANGED)?”
Shintal respectfully queried: “I would love to know if u can get mounts/companions from end-game dungeons and if not, if they will implement it.”
Area88guy asked as he adjusted his glasses: “Why does my Wizard’s first Daily look like something out of Naruto? Seriously. I’ve taken to calling it Water Release: Ice Eruption.”
Screampuff carefully considered his position before asking: “Will foundry content ever be categorized as epic? Perhaps if it were submitted for the developers to look at? I feel like I won’t have a reason to do a foundry dungeon over an epic dungeon when I hit 60 and am trying to improve my gearscore.
“Do you have any control over the Zen shop prices, or is that purely Perfect World Entertainment? I find the prices to be a bit too steep, and I’d rather see things like EXP, crafting, gold and item drop rate boosters over scrolls and stones.”
Merkaloid bluntly asked: “Will you have an EU based shard?”
Tissek and Aaxxandum asked far too many question, so we picked the one question that was almost two:
“Is there a timeline for more paragon paths and multiple group roles for each class? And related to this: Dualspec and easy switching between specs?”
Kentgrave made this list of demands:
“Dear Executive Producer of Neverwinter,
I propose a Path of Exile Ethical Micro-transaction model.
What is an Ethical Micro-transaction model? Click here to read an article about Path of Exile and its system of bringing in revenue via “ethical” means.
or view their actual micro-transactions that are available here to get an idea of what it offers
Please remove all active companions, Profession packs, Keys, Enchants, Rune-stones, and Astral Diamond to Zen exchange from the game which make it possible for someone to practically pay to get ahead and through AD/Zen exchange make it possible to buy high end gear and weapons without actually having to play the game.
Instead make purely 100% cosmetic/aesthetic purchases available that do not give any player an edge on the other. This would include:
- Cosmetic Changes in Appearance
- Name Tokens
- Bank Slots
- Enchants that do not add “stats” but instead add effects to weapons such as glowing effects.
- Add purchases like path of exile which change the “animations” of skills and abilities but do not change how strong they are.
- Inactive companions that do not aid in combat.
- Armor model enhancements which change how armor looks but does not change stats of armor
- Sell the ability for a player to design their own weapon or armor models to be implemented in the game as potential loot drops or simply as costumes or purely aesthetic appearance changes (For a hefty fee of course)
This would in turn remove all “pay to win” gripes and complaints from the game while still providing tons of stuff that players will be willing to pay for. Path of Exile has proven this, players love to look and feel different! Paying to get ahead of everyone else and “feel” stronger isn’t the only thing we will pay for.
Above all else please remove the Key/Lock-boxes as they are basically slot machines. Or at the very least provide a way to get keys in game even if its not particularly easy to obtain or cost a lot of astral Diamonds so players don’t have 200 lock-boxes sitting in their bank for no reason because they realized after 100 keys that the chances of getting a nightmare are about 1:1000. Also as they do with all gambling in most forms at the very least you could add to the description of the lock-box what your actual %chance of obtaining an epic item is so players aren’t mislead into thinking the chance is greater then it really is.”
UPDATE: We’ve included a video take on the matter as well.