Neverwinter Interview With Systems Designer Lindsay Haven

Gameranx spoke with Cryptic's Lindsay Haven about the development and design of Neverwinter.

by on 2nd Oct, 2013

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Dungeons and Dragons: Neverwinter is an MMO reimagining of the Forgotten Realms world of Neverwinter, which gamers initially explored in Neverwinter Nights and even earlier than that in a text-based online game by the same name. 

Cryptic Studios game has immediately established its own identity, and is a success in its own right. Launched last June 20, it hit 2 million players last august, and most recently released its first expansion, Fury of the Feywild. We snagged an interview with the game's system designer, Lindsay Haven, to talk about the game's launch, the Foundry, Fury of the Feywild, Caturday, and all things Neverwinter.


1. How successful has Neverwinter's launch been so far? What things did you think you were able to do right out the gate, and what did you wish you could have done better?

Neverwinter's launch generated a lot more interest than we anticipated it would, and for Cryptic It broke a lot of records in-terms of CCU (concurrent users) and the number of players logging in. This success speaks to the early game experience we created, our commitment to the Dungeons & Dragons emersion, and Cryptic's own experience in making MMOs. Of course when an MMO launches and the player base gets bigger it's easier to notice what experiences fall short. For Neverwinter our end-game content wasn't as compelling or as complete as it needed to be. That's why our first module, Fury of the Feywild, focused on delivering playable content to level capped players.


2. How was your first add-on Fury of the Feywild received by the Neverwinter user base? How has it affected your gameplan for future add-on releases, and do you plan to release it as frequently as every month?

Fury of the Feywild was our first module and we've seen a lot of positive feedback about it. It contains a whole new zone with a new art style, new story to explore, a new skirmish, and our most exciting and fun dungeon ever. But since it was our first release like that we have some ideas about how to improve the experience and we are already deep in development for our next module release. Since each module is packed full of high quality new content and game features were looking at longer than a monthly release cycle. However we are planning as quick a release cycle as we think we can handle because we realize that the Dungeons & Dragons universe has many more adventures for us to explore.


3. The Foundry has proven to be a popular part of the game. Do you plan to make any major improvements or changes to it in the near future? Why do you think fans.

Yes, The Foundry was an essential and popular part Neverwinter because it is based on Dungeons & Dragons, which players have a long history of creating their own adventures and campaigns for. Cryptic has a dedicated foundry team working to improve The Foundry every day to make it easier to generate content for Neverwinter. Every week we are fixing bugs and making improvements that go live, and when we released Fury of the Feywild we added a 3D editing, which allows authors a more immersive way to build their maps.


4. We note that the game's Auction House was affected by an exploit, and in response, you released the Caturday Survivor's Pack. What precautions have you taken to ensure transactions in the Auction House are on the level? And are you ready for the next time the game experiences another Caturday?

Well, Caturday is a special day in hearts. We dearly hope that there will be no more Caturdays. However we have implemented more than hope in order to prevent other large economy exploits. We have improved our process of customer service and community reporting, we now have better economy reporting tools that we regularly review, and we are constantly incorporating new types of testing in our QA (quality assurance) process. Over the last few months we have seen fewer and fewer economy exploits and so we feel like we are on the right track.


5. Of course, an older game franchise based on the world  of Neverwinter has already been released. Would you consider taking content from that prior game to use in your version of Neverwinter?

I assume you are talking about Neverwinter Nights. We would consider taking inspiration from NWN, and to some extent we have, but since those games were made by another studio on another contract with Wizards of the Coast it is difficult to take them directly. In reality though, the industry and types of games that people play now are very different from what they used to play. There are still elements of those games that are fun, but as a whole they are dated (classic, but dated.) We'd rather look at iterating on successful and fun elements that make contextual sense in Neverwinter.


6. Would you ever consider putting Neverwinter on Steam?

We aren't opposed to putting Neverwinter on Steam, like we have Star Trek Online. But at the moment we don't see a need to change our distribution method of Neverwinter.


7. The reviews have been coming in for your game, and as of this writing your game has a Metacritic score of 74 %, or 3 1/2 stars. Are you satisfied with the critical reception so far? Is there any point in particular you wish you could explain to reviewers?

I think that in order to make a good game you have to shoot for a Metacritc score of 10, so getting a 74% is a bit disappointing, but it really just means we have a lot of work to do. Sometimes games get an unfair rating, but most often we use external rating sites as a barometer of what others think of our game, it's an opinion not necessarily a fact. However, what I would say to the reviewers is that they should keep an eye on Neverwinter; we might just release something that changes their minds.


8. Do you see a competitive scene possibly coming for Neverwinter? What support would you be interested in providing fans if it ever came about?

At this time we don't feel that competitive gaming is the future of PvP in Neverwinter. However, this doesn't mean that we don't think there is a future for PvP and we are currently working on improving some of the less polished aspects of that part of the game.


9. Cryptic Studios games have built up large fan followings in years before. Is there anything you would like to tell old fans to convince them to try out Neverwinter?

Our fans are very important to us. Often times we'll give dedicated fans from previous games early access to our upcoming games as a thank you and to get their feedback.  We’re constantly on the forums looking at their feedback, seeing what we can do better, and asking what they would like to see next in-game.  Neverwinter is definitely a culmination of their dedication.  


10. Lastly, is there anything you would like to preview for us, or is there a message you would like to share with the fans now? 

Like I said earlier, we are working on our next module and I can't say much about it, but we have been listening to what the community has been asking for and I think the next module release will be very exciting for our fans.

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