Thursday, June 9, 2011

Don't call it a mission

 From the new IGN preview of Neverwinter:
With this version, Cryptic is focusing on making and sharing user-generated content as painless as possible. "We have striven to make it as intuitive and accessible as we can for people to make missions, maps, contacts, etcetera. We'll provide a set of kits you can use, imagine the caves or the dungeons, and those come with a bunch of rooms. You just go to the library tab and drag them over and it's in the world. Similarly, placing mission objectives or enemies is just that easy. You go to the properties tab and look through the monsters section and you can drag a set of Gnolls over and then tie them to a mission objective that you made. In general the philosophy is easy and simple for players to get into and use."
I wasn't trying to parse this quote, but the repeated use of the word "mission" screamed at me - or more accurately, screeched like fingernails on a blackboard. The reason Neverwinter has been met with skepticism by many in the NWN community is not only that the hallowed franchise is being converted to yet another MMO, but that it is being handled by Cryptic, a company that has never done D&D. If Cryptic wants to attract NWN players and builders, they might start by using the right terminology. For Ao's sake, it's called a quest!

OK, maybe that's just me being a nerd. Much of what I've learned about Neverwinter has actually been encouraging - at least on the modding front. Apparently Neverwinter's Foundry toolset will be an enhanced version of the one builders are currently using to create *ahem* missions for Star Trek Online. As new features are added to the Neverwinter toolset, Cryptic plans to also make them available for STO builders. So if you want to know what will be in the Neverwinter toolset, keep an eye on what's happening with STO.

Here are a few things I found out about the STO toolset that may - or may not - be relevant to Neverwinter. Disclaimer: Someone who's actually used the damn thing may have better information and/or more valid opinions on this stuff (if you're that person, feel free to set me straight).

Here goes:
  • There's no scripting. Everything is GUI-based. Putting together a... you know... involves stringing together different objectives such as Kill Enemies, Talk to Contact, and Reach Marker. Everything appears to hold together through properties.
  • Dialogue trees are supported. Based on the video tutorials I saw, dialogue editing seemed a bit awkward. However, I was pleased that it at least allows you to create interactive dialogue.
  • Level design restricted? What I saw from the STO tutorials was actually more robust than I expected, but then this article from an MMO site seems to indicate area design in Neverwinter will be limited, at least at the start. This could be a pivotal issue for serious builders.
  • Branching quests may or may not be possible. It sounds like the STO toolset doesn't allow complex/nonlinear quest structures, or at least makes it hard to implement them. This strikes me as something they'll want to rectify for Neverwinter. Otherwise it could be a deal-breaker.
  • STO already has a process for publishing mods. Basically, you submit it for playtesting by other players, who are supposed to flag any objectionable content (copyright violations, obscenity, etc). At a certain point (minimum number of ratings?), the mod goes live and anyone can play it.
  • Testing a mod is so easy, it's stupid. It seems like you can simply click a Play button in the editor and start playtesting your module. There are also buttons that allow you to automatically kill enemies, enter God Mode, etc. It seems way easier than NWN or NWN2 (not to mention Dragon Age, which requires an abominable export process).
That's about all I can think of at the moment. Just a reminder that much of this is speculative, and all of it is subject to change. I don't know yet whether Neverwinter will be worthy of its name. But for now, I'm interested enough to keep following it. And as long as I am, I'll keep you updated on what I find.

13 comments:

  1. IGN gave me the impression that Neverwinter only seemed to support tack-ons to their campaign and not separate campaigns ranging from different levels. I hope I am wrong in this.

    It seems Neverwinter is shrouded by terminology to keep old Neverwinter Nights players interested in their work and perhaps fool them into buying it. or maybe they're trying to increase interest to beg for more money to develop their product.

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  2. After Dragon Age I'm don't feel like getting my hopes up for a something better then nwn2. Neverwinter sounds worse. I don't feel like dealing with community voting and censorship either.

    I was interested in Starcraft 2 modding for a little while but it has censorship and strangely limited uploads.

    Also making free content for game companies seems silly with modern indie games doing so well.

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  3. anduraga, my fear is that the tools will be too limited to support an actual narrative, but we'll see. As for old NWN players, I actually think Cryptic's words would scare them off, if anything. They're throwing around a lot of MMO terms and emphasizing action over roleplaying. I've been kinda surprised, really. Do they want to compete with WoW?

    Corey, I notice there are already several threads on the NW forums about compensation for modders. I doubt NW will offer anything like that, but I think that's ultimately going to be the direction of games with user generated content. Having users extend a game indefinitely is a great idea as long as not too many other games are doing it. But when it's nothing new or rare, as is now the case, the pool of talented creators gets spread thin, and players have too many options to waste their time with shoddy content.

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  4. "Also making free content for game companies seems silly with modern indie games doing so well."

    I think this is a great point. I haven't been very impressed with what I've heard about Neverwinter. Relying on users to prop up a subscription model (if that is indeed the plan) by providing content sans compensation seems cheeky. With the explosion of the indie market, those with the talent are better served using their skills to make some money. I think the two NWN games have probably depleted modding appetite as well. Surely Neverwinter targets a similar audience; those inclined to mod may have already done so.

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  5. Here's some extra info on this that you may or may not have seen yet.

    http://www.joystiq.com/2011/06/10/dungeons-and-dragons-neverwinter-preview-the-neverending-story/

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  6. I hadn't seen that. Thanks. Nothing hugely surprising there, but it adds a few details.

    "These instanced missions can also interact with the persistent world which Cryptic has designed. Players can build dialogue trees for the core game's NPCs, apply a layer of interactivity to objects in the environment or link doors to their instanced dungeons."

    Curious about how that is going to work.

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