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!
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."
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).
- 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).