GamingClimax recently had the opportunity to pose some questions for the team behind Neverwinter, the latest Free to Play MMORPG from Perfect World Entertainment.

Answered by:  Andy Velasquez, Lead Producer

Thank you for taking the time to sit down with us.  Would you tell us a little about yourself and your involvement with Neverwinter?

Sure! My name is Andy Velasquez and I am the Lead Producer for Neverwinter at Cryptic Studios. Primarily my responsibilities are to help usher the game through its various development stages. Logistically how are we going to take our team and make the game that we want to make based on the time and resources we have available to us.

Also I spend a lot of time walking around the office saying “helpful things” like “wow that is super cool…can we make that 20% cooler though?”

Neverwinter is slated for an early 2013 release and there are currently beta sign-ups available.  Could you give us a more specific release date?

Sure. We are right around the corner from a couple of major dates. You can gain access to the game as early as this week either on the Thursday the 25th or Saturday the 27th of April by purchasing one of our Founder’s Packs.

Or you can join us when we go into Open Beta on April 30th. We are 100% free to play as well so you can absolutely just quickly download the game and check us out!

Since Cryptic Studios was acquired by Perfect World Entertainment, there has been some concern that Neverwinter will become “pay-to-win”.  What can you do to stifle critics and alleviate worries?

This is something that we have been very careful to make sure that we don’t design requirements for pay into the game. For example you will not find a Vorpal Sword or any other item that is just strictly better than other items you can find in our game in the cash shop. When playtesting and tuning internally we don’t use pay items for our testing so there won’t be a wall that players will hit unless they buy things.

On top of that we also have the Astral Diamond exchange which is a player driven trade center where players are able to trade Zen (our Pay currency) for Astral Diamonds (a currency earned through gameplay). So essentially any item that is for pay can also be acquired via playing the game; so if you are the type of player who has tons of time but isn’t interested in paying real world dollars for something you can still earn those items that we have in the cash shop.

What can long-time fans from Neverwinter Nights look forward to?

Though we are set a while in the future from the previous games we are still in the city of Neverwinter and so you will get to visit familiar places like the Moonstone Mask, the Neverwinter Woods and other places in and around the Sword Coast.

We also have tons of Forgotten Realm’s lore all over the place so you can catch glimpses of your favorite deities, organizations and sub plots from any of the FR materials that you might be a fan of.

Will Neverwinter be using a Dungeons & Dragons rules set?  If so, what edition?

We are fortunate enough that we get to draw from ANY of the D&D rulesets and we aren’t necessarily tied to one single edition.

So if you are a fan of any D&D edition you will most likely see something that resonates with you.

Much like the previous Neverwinter Nights games, a toolset called the Foundry is being included that will allow players to create their own campaigns.  How in-depth and robust will the Foundry’s tools be in comparison to the old Aurora and Electron toolsets?

The Foundry is a bit tough to compare apples to apples with the Aurora toolset because we have taken a pretty different approach to the end goal of “User Generated Content”.

With the Foundry our focus has been on accessibility: both for creators of custom content and consumers of that content.

So while the Aurora toolset was incredibly powerful and open ended it was very difficult for any one new to dig into. The Foundry has been streamlined to really make it as easy as possible for anyone to come in and create a quest, story or campaign that they’d like. The Foundry is incredibly powerful in that it does a ton of really complex and powerful tasks behind the scenes for users so that they can really focus on more important things than fighting with the editor.

In regards to consumption where we feel the Foundry is superior to previous toolsets is that the content is seamlessly integrated with the rest of the Neverwinter MMO. So you can be in one of the game’s social areas playing Cryptic made content and then take a quick break from that to play your Guildmates Foundry mission. You don’t have to log out, download any files, start a different character, etc. It all just happens LIVE!

How will Neverwinter compare to other, more traditional MMORPGs?

What we feel will really set us apart is our take on combat. While we certainly aren’t the first MMO to take on Action combat we really like our combat system.

We all know that MMO’s really excel at creating social connections, having a really fun item progression experience and usually leveling up your toon feels great. The moment to moment gameplay though seems to be lacking in many MMOs and that is where we have really focused on making something new.

What kind of end-game content is planned to keep players going after completing the main campaign?

The End Game options available to you are totally dependent on your personal play style. If you are a min/maxer you can hit up Epic versions of all of our dungeons to earn the best loot in the game. If you are diehard PVP you can keep playing and earn glory and special end game PVP armor sets. If you want to make a name for yourself in the community dive into the Foundry and start making content for the rest of the users.

Carrying with the Neverwinter Nights tradition, there is a party system planned that will utilize NPCs controlled by the player.  How much customization and control can players expect of their NPC companions?

Customization of your companions will be mostly tied to gearing them out with really cool equipment and Runestones. So in addition to itemizing for your player character you can really get invested in getting the most Defense for your more tankier companions or really try to stack critical damage for one of your strikers.

Some cosmetic options will also be unlocked over time as your companions grow in power. New cooler outfits will become available to really show that they are growing in strength along with you.

How will parties between players integrate with the NPC companions?

When you are rolling around with your buddies all of your companions will be out, even in group dungeons so you can have a really awesome looking party and really feel like you are delving into a dungeon with the proper amount of backup!

Is there anything in particular the team is excited for players to experience?  Are there any new features we can look forward to?

At this point I think we are all mostly just excited to have the game go live and have people experience the game in a more long term sense. We have had Beta weekends, Alpha tests and experiences and trade shows which have gone amazingly well for us. But with the limited time frames we’ve had the game open our fans have only gotten a taste of what we are releasing. It is going to be really exciting once they all get to really sink their teeth into the meat of the game.

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