PAX East 2013

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Neverwinter Nights "Dungeons & Dragons"

22 March 2013 | Written by Maxxum

I feel very fortunate to have had a chance to speak with first a classic artist from the D&D series, and now the CEO of the dev. studio responsible for the evolution of D&D into the online world. This is the second time I've seen the NWN-D&D booth, but the first time I've had a chance to demo the game. The screenshots don't do this game justice; my nerd reflexes were already tingling 5 minutes into the demo, which is a sign to me that I can never, ever play this game because of its addictive qualities. But, don't let that stop you once the game exits Beta. My interview with Jack Emmert, CEO of Cryptic Studios follows:


Jack Emmert, CEO of Cryptic Studios

click to enlarge

What are the basic costs for the game?

It's entirely free to play, no subscription, no box sales, no anything - just go ahead and download the game.

How long has the game been in development?

About two and a half years.

How much of the original rules from D&D 3, or D&D 4 have you put in the game?

It's different, we used D&D the rule set as a starting point, obviously we are incredibly faithful to the look and feel, you know all the monsters, and character classes, but in order to get a MMO, and in particular an action MMO, there are some adjustments that had to be made.

Which rule book did you use for the game?

4th Edition, everything here is inspired by 4th Edition, but to be honest, all of D&D is something that we tap into. Believe me, I started playing D&D back when it was actually called a game called "Chainmail", which is before 1st Edition, before 'Blue Box', before 'Red Box', so all of that comes into play.

In game screenshot In game screenshot In game screenshot

When the D&D manual gets updated, are you going to be updated the game as well, say if D&D 5th Edition comes out?

Oh, yes - well, they are working on something called "D&D Next" and we are certainly part of that process, whether we'll reconfigure everything is unlikely, but it means that there are things that we can incorporate.

Were any of the original artists or writers consulted for the game?

Certainly, we consulted with Bob [R.A.] Salvatore who writes novels today. And, with the gang and Wizards of the Coast, we're currently developing D&D. I'm not sure any of the original creators are involved with D&D anymore, but what we do, this game is, we're on the phones with Wizards every week, constant e-mail communication, because we want to make sure this game properly reflects their universe.

Author R.A. Salvatore

click to enlarge

With the game being free, how do you make your money?

We're selling founders packs now, so we'll be selling things like mounts, costume pieces, so people can customizze the way they look. If you take a look at what we do with 'Star Trek Online' and with 'Champions Online' those are two other indications of how we go about things. We have a lot of different mechanisms to allow people to pay for things that they want. But, our goal is that you should never feel compelled to pay, right? It's a game, you pay because you love the game, and you want to get something more out of it ... it's not pay to win, or pay to play, it's literally free to play.

In game screenshot In game screenshot In game screenshot

What are you going to do to prevent quest weariness?

Oh, that's a great question - that's actually a big focus. So, what we tried to do is, there are three things that we've got in 'Neverwinter', it's an action game, it's got user generated content, but there's always something to do, so what we have are contests, events, skirmishes, dungeon delves, we have a constant cycle of things going on that will pop-up in the UI element, so that when a player logs in, they don't just have to do the next quest that's up, there's lots of other things they can do, not to mention the fact the user generated content.

You said earlier that you'd played D&D, how long did you do that?

Since '78.

Since '78? Wow.

Yeah, I was at Camp Comet in Pennsylvania, and that was my first exposure, and then I've been playing D&D ever since. I actually wrote role-playing games for Wizard of the Coast, I wrote for their Marvel Super Heroes game. I've written for a bunch before I ever got into video games.

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Journalist Comments:

I like it when people responsible for the games they're developing already have long, personal investments in a series. I knew Jack had experience with D&D, but his knowledge of the game goes back to almost before I was born. I went back several times to demo the game... I'll say it simply, I'm impressed with what I saw. More about the game on their site here.

Photos by Maxxum