Recently, one of my favorite writers on MMORPG wrote an article about the new Neverwinter MMORPG being in development by Cryptic Studios being Cryptics last stand. After reading Joe Iuliani's write-up mentioning Neverwinter will offer Player Generated Content made available to play through The Foundry. I think that Cryptic might have a chance with their rendition of the popular Neverwinter Universe. Two things that brought up in my mind was the Architect Manager of City of Heroes/Villains that let players customize small instanced modules that other players would play and rate. For popular modules it was possible to have enough votes to make it into the editors choice category. Another chord that Iuliani’s article struck was the persistent worlds of Forgotten Realms: Neverwinter Nights 2 (NWN2).
It’s a funny thing since NWN2 Platinum Edition went on sale today through Steams’ Summer Sale for a whopping $6.80, since this story has been rolling around in my head, I figured it was now or never (winter). I’m sure you’re looking at me saying “But NWN2 is not an MMO, you fool!” Well you’re right, sort of. NWN2 has a single player campaign modules and a few expansion bundled into the Platinum Edition. But also offers a multiplayer function as with the first game, NWN2 players can invite or join other players’ campaigns for cooperative game play. The best part of that function is the ability to join a persistent world created and hosted on a player owned server.
The persistent world (PW) feature is how NWN2 breaches the category of cRPG (single player) to MMORPG status (sort of.) These PW’s usually custom made modifications made with the developers tools offered with the NWN2 game. Many PW’s have customized game play that caters to a wide range of play styles that can be viewed before entering the world. Some are built for heavy role-playing, some are built as a story driven campaign and some are more of a hack-n-slash action style game play that are created to advance a character quickly so that player can experience it without taking forever to level.
My two favorite PW’s that I have been patronizing over the years are Brian Blooms’ Realm of Trinity (RoT) and Legends of Arcadia (LoA) hosted and created by Stump and co. Both are complete overhauls created completely by the hosts and their teams, completely free to play, though you can donate to them of you choose. Even though both of these PW’s are built by nonprofessionals, they totally have a professional feel about them that make you wonder why the developing company of NWN2 didn’t try to think of this first. This is one of the reasons why I support modders, they think like players, simply because they are players.
Where's the ugly?
The Realm of Trinity is a role-play server that plays as more of a story driven campaign. The campaign is a completely original design created by the moderator Brian Bloom, who has kept the story fresh with ongoing updates and a very healthy, stable server. It’s a fun PW that doesn’t force the player to grind to advance, simply follow the storyline quests or divulge in some of the many side quests that are offered by a NPC’s across a wide range of decent sized zones. Brian and his fellow DM’s is a great bunch of guys who are very helpful and considerate to the new players that wander into their world. The DM’s (Dungeon Masters) put on regular events and there is often one available for a question here and there.
The community, although sometimes on the smaller side, is very helpful and often looking to group up for content or to help a player through a tough spot in the campaign. I finished the original campaign with a few higher level characters, even though it was fun, I felt as if it was a bit rushed at spots and I could do the most just to keep up.
All the armor is customizable either with enchants or aesthetically through either NPC’s are a tool given to the player that is placed in your bag upon entering. It does take away from some of the immersion value, but it’s nice to be able to customize weapons or armor on the fly. There are also a D20, a character save tool, a teleport to the main city and a few others.
My other favorite PW is Legends of Arcadia, this is an action server. Another totally custom design that offers a faster paced style of game play that is heavily focused on character progression and PvP. The server offers the same wide variety of races and classes as with Rot and some of the same customizing tools as well. One of the more interesting aspects of LoA, is the ability to put a bounty on a players head for other players to try and collect. No matter the level of the character, if you have a bounty you are up to get snuffed by anyone who chooses. This is an option that is offered by EVE Online, but I feel should be offered in every other MMO, this would limit the level of D-baggery if you found out that all of a sudden you were a marked man (or woman) by someone you mouthed off to.
Gangs all here.
I don’t think that’s what LoA had in mind; it’s a server that offers a wide range of areas you can explore and/or grind you character through. There are some rules that apply and most are common sense: Don’t be a jerk, kill everything you spawn, loot every drop and so forth. There is a banner at the beginning of the world you can read them all and there is often a moderator/DM available if anyone needs help. The community does have regular 35-40 players consistently, they are also very helpful and fun group that know all the good spots and tough bosses.
Both servers have endgame content, DM run events and the ability to advance your character beyond the normal level cap if you choose to dedicate yourself to one toon. I for one have alt-itus and try a wide range of classes, but often find myself as a rogue type or battle-priest; I guess it’s the MMO in me.
If you are interested in trying out either of these servers or some of the many others, make sure that you have both the original NWN2 game as well as both of the expansions, Mask of the Betrayer and Storm of Zehir. They are both bundled into the platinum edition and most of the other servers ask if the players have them installed. Installed directly from the games built in installer, used to be another program used called Worldgate used to install these mods to make them playable, now modding is a lot more streamlined and user friendly. Both or traditionally NOT MMO's, don't offer living breathing economies, huge endgame raids, mounts and monthly subscriptions; other than a donation here and there, they are completely free and play like MMO's.
I do hope you get a chance to try them out for anything other than to see the great lengths that these modders go to create a fun and interesting place to play NWN2. With some hope and maybe some forward thinking, I would love to see Cryptic tap some of these amateur resources in order to use some of the creative talent that we have in our community. I am thinking The Foundry will offer more along the lines of small bite-size chunks of content as offered through modules. If The Foundry in Cryptics’ Neverwinter is not limited to size or population, creating a world within a world would something interesting to see made possible by the community.
At the time of this writing, there are 16 (now 4) hours left on the Steam sale….tick…tick…tick…