MMORPG: You guys came out of nowhere at PAX East this year to stun a lot of naysayers. Just gush a little, go ahead: how good did wowing the crowds feel?
Andy Velasquez: It felt great! Being locked up outside of the public eye working on the game for so long we would often talk amongst ourselves and say things like “Well, this is getting pretty cool. Right guys…? Right…?”
Finally getting to come out, show everyone and then having the public and press respond like they did was a good reaffirmation of what we were all feeling. And the whole office was definitely buzzing about it for a while after the show.
MMORPG: But there’s a lot more work to do, right? How far along in development are you? The game seemed extremely polished, but granted we only saw the Trickster Rogue and the Control Wizard classes. Is beta around the corner?
Andy Velasquez: Yup, we still got tons left to do. It’s liberating knowing that we have a great foundation for our game and our development pipelines are in place for the vast majority of what we want to do for this project. So now it’s just a matter of continuing to execute what we’ve set up and make more fun classes, critters, content, and systems.
Beta being “Around the corner” depends on how long your corners are. We will be ramping up for our internal Alpha and Closed Beta starting in the summer.
MMORPG: Why did you all personally choose the 4th edition rule-set? There are a lot of D&D folks who dislike 4th Edition.
Andy Velasquez: Well Neverwinter is not exclusively a D&D 4th edition rules game and we draw inspiration from all of the different versions of D&D. For example we have things like Magic Missile as an ability for Control Wizards which is incredibly evocative of the D&D experience regardless of which edition you are a fan of. Our use of At Will, Encounter and Daily powers obviously draw directly from D&D 4th edition but we did that because we liked how it fit onto what we were trying to do with combat, not because we are beholden to a specific edition. For example Healing Surges, another mechanic from 4E, didn’t really work for the game we were making and so we did not implement it into our game.
Our focus has really been on making a fun game that resonates with fans of D&D in general as opposed to any specific subset of them.
MMORPG: How much content are you aiming to have at launch? Will there be full progression through levels 1-60, or will you rely heavily on the Foundry and player created content to round it out?
Andy Velasquez: We are excited about what our creative users will be able to make with The Foundry but that content can absolutely be a supplement to the progression of your character and will not be required for you to reach max level.
MMORPG: Now, we’re not knocking the Foundry with that last question. Honestly, we can’t wait to be DMs in Neverwinter. How robust will the tools be? Will there be presets and you choose some doodads to fill them, or are we talking total control of making a dungeon? Outdoor areas? Details!
Andy Velasquez: I see what you did there, nice segue.
The Foundry is a big enough topic that we can devote whole interviews to discussing the details that ya’ll crave. Hey good idea me.
Let’s talk more in depth about the Foundry when we roll out more news throughout the summer.
MMORPG: Can you talk about how dungeon delves will fill that “raid mentality” for players looking for that type of content?
Andy Velasquez: Personally I feel like our Dungeon Delves are huge improvement over the overall raiding experience that I have personally experienced playing MMOs. When I think about what I loved during my time raiding in other MMO’s it was always the joy of getting mah phat lewtz and the challenge of taking down interesting content with my buddies. What I hated was the slog that almost always came with it.
Our Dungeon Delves are still the places where you will be going to get your phat lewt. They are still where you will find the some of the most interesting bosses, monsters and locations Neverwinter has to offer and you are your friends will be challenged to take down all of the content in them. Yet they are meant to be shorter less grindy affairs than traditional MMO raids.
MMORPG: You mentioned PvP is coming after launch, but do you consider PvP as something core to the experience or is this being designed as more of a side activity for players?
Andy Velasquez: We are focused on making our launch feature set as good as it can be so we were not interested in doing something quick and dirty just to say that we have PVP in the game.
We’ll be talking more about our PVP system as we get closer to releasing it.
MMORPG: There are 60 levels, equaling the 20 levels in normal D&D campaigns. How will players choose and customize their character builds while leveling say, a Trickster Rogue?
Andy Velasquez: Actually, D&D characters can progress up to 30th level. The first 20 levels are the Heroic and Paragon tiers, while levels 21 thru 30 represent the Epic tier and that’s when characters start getting into world bending levels of powers.
Nerd rant aside; the 60 levels that we will have at launch do represent the characters rise through the Paragon tier. Which means at a certain point in their career, players will choose a Paragon Path which will further specialize their character.
The full details of class progression and our paragon paths is another fun topic that we will be sharing more about in the coming months.
MMORPG: Can you comment on why you chose to go with a more “action-oriented” style of combat, as opposed to tab targeting? It looks really fun from what we’ve seen, but are you afraid it will drive away traditional RPG gamers?
Andy Velasquez: There are awesome blurby things that I can, and often do say like: “we looked at the trends in the market” or “we saw the potential of being the first F2P Action MMO” that explain why we went down this road. But, there is also my personal favorite reason: because it’s a whole lot of fun.
Way early in development we actually had 3 different control schemes available ranging from a version of the action combat controls that we debuted at PAX east all the way to click-to-move controls reminiscent of “old school” RPGs. After much iteration and playtesting we ended up picking this control scheme because it was the most fun. Done and done.
MMORPG: Thanks so much for your time! We can’t wait to see the game again at E3. Keep the community posted on the development! We’re all hungry for more.
Andy Velasquez: Absolutely! Now that we have officially “unveiled” the project expect to hear much more from us over the coming months.
See you at E3!