This morning, we started the countdown to Cryptic Studios' fourth MMORPG, Neverwinter. It's an exciting time here in the office; I was in at 4:30 a.m.!
We're proud to bring new life to one of PC gaming's most famous IPs, as well as to work with the timeless wonder of D&D's Forgotten Realms. Neverwinter marks our first game with Perfect World, which acquired Cryptic last year. We're also a proud part of a team of developers that includes incredible talent: Runic (Torchlight) and Unknown Worlds (Natural Selection). Keep an eye on Perfect World!
Though we've done several MMORPG's in the past, Neverwinter is distinctly different than all the others we've made. Yes, it's fantasy and we've never done that before, but that isn't what I mean. Neverwinter is 100% from launch a free-to-play MMORPG. No box. No subscription. No mandatory purchase. Nothing. It's just a great game you can download and play as you like.
Then what are the pre-orders that we've just launched? The Starter pack? The Hero of the North? The Guardian?
We've grouped exclusive items into pre-order "Founder's Packs" so that MMO gamers and D&D fans can start their own adventures at launch with exciting, exclusive options and bonuses. Best of all -- purchasing either the Guardian or Hero of the North pack grants a player access to at least one of our tightly controlled Beta Weekends in February and March. These events are so important to us they're even capitalized! Some of the other includes are familiar to savvy gamers -- costume options, mounts, companions (D&D flavored pets) -- but I've seen some questions about the other contents...
Just what' the hell's an Astral Diamond?
A type of currency used in-game to purchase gear and to bid in the auction house, Astral Diamonds 'are what we've dubbed a "time currency" (similar to Dilithium in Star Trek Online or Questionite in Champions Online). Typically, a player can earn Astral Diamonds by doing certain types of quests and missions. And, usually, this content is time limited so a player can only repeat this type of gameplay so often. In our Starter Packs, we provide players a treasure chest full of Astral Diamonds so their own epic tales can begin at a sprint.
But... Wait!?! Isn''t that pay-to-win! I need to buy one of these "Starter Packs" to get the gear I want?
No, no. Not at all -- that's the beauty of this system.
In-game, a player can earn Astral Diamonds from completing content (usually somewhat harder than normal quests, but not necessarily "1337"). No one 'needs to purchase Astral Diamonds... Ever. Play as as you' like and get everything desirable that way.
And please note that last sentence -- you can get everything you want by playing. Everything. This includes mounts, costumes, etc. Why? How? Because you can put your Astral Diamonds up on an auction house and sell them for micro-transactable points. Then you can purchase anything you'd like in our micro-transaction store. Committed players never need spend a dime in Neverwinter. Anyone can bankroll a hero just by playing.
By the way, this is something I absolutely love about the free-to-play model. It means that it's on us (and all developers who dabble in free gaming) to make great games that people want to play day in and day out. I'm not trying to figure out how to get subscriptions for the next month or two or three... I don't care. I'm focused instead on making a quality game that people enjoy. That is my fixation. Believe me, I was a subscription die-hard who had choice words for F2P, but the methodology behind quality free gaming design totally converted me. I see what it's done to Star Trek Online and, believe it or not, 'that game is much bigger than City of Heroes ever was at its peak! And that's due entirely to how we approach free-to-play gaming -- how we commit to providing an option for players who don't want to pay, period.
OK, well, what about a subscription option? Is there one in NW? There was in STO.
We're doing this acrobat routine without a net. We're going full free. Ground up. We're not starting as a subscription game and changing. This is a free game from day one. So, our current presale options do not include monthly stipends that usually accompany lifetime subscriptions (like STO). I'm not sure that there've been many Western MMORPG''s to do this from the beginning and I'm on the edge of my seat to see what happens.