Today marks a seminal point in Neverwinter's development as the open beta, or "soft launch", begins with Founders checking into the game. We managed to corner Lead Designer Zeke Sparkes to find out what players can expect in the open beta. See what he had to say and then let us know what you think in the comments.
MMORPG: Have any significant changes been made to the closed beta client in preparation for the open beta?
Zeke Sparkes: Not a lot of changes have been made compared to the version players saw in the last two beta weekends. We tried to get things as tight as we could as quickly as we could. We took things that were kind of borderline and put them in the future for new content. Most of what we’ve been doing is finding exploits, correcting buy/sell rates, etc. that would have messed up the economy. We were looking to make sure all the classes were in line and balanced. We found a couple places we were off and made slight nudges here and there. It’s pretty much the same as beta weekends 3-4.
MMORPG: What can players expect in open beta?
Zeke Sparkes: The end game is opened up, the level cap is opened up. You can get all the way to 60. The entire end game process is there and in place. There are much more difficult versions of the dungeons. There’s another tier of PvP for level 60 players. Most all else was turned on by beta weekend 4. Most of the game was opened up except for the last tail end.
MMORPG: Will Founders have access to Drow now?
Zeke Sparkes: The Founders will have access to the Drow from the get go. As far as Founders go, the game is alive and ticking on all cylinders. Everything will be there. The regular version of the Drow comes later, after open beta.
MMORPG: What sorts of content can we expect in the Foundry on OBT launch? Will content from beta remain?
Zeke Sparkes: A lot of the content will remain. We wanted to make sure that the community of authors was able to get us a nice head start. A lot of the stuff you saw in the beta builds will be there. We may even have a little bit more as well. There might be one or two that are a bit different from beta. We have a nice helping of content in the Foundry. And then more and more as people get building.
MMORPG: What changes have been made to PVP?
Zeke Sparkes: Mostly bug and exploit fixing and a couple of individual powers that have been tweaked. We had a particularly keen eye on control wizards and how long their powers last. We did not make signficant changes overall to classes but more to the individual powers to make sure they’re in good shape. No major changes since the last couple of closed betas.
MMORPG: Have there been any specific balance changes to the various classes?
Zeke Sparkes: The Control Wizard and Great Weapon Fighter saw the biggest changes but opposite direction. Control Wizards did not have enough control in PvE and that was increased but skills stayed the same in PvP to give them a bit of extra damage. He was a bit underpowered.
The Great Weapon Fighter is the other side of the coin and there were a lot of people who were sad we clipped his wings a bit. He was a bit faster than other classes in leveling and power. He can deal a lot of damage to a lot of critters. It was a little too high on the damage side. It got brought back in. This happened before CBW 4. Data coming back was very good. He’s back in line with the others. He’s still a bit strong.
The Cleric had a bit of a change early in the beta process. Nothing else has changed since.
MMORPG: What did you learn from the crafting beta, and how can we expect it to change in the OBT?
Zeke Sparkes: Nothing major has been changed. There were a couple of areas where the tasks didn’t line up quite right. There are spots where it was unclear to how to progress and seemed "un-fun". We’ve smoothed those out. That system is basically the same as CB4. One of the nice things we’ve added, the gateway system has been eased. We did extra work on that.
We have plans for mobile apps but our gateway is already optimized for mobile and tablets. We aren’t into specialized apps just yet. The web page is robust and has the features in place we want but it’s optimized for mobile devices right off the bat as well. It’s very mobile phone friendly. We’re adding more and more features: Mail, auction house, crafting. We may add faster communication (channels/chats/tells) in the future.
MMORPG: What plans, if any, does the team have for events and seasonal sorts of things in Neverwinter? How often can we expect to see new content?
Zeke Sparkes: As often as we can get it to our players. We love supporting our live games. It’s neat to see what happens when the game goes live. We’ve put all this work and effort into it. After launch, it belongs to the players. We spend time looking, listening, learning what players want. We have guesses what we think but players may have other ideas. We support our games thoroughly. We are already working on update content. We want to keep a nice steady schedule to grow the game. We are working on a seasonal event already. We love doing that kind of thing. These things are fun that break up the daily routine a bit and bring a bit of levity into the game, something that players can look forward to.
MMORPG: Are there plans to bring iconic characters into the game?
Zeke Sparkes: Wizards of the Coast tells us what good stories they think would fit, we pitch new stories. We work together to make sure it all meshes with the Realms. There are a lot of familiar faces. We are tied to the hip with the lore and that people will want to visit and be familiar with places and characters they know. We want to bring those entities into the game. We like playing inside the sandbox that is the Forgotten Realms and Neverwinter. A lot of our content is going back and revisiting the lore.
The Foundry is for players to author the stories they want to see in the game. It’s not tied to existing lore. The community decides whatever the story they want is. We give as much freedom as we can. There are a lot of decisions we've made to further that. We want to give the ability to do the things they want to do.
MMORPG: What about Rangers?
Zeke Sparkes: It was tough to pick five classes. He’s one we’ve definitely been working on. We are actively looking at what we’re going to do next. I would expect people will be happy as we go into the next couple of updates. We love the ranger too and are super excited about them.
Will you be playing in Neverwinter's open beta? Let us know what you're most looking forward to in the comments.
Suzie Ford is the Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. You can follower on Twitter @MMORPGMom.