It had long been rumored as a possibility, but yesterday it became a known fact. Cryptic is making a Dungeons & Dragons game based on the Neverwinter intellectual property. And so, the internet this morning is afire with plenty of jibber-jabber about the plusses and minuses stacking up against the Star Trek Online developer already. In the grand internet tradition of jumping on the bandwagon, I’ve got my own thoughts on this news, and I’ve decided to use this week’s list to give you my first five thoughts surrounding the Neverwinter announcement in numerical order. Consider this a somewhat humorous, but honest reaction to this week’s new information, and try not to take it too seriously. Cryptic, despite some missteps is still a developer I believe has the talent to make a compelling game. Maybe their new OMG (Jack Emmert’s term, not mine) will prove that much to us all.
Anyhow, here we go. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments below as always.
Run! The end is nigh! There is no hope! There is no Dana, only Zuul! Upon first reading the news that Cryptic is being given a shot at making a game set in Neverwinter, I pretty much pictured the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man rampaging through the D&D world, squashing kobolds and humans alike with his deliciously massive appendages. No, I don’t know why I pictured this. I suppose in my mind the end of the world is likely going to be something akin to Ghostbusters, but I digress. The announcement of Cryptic getting the Neverwinter license was not shocking, but immediately worrying. For while Cryptic may be responsible for one of the MMO scene’s first big successes, it’s track record of late hasn’t been all too reassuring. Understandably, like many other fans out there, my initial reaction was a face-palm and an immediate decision to run in the exact opposite direct of the game’s impending 2011 release. If only I had my own DeLorean to go as far away in time and space from it as possible.
Leave me alone, Netflix Instant just added a bunch of 80’s classics, okay?
3.) Holy crap, we’re gonna pay for everything…
If Cryptic’s been making a name for itself for anything outside of mediocre MMO releases, it’s charging subscribing players for services and goods that very well should have or could have been included at release. My second thought then, after the announcement sunk in, was that sure we’ll get a serviceable D&D game that’s a little shallow. But not only will we be asked to pay a monthly subscription for it, we’ll also be asked to pay $5 a pop for new character slots, for access to different races, and of course for re-rolling our character’s stats. Now don’t get all fired up at me, Cryptic fans. I still play Champions Online from time to time. I know you can get re-specs through in-game money. I’m merely saying that Cryptic has made a name for itself these past two years by making games that are light on content to begin with, and then charging additional money for stuff that probably should be included in the base-price.
2.) Wait… What the hell is an OMG?
With my first two worries out the door of my brainpan, my thought process began to veer towards the more positive. Jack Emmert was quick to point out in interviews that their version of Neverwinter is not an MMO, but rather a co-op RPG or “OMG (Online Multiplayer Game). This immediately brought to mind games like Left 4 Dead, or maybe more appropriately Hellgate: London and other Diablo-esque games. And while HG:L lived and died by its subscription, most games of that nature were free to play online. Maybe this isn’t going to be so bad after all, I began to think. Maybe Cryptic’s flagship foray into non-MMO gaming… oh wait, Flagship. That’s probably not the best word to use. Let’s just say that it could be a good thing Cryptic’s moving away from calling Neverwinter an MMORPG.
1.) Could this actually work?
Now, while Cryptic isn’t talking pricing yet. I really hope they realize that if they’re not billing Neverwinter as an MMORPG, it shouldn’t be billed as a game that comes with a monthly subscription. And as Emmert has stated it seems like they’re really taking a long look in the mirror as a company and deciding just how they should approach supporting Neverwinter beyond launch. One hopes they’ll see the value in going the DLC route with a title like this, and perhaps an optional “VIP” subscription a la DDO. But we’ll just have to wait and see when it comes to just how much Neverwinter will cost the players.
Then there’s the notion that Cryptic is putting a large emphasis on player-created content with “The Forge” toolset. NWN and NWN2 were both known for their extensive and robust toolsets that allowed creative players to craft some truly epic stories and experiences for their fellow players. It sounds as though Cryptic’s goal is to create a solid chunk of their own storylines for the game, but also make sure there are plenty of ways for the community to contribute to the game as well. Just as long as they don’t start charging players to pay for other players’ created content, this could be a huge boon if done right.
Then there’s also the Fourth Edition rule set being put to use. I’m not a diehard D&D player. But even I know that the Fourth Edition was designed with MMORPGs and videogame RPGs in general as a source of inspiration. Add this to the fact that Jack and company are shifting their focus from being a studio that develops only MMOs toward more of an “Online RPG” developer and there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic. I may be alone in thinking this, but if you take away the subscriptions from STO and CO and instead think of them as co-op online games, they start to look a whole lot more attractive.
Maybe, just maybe, Cryptic’s Neverwinter could be something worth watching. But I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for it either. I’ll just be patient and let their work speak for itself.