Big Shoes to Fill
As 2013 gets underway, we are ready to start filing weekly or biweekly columns to follow the most promising titles of the year. One of the no-brainers for this treatment is Cryptic Studios’ Neverwinter, a game that many of our staff and our readers eagerly anticipate. With the Foundry in place and well-documented already, Neverwinter brings the promise of engaging game play located in the ever-popular Forgotten Realms and by utilizing the 4th Edition ruleset. There is a lot to look forward to as the time for release nears.
There’s a reason, however, that this game is something special to me personally and why I say that it has big shoes to fill. I’m sure that I am not the only one who feels this way and I hope that some of you will chime in with your favorite memories as well.
A Little Background
It was eight years ago that I began playing Bioware’s Neverwinter Nights, a time that seems both a long while ago and as near as yesterday. I have the moment nearly down to the day that I started playing because the summer of 2004 is eternally seared into my brain. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
I had been playing Diablo and Diablo 2 for a long time and had gotten a good taste of what role-playing in video games could be. Granted, neither of those titles are truly RPGs but they were enough to whet my appetite for the genre. In looking around, I stumbled onto Bioware’s Neverwinter Nights. I wish I could say that I was an old-fashioned tabletop gamer but, sadly, I was (and am) not. Still, I played through the first game and the fires were lit.
Finishing NWN 1, I wanted more and in my search, I found out about these mysterious things called persistent worlds. To say that a role-player was born is an understatement. From there, it was a natural progression to DM-led small group campaigns via Neverwinter Connections. By July of 2004, I was heavily immersed in both a persistent world and at least two small group weekly campaigns.
Then the bottom dropped out of my world.
In mid-August, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and to say that my world was rocked is an understatement. I struggled to maintain even a modicum of normalcy, which was difficult under the circumstances as I realized I would be facing multiple surgeries and months of chemotherapy all while trying to teach school and raise my then 2-year-old daughter. I wanted to crawl under a rock and hide, but life’s a funny thing. I grabbed onto anything that made me feel that everything wasn’t in turmoil, that maybe I had some stability even as my life spun out of control.
Neverwinter Nights became my savior in many ways. In blinding pain from surgeries or sick as a dog from chemo, I continued to play in my campaigns and on my persistent world. These were the places I was in control. I was healthy and strong. I was powerful and could save the world even if my now frail body in this world could not.
Neverwinter Nights kept me sane and kept me from giving into despair. In many, many ways, NWN saved my life. I know. Some of you are probably thinking that this statement seems a bit grandiose for a videogame but it’s the truth. I can’t say it any more simply than that.
The Foundry Is the Key to Success
So when I say that Cryptic’s Neverwinter has big shoes to fill, I mean it. God knows, I hope I don’t have to face down another deadly disease but my hope is that the game will fulfill the longing that many of us have felt in the years since NWN 2 came and went. The potential is there, after all, with the Foundry and with a great story behind the game. I am encouraged by what I’ve seen.
As 2012 wound to a close, we began to hear many MMO development studios begin to talk about “player empowerment” and “user generated content”. Cryptic has been on the cutting edge of this “new” trend ever since the Foundry made its appearance in Star Trek Online. I believe that giving players the power to create their own scenarios and to tell their own stories is the embodiment of true user generated content and is the future for MMOs. I am excited to see what builders will come up with.
Think of it: With the Foundry, builders will again have the ability to create new instances, campaigns, if you will, for players to try out. By all reports, there is no limit to the size of these instances so it’s conceivable that they could be massive or perhaps smaller but “chained” together into a campaign type experience for players and GMs to once again take part in. It almost literally takes my breath away when I consider the possibilities for builders and the benefits for players and old fashioned GMs/DMs.
For me personally, Neverwinter will face a make it or break it moment with the Foundry and with what players can come up with. My hope is that Cryptic will give players the ability to recapture some of the magic that Neverwinter Nights and its builder tools brought to the RPG genre all those years ago.
What about you? What are your memories of Neverwinter Nights, its persistent worlds and/or small group campaigns? How do you feel about the Foundry? Are you a builder or a player? Let us know in the comments!