Open Beta Diary #3
In the past couple of weeks, we’ve taken a look at some of the major features in the Neverwinter open beta. We’ve checked out questing and character creation among other things. In this week’s diary, we’ll take a look at two major features: The Neverwinter cash shop and game currencies and PvP.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was given a Hero of the North Founder's pack for review purposes. It came with a spiffy spider mount and a whopping two million Astral Diamonds. It does make progressing through the game faster but, lest anyone worry, I lost my ADs when I deleted my original character (more on that later) and I made myself buy a 4000 Zen horse just so I could legitimately kvetch about the prices in the Cash Shop (more on that later too).
Being open beta, this is our (the players’) chance to influence the final release of the game. Constructive criticism is always a good thing in any game and Cryptic has shown willingness to listen to its community. I love Neverwinter. I really, honestly do. But there are things that need to be changed to give it a chance at a long and healthy life and I only bring all these up, because aside from these issues, Neverwinter is a fantastically fun experience.
That said, read on!
The Cash Shop and Currencies Galore
Before launching into a discussion of the cash shop, it is first important to note all of the different currencies in Neverwinter. Frankly, the number is mind-boggling:
- Zen (premium “buy for real money”)
- Astral Diamonds
- Gold, silver, copper
- Seal of the Lion (and other beasts)
- Celestial coins
- Zone bounty rewards
- What’d I miss?
The bottom line here is that there are simply too many currencies for players to keep track of in Neverwinter. Each has its own use. I get that. But why not simplify the system to an in game currency like Gold, a reward currency for PvE like rough Astral Diamonds, a reward currency for PvP like Glory and, of course, paid currency like Zen? Seems like four would cover things nicely, though even that seems excessive. As it stands, and with so many currencies, so many ways to spend them and so many items that are only available in one category or another, it’s a needlessly complex system for players.
The things that players can spend all of these different currencies on are really nice, though most take insane amounts to purchase. Still, collecting all of the various denominations is worthwhile, even if utterly confusing. Want that great purple weapon? Save up Glory. Want that white horse? Save up those Celestial coins. Being totally free, it’s nice that players have ways to earn top tier gear and items.
The one currency that seems totally worthless is the gold/silver/copper that players pick up in PvE. Except for some pretty decent level 20 gear, there is little to spend one’s gold on. After all, players can’t use it in the Auction House or Zen shop or even convert it to Rough Astral Diamonds. Cryptic missed an opportunity for a gold sink. As it is, there’s no reason to keep it in the game unless it’s made a viable source of purchasing power.
The other thing that bothers me is that Astral Diamonds can’t be shared among a player’s alts. In fairness, Cryptic asks players if they’re sure they want to transfer X-number of Astral Diamonds to that character but, why not let them be shared in order to avoid a potential disaster? If a player deletes a character, all AD that are on it go the way of the wind. POOF! They’re gone. Yeah…I waved goodbye to all of mine inadvertently on deleting my initial character. It was probably a stupid mistake on my part but if the information about something like this happening isn’t made readily available to players, then it behooves Cryptic to make sure that there are no mistakes made.
I reached out to Perfect World to find out if there were any changes in how this would be handled in the future. Here’s what I was told:
“Astral Diamonds are an extremely useful currency for players. We see the earning of Rough Astral Diamonds as a currency very much tied to the achievements of a single character. That being said it’d be great for players to be able to help their own alts out with AD. We’re working on some solutions to help keep the unfortunate event that happened to you from happening anymore. We’re also looking into making Refined Astral Diamonds into an account based currency – so you can transfer it between alts on an account.”
So with the myriad of currencies out of the way, what about the Neverwinter Cash Shop? To begin with, the Cash Shop is focused on convenience items like mounts, unique companions, profession boosts, bags, etc. There is truly no reason whatsoever for players to feel compelled to use the Cash Shop. Cryptic has avoided the dreaded “pay to win” moniker.
That said, there are things in the Cash Shop that players might actually like to purchase but most are put off by the outrageously high prices of items. A purple, top-end mount, for instance, runs 4,000 Zen, the real money equivalent of forty dollars! The same goes for top-end companions and anything else that’s “purple”. Mid-level mounts and companions are thirty dollars. All I can say is “WTF?”
There is also a core game mechanic that is only available in the cash shop, and something that could ultimately ruin Neverwinter’s longevity if it’s not corrected somehow. Yes, I’m talking about the dreaded “respec token” that players have to purchase for a whopping six dollars if they made initial mistakes leveling their characters and want to rework their skills and feats.
A friend of mine said it very well: “Core game mechanics should never be sold in a cash shop…EVER.”
Respec’ing one’s character is something that players should have access to via in-game currency. Make it expensive. But make it available in the game itself, not via the cash shop. Allowing players to redo leveling mistakes is the way to keep the game alive and to keep players interested as they gain new skills and feats. Don’t make it financially punitive to those who can’t afford to use real world money to respec their characters, Cryptic!
Hopefully, open beta feedback will help Cryptic to see that the Cash Shop prices are way out of balance with what players are willing to spend. I know of very few who aren’t willing to fork over $15 a month for convenience items and would happily do so. But as prices stand right now, there’s not enough worthwhile stuff to buy with that paltry amount, especially given the rate at which we know items will be added to the Cash Shop.
Player versus Player
I have had a lot of fun in PvP over the last week. In fact, my Neverwinter buddy Shelassa and I have spent a lot of time growing our new Control Wizard and Devoted Cleric characters (as suggested after last week’s article) via PvE until hitting the midpoint of each PvP bracket and then leveling some more exclusively through experience gained there. It’s been tons of fun.
For now, there is only a single type of PvP action: Domination. In Domination, there are three control points with two teams of five trying to ‘dominate’ as many as possible until a thousand points are scored. From our experience, most battles center on the middle control point with occasional forays to the end points to retake our team’s original column.
As of this writing, there are only two PvP maps, something that Cryptic is clearly going to have to address, the sooner the better. While Shelassa and I have had a great time playing Domination, over time seeing the same two maps will lead to boredom. More need to be added and some different types of PvP need to be included. How about a little Capture the Flag? What about Last Man Standing? How about Domination with five control points and larger squads?
Gauntlgrym, the end-game 10v10 map, has yet to make it into the game for level 60 players but that clearly is something to look forward to as well.
As far as class balance goes, there are some major issues in PvP that Cryptic is likely to hear a lot about. For instance, in one match, all five members of our squad were throwing our Dailies at a Guardian Fighter simultaneously with every single one being blocked as she kept moving forward. That’s simply too overpowered.
The other class that is ridiculously overpowered is the Trickster Rogue. Not only can they invisibly sneak up behind a character, but they can disable all skills and throw weapons in huge numbers and deal massive damage without the opposing player have any chance to dodge or interrupt. Weapons travel around corners and behind walls as well.
There were many more times than one that Shelassa and I were the only two players trying to keep a PvP match going. If it seemed our squad was getting behind in points and that we might lose, players would choose to camp at the respawn point until the match was complete, thereby earning their ‘Glory’. Yeah...Glory for making s’mores on the campfire while two of us fought to the death(s). Not very fair. Luckily, Cryptic is taking steps to stop this and in today’s patch it’s indicated that AFK players will be dropped from PvP matches. It remains unclear whether or not new players will be added but it’s a move in the right direction.
When a PvP match is completed, parties should automatically be disbanded. If players were partied with someone prior to the match, that party should be restored since they’re dropped back into PvE where they left off anyway. As it stands now, players have to manually leave the PvP party and reform their PvE party. It’s annoying more than anything else.
PvP text chat needs to be team-based as well. It’s no fun to watch teams “compare ePeens” with one another and gives squads zero chance to formulate a strategy with one another. Granted, there’s always voice chat but if utilizing “PUGs” for PvP, that’s less of an option.
One fleeting thought crossed my mind: What about letting modders create PvP maps in the Foundry? I don’t know how difficult that would be but it would seem that a basic set of parameters could be created, for instance, for Domination (three control points, teams of 5, etc.) and then let the modding community go crazy! What a terrific way to allow players to help build the content!
Balance is going to be key to Neverwinter’s PvP success along with the addition of new maps for Domination and new ways to play PvP for lower level characters. Shelassa and I can’t wait to try out Gauntlgrym. As more and more players reach the level cap, we can only hope that Cryptic gets it into the game soon and makes some much-need improvement overall in PvP.
I had intended to go on and write about the Foundry but I think that I will put that off until next week. After all, the Foundry is Neverwinter’s crown jewel and deserves an article all its own.
What about you? What do you think of the Cash Shop and PvP? Let us know in the comments.
Suzie Ford is the Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. You can troll her on Twitter @MMORPGMom.