Keeping Current with the Fifth Edition
MMORPG.com: Neverwinter was in sync with the Forgotten Realms during the Neverwinter Saga of books. Now we are seeing the effects of fifth edition and the Tyranny of Dragons. What happened with the sundering and what impact did that have on the Neverwinter setting?
Randy Mosiondz: It’s always tricky when developing a MMORPG based on an IP to keep current to major world/edition changes. Most of the content we developed at launch and soon after in Neverwinter takes place pre-Sundering (starting about 1479 DR), while our more recent content (“Tyranny of Dragons”) takes place post-Sundering. We haven’t really focused on the Sundering event itself because it is a massive cosmological meta-event happening in the background. While it certainly has large-scale changes with the world, its repercussions are best described in the context of other adventures in Neverwinter. Expect to see more references to the effects of the Sundering in future Neverwinter modules.
MMORPG.com: Much like you were unable to make 20 the level cap in game there are other features that have to be sacrificed in order to make the game work. What is another example of a tradeoff you have had to make and how do you come to a consensus on how to handle it?
Randy Mosiondz: There’s often a misconception that the “D&D experience” involves mimicking the tabletop game mechanics. One of the things that Wizards of the Coast made clear on their part when we started developing Neverwinter is that the core of the D&D experience is players coming together to explore exotic locations, face dangerous monsters, and discover magical treasures. They didn’t want a literal translation of tabletop mechanics, but a fun game that fits their more abstract definition of the D&D experience. We certainly wanted to keep familiar D&D elements like the traditional races, classes, and iconic D&D monsters, and we want to incorporate the rich lore of the Forgotten Realms setting. But D&D is a tabletop role-playing game while Neverwinter is an action-MMORPG, and different media has different expectations. For example, we may use terms like “At-Will”, “Encounter”, and “Daily” for power strength and frequency, but as a player you don’t really want those literal restrictions when playing an action-oriented game with friends.
MMORPG.com: How do you go about visualizing the places that writers have written about for years? It is one thing for us to read about it, it is another for us to see it.
Randy Mosiondz: We’ve got a lot of talented concept artists that work with our designers to come up with a visualization that fits the descriptions and lore of the area we’re trying to re-create. Usually we try to come up with ideas that are very distinctive that exemplifies the area, and make sure it’s different enough from other areas you’ve experienced previously in game. After a series of different sketches or quick paints, we submit our ideas to Wizards of the Coast for further discussion. After approval, we start building the art assets to support the vision of the area. When that’s done, the final screen shots are sent back to Wizards of the Coast for final approval. It’s an iterative process, but it really ensures that the places we make are true to D&D Forgotten Realms.
MMORPG.com: Where has Tiamat been and what has she been up to?
Randy Mosiondz: Minor spoiler alert! Most recently, Tiamat has been in the Nine Hells. When Severin, the new leader of the Cult of the Dragon changed the doctrines of their cult to worship living dragons (instead of transforming dragons into dracoliches), he started gaining a lot more traction amongst the chromatic dragons. To aid Severin, Tiamat granted Severin a vision of powerful artifacts to aid him in his quest. In return for Tiamat, Severin and the Cult of the Dragon would have to do something special for the Dragon Queen... play “Tyranny of Dragons” to find out!
MMORPG.com: It's been a long time since we've seen the dragons as a focus in Neverwinter. Why come back to them now?
Randy Mosiondz: Part of it is working with Wizards of the Coast to go back to the roots of D&D. What is more “back to the roots” in a game called “Dungeons & Dragons” than to focus on dragons (with the possible exception of dungeons)? The tabletop “Tyranny of Dragons” campaign that launched D&D 5th Edition is all about the Cult of the Dragon, evil chromatic dragons, and Tiamat the Dragon Queen herself. We wanted to reflect this in Neverwinter, and so worked on a simultaneous launch with our tabletop counterpart. Now players can experience the Tyranny of Dragons storyline in their home tabletop game, in the D&D Adventurer’s League games in-store and at games conventions, and online in Neverwinter. It’s a great multi-media experience!