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Update Interview with Andy Velasquez

By William Murphy on November 14, 2011 | Interviews | 0


How has development been going on the game? What stage are you at right now?

Andy Velasquez:

Development recently underwent a big change as we switched from prepping for release in Q4 of 2011 to a launch date in 2012. We are currently back in full production for the game and this is pretty exciting for the team as we have an amazing base from which to expand our game from, a title that was, just a couple months ago, almost ready to ship.


What would you say to classic old school D&D players about the game?

Andy Velasquez:

I'd tell them that they should be getting excited!

Many of the Neverwinter team have been long time D&D players or come directly from the Pen and Paper industry, so the D&D roots are being well cared for.

We also work very closely with Wizards of the Coast on everything we do; we have direct lines of communication with them for our art, design and marketing departments and we speak with them on a weekly basis. There has been a ton of crosspollination between our game and the other Neverwinter products put out by WoTC. A ton of effort is also being made to make sure that we produce an authentic D&D experience.


What is it like to work with the Neverwinter IP? There is a lot of history there.

Andy Velasquez:

I really love the fantasy genre. Personally, I'm excited about having the opportunity to work with one of the biggest fantasy IP's out there. It's a tremendous honor and something we're privileged to take on.

One thing that is particularly challenging with the D&D IP, and even Neverwinter itself, is that it isn't just a single product from which we draw inspiration. Members of our team have really fond memories of the Great NWN games, but they also love the Drizzt novels and still others are incredibly invested in their own currently running 4E D&D campaigns. It is a unique challenge to manage all those expectations and channel that into a cohesive product we are set to deliver in 2012.

That being said, it is great fun working with this IP and I can't believe that we get to have "professional arguments" every day about topics such as the merits of Gnolls vs. Foulspawn as an encounter group for an early level adventure through the Graveyard of Neverwinter.


How does the game cater to players who want to make their own instances or scenarios?

Andy Velasquez:

User Generated Content is a big part of the NWN franchise legacy and we are creating a system to continue that tradition in Neverwinter. The UGC toolset is called The Foundry and is being developed to allow players to quickly and easily create content like what they would experience in official Cryptic releases.

The Foundry editor itself, the content browser, the ability to review other user's custom content, and the ability to launch UGC content are all accessible from within the main Neverwinter client, in-game. So, players won't have to worry about maintaining a separate executable for content creation, or going to some forum to find out what the good content is, or trying to figure out where to save certain files to be able to play someone else's content. The Foundry is seamlessly integrated into the client and quests created with The Foundry can be seamlessly integrated into the world.


Are you building in features for the game to add content once it has been released?

Andy Velasquez:

Absolutely. Yes. We plan on adding content and features to the game post-launch and we have been planning the game from the beginning to be able to grow past our initial launch in both breadth and depth. We are 100% committed to expanding and bettering our titles, always. The other teams here at Cryptic have made huge, sweeping changes to both Champions Online and Star Trek Online. Neverwinter will be no exception. We will support the game with everything we've got.


What is your favorite part of working on Neverwinter?

Andy Velasquez:

I absolutely love getting to be a professional uber nerd.

Before working on the Neverwinter project I would look to my left and see my PHB for the 4E campaign I was in with my friends sitting on my desk and countdown the hours to our next session.

Now I can look to my left and see the PHB buried under the DM's Guide, Draconomicon and an open Monster Manual as I'm looking for the write-up on a Drow Arachnomancer to do some quick fact checking. Add that to the fun that is normal game development and you get a pretty happy producer.


Why has the team decided to take Neverwinter from a CORPG format to a true MMO? And what does it ultimately mean for the game and The Foundry content and all of that? Is anything sacrificed?

Andy Velasquez:

The change from CORPG to a full action RPG F2P MMO is a change that just made sense for us. Perfect World wanted to go big. Expand everything. Do more. Do better. Take your time. Really blow it out. Pushing into 2012 allows us to make these changes. Transitioning into a full-featured action RPG, free-to-play MMO allows us to reach a whole new audience of people. Never underestimate barriers to entry. With a free client, anyone can play. Try it. Where's the harm? It's better for the game, better for us, better for D&D and infinitely better for fans and gamers. With Neverwinter, we're going to prove that F2P does not describe a type of gameplay - it only describes the fundamentals of a business model. We're going to deliver what could be the first AAA Western-developed action RPG MMO. No after-the-fact transitions. We're building it right from the ground up.

That being said, there is no sacrifice. Everything we had planned to do for the Foundry is going in. More than we ever had planned for the game is going in. If anything, focusing on a free-to-play experience pre-launch allows us to do more with the game and The Foundry than we had previously planned, as we have more time to make more environment kits, more monsters, more traps, more... everything.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.