E3 2011

E3: Neverwinter

| 9 Jun 2011 14:56
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Make and share your own adventures in Cryptic's latest online RPG.

The Aurora toolset which shipped with the original Neverwinter Nights was intended to bridge the gap between the pen-and-paper and digital worlds. By giving players a chance to create their own environments, mission scripts and characters, the toolset gave each player the same tools that the game's designers used when creating the campaigns. Now Cryptic has taken the reins of the franchise and it extending the user-generated content idea to the online space. In the upcoming Neverwinter, many of the instances you play will have been created by the very players you're sharing the world with.

The new game takes place 100 years after Neverwinter Nights 2, when the city of Neverwinter has been all but destroyed by the Spellplague and the recent explosion of Mount Hotenow. The game follows the new 4th Edition timeline, so it will be consistent with the new rulebooks and the new Salvatore novels. Players can experience the world through the scripted missions offered by Cryptic, or by engaging in user-created content courtesy of the Foundry.

The Foundry is the new user-created content wizard that allows users to make their own scripted missions -- complete with character, goals and environments - and place them directly in the persistent social space that all players inhabit. The instances, which are approved through peer review and evaluated based on user feedback, will be permanent parts of the world and accessible through pre-placed portals in the world.

The Foundry assumes that creators will have different starting points for their adventures, so it allows players to begin wherever they want. Have a great idea for a character? Begin your adventure there. Have a great idea for a setting? Make it and see what happens. Have a cool story to tell? Get the dialogue sorted and worry about the layout of the world later.

In my demo, we started with the maps. Since D&D has become so tile-based lately, this should be a very familiar process for most players. Simply pick the basic layouts you want and lay the pieces down to create multi-room castles, taverns, dungeons, or wilderness settings for your adventure. If the drag and drop elements aren't to your liking, you can create custom spaces using all the little bits and pieces you want, from doors to torch sconces to sarcophagi. Lay down a few chests, some monsters and a spawn point for the player and you've got the basics down. Property tabs allow you to manipulate the specifics of each item and you'll even be creating certain agents that factor into your story.

On the story tab, you can set missions and associate them with particular NPCs you've placed on the map. Our demo had a guard at the start of the level who asked the players to kill some undead deeper in the crypt. You add dialogue with a simple text editor and can give the player multiple responses that branch off into new conversations. There are also options to limit a player's choices based on different criteria. You might have a particular conversation option that's only available to certain classes, or certain Charisma levels. Through the creation process, a handy wizard will tell you if you have any loose ends or uncompleted elements in your story. Once the conversation is in place, you can assign a task outside of it for the player to accomplish. In this case, it's killing the undead in the rest of the crypt. The mobs of enemies are placed with their own unique states and aggro ranges. What's more interesting is that, like with the Aurora engine, you can simply label a monster spawn along a scale of "easy" to "hard" and the game will automatically scale the encounter to the ability and size of the player's party.

Cryptic will be using its peer-review system from Star Trek Online to ensure that the community sees the best of these user-created adventures. Each adventure first passes through a group of gatekeepers within the community before being okayed for general exposure. From there a rating system will help direct players to the content that others like most.

It's certainly an intriguing concept, and will help Cryptic not only populate its game with new and original content, but also find some budding designers among the community. I know I tried my hand at making a few small campaigns for the original Neverwinter Nights, so I'm excited to see what we can do with Neverwinter Online when it ships later this year.

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