We’re back with Cryptic Lead Producer Andy Velasquez to continue our discussion of Neverwinter’s beta lessons, launch preparations, and post-launch plans. We also touch on some of the comments and concerns that players had for the title and how Cryptic is addressing them.
If you missed the first part of this interview, make sure you check it out before continuing!
Massively: One concern we’ve seen is that compared to Cryptic’s other titles, Neverwinter’s character creation options — especially the visuals — seem limited. That was surprising to us, since it’s one of the strengths that we associate with Cryptic. Will there be more visual options added?
Andy Velasquez: That’s certainly one of the things we’re hearing a lot. It’s a weird transition for us because Cryptic’s other titles weren’t nearly as item-driven as Neverwinter is. That’s something we had to be super-conscious of when we went into it. One of our legacies as a studio is that we have really robust character creation, so we wanted to go in and add a lot of options, but we didn’t want to devalue that feeling when you get that next sword or armor piece. We couldn’t find a way to make Champions Online’s endless character creation options work well with the thousands and thousands of items in Neverwinter.
That being said, I do concede that we could do better in terms of offering more hair and color and eyebrows and all of that other stuff. That’s probably something we’ll get to as we continually do more updates — more hairstyles for this race or more horn variations for the Tieflings, etc.
Another concern is with the Foundry. How do people sort through all of these missions to find the good ones? Does a five-star rating system work? Is there a better way? How do you fight exploits or good missions being buried in crap?
One of the things you might have already seen is Foundry featuring. Every week we have our team play through a lot of these missions and say, “That one was really cool. I want to feature that one.” We can flag that on our end as a featured mission. That will show up in the game with a little ribbon and be put to the front of all of the search windows. If every week you want to come in and say, “I want to play the best of what’s out there right now,” you can go right to these missions. Another thing we’re doing is featuring missions on the forums.
We have found that the five-star system, while not perfect, has worked out very very well when we looked at Star Trek Online data. There are a lot of really bad missions that have just one or two stars and fall to the bottom. If you do a search for five-star missions, you’ll find that in general they’re really good.
When we started working on the Foundry for Neverwinter, we spent a lot of time with the team that did the STO Foundry. We found out what worked and what could be improved upon and went from there.
Some people feel that the Foundry will be the defining feature that will set Neverwinter apart. Do you see a lot of people using it?
The vast majority of people won’t be creators but will absolutely be consumers. I think that’s fine. I like the tool, but I don’t see myself getting really immersed in it. We’ll do our best to incentivize as many people as possible to play these missions. We have a subscribe feature so that you can subscribe to cool authors and see what new missions they put out. There will be a daily mission to complete one of these Foundry missions.
Is Cryptic going to release the soundtrack?
No plans to yet.
So what are some of your priorities post-launch?
Immediately post-launch, it’s all that stability, quality-of-life stuff and constantly pulling data and seeing if there are exploits or hard stops at some points. Is it that at level 10, everyone gets frustrated by something and stops playing? Let’s fix that immediately. We have this live strike team going on and preparing to address those low-hanging, really awful experience issues.
For the rest of the team, they’ve spent the last couple of weeks working on the first update which will come out a couple of months after the launch. It’s one of the things we want to convey to the fans who support us. We’re not just launching the game and walking away. If you’ve seen what Cryptic’s done with Champions and Star Trek, those games are years old and still get regular, significant updates. We want Neverwinter players to know that that will be the same here too.
Will there be an option to use the standard MMO control scheme?
At the moment, no. We actually had that control scheme in for a while through alpha and internal testing. It didn’t work that well with the game that we were making. Even some of our devs wanted the standard MMO controls and we had them, and it was awkward. It was difficult to have you do the things we wanted you to do in the game. So we went through the process; it’s not like we casually made the decision not to have it. We think the game is better for it. That being said, maybe we’ll figure out some way to make it work in the future.
In regard to the Cleric, targeting players for heals is really tough with the mouselook control scheme. Is there some way we’re missing to do this other than pointing at them? Hotkeys, perhaps?
That’s actually the one point I’ll concede with the control scheme. It’s difficult to heal when you’re in a five-person group. We’ve done what we can with the powers to make it so that you don’t require aiming at a guy, but sometimes you have a single-target heal that needs it. It’s on my short-list of things to do to improve the Cleric, such as creating a HUD pop-up for when a player dips under 50% health or allowing you to see through targets. We’ll continue to play with these things, and when we find something that works for a majority of users, we’ll implement it.
What do you see as being the most lucrative store items that you’ll be selling?
Definitely not content; that’s one of the things as a studio that we don’t believe in selling. Certainly mounts and companions; those are the items our players really gravitate toward. It’s not globally true. We’ve seen crafters spend their astral diamonds and ZEN on profession components. It depends on your playstyle and preference.
Are there non-combat pets?
Not at the moment. At one point we had the players, their companions, and their non-combat pets. When you got five players going into a dungeon, it was just too much. We decided to build non-combat pets into the vanity system, which is why we have dogs and wolves in addition to humanoid companions. Come update 1 and 2, I’ll probably start throwing in goofy things like a chicken or lemur that has awful combat stats but is fun to have trailing you in town.
So you’re excited about launch?
Oh man, it’s a good time to be on Neverwinter! There’s sort of this tenseness in the team because we’ve been working on it for so long. We’re sitting around thinking that it’s pretty cool, we think people will like it, but we have to wait and see. There’s a few last things to batten down, but the game’s good and we’re excited about it. We’re shutting the non-essential team on the 25th to have some beers and watch people logging in. We’ll have a good time with it.
Thanks for sharing this with us!