Thursday, January 13, 2011

Neverwinter's Forge toolset might not suck


There was much dismay in the Neverwinter Nights community when word got out that the next installment in the series - if you can even call it that - would be a massive multiplayer game developed by Cryptic Studios. That was certainly my reaction. I'm only being slightly melodramatic when I say that when I heard about this, my heart sank, my eyes rolled, and soon after, my mind buried any thoughts that the Neverwinter Nights legacy would continue.

Maybe - just maybe - that burial was premature. My assumption was that the new game would have nothing except a name in common with the other games in the series. As it turns out, the game - being titled Neverwinter - shares only half of the name. However, some of the other information that's come out has been mildly encouraging.

Most notably for modders, Neverwinter will include a toolset called Forge. As the game isn't due out until late 2011, information about Forge is understandably sketchy. I trawled various articles for what I could find, and turned up a few interesting tidbits.

Here's what I found:
  • Builders will be able to hook their creations into the game's persistent world through NPCs and "entrances."
  • Builders may also be able to create modules for use outside the main persistent world (whether this means they could create different persistent worlds, or create adventures for offline use - or both - I don't know).
  • According to a recent RPGWatch interview with a Cryptic executive, terrain manipulation is still up in the air. Right now, the toolset only supports using existing areas.
Allowing builders to hook their content into the wider persistent world is intriguing, but also suggests some thorny issues for Cryptic. Will content creators be given the freedom to customize scripts and terrain, given that it could lead to frustration for players who use the content? The dominant message about Forge so far seems to be "ease of use," which makes me suspect that builders are going to be extremely limited.

Also, I wonder how many builders will want to essentially pay for the privilege of working for Cryptic. It's one thing to pay for a toolset to work on a standalone mod that bears your name; quite another to plug your creation into a larger persistent world where the boundaries of ownership are blurred.

We won't really know whether Forge is promising until we get a look at the toolset and what users can do with it. Interestingly, Cryptic recently started a beta for The Foundry, which is a toolset for adding content to the Star Trek Online massive multiplayer game. Cryptic would no doubt like to avoid any comparisons to STO, but it's widely assumed that The Foundry is the model for how user content will work in Neverwinter. If you're dying to know what Neverwinter and its toolset might be like, you could check out The Foundry Beta forum.

6 comments:

  1. Hi Matt,

    Interesting post. From what I understand of this to date, I do not think I will be moving beyond NWN2.

    After all, NWN2 does almost everything I need it to and it uses D&D 3.5 rules, which are probably the best to date.

    Lance.

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  2. Hi Lance,
    Yep, I prolly should have mentioned that Neverwinter will be 4e, which will certainly impact the decision for some builders. On the other hand, the potential for a (much) larger audience with Neverwinter will probably weigh heavily for some. It all depends on your preferences and goals.

    Of course, it will all be moot if Neverwinter turns out to be just another failed MMORPG.

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  3. This is troubling. Some of the stand alone mods in NWN 1 were outstanding. One in particular allowed no character to exceed level 20 and it took literally years to get there while every death caused dramatic Exp loss, yet it was a challenging world.

    It wont be possible to gave builders truly build as it seems set now. Common rules will have to present continuity which fundamentally defeats the purpose of user based content. It would be easy for Cryptic to get this right, yet it seems that they are so far not indicating they will.

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