When I booked my Neverwinter appointment for PAX, I was pretty stoked. I’m an old-school D&D fan who never quite got into Dungeons & Dragons Online, so I was curious to see what Perfect World and Cryptic Studios‘ offering was like.
When I found out we’d “only” be looking at the game’s user-content-generation tools, I was rather bummed.
By the time I was done with our session, I was excited again, with visions of malicious deathtraps and devilish dungeons seeping through my head like a gelatinous cube oozing down a ten-foot-wide hallway.
Game Designer Andy Velasquez was our tour guide for what he called “version 2.0” of the Foundry system that originated in Star Trek Online. The Neverwinter PC games were known for their rich tradition of user-generated content, and Perfect World wants the MMORPG to remind long-time modders of those halcyon days.
The Neverwinter Foundry has all the details you’d expect, including rooms and corridors of various sizes that come in either indoor or outdoor flavors that you can piece together in virtually any order you wish. Cryptic’s “Doors Anywhere” functionality sounds like what it says, automatically inserting passages wherever two sections meet up without the need to place doors manually.
While each dungeon element comes with stock decorations, you can quickly and easily delete, add, or move elements, including quest elements like clickable items.
And what would a dungeon be without monsters? Virtually everything you might encounter in the game is eligible for inclusion, and you have complete control over their appearance and naming. Want an army of anorexic-thin orcs wearing bright pink robes and all named “Buffy,” “Mitzi,” and other cheerleader-esque names? Go ahead. We won’t judge.
Loot tables will be appropriate for the challenge levels of your placed monsters, so you could theoretically play the game completely through with nothing but user-generated content. And, I know you’re thinking it, but no, you can’t put level 50 loot on a level 10 monster. Nice try, though.
Getting players into the action is also simple. Andy gave us a basic look at the logic trees one can construct, and you can even assign NPCs in the world to be your quest-givers. Experienced as he was, it only took him a few seconds to set things up, but it looked easy enough to handle, given a little time with the system.
Once you’ve created your masterpiece dungeon, all that’s left to do is take a dry run through it. Even given the minimal time he spent designing it, and the handful of changes he made to the rooms, Andy’s simple dungeon looked as vibrant and alive as any “professional” content, even if it was a bit lacking in polish, gameplay-wise.
If you feel really good about your creation, you can submit it to Cryptic, whose expert dungeon-delvers will take your space for a spin and, if approved, make it available to all players. The menu for accessing Foundry-created dungeons, which are rated by other players, is easy to navigate – one click and the quest is added to your log.
As someone who started with Dungeons & Dragons when he was eight and spent many a weekend and evening dreaming up elaborate complexes of corridors and concealed passages, the Foundry for Neverwinter really gets my creative juices flowing. I’m almost more excited for it than I am for the game itself.
Now, where should I place that poison-spiked pit?