Is the Neverwinter Foundry the next great MMO evolution?
What are you looking forward to most when Neverwinter goes into official Open Beta mode on April 30th? Is it leveling through the Forgotten Realms, or maybe dungeon delving with your friends? If your answer wasn’t the Neverwinter Foundry, then you may be missing out on the best features any MMORPG has introduced in quite some time.
What is the Foundry?
Quite simply, the Neverwinter Foundry is a set of tools that players can use to create their own stories, quests, dungeons, characters, and more. Cryptic has developed a spectacular set of tools which players can use to create an endless stream of content for all levels. Many players will spend hours upon hours creating great content for others to enjoy, and they will enjoy creating their stories just as much or more than playing the game themselves. Even stepping into the Neverwinter Foundry for the first time with zero idea how to actually use the tools, I quickly lost track of time as ideas began forming simply by exploring some of what the Foundry can do.
Who can use the Foundry?
If you’re a Hero of the North Founder, you will have access to the Foundry immediately, but everyone can access the creation tools for free once they get a character to level 15 or higher in Neverwinter. Once you have access you will be able to create almost any story you can imagine, and the tools are set-up in a very intuitive manner that makes it simple for beginners to get started. But don’t be fooled, the Foundry tools can do a lot and are extremely flexible.
The first thing you’re going to do is give your quest a name and a description. Don’t worry if you’re fresh out of brilliant ideas. You can always come back and change this information at any time. For now just give your quest a name so that it doesn’t get lost in your Foundry list in case you’re making multiple quests.
After you give your Neverwinter Foundry quest a name and a description, it’s time to add some objectives. You’ll be prompted to switch over to the Story tab and choose a map to get started.
You can select an existing Neverwinter Adventure Zone to do things like interact with objects or talk to NPC’s which move your quest forward. These maps are open world areas like Protector’s Enclave and are seeded with objects and NPC’s that you can use in your story by selecting them in the Foundry editor. From guards to mysterious Drow, there are a wide variety of choices in NPC’s to use as well as multiple crates, junk piles, barrels, and doors that you can use to interact with or lead your players into the next area of your story.
There are lots of existing Neverwinter Adventure Zones to choose from, and you can create quests where you simply go to locations and interact with objects and NPC’s within them, but when it comes to serious storytelling and questing nothing beats getting your sword covered with a little goblin blood. When it’s time to kill some bad guys, you’ll want to choose a custom map.
Custom Maps can be either indoor or outdoor areas that you can customize to your liking. You can choose from pre-existing dungeons such as the Cloak Tower, or create your very on twists and turns on a blank canvas. Regardless whether you create your own or choose a pre-existing map you will be able to customize the features and add baddies and items as you see fit.
Know Thy Enemy
Obviously, for your players to take on the bad guys, you’re going to have to add them into your quest. In the Neverwinter Foundry you have access to every unit in the game, and can mix and match if you so desire. The menu gives you search functionality and makes looking for enemies as fast you like. Once you choose your bad guys you can set them up in different groups, adjust their difficulty level, rearrange where they are standing, how they are standing, and even dictate which direction they are facing. You have full control.
That not detailed enough for you? OK then. You can also go into each and every enemy that you place and give them individual names and fully customize their appearance and clothing if you’d like, making each and every enemy in your dungeon a unique snowflake.
Don’t Knock It Till You Try It
So you’ve spent some time working on your epic quest of awesomeness, but you’re not sure if your goblin army is menacing enough, or if that wooden bench you placed is in just the right spot. Good thing you can jump right in from the Neverwinter Foundry editor and try the map you’re working on, or play your entire quest from the beginning. It takes only a few moments to load, and then you’re right in the middle of your very own creation. From the editor you can choose which class you enter as, as well as what level your hero is. Once in game you will have some level appropriate gear in your inventory, and off you go to test out what you have done so far.
You can jump in and out of playing your quests as often as you like, so you can play through a dungeon in its entirety several times to get it just right, or simply jump in and out to fine tune one small thing at a time.
3D In-Game Editing
While you’re there, you may want to adjust some things while you’re seeing them as players will when they make their way through your quest. Simply activate 3D editing in the Neverwinter Foundry tools UI windown at the bottom right of your screen and you will have full control in adjusting the location and tilt of any item you have placed. Players who are familiar with or have seen the Dimensions tools in RIFT will be familiar with how these tools look and function.
Put banners on the wall, or leave rocks floating in the air. It’s all left up to you. Be as crazy or conservative as you feel. There will be an audience for pretty much anything you can come up with. While many players will want super serious dungeon encounters, others will enjoy some zany scenes and characters from time to time.
Control the Dialogue, Control the Story
The tools in the Neverwinter Foundry allow you to control every minute detail the players will experience, right down to the dialogue of the NPC’s, and the dialogue choices the players are given. You can create dialogue trees as simple or complex as you want, and let the choices the player makes determine the story they experience.
The tree system in the Neverwinter Foundry editor makes it easy to create unique responses to dialogue and create multiple possible conversation paths. This element will allow you to create a deep encounter with rich story and interaction between the players and the NPC’s. If you fancy yourself a creative writer, the dialogue system is where you will flourish.
When I say you can control every detail in the Neverwinter Foundry, I do mean EVERY detail. You can set the animation the player character uses when interacting with an object, and the amount of time it takes to interact with that object. You can set the animations an NPC uses when the player’s character talks to them. You can change the lighting in the room and the sounds that play in an area.
There is so much depth in the Neverwinter Foundry tools that I’m still discovering just how powerful this editor really is. What we’ve covered here today is just my basic understanding of what’s available after a few hours of playing around. I can only imagine what all I will be able to create once I begin to grasp a true understanding of the Neverwinter Foundry tools.
Beta is Beta
The one thing I will warn you about is that the Neverwinter Foundry is still very much in beta testing. The tools can be a bit buggy at times, and the 3D editor especially has a tendency to do some weird things like drop you through the floor or not allow you to leave 3D editing mode.
Those sorts of things are to be expected right now, but the potential of what the Neverwinter Foundry editor can accomplish is crystal clear. The tools are powerful and extremely in-depth, so just be patient while they sort out the kinks and soon we will have one of the most fun, time consuming, and innovative features in the MMO genre today.
We’ll definitely continue to visit the Neverwinter Foundry as I gain a mastery of the tools there, and you can look forward to some content aimed at the Gamebreaker Nation in the future.