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Turning Cryptic's  Neverwinter  RPG into an MMO
Turning Cryptic's Neverwinter RPG into an MMO Exclusive
June 6, 2012 | By Tom Curtis

In 2010, Champions Online developer Cryptic Studios announced that it had begun development on Neverwinter, a co-op RPG that marked a real departure from the developer's MMO catalog.

Late last year, however, the game inexplicably transformed into a free to play MMO, and at E3 2012, the game's lead designer explained that the game made this transition to better suit the studio's tastes and abilities.

"Stuff like that happens more than people realize," Cryptic's Zeke Sparkes told Gamasutra. "We had an idea of what the game was going to be, and we started going after it, and started putting it together, and it was good! We enjoyed it, but we saw potential to make a game that we liked better."

According to Sparkes, Cryptic's internal development tools helped push the team toward the genre change. The studio typically works on large-scale MMOs, and thus its tech is just better suited to creating those types of experiences, he said.

"All of our tools are designed around building that style of game, " Sparkes added. "That, and we never wanted to lose the social aspect you get from MMOs."

So the team re-engineered Neverwinter to alter its pacing, its gameplay, and its overall game systems to make something with a larger scale that better suited the free to play online market.

"Most of the changes we made related to the content of the game and how its delivery is structured, and what the focus of that content is," Sparkes said. "We went from a narrow-band, richly-detailed game with lots of ways for you to go, to something that is vaster, with more places for you to explore and get into."

Sparkes believes that this more open style will help the game reach a larger audience, since players who aren't already invested in Neverwinter's Dungeons & Dragons lore might not have been interested in a linear, complex narrative. Now, he says these players can take in the game's world and enjoy its combat without having to dig through a complex storyline.

And since the game's transition, Sparkes said he noticed that the team at Cryptic has shown much more enthusiasm for the project, and he hopes that excitement will translate into a better game.

"In the end, you get a stronger product, because it's a product that everyone believes in," Sparkes said.

Keep an eye out for more from our interview with Sparkes in the near future. For more reports from E3 2012, be sure to check out Gamasutra's live coverage.

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Craig Dolphin
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Huh. Maybe I'm the only one who would have been interested in a SP/coop rpg based on nwn, but who wouldn't touch an mmo if they paid me to play it. Ah well.

Dave Long
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Not the only one by a long shot, I'd wager. There's no shortage of quality fantasy MMOs out there, and if they're not going to have an in-depth story, then it's just a fantasy MMO with a Neverwinter skin. Best of luck to them, of course, but I'd have thought they'd be more likely to find success going down the SP path.

Ryan Marshall
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I didn't see where they said no in-depth story. If it's true, though, then I'll sign up right now! A sandbox fantasy MMO where every player character *isn't* the one true hero who will rise up and slay an ever-escalating series of big bads? That's the kind of game I've been looking for ever since UO jumped off a cliff ten years ago!

Jim Perry
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I'll play a good RPG any day. It doesn't matter if it's SP, MP, MMO. It just has to be good. Going free-to-play MMO doesn't strike me as a way of making it good, let alone better.

Trent Tait
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Disappointing news, especially after Diablo 3 has essentially become an MMO. (For all you people planning to flame me for that comment, I'm in Australia and the lag + lag spikes make the game completely unplayable).

I really want a single player RPG. I wish Bioware had made swtor a single player MMO with that level of effort, I'm sure it would have been far better.

Aaron Fowler
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Think of NeverWinter Nights, but as a MMO... That must have been the elevator pitch. Like Jim said, making it a MMO has nothing to do with making it an actually good game. Unless they really innovative in the mechanics, all I can see this as being is a mediocre MMO, with a NeverWinter Nights skin pasted onto it.