As most STO Foundry authors know, Cryptic has been hard at work on a new MMO based on the Neverwinter setting. As part of it’s development Cryptic has greatly enhanced the Foundry and has been aggressively pushing it as part of its media campaign. Perfect World was at PAX Prime and Lead Producer Andy Velasquez gave us a quick demo of the Foundry and its integration into the game world. Over the course of the interview, Andy went over three main concepts for the Foundry; how to access UGC content, how to create it and Cryptic’s intentions to spotlight author’s work.

Finding UGC missions

On display first, was how the UGC content could be accessed. STO Foundry vets have long desired a better system to advertise their missions to the general population and they’ll be extremely pleased to know that the system has been completely revamped in Neverwinter.

There are three different ways that UGC missions can be accessed:

  • The landing page
  • Notice boards
  • NPCs

The landing page loads every time a player logs on and within the page ‘Upcoming Events’, the guild ‘Message of the Day’ and ‘Auction House Status’ are located. Foundry missions are prominently featured with a short list of missions highlighted by Cryptic. The full catalogue of UGC missions can also be accessed from this location. There are numerous ways to filter missions such as by level, rating, language etc…The mission list is similar to the catalogue in Star Trek Online, but with more detail and has the ability to group missions into Campaigns.

A more “RP” way to access UGC missions will be the job board. From here the list of UGC missions will appear in a similar way as the landing page’s mission catalogue.

Finally UGC missions may be accessed by speaking with barmaids or harper agents who provide a small selection that are appropriate for the area.

Like STO, once the UGC missions are accepted they are seamlessly integrated into the player’s mission list.

The Foundry

After showing us the ways users could find UGC missions, Andy took us through a walkthrough of how to build them. STO and prospective Neverwinter authors will be happy to know that building the mission is now much easier and user friendly. While the overall structure is the same, there are a few differences.

Objectives worked the same way as in Star Trek Online. Maps are dropped into the Story tab and then objectives are placed inside the maps. When choosing a start location a “pin” is placed on the world map which acts as a point of interest. When the player enters a map transition they can choose this point as the destination.

The dialogue editor is the same as in Star Trek Online. However a new feature is the ability to toggle button visibility states based on whether the player has acquired a certain quest object. Skill checks for dialogue are also in the works but are not yet fully planned.

Map editing has gotten a large overhaul. Cryptic has provided an enormous amount of pre-built maps for authors to use as well as the ability to start on a blank map. A nice feature that they’ve changed from STO is how the list of pre-built maps is displayed. A grid of maps is shown and when a maps was clicked, a preview would load allowing the author to see what the map looked like before adding it into the mission.

The custom map builder is one of the key highlights of the Neverwinter Foundry. In STO, when building a custom map, an Author would need to carefully place the floor, ceiling, and walls. Now premade rooms are provided that the author can place on the map. If two rooms are connected a door will automatically be placed. The ability to do this to the pre-built Cryptic maps is also planned.

Like the map list, the detail list has become a grid of pictures. The number of objects was enormous and Andy said that whenever props are added to Cryptic content they will also be added into the foundry so expect this list to grow. If the author isn’t interested in decorating a room Cryptic has provided an auto populate function, where detail objects would automatically be placed in the room.

Another thing that was mentioned was traps, so the ability to provide environmental dangers to the player may be possible.

Before Andy dove into the Costume Editor he mentioned Cryptic’s reputation for having great character customization and here it really showed. The level of detail the author could go through was amazing.

Base costumes ranged from Dwarfs to beefy Humans to a ghostly pirate. The next level allows customizations of what the actor was wearing. Different individual pieces of armor could be changed with a huge variety of pieces to choose from. Finally in the advanced step, the physical characteristics of the actor could be altered. Authors who love making detailed costumes will have a field day. As with the details and maps, the options are presented in a preview grid which makes it a lot easier to use.

Along with the regular Project, Story, Map, Dialogue, and Costume options there was a new one labelled “Icon”. Here the author can have custom icons for items used in the mission. An example would be to have an item named “Zorbane’s Sword”. Eventually this may lead to NPCs wielding these weapons but how much gets implemented for release is yet to be seen.

Author Exposure and Incentives

The last thing we were shown was the ways Cryptic wants to help authors get recognition for their work. This is mainly accomplished through the mission catalogue. When browsing missions the player can access an Author’s personal UGC page. From here players can view an Author’s personal blog and donate in-game currency. Players can also subscribe to an Author whose work they enjoy and will be updated when new missions or mission updates are published.

Finally Cryptic is also including a DM reward system that will act like achievements. The example Andy had was “Five five-star missions and get a custom border on the forums”. There will be other in game rewards as well.

Final Thoughts

As a current STO Author I can only say good things about what I saw of the Neverwinter demo. What immediately caught my attention was the effort Cryptic has put in both making UGC content easier to create, and making UGC content easier to play.

Unlike Star Trek Online where UGC missions are in a secluded section of the missions UI, Neverwinter’s level of integration allows users to access UGC missions as easily as Cryptic content. The addition of the Author page also allows authors to communicate with their audience and build up a fanbase straight through the game.

The changes to the Foundry itself resolve several of the issues that STO authors have been complaining about for ages. Map building has become extremely easy with the drag and drop rooms, and the new preview UI allows authors to see what exactly what they will be placing without needing to select every single item. Authors will also be glad to hear that Cryptic will be adding new props into the foundry whenever they add it into their own content.

Finally the question everyone wants to know the answer to. When’s closed beta? Unfortunately we couldn’t a more specific answer other than “2012”. Good news is that the end of 2012 is coming up soon.