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Neverwinter Interview with CEO of Cryptic

In our interview with Cryptic Studio's CEO, Jack Emmert, we talk all about Neverwinter.

CVG: How did Cryptic get involved in Neverwinter?  

Jack Emmert: We originally started Neverwinter after we were purchased by Atari in late 2008. When Perfect World acquired us from Atari, the license was part of the deal.

CVG: What was the design decision behind making an Action-based MMO?  Were more traditional forms tested first?

Jack Emmert: The game most certainly started with a very traditional combat system. After some time, I felt that there were already several excellent MMO’s that offered that style of combat – how could we stand out? I also believed that the market had changed somewhat and that a game couldn’t just offer the same thing as previous MMO’s. People wanted something different and more engaging.

CVG: You have been very tight-lipped about classes. Any word on what classes will be available in Beta Weekend 2 and 3?  

Jack Emmert: We’ve now released all the games for launch: Guardian Fighter, Great Weapon Fighter, Control Wizard, Devoted Cleric and Trickster Rogue.

CVG: If you won't tell us what classes you will have at launch, can you tell us how many classes you hope to have at launch?

Jack Emmert: Just those five at launch. My own development philosophy has been to have 5 great classes, rather than ten mediocre ones. Because we’re a MMO, we can always add more classes. 

CVG: Will future class releases be free for all players or will they have to pay to access them?

Jack Emmert: We plan on adding new classes with every update (every three to four months). We have no plans to monetize them.

CVG: Can you speak of the design decision to have more specific classes like Guardian Fighter and Devout Cleric? Why not have those branch of a Fighter or Cleric class while leveling?

Jack Emmert: We thought that was enough room for diversification within Guardian Fighter, Devout Cleric and other classes that they could stand as their own. 

CVG: Cryptic has said that 8 races will be available at launch. How often do you plan on launching new races?  Will these be available for all players or will you have to pay to access them?

Jack Emmert: We plan on launching new races about as frequently as new classes. We might have premium races from time to time. 

CVG: Do you plan on having specific areas of content only accessible via Paid Transactions or will all content be free for all players?

Jack Emmert: Right now, all content is free. Our philosophy is that people come to play the game and then they’ll purchase things to enhance their experience.

CVG: What are your thoughts on the "Pay to Win" philosophy? Also, what kinds of items are going to be available to purchase?

Jack Emmert: If you go to Star Trek Online, you’ll see how we tend to handle things. Costumes, game services, mounts, pets – those are probably the most prominent. Players never purchase items directly from our store. 

We’ve addressed pay to win concerns by creating a special currency in game called Astral Diamonds. When players do certain types of content, like events and dungeons, players earn Astral Diamonds. Most of the elite gear in the game can then be purchased with that currency. But a player can also put his Astral Diamonds up for sale in an exchange. Other players can purchase those Astral Diamonds with cash shop currency. 

The result is that a player never needs to spend a single dime in order to get things from the store. As long as he plays the game (and content is free), he can earn what he needs in order to purchase what he wants.

CVG: When we were playing Beta Weekend 1, the Astral Diamonds currency is used for several things, what do you have planned for players to earn Astral Diamonds as Neverwinter moves closer to launch?

Jack Emmert: Dungeons, events and prayers are the most prominent. 

CVG: Some of the Questing Giving NPC's were voiced during Beta Weekend 1. Will all of these NPC's have full voices?

Jack Emmert: Yes! For the first time, we have a fully voiced out game. 

CVG: Can you tell us a little bit about The Foundry and how you anticipate it impacting the world of Neverwinter?

 Jack Emmert: The Foundry is the name for our special user generated content system. Much like Neverwinter Nights I & II, our game features UGC tools that allow players to create their own quests, campaigns and even worlds! 

CVG: Will The Foundry be open for testing during any of the Beta Weekends?

Jack Emmert: The Foundry will be open for Open Beta – which starts April 30th!

CVG: One thing I noticed during Beta Weekend 1 is that every character looked the same. Do you plan on gear making your character look unique?

Jack Emmert: Definitely. We have several systems to allow people to create the character that they want. First, players can customize the look of their avatar during character creation and even later in game. Secondly, players can purchase special costume options through our cash shop. Players can slot these items in special fashion slots that override whatever gear they have equipped. Lastly, we have a system that allows players to transfer stats from one piece of gear onto another. So if a player gets a piece of gear at level 20 that he really likes, he can keep that gear throughout his character’s career and still possess the useful stats. 

CVG: Can you tell us anything about the PVP system in Neverwinter?  Will players get a chance to test it out in Beta Weekend 2 or 3?

Jack Emmert: So far, PvP is an arena system. Players, after level 10, can queue up for PvP combat in two different maps. Players are divided into ten level bands to make sure they aren’t outpowered by the other side. At launch, there is one PvP game mode, Domination, where each side gains points for possessing control points on a map. Players earn special gear and even XP through these matches.

CVG: What is your planned level cap at launch? What will your level cap be for Beta Weekend 2 and 3?  

Jack Emmert: Level 60.

CVG: Post-launch, do you plan on raising the level cap or will your focus be on more endgame content?

Jack Emmert: I think the initial focus is end game. 

CVG: Speaking of endgame content, can you discuss this any?

Jack Emmert: At launch, lots of dungeons!

CVG: Leveling seems to go relatively quickly in Beta Weekend 1. Will the grind past level 30 take longer?

Jack Emmert: Certainly longer, but we’re trying to make a fun game where there isn’t a grind. And if lots of people get to max level – I figure that’s a good problem to have. We can always add levels or end game. 

CVG: As we wrap up, what should our readers look forward to in Beta Weekends 2 and 3 as you move closer to launch?

Right now, players can look forward to our headstart program (if they’ve purchased a Founders Pack) starting April 25th. Then full on Open Beta begins on April 30th. 

CVG: Thank you for your time.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 05/03/13

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