Friday, September 28, 2012

Never Say Neverwinter

John Smedley believes user-generated content is the future. He may be right. It certainly has been in the past.

Ten years ago I spent a big chunk of time working on a module for Neverwinter Nights, much of it struggling with BioWare's custom scripting language, something with which I never really came to grips. Eventually the thing was as near to finished as it was ever likely to be and I uploaded it.

In the way of the internet, I was able to find it with only a small amount of effort this morning, still sitting in the IGN Neverwinter Nights Vault ten years on. As the comments clearly show, my scripting skills weren't up to the complexity of the task I'd set myself, although some people managed to enjoy parts of it despite all the things that just didn't work as they should have done.

I enjoyed making the module but once was enough. I didn't even buy NeverWinter Nights 2. When the Neverwinter MMO was announced, to be made by Cryptic and published by Perfect World, my ears perked up then perked right back down again at the dreaded phrase "action MMORPG".

I never really "got" action RPGs. The first and last one I ever bought was Dungeon Siege, which came out just before NWN in March 2002 (which, incidentally, suggests that MMOs had considerably less of a lock-hold on my gaming in 2002 than I would have remembered). I probably played it for three or four hours, tops. It's not that it wasn't fun; it was just too fast and too very obviously pointless.

Since then, "action" as a prefix has acted as a brake to any interest I might otherwise have had, doubly so when attached to "MMO", although since I've played and very much enjoyed Dragon Nest and DCUO, my longstanding ability to believe one thing while doing another clearly remains unimpaired.

How I felt after ten minutes in Torchlight2
All the same, I had been resolutely ignoring Neverwinter until I happened upon Massively's recent mention of the Neverwinter Foundry.  I already knew of Star Trek Online's Foundry. Tipa at West Karana used to write about it sometimes back when she wrote about MMOs not bridges. It always sounded intriguing but it was coupled to a franchise for which I have little affection so it slipped from my mind.

When EQ2's Age of Discovery expansion trundled up with the Dungeon Maker system in tow I was somewhat excited. I'd very much like to be able to tell some stories inside an MMO that I play, especially if I don't have to wrestle with scripts to make it happen. The Dungeon Maker hit the mark for ease-of-use but it worked about as well for telling a story as semaphore did for Wuthering Heights.

You've ruined your own foundry...
There's not much detail on the Neverwinter Foundry yet. Just a brief FAQ and some indistinct screenshots. Enough to pull the game off my MMO slush pile and shove it onto the ever-growing heap marked "Give this a go".

I suspect that if it's going to work for me, this set of dungeon creation tools will need an easy mode. It's not that I think I won't be able to master a more complex set of commands, it's that when it comes down to it I'd rather be playing. Or blogging about playing. I can knock up a dungeon in EQ2 in three or four hours. I'd be happy to double or treble that writing dialog to tell a story but much more and I'm going to get itchy.

When it comes to dungeons I'm probably more of a consumer than a creator. Won't be long before I can put that to the test. Release date for Neverwinter is listed in the FAQ as "4th Quarter of 2012". Even with traditional slippage that ought to see it out before next Easter.

If I do end up making a dungeon, Neverwinter is completely F2P so you're all invited.


  1. I still hope they'll give Dungeon Maker a little more polish in EQ2. I had high hopes for it until I got in and started using it. Then I found out half the stuff I set up wasn't triggering.

    1. Me too, but SoE have a very long record of having great ideas, releasing them half-finished and then moving on to the next.

  2. I am going to go look up this Neverwinter, it sounds like fun. User made content is going to be a big part in some games to come. With the player base getting more knowledgeable the *grin* older we get, the more developers can start tapping an great un-used resource. Their fans.

    1. Can't help but wonder whether, given the right tools, players wouldn't do a better job than the designers in some MMOs I've played :P

    2. I can answer that. Yes and no, because no one is 100% satisfied with anything..*sanpanda* Personally, having read forum posts in the suggestions section, I know that some of those ideas are just fantastic for GW2. Gamers love to think outside the box. Let us get our talented hands on some designer software for games that we love and watch the magic.

  3. as far as I know first mmo user content was enabled in CoX.

    And I have to say, some of those stories were miles better than "official" quests I did in CoX. Of course for every one of those better stories; there were hundreds of so called "farming stories" or as I like to call them, junk.


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