I recently was afforded the opportunity to ask a few questions of the folks at Cryptic Studios who are behind the Neverwinter: Strongholds expansion set. But I didn’t get just anyone, I got my answers from Randy “Arkayne” Mosiondz, Senior Content Designer and Loremaster on Neverwinter! Not too shabby, if you ask me. In case you are unaware, Neverwinter: Strongholds is the seventh expansion for the Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms MMORPG published by Perfect World Entertainment. It was released on August 11, 2015 and is all about group participation. Rather than me explaining it, let’s get right down to brass tacks and take a look at the interview, shall we? There’s also a gallery of screenshots below the interview, so peruse those when you’re done!
Geeks Of Doom: I’m an old school, tabletop gamer. I’ve been playing D&D for over three decades now. What allure would Neverwinter as a whole have for me and what makes Strongholds stand out from the other expansions?
Randy “Arkayne” Mosiondz: As an old-school D&D gamer, you probably know that the concept of Strongholds in D&D goes back as far as original D&D. If you need a refresher, you can read all about it my earlier article called: Neverwinter: History of Strongholds in D&D.
Essentially, Strongholds is high-level gameplay for your Fighters and Clerics and Wizards and Rogues who have been through all sorts of grand adventures and have claimed one of the greatest treasures of the Realms: a Stronghold to call their own. But building up your stronghold is no easy task, and definitely a challenge for a company of adventurers!
The key difference in this module, is that it takes the concerted effort of a guild of adventurers to truly build the greatest Stronghold the Sword Coast has ever seen. It’ll take a lot of questing and dungeon-delving to gather the necessary elements for your stronghold, but in the end you’ll see a glorious monument for your guild to enjoy!
GoD: This appears to be, if not a party style setup, at least multi-player. Would the motto “all for one, one for all” have any bearing here?
RAM: That is the perfect motto! The challenges faced by Stronghold-builders are many and varied, so you definitely need a large band of highly experienced, seasoned adventurers. Strongholds are built with guilds in mind, so it’s best to either start recruiting heroes to your cause, or search for a guild to join in-game. Joining an experienced guild with the intent of building up a Stronghold would be ideal, as they can show you the ropes and you can experience the benefits of being part of the larger group.
GoD: Confession time: I haven’t played Neverwinter, though I know it’s a free to play game. How does it actually work, from a business standpoint?
RAM: In Neverwinter, we never charge for content; you can play the game from low to high level and never spend a thing. However, we do have things you can buy in our ZEN market: costumes, extra bag slots, mounts, companions, new playable races, special potions, and keys for lockboxes that drop in-game. A lot of the time these purchases are for convenience, aesthetics, or just plain fun. So if you like the cool honey badger companion, you can purchase some ZEN and spend it to get the fuzzy little guy to fight beside you!
We also have a number of daily activities you can do to earn a currency called Astral Diamonds (AD). There is a separate AD store in-game that has similar items to the ZEN store. To help tie it all together, there is a ZEN Exchange where you can trade ZEN for Astral Diamonds and vice versa. So, have ZEN but want AD? Place it on the Exchange and you’ll be paired up with another player who had AD but wanted ZEN. Everyone is happy!
GoD: What kind of effort and work goes into creating a game such as this?
RAM: The initial game took a number of years to bring to market. The first couple involved a lot of trial-and-error to find what was fun and engaging, as well as getting the feel of the Forgotten Realms right. Once we figured out the kind of game we wanted to build, we set to task on creating the whole world, from the adventure zones to the dungeons, and populating them with quest-givers, monsters, and treasure. And, of course, building all the classes and powers for players to use in that world. That took as another couple of years!
I have to say, building Neverwinter was a labor of love for the developers. A lot us are old-school tabletop gamers like yourself. Working with Wizards of the Coast in making the Realms come to life was a real pleasure!
GoD: When it comes to these expansions, what is the expected turnaround and how often do you create/release them?
RAM: Since release, we’ve continued adding new content to the game to keep players engaged in the world. Every module was built with that in mind: what new part of the Realms can we explore? What new monsters and threats can we add? What special events can add to the world? What new treasures can adventurers unearth? We try to put at least 3-4 new expansions out every year with those goals in mind.
GoD: With Strongholds, it seems the expansion is different from other landscape/quest expanders I’ve seen from other games. Will we see more in this vein? Cooperative campaigns and what not?
RAM: It is definitely different, and as mentioned earlier, we built it with guilds and guild campaigns in mind. After all, the best thing about MMORPGs is the ability to play online with like-minded gamers. What better way to do that than to have cooperative projects build toward monumental accomplishments?
And yes, Strongholds will continue to grow. As players establish their guilds, new locations, structures, and monsters will become available.
GoD: In general, how much time would a casual gamer such as myself have to dedicate to this game? I was an addict of several of MMORPGs in the early days and just don’t have the time for games like that these days. My wife would murder me (I kid, I kid…sorta).
RAM: What’s nice about Neverwinter is that it’s largely built with casual players in mind, but with challenges for more experienced gamers; it’s an easy game to get into, but will take effort to master. Just log in for a while, play through a few quests, and you’ll find yourself advancing up the levels and gearing up quickly!
Our skirmish system is great for casual play too, as you add yourself to a queue, jump into a 5-person battle for about 15 minutes, and then you’re done and can continue your regular questing! Our dungeons take a little bit more time, but if you can spare an hour or two you can queue up with a dungeon party and play through one for some great rewards!
GoD: What else would you like to add for our readers? And what advice for a newbie like me who has yet to take the plunge?
RAM: Give Neverwinter a try! It’s available on PC and Xbox One as a free download, and doesn’t cost you a thing to play. Just create an account on the ARC Games site and you’re good to go! It’s a great casual D&D experience, but has enough advanced content to give the more hardcore players (and groups of friends) something to strive towards.
See you in the Realms!