When we first started to develop Neverwinter, we looked at the combat style we had used in the past on our previous titles, the traditional MMO style of tab targeting or point-and-click. This had worked well with our previous titles, but we knew with Neverwinter, we needed something different something a little more visceral, something that required the player to be more engaged in the game.
It was important for us to test many different styles and versions of combat systems and it was difficult to choose between the different styles of combat, but we feel we made the right choice. The action combat has actually been one of the most complimented gameplay mechanics in Neverwinter.
There were difficulties to overcome in development, like those we experienced with the dragon and the Hunter Ranger. However, as we continue to develop and add content, we look forward to using those lessons learned while expanding the Neverwinter universe and watching the game grow for many years to come.
01. A new combat style
Before the development for Neverwinter kicked into full gear, a small specialised team were researching and developing everything related to combat. We had many internal discussions about using the traditional MMORPG style and if it would be the best for Neverwinter.
However, we felt it just didn't quite merge with what we were trying to do in Neverwinter and a bit of all of us was screaming out to try something new. There was a big push for an Isometric style: so we'd move the camera back; give it that classic PC D&D top-down style of combat.
We had an early prototype of this version of combat, which felt and looked great, but when trying this style of gameplay out, we hit some problems. We were prototyping a third type of combat at the time: Action. Ultimately, this is the direction we decided to go in for Neverwinter, as the combat felt smooth and visceral.
02. The dragon took various iterations
Another point of importance during development was the look, size and sheer scale of our bosses, specifically the dragons. Dragons are of great importance in Dungeon & Dragon lore; in fact, to celebrate them, we have a storyline coming later in the year just about dragons.
Working on our dragons with role-playing game company Wizards of the Coast was an awesome experience as you could tell they take great pride in their signature monsters. At one point, we received feedback that the number of scales on our Green Dragon's neck was too many - yes, that's right, they had counted them!
Having the proper scale proved challenging as we needed to make sure the dragons were appropriately sized for the IP relative to the rest of our game, yet small enough to fit in our dungeons, and big enough to be intimidating beasts. The design and art teams had to iterate on the scale of the environments and dragons many times.
03. The Hunter Ranger's FX
The Hunter Ranger was by far the most requested class for us to expand beyond our initial launch roster, and this fan favourite didn’t make it through development without its share of difficulties and challenges.
Prior to the Ranger's release in the Shadowmantle update, almost all of our ranged attacks were arcane and not martial in their source of power. This allowed us to really emphasise the powers to create satisfying projectiles and impacts.
For example, you could fire a Ray of Frost at an enemy and draw a thick icy beam with particle effects that would create a prison of ice when it made contact with the enemy. We couldn’t just have Rangers shoot magic arrows with arbitrary amounts of flash and bang on all of the FX and animations.
So again we worked with Wizards of the Coast to hone in on representing the Ranger’s martial arts abilities in a way that read well in the language of video games, but still felt appropriate to the lore and met the fans’ expectations.
Words: Andy Velasquez
Andy Velasquez joined Cryptic in 2008 to launch Star Trek Online. He moved on to spear-head the development and launch of the action MMO Neverwinter as lead producer.