Get prepped to lose some free time. A lot of free time. Like, Elder Scrolls meets LittleBigPlanet level creation time. At least that’s what Dungeons and Dragons: Neverwinter is gearing up for, and you better be ready. So hardcore this title is; that our 30-minute preview (our last of this year’s E3) wasn’t for the story campaign. It wasn’t for any multiplayer campaign, had only one trailer, and stabbed anyone within 300 feet that had ever used a power point presentation. It was all about the level creation tool. Welcome to the Foundry.
Dungeons and Dragons isn’t the easiest thing to get into. Competence in Gary Gygax’s game can mean volumes of mathematical knowledge and awareness of sociopolitical relationships between races that have never existed. The 4th edition of the tabletop version of D&D attempted to throw a bridge over this alligator-infested moat, and it’s with this foundation that Neverwinter aspires to get you creating. All battle logic and statistical information stems from these texts, and the Foundry appears to have every word of them available and cataloged in menus.
The Foundry may simultaneously be the most thorough and user-friendly creation tool we at EG have ever seen. Everything, from NPC behavior and dialog to map/treasure/enemy/trap layout, is up for your direct optimization. Initially taking in all of the creation suite at your fingertips can be overwhelming, but it does look to open up once you begin to menu surf. The Foundry process is about, above all things, limiting the amount of time between placing quest components on a map and getting to explore and upload them. Rooms come in dozens of flavors, and can be placed carte blanche on your map and immediately leapt into its 3D, playable version with a single click. You won’t have enemies or objectives yet, but this expediency allows for easy flitting back and forth to check the in-game effects of your menu work.
Basic rooms are broken down into sub-menus wherein all the various trappings like environments, enemies and treasure can be pulled in from their own respective drop-down lists. In your master HUD, all executable rooms and character representations resemble the cardboard tiles of their respective items usually included in larger D&D tabletop starter sets. The overall menu system also hints at the character creation CD-ROM included in the 3.5 rules Player Manual. Rooms are linked together to form dungeons and kingdoms by simply lining up the doorways (represented in your map by red lines).
Once your basic items are placed in the field, you can edit behavior and appearance through separate menus. Once you are ready to get your storyteller on, you can establish a basic mission type for your map. A series of objectives will ten appear for you to meet before the quest can be operable. These include everything from connecting overall objectives (kill all the undead in a tomb) to individual actions necessary to progress to that end goal (A) talk to NPC, B) explore tomb, C) kill undead, D) obtain artifact as proof, E) return to NPC).
Quest dialog, be it from NPCs to omnipotent narrative boxes, all spring from your imagination, and can be implemented in the mission objective brackets. Basic text options are always offered, but true customization here relies on the depth of your imagination. Once all of your mission coding fits and your quest is ready for the undertaking, it can be uploaded and shared with other Neverwinter players and experienced just like other missions within the MMO. No word yet as to what systems would be used to integrate player-created missions to mutual servers, or whether various social media would be involved to publish notifications to things like Facebook or Twitter.
There is more information present in the Foundry than we would ever want to write down. Every enemy, trap, environment, creature, building and prop from Dungeons and Dragons’ 4th edition is here. Not only that, but they are cataloged along with detailed dossiers. The depth of information is exhaustive, but you only need to put in as much effort as you want. Simple quests can be completed and uploaded in twenty minutes with a working knowledge of menus. The most dedicated dungeon masters, however, can spend months of their lives crafting complex and lengthy missions worthy of the grandest adventuring party. We literally know next to nothing of what the overall Neverwinter adventure will offer, but with a customization tool as open and user friendly as this, we may just need to sit back and wait for the best among us to create their own worthy games.
Dungeons and Dragons: Neverwinter currently has no confirmed release date.