Mike Salbato
E3 2011: A First Look at Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter's Creation Tools
We got an early look at Neverwinter and its comprehensive Foundry.
06.13.11 - 1:57 PM

Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter was announced earlier this week. Taking place about 100 years after the events of Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2, the world has been reshaped after a catastrophic event. While the city of Neverwinter was spared, it fell victim to a massive volcanic eruption. As Neverwinter begins, the city is being rebuilt through the combined efforts of the humans, dwarves, and elves.

During our meeting with Atari at E3, we got a run-through of Neverwinter, though we didn't talk much about the game's plot or gameplay; Neverwinter is designed as a co-op online action-centric RPG. Instead, we got an in-depth look at The Foundry, Cryptic's promising creation tool that ships with the game. The Foundry allows players to build dungeons, zones, and quests, all with an impressive amount of customization. Everything is built via a multi-window full screen interface that looks and feels like an RPG-themed creation tool that would come out of Apple or Adobe.

The center of the screen is the main "stage" where players build their dungeons by pulling in pieces from a library pane to the right. Building a dungeon is a matter of simply dragging and dropping room and object templates onto this stage. Similar to D&D: Heroes of Neverwinter, a Facebook game that RPGFan reported on earlier, there are two ways to customize the look and feel of dungeons: choosing from presets or going more in-depth. In one instance, we were shown a template room for a crypt. By default this crypt was a room populated with columns, massive spiderwebs, an altar, multiple stone platforms, and orange burning torches across the room. With a couple clicks, the room changed from a gray to a dark blue color palette with different textures, green torches, and in place of the spiderwebs were large decorative metal structures. We were told all of the individual items in the rooms could be hand-adjusted as well, but being able to quickly choose from preset looks should make it easy for players to design their creations to their liking. Connecting multiple rooms is a matter of dropping them next to each other and lining up their entryways. While we only sawean indoor zone created, in the final game players will be able to create both indoor and outdoor areas.

Once the basic structure is created, it's time to populate the area with enemies, NPCs, and objectives. Like with rooms, adding an enemy encounter is as simple as choosing one from an enemy library - one that Cryptic suggests will be quite large thanks to the expansive lore and history associated with Dungeons & Dragons. We saw a list with dozens of choices, and many more will be added up to and after launch.

Since these dungeons and monsters don't accomplish a great deal without a quest or goal, the next step is setting up how the quest chain works. Players can either make use of Cryptic-created NPCs in Neverwinter's main world, or create their own. Even things one wouldn't expect can be made interactive with these tools. An example we got was that if a player wanted to create a quest-giver whose friend was transformed into a lamp post, a lamp post in town can be turned into an interactive quest point to fit the story being told. The look of the NPCs is again pulled from a library and can be customized as needed. The character's quest text and dialogue is then entered, and these quests can have multiple options and dialogue paths, all visualized in a flowchart-like interface. Cryptic especially wanted to make conversation options very open because "RPG fans like talkie things," a sentiment all of us in the room agreed with.

At any point in the creation process, players can switch from the 2D overhead "build" mode to "test" mode and actually run through their areas as they'll appear in-game. For testing purposes, "god mode" can be enabled as well, giving characters high stats so that monster encounters don't impede testing.

Neverwinter's Foundry seems very granular in the amount of control given (to the point where players can choose whether or not a door will open inward or outward), but easy to grasp at the same time. The developers want to make sure players of all skill levels would be able to create the stories and experience they want without the tools getting in the way. If what we saw was any indication of the final product, they could very well deliver.

So far neither Cryptic nor Atari have detailed the game's pay model or release date beyond "2011," but we were told we should hear more on both fronts soon, possibly later this summer. In the meantime, here's a trailer and a brand new gallery below!