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Arc News
Q&A with EP Brett Norton

Greetings Adventurers,


Our new Executive Producer answered your questions during the last stream on Twitch. Here is a summary of the topics covered!


Is there any update regarding professions, and when will the Sharandar recipes be available?

The team already did some small changes, but the profession system is internally very complex. We will continue to work on masterwork professions in the near future and we will also start looking at what we can do to sort or update the current profession recipes as well, but there will unfortunately be no significant change for the next expansion.


Could you share a roadmap?

We are developing a roadmap for the upcoming year, and will share it with the fans when it's ready.


Do you have a backlog of all bugs?

We have a backlog of bugs, but it is not necessarily ALL bugs. Additionally, sometimes bugs re-occur, due to technical issues, so it's important to report bugs if they're occurring on Live. We recommend and ask that you report them on the forums, as these have the most direct visibility with the devs. The in-game customer support system is less about systemic issues, and more for character or personal issues.


Is there an ETA to fix Bard’s issues?

We’re working on Bard issues; we expect to update and fix the issues of the first paragon path in the next couple of months. Some bugs will be fixable quickly but some will have long-term fixes because they require more technical updates. We will focus first on the first paragon path (Minstrel), and then we will be looking at the second one. (Songblade)


Do you track metrics on class powers in order to know which powers are less used?

Yes, but maybe not in the way of what players are thinking. We have some information about players’ equipment and loadouts but it does not tell us as much as we might want to know, like certain powers are more popular while certain other powers are intended to be more niche abilities. That’s why this data can be somewhat misleading. We can also compare classes to each other, we can look at performance in things like dungeons and trials. However, if we notice that a power is never used at all, that’s definitely something we will take a look at.


Is there any update regarding the Stronghold?

There will be a two-part plan for Strongholds. We want to do a massive revamp of Strongholds, but that’s going to be a little bit farther up because it requires some changes on the technical end. But in the short or medium term, we plan to refresh the shops of the Stronghold, so players can spend their Guild Marks for more valuable items. We will maybe also add refinement consumables so the Guild Mark will have a permanent utility, without adding new specific artifacts or armor to the guilds.


Why was Demogorgon’s queue removed?

Demogorgon was removed from the public queue because the success rate was too low. We waited a bit but we didn’t see an upward trend over time. We are looking at what we can do to make the success rate more consistent, like making some easier queues.

We also pay attention to the player's experience, the public queues are more difficult because new players who don’t know the mechanics can join. As Neverwinter is an international game, it could also be difficult to explain to other players in the party, if there is a language barrier, that’s why we also would need mechanics that should be more intuitive. When developing a new dungeon or trial, we should now separate the public queue which will be easier, with less coordination and communication needed, so it can be achieved with pickup groups, and private queues with more challenges and better rewards.


What are your plans regarding rewards, RNG, and lockboxes?

All video games have some randomization but there were many items in the last expansions with a very low rate. We also had this in some past events like the Broomstick, and there was a reasonable chance to not receive it even by spending a lot of time. I don’t want this in Neverwinter. If we want to randomize an item, and the drop rate is very low, we should add another way to purchase it. For example, you can get the weapons randomly, but if you don’t, you will be able to purchase them from a shop with a special currency.

There will also be a revamp of how lockboxes work.


Will there be any big change soon similar to the combat changes?

We will try to avoid making new systems, we will polish and improve the existing systems.


Will Neverwinter be impacted by the acquisition of Gearbox Publishing?

There is not a whole lot of change in the day-to-day of Neverwinter. They have a full view of what we’re doing with Neverwinter, Star Trek Online and Champions Online, and what our forecasts are, and they want us to keep doing it without interfering. They’re not involved in creative decisions and not directly involved in the business decisions, but they’re more involved in the publishing side, like marketing. They’re letting us evolve and they are providing support where we need it. If there is something that we really want to do, we can reach out to them, but right now they are more interested in terms of what Cryptic is going to do in the future apart from Neverwinter, Star Trek and Champions, what games we might be working on next, and they’re looking what are our R&D future efforts.


Will there soon be a new hunt system like Barovia?

Something is coming with the next expansion, but I cannot say too much otherwise marketing will kill me. There is very likely going to be something similar to the hunt system in Barovia in the very near future. There is some really cool stuff and it’s definitely inspired by the Barovia hunt system although it’s actually at a larger scale than that, so expect some cool things.


How would you reassure your existing players when looking ahead regarding commonly stated concerns?

I play the game on a very regular basis, there are pain points in the game. I'm generally experiencing it myself. I cannot play all the classes, roles or specs, but I try to play a subset although the barbarian is my primary class. I also play a couple of alts and try out some different roles, like I play a paladin healer and do some trials with him just occasionally to check things out. We are going to work very much on improving the sort of player quality of life in some of the key areas that we know. New features and new expansions definitely compete sometimes for time and resources, but we will try to strike a good balance between identifying the biggest pain points for players who care about the game a lot, while we are still trying to make sure we can grow new players into the game. One of our initiatives that will probably be before the end of this year is that we will try to smooth over the experience when you reach level 20, like how you gear up to be ready for challenging trials or the Vault of Stars. You have hit level 20, now let’s get you on a good path towards living up to Vault of Stars, making sure that you understand how to get cool gear and rewards etc. We will also do our best to address some of the quality of life issues. We will be required to fix things, but in some cases it will just be bug fixing and balance changes to try to improve stuff. Regarding the balancing, there are maybe things that are buggy, problematic or broken that might require nerfs but whenever we do those sorts of things we are going to look very closely at the relative impact and, if necessary, ensure that the game is still interesting. I mean, if something is really good and everyone is using it, you nerf it and it’s still the only thing that everyone is using, then you haven’t made the situation better. Our goal is we have to nerf something because it is the only thing that everyone is using, then there needs to be something else out there that is a viable alternative choice so players are trying to pick between different options and not just using a weaker version of the thing they were already using.


Suggestion: Please put enchantments in the Trade Bar Store.

We will probably get some form of enchantments likely in the Trade Bar Store, I can’t promise on when but it’s something that we need to modify and probably get updated. I don’t know, if we are going to put maximum rank enchantments in the Trade Bar Store, it might be limited to something like rank one or two.


Feedback: The number of greater shards needed to update the Mount Collars is too high. What are your thoughts on that?

The Mount Collar system was explicitly intended to be sort of a very long-term chase, it’s something you didn’t really have to do, but if you have gone through a lot of other systems, it’s something that you can then sort of engage with over a longer period of time and slowly kind of work your way through it. The amount of time it would realistically take is extremely high and obviously the benefits are very low. In a lot of cases, it only represents one percent increases in some very small stats. That’s not something a lot of players engage with. A lot of players honestly just go with epic and leave it at that. We want to encourage players to engage with the system to some degree and most of them are right now just kind of ignoring it because the perceived costs are so high. We will be looking at something that we can do with that and kind of figure out where we can try to make that a bit better.


Will you try to sync up Neverwinter’s release with potential future releases in other media forms?

In general, we are looking very much at how we can collaborate with WOTC on future expansions, marketing, releases, tv shows, movies, they’re working on a lot of various D&D things. It may not work out in all cases simply because of timings, we need to know the things well in advance to prepare an expansion, but we’re working on some close relationship with WOTC and their partners to tie up some really good stuff for some upcoming expansions and we have a plan for some semi-near future.


What about the mythic gear that was available on the Preview server?

What’s on preview is things we are testing out and things we are looking at so you are not going to automatically see it reflected in the live game. The systems team is looking at trying to publish some of the rewards to the preview server a bit ahead of time so they can gather more feedback on it and engage the viability, especially for things that might be targeted more towards endgame players who have a lot of choices. Will they never use it? Only use it in some cases? Or will they always use it? That’s why you will see some of these things show up on preview. Don’t expect the rewards that go live with future updates to reflect exactly what is on the preview server, but also don’t expect those to be the only rewards. Words of caution, but if something does show up on the preview server, in a lot of cases it’s because we are trying to get feedback on it and we want your honest opinion on it, even if you think that something is terrible, unusable and is inferior to something else that your role already uses. Also keep in mind we’re also trying to build stuff for specific cases.


Will some events like Portobello’s Campaign and Call to Arms come back?

Yes! We are currently revising old events, especially the Call to Arms, and we are revising the skirmishes that are part of it. Some of them are in good shape and some of them require more work. We are also trying to tie events into the appointment system vendor. We will try to make this vendor a bit more flexible, so we can use it for shorter and longer events too.

The Portobello’s Campaign is part of the Day of the Dungeon Master, and this event will be showing up sometime in the next several months! We are looking closely at all the various unique rewards that came with this event and trying to make sure that there are various avenues to get all the old things that were exclusively available in Day of the Dungeon Master as well as that it ties into the appointment system vendor.


What will be the release cadence? Is there a plan to release content faster or to make more in-depth expansions?

I will not say we will always do three releases a year, because if we decided to do a slightly more complex release we might only do two that year, if we absolutely had to, but I would prefer if we could do roughly three a year, maybe a little bit more. But I also hope that apart from the three bigger releases we will be able to do some smaller updates, various events and potentially future season passes that will fill some of the gaps between the releases.


Will the next expansions be released as episodic content?

We look at that as an option but there are some pros and cons. The Sharandar campaign was a big challenge for us internally so we are not likely to go back to that sort of system within a single expansion or within a single adventure zone. The Dragonbone Vale and Scaleblight Mythal worked out a little bit better because some of those things were developed in parallel. We wanted to test to put the epilogue or conclusion of the Dragonbone Vale expansion as a small adventure, and it was easier to develop than Sharandar’s episodes, so it’s potentially something we could continue now.


Do you have any plans on using the Grappling mechanic in other areas of the game?

The Grappling mechanic is a lot of fun, and it’s a sort of zone-specific mechanic the way it’s set up and implemented. That’s not something that would be easier for us to translate into all zones or make it as a core part of Neverwinter. Now that’s being said, because it’s been well received and because it allows us some fun and interesting traversal options both in the way of sort of shortcuts and in the way z-axis, we are very much looking at the grappling hook having an expanded role in future zones and future things we do.


Do you plan to rework other systems such as achievements and collections?

The hope is that we will start tackling some of those, carving time out to ensure that we hit a few of those throughout the year. There is also a series of pros and cons like how valuable they are for players and how much dev time will it actually take to do some of them. The achievement is one of those ones that would take a bit more effort, it’s not something that we could change over quickly. We can fix individual achievements and we can solve problems per achievement but a new achievement system for example would require to plan this out fairly decently in advance.


Is it possible to balance all classes? From your perspective, what does that mean?

That’s a tough question! We don’t want all the classes to be able to do everything that every other class does, otherwise there is a little loss of uniqueness. But at the same time, we don’t make unlimited varieties of content. We obviously have trials, dungeons, adventure zones and there are some core things that we build and the classes should have avenues for succeeding in those different things that we do. It does not mean we have to make every single power like daily powers viable in those sorts of things, but we need to make sure that there are interesting and meaningful choices for each of the classes. Improving balance means adding more meaningful choices. We already mentioned the Bard Minstrel, Wizards and Paladins also would need some attention. Paladins are often important and viable but they don’t necessarily have a lot of choice.


Could we have a dragon mount like Elminster?

It would be fun, but there are some space limits in terms of how big we can make mounts, so flying around or riding around a dragon might be a bit much for the current system, it would require a significant rework but we will look at something, maybe dragons, that we can do for future releases.


Why are old enchantments still being handed out, what’s your plan regarding the chests that are now empty because they used to grant enchantments?

We are thinking about event specific enchantments. However, old enchantments should no longer be available, it’s a bug because when we did the refinement update, we didn’t manage to catch all the places where those were being awarded. The chest issue is also a bug, and we apologize. We will make sure to fix this as soon as possible.


Will the Companions of the Hall be available again, and will there be new items at the ZEN Market?

Yes, the Companions of the Hall will be back. We don’t want anything that just comes out and is only ever released once and then is never available ever again. It’s something we will probably keep on a fairly low recurrence again, so it will be a fairly unique event when those sorts of things do come back.

Regarding the ZEN Market, this can relate to quality of life improvements, we are looking at a couple of improvements to certain things in terms of offering new storage expansion related to the bank, to the bags, to appearance items, such as expansionary things. It will take a little bit of technical work because we have to verify that we can handle sort of the additional loads on a character but we are looking at some expansions to things that are also combinations of quality of life improvements. For example, we really want to increase the profession bag capacity.

We will also take a look at the things that are periodically available at the ZEN Market and Wondrous bazaar.


Any plans for player housing and PvP?

No, there are unfortunately no plans for player housing right now. It does not mean it will never happen, but it’s not on the current roadmap. It could be a part of the Stronghold’s revamp.

There are also unfortunately no current plans for PvP. We do have at least one specific sort of PvP focus feature, but it’s not in the near-term pipeline. It’s something that is a little bit farther out and we are going to see what we can do with it, but we may look at ways to improve or grant access to glory-based rewards.


What’s the situation regarding the companion Xuna?

We will look at it. I also got a Xuna from Juna’s bag. Some companions occasionally have powers that are problematic. Xuna was definitely problematic from the standpoint that it was doing extremely high single target damage and extremely high multi target damage. The state of Xuna right now is not great. As we look at companions, we don’t want to continue just nerfing them without making sure we have other viable options. We will make sure all companions can have a useful role. A companion could for example have a support role, increasing the power of the party as a whole, something that is really good for when you’re a solo player running around or something that is good for specific roles like tank/heal/dps. For companions that currently fill no niches and that really aren’t viable in any of the spaces, those are great targets for buffing and trying to make better and bringing back into the meta. We don’t always have to release new companions, there are already a lot of companions and some of them are difficult to get, and we can add a lot of value by improving them and making them more viable.


Is there any plan to bring back the Foundry?

Unfortunately, no. The foundry was very cool but it creates a huge burden development-wise for maintenance as well as fixing issues and it winds up being blunt distracting the team from fixing things outside the Foundry. The cost of supporting the Foundry was so high that it was really detracting from the things we could have done with the rest of the game.


Is there any plan to add a preview server on console?

It’s very much on our list. We have a centralized technology team at Cryptic, they’re in favor of it and they’re starting to look at how they can make it happen.


What are your 3 top priorities as an Executive Producer?

1) Ensuring developer-wise that the Neverwinter team is happy, in a good state, they like what they’re working on and we’re picking good stuff. We’re also working on developer quality of life tools and things that will allow them to work on stuff, like if we want to make changes to professions, it’s a lot of work, so can we build tools that will help make that process easier?

2) Player quality of life: Making sure that while we still have a schedule putting out new releases, new big modules and everything along those lines that we carve a subset of time out to just take a look at where we’re at and what pain points players are facing and making sure we make continuous regular progressions. We’re carving more time out directly going for improving existing systems. We hope we will still be able to put out a bunch of new systems but maybe slightly less new systems and more fixes, rebalances and updates to existing systems. Like I mentioned, we will for example work on companions. There are hundreds of companions right now but there is only a small subset that are used.

3) We are looking forward to some bigger module plates, making sure that we can support some big releases for Neverwinter later this year and into next year. Next year will also be the 10th anniversary of Neverwinter, and we are working on some very cool things! We are going to try very hard to make sure things that we build with Neverwinter going forward are built around ways that players engage in. We are also looking at trying to do more story-related content.


To conclude this Q&A, I would say feel free to visit our forums to post comments, questions, etc. If you have a problem or a bug, don’t always assume that we know it, take advantage of the bug report forums and try to put in fairly detailed explanations. They don’t have to be super long, but don’t just say “hey, this thing is broken”, you can say like “hey, when I use this power I expect to do … and it’s doing … instead, or just not doing … at all” because it can help us to isolate and track down specifically what’s going on there because there are some of our bugs that are very specific to exact loadout combinations or only occur in specific content etc. The more details we get on those the faster we can act on them, especially when it’s something related to class powers or when something is inconsistent and doesn’t happen all the time. Let us know “hey, it happens 10% of the time when I use this encounter power and it does not do this and that”.


Thanks for reading, and see you in game!

Mar 29th, 2022

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