The lights are on
We just found out this morning that Cryptic will be handling a new Dungeons & Dragons game titled Neverwinter. Known primarily for their MMOs, Cryptic has had a somewhat difficult year with continuing lack of buzz on last year's Champions Online, a relatively lukewarm reception for Star Trek Online, and the recent departure of chief creative officer Bill Roper. It seems that the developer has accepted their past mistakes and is hoping to do better in the future.
In a refreshingly frank interview with Massively, Cryptic COO Jack Emmert laid out some of the plans for Neverwinter and also discussed where the studio has gone wrong with their most recent projects. Here's his summary of the old method of development for Cryptic:
"In order to maximize the ability and efficiency, we would schedule all our features in a waterfall fashion. At any given time, we'd say, test one element of ground combat in [Star Trek Online] and say "yeah this is pretty fun," but we wouldn't actually have a chance to assess the whole package until really late in the game, practically before launch. Everything would magically come together. This worked very well with City of Heroes and City of Villains -- we made City of Heroes in about a year and a half, City of Villains in nine months. We made Champions in two years and STO in a year and a half, so we're an incredibly efficient studio, you obviously know -- there's no one in the industry that's as prolific as we are, it's not even close."
But, as Emmert points out, "super-fast doesn't mean super-good." He recognizes that the studio's quick-and-dirty method of putting a game together may not work so well any more, and he has goals for Cryptic's future:
"We know we're getting better and better. The ultimate goal is to get a [review] score of 90 or above because we want to make great products. I'm not going to say where we're at with Neverwinter but I'm happy with the trajectory because it keeps getting better and better."
Of course, Emmert also says that Champions Online and Star Trek Online were both "far better than City of Heroes was at launch," which I'm not so sure I agree with. Sure, my expectations for an MMO may have been lower at the time, but City of Heroes at least kept my attention for six months or so. Still, Emmert has some good ideas, and it's always heartening to see a developer owning up to and confronting its flaws. Plus, there's this choice quote:
"I'm not going to be one of those developers who starts bitching about the reviewers or bitching about the customers. That's stupid. We've got to change and this is what we've got to do to change."
Any time a developer isn't bitching at me, I count that as a victory. Here's hoping we begin seeing this change of philosophy at Cryptic represented as we discover more about Neverwinter.