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One if the highlights of the PAX West 2018 was definitely the announcement of Neverwinter’s “The Heart of Fire” module. Since the new update will focus around the Acquisitions Incorporated adventure outlet, Cryptic Studios and Perfect World had a larger than usual (than ever?) presence on the expo and previewed unreleased content at their booth. They also took part in a live panel that was labeled “collaborative storytelling”, but basically was a huge advertising platform of the upcoming “HoF” release. CM Julia moderated the whole thing and Thomas Foss as the game’s Lead Designer was one of the panelists. Although there weren’t actually too many true news to report on, I’d like to quickly discuss the overall atmosphere and topics of the panel.
How Did It All Start?
Apparently the idea of the collaboration already started at the Stream of Annihilation. Thomas showed why he is such a good salesperson by using an actual in-character roleplaying pitch to promote the idea of bringing AI to Neverwinter. Back then the headquarters of Acquisitions Incorporated had just burned down. Thomas offered a new home in the Protector’s Enclave, including tax benefits and all. Seems like it went back and forth from there, half serious, until both sides realized that they can actually pull it off.
Jerry literally said he gave the devs a wish list they couldn’t possibly meet, but somehow did anyway. So yeah, it’s really interesting to see what the story is going to look like in the end. The bar is definitely high, because no other than best-selling author R.A. Salvatore already contributed to the game with the “Dwarven King” quest arc.
Focus on Story-Telling?
As I said there weren’t too many news available. From what was being said it looks like the module might try to mix and match the great story-telling of Underdark and Maze Engine, the humor of the “Day of the Dungeon Master” event, and the Tyranny of Dragons (Mod 4) structure in the sense that you revisit a lot of the old zones. Players also kinda did this in Maze Engine, although that module didn’t add new areas. We’ll see what’s going to be a closer match in the end.
Other than that, it was just a whole bunch of mutual appreciation. Jerry Holkins (Omin Dran) said that writing the story and working together with Cryptic was professional from top to bottom. Amy Falcone (player of another character “Walnut”) didn’t feel comfortable doing the voice-overs at first, but had tons of fun in the process nonetheless. There seems to be a lot of trust that Neverwinter is able to represent Acquisitions Incorporated and its characters petty well.
Overall it was good to see the Neverwinter devs being such a vital part of the D&D franchise. You can always argue about gameplay related design decisions, but it’s no question that Thomas Foss’ leadership and networking ability helped Neverwinter grow as D&D asset. So maybe the biggest takeaway here is that as long as those collaborations continue to happen, the game will be in a very good state.
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