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AMA with Content Creator Partners & Brett Norton - Executive Producer of Neverwinter

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

A few weeks ago, the community got to meet the new Executive Producer of Neverwinter, Brett Norton, during an Q&A Driftwood Tavern Stream. You can find our summary of that stream and a full unedited playback of the Community Q&A session here:

On Friday April 1st 2022 (no... this is not an April Fool's!), some of the members of the Content Creator Program, Harper Steel, Enyo, Deadmano and ourselves in NWN had the opportunity to chat with Brett and ask our own questions, covering a few more subjects that Brett didn't cover in his first stream. Brett has worked for Cryptic Studios for a little over three years, and has been playing Neverwinter for a little bit longer, around 3 1/2 years, He is familiar with the game from a player standpoint but didn't directly work on Neverwinter until recently, although he did work with some of the people on Neverwinter before becoming the new EP. He was responsible for the design department at Cryptic Studios before joining the Neverwinter team, but now his job is mainly Neverwinter while overseeing some of the ongoing work on Champions Online.

The Interview

Starting with our own team at NWN, we asked Brett several questions to kick off the session...

Ennileah(NWN): Regarding the Roadmap, you said in the last Driftwood Tavern stream that the last 6 months of the roadmap have not yet been finalised. When do expect this to be confirmed and released to the players?

Brett: We are working on a new road map. We're working on what the longer-term plans are. We don't have that fully confirmed as yet though. The ETA for the current Roadmap, should be, hopefully sometime in the next two months, For a little bit of context, we are in the midst of wrapping up a lot of the work required for our next module released so things are, and you might imagine, have been fairly busy here on the Neverwinter development side as we try to get the next module after Dragonbone Vale, ready to go.


Ennileah(NWN): I had an interview with Salim Grant last year, a couple of the other CCP members, Silvery & Deadmano, interviewed another developer and we discovered from those interviews, that we (the player-base) seem to have a different view to the Developers as to what an end game player is, being a character than can access and successfully complete all available content. So I'm wondering... what do you consider an end game player to be?

Brett: I'll talk about that a bit more broadly. I know myself, having played Neverwinter for a while now and I mentioned this in the previous stream, I actually have at least one, near end game character, that I've completed Tower of the Mad Mage and Zariel’s challenge and such on. I also have other characters that have finished the levelling experience, but probably not geared up enough to take on something like Tower of the Mad Mage just yet. Once you get to level 20 and you start engaging with the item level progression mechanics, internally, we say that end game is ‘OK, you finished the levelling experience... now your end game'. But, we have different categorisations of end game… we have Early End Game in that you have just finished the learning experience, you probably have not done all of the end game adventures yet and you likely have an item level of under 30,000IL. As you go through the Adventures, there's a lot of easy progression there for an early end game player.

We go then to a mid-game or mid end game experience which is roughly budgeted at somewhere in the range of about 35,000IL to about 55,000IL.

As you progress on and finish up campaigns, acquire a lot of good gear, upgrade your Enchants, Companions, Mounts etc., you then start to progress into something closer to "End Game". When you start approaching the current higher IL ranges, 55,000 IL upwards, is roughly when you're getting into sort of the Real End Game when you can start tackling a lot of the really challenging content, like Hardcore Vault of Stars, possibly Crown of Keldegonn etc. Although I’ll say Crowns’ targets are pretty high end even over that range, closer to 65-75,000IL, depending on what role you are. So, there's broad spectrum spread of what End Game is, where players are at with their progression and what kind of activities that they're doing. With the types of Trials and Dungeons available, different audiences are going to be able to complete some of those more than others. As an example, Vault of Stars is targeted at being able to start that around Mid-Game right now and I'd say that similar content such as Random Trial Queue, is currently around Early End Game, given that mostly Trials are relatively straightforward. Whereas surprisingly, Random Advanced Dungeon Queues are actually probably targeted a bit more towards the Mid Game and current Late End Game, as is obviously something like Crown of Keldegonn or Vault of Stars.


Ennileah: The changes in M21 were said to be 'making it easier' for players to reach End Game (the majority of the player base as I said earlier, consider End Game to be a character that can access and successfully complete all available content). With this in mind and considering previous feedback on this topic from our NWN community, would you agree that the recent Enchantment changes have "undone" the changes made in M21 and that it is just as difficult now for a player to reach our definition of End Game?

Brett: I would say that there's definitely a lot of activities that you're expected to do to get to the given item level requirements. For something like Late End Game, it's a long process to get there and I agree that some of the changes to the refinement system has added more time between when a player starts the Early End Game experience, when they've just finished the levelling sprint, perhaps started on the adventures, and it's the point in which they can tackle something again, like the really challenging Vault of Stars or Crown of Keldegonn content. I wouldn't say it's just particular to something like the Enchantment system changes though, it's more that as we release new Modules, the gap is somewhat increased between when players come out of the levelling experience as to when they become viable to do whatever the most challenging content currently is.

This has been increasing bit by bit since roughly around module 16/17. That gap has gone up quite a bit since then, and time has also increased it. We haven't done a lot in the way of what I would consider 'bootstrapping', for example, where it's like, 'OK, we have a player, they just exited the levelling experience and they're coming out of that content at Level 20, at say 25k item level maybe 30k, depending on how things are going, but they need to get to 60/65k to have a reasonable chance at doing more "Bleeding Edge" content' or whatever the most recent End Game content is at that time. It's a long process to get up to that high item level and it's probably too long a process right now. So we are looking at ways to expedite that, make it quicker for players to get through existing content and gear their characters up so they're viable for Late (Bleeding Edge) End Game. Our team has also talked about some Systemic Balance changes that will make it easier for players who don't have, for example, Mythic level Enchantments or Mythic level Companions and have them be more effective earlier on in progression. We don't want to reduce the power of Mythic Enchantments, but there has been discussion on some of the 'Non Mythic' (Epic, Rare quality etc.) Companions on being more 'valuable' to a player. There's definitely a way that some things like Mounts, Companions and a few other things are balanced. Right now, a large chunk of the power from these, comes in at the last couple of levels of upgrades and we want to modify that a bit so there is more power available at earlier levels. So we're not going to decrease the amount of power you get of a Mythic level Enchantment or Mythic level Companion, but look at 'Pre-Mythic levels of those things being more valuable to a player and able to impact your character more positively. So, as a result, you'll be able to move up through the ranks of item level and effective total power much quicker.

Ennileah: Just to add to that very briefly, quite a few of my community feel (who were playing before the M21 changes and were still progressing to what you call Early to Mid-End Game) that all the changes in M21 that made it easier to get to level 20 and beyond, have now been "undone" and the thing they comment on the most, is the Enchantment changes. They feel that this is the area where it's failed them more so...

Brett: I think it is tied to the natural trend of us releasing higher and higher item level content over time and I think that the Enchantment system is getting flagged right now because it is one of the most recent things to change, but obviously, there's certain elements like how item level and certain Combat Enchantments play out, that have an impact on that too, where those things are significant contributors to item level and it's now looked at as a requirement to get your character through and getting experiences to grind those up to Mythic level or something along those lines.

So the Enchantment changes have definitely contributed to it, but I think that we've seen a definite trend towards that over the last several modules, where it's like, 'oh... we can go up, we have more stuff', you have more things yet to gradually increase your item level more etc. and those are the elements that you can't expedite.

As much as going into Dragonbone Vale and finding new items, that's a relative shorter path or just going through some of the other zones and picking up some hunts or whatnot in Avernus to hopefully drop a couple of items you might need, like Goristro’s Horns etc.


Ennileah: On the subject of hunts in Avernus, Nightspine is still very broken (on Xbox) and causing chaotic lag and 'stealing' players' lures....

Brett: We can try to take a look at Nightspine as well as the other hunts in Avernus as we go forward. At the bare minimum, trying to resolve some of the issues with those hunts and make it such that it's not an experience that requires a huge group. Part of the problem is that Nightspine was designed for when Avernus was much more of a 'Bleeding Edge' standard of the current content, so it was easier to get groups of large people to handle it and right now, that's not the case. He's obviously several modules out at this point and having it require multiple groups to go back and do it is not the desirable experience right now and it's not something that I think players look forward to.

Ennileah: It can be done with a mixed group of around 10 players at what you call Mid End Game onwards, but the lag is so insane that if you added more people into a run and had a full instance, the instance itself crashes out and boots out all of those players to the dashboard on Xbox. We've had that so many times now and lost lures as a result.

Brett: It should not crash so that's a larger, more critical issue to address, even if it's the challenge factor… So it's probably something that we'll take a look at it because Nightspine has some unique powers that are probably triggering it. We try to make sure that we get a comprehensive internal issue noted with tracking all the potentials, but there's a lot of things we can do to Nightspine. It's actually currently already on our list to look at further, but we'll expedite especially with it causing Xbox crashes.

We got a swift update on this shortly after the AMA interview that a major cause of the crashes during Nightspine has recently been addressed!


Ennileah: We know from in the past, take Magic: Legends as an example, that some staff are moved from the Neverwinter team & onto other Cryptic Studios games teams periodically and that some Developers work between different games sometimes. Yourself as an example, you worked on Champions and now you're on Neverwinter. I saw Cryptics’ most recent recruitment adverts on LinkedIn this week and noticed a 'Future Project' noted on there and I know you're still recruiting for Neverwinter as well. That has left me wondering if there's a chance that any of the current Neverwinter team are going to be pulled off of Neverwinter for a short time or permanently, to work on that new future project, and if so, how will that impact your current Road Map and timings of getting things out to the players?

Brett: So, with respect to that, Cryptic staff are split amongst several projects. We have Champions, Star Trek Online, Neverwinter... and we have an internal core programming team. In addition, we have new projects that are usually ongoing at any given time. Developers will often stay on any project, whether it's STO, Neverwinter etc., for a reasonable amount of time.

A reasonable amount of time could be anywhere from a couple of years to, if they really like the game they are working on, they might be on that team for an extreme amount of time eg 10 plus years. We try to make sure that our Developers are engaged and they're having fun there and enjoying their work, but the reality is, that after four or five years on Neverwinter, STO or other games, sometimes they want to try something new and ask if they can be rotated off to one of the other games whether its Neverwinter, whether it’s STO… We've had back and forth transfers between STO and Neverwinter for a while, not just in new projects as well. So we try to set that up for our Developers because it's important for us to ensure that that they are enjoying the work. They have healthy new challenges, they get to try out new things. We've even had times when people on a team wanted to change roles, we've had Artists on STO going from doing things like the effects to go on to doing things like ship art and stuff like that as well.

But they're just like, 'you know, I really want to try something else out to advance my art skills' so we try to carve out opportunities for this, because the reality is if we don't create opportunities for our staff, then they may leave Cryptic. So it's important for us to say we'd rather have you stay at Cryptic and give you this opportunity.

With respect to how that influences Neverwinter development, we generally try to have a long-term forecast such as, 'We know that X game in a year and a half will want staff and we will be looking at people across all projects at Cryptic as to who might be the best fit for the new projects' etc. If that's the case, we make sure that we, as much as possible,

pre-emptively plan our staffing around that project so that we can bring people in ahead of time to train up and know how to replace them or shuffle peoples' duties around. For example, if a lead on Neverwinter wants to go to another project, we start training up a new Lead Intern to handle those responsibilities. I know from a community standpoint that raises some questions, but internally this is vital to the health and development of our new talent, as well as making sure that people at Cryptic are happy with the type of work that they're doing.


Deadmano: I’m at the end game. I've done all of the end game content, love the game, but a question that I and many other players that find ourselves in the same position are wondering… Is there anything in the foreseeable future that you can talk about today, that we can look forward to in terms of re-playable content? Reaper's Challenge has been a great addition. It's repeatable, it's always randomised, you never know what you're going to get and sometimes it can produce some really fun results. Is there anything that we can look forward to in that regard, not just a new Dungeon or Trial, just something that gives you the incentive of randomness and not just the normal grind?

Brett: There are specifically things with the next module that are targeted at exactly that. We're trying some new elements with Module 23. It will be a very different module than, pretty much, any other module that Neverwinter has had so far, and full disclosure… when I came into the project, Module 23 was about halfway in development. We are trying to make sure that everything we put out is polished and different. I don’t want to spoil too much because we're going to be releasing marketing trailers for Mod 23 relatively soon. Once the trailer is released, I'll be free to talk a little bit more about what the exact features in it are.

We took a great note of what Reaper challenge was, we've had a lot of fun with it. I've run it multiple times too and I enjoy a lot of it. At the same time we are looking at ways to have things that are a bit more re-playable that players can do. From our end, it is systemic. Content like this is not easy build, it's very time consuming to build a Dungeon as an example and we want to find out a way to keep players engaged for longer and keep some of the randomisation.

We've looked at some of the things we attempted to pull off with Expeditions… and what we didn't like about where Expeditions were, but looked at some things we thought were successes. We've also looked at some of the elements like Barovia hunts and also content like Reaper’s Challenge…. and we've tried to come up with a new feature which will be similar to all of those in some respects, but not exactly like any of them and that will hopefully encapsulate and give players a lot of new and variable challenges. There are things that are designed to be very easy and very soloable, and there are things in there that are designed to tax good players, make it pretty hard for them and allow them to put a lot of that challenge on themselves. We also wanted to try something extremely difficult that you could only do with a closed private group and in contrast, content that is moderately challenging and is more suitable for a public group so they can jump in and tackle it as well.


Deadmano: Do you have any idea of when we could expect to see some of these things that you mentioned and are you able to share any details on the content at all, a slight spoiler maybe... ?

Brett: Looking at the current dates and where we're at, unless something goes catastrophically wrong, it'll be less than three months from today.... And there WILL BE DRAGONS!!


Harper Steel: I deal a lot with new players like Neverwinter for Noobs as well, and I guess some of the questions that I had come up have also been about bridging between campaigns. I see a lot of times, if you aren't a player that gear chases and grinds VoS over and over again to get those coveted ring/gear drops and and you have all the campaigns done, then what is there left do between campaigns? We tend to see a player-base drop between Mod launches because of this...

I also asked in the last Driftwood Tavern stream about the Foundry and also wanted to ask about any potential plans for PvP in the future...

Brett: We certainly see the trend of player number drops between content releases as well. We have metrics for what we look at in terms of how players play and how they engage. We have specific separate initiatives to address that too. We've been trying to put more value into some of the events we've ran previously, such as Hell pit, Harvester and specifically Siege of Neverwinter, as such that even if you've completed all of the current campaigns, the events have enough value that you can get progression materials that will help you advance your character in some way.

So if you're still trying to max out some of your Enchants or Companions, if you at least log in run through Harvester or Hell Pit or whatever the current event is, you know you're getting materials that will help you advance your character towards being prepared for the next Module. Or if you're trying to build up your character to tackle something like Vault of Stars Hardcore, the events will help you progress towards that goal.

We are looking at new events and other things like that too and trying to make some of the older events rewards more enticing. Alongside that we are looking at potentially bringing back some older events that I mentioned in the last Driftwood Tavern Stream such as Call to Arms… we're looking at ways to bring that back, but we want to wrap that around in a way that it's worthwhile for both new and old players to engage in it, such that it's not 'you do this until you get those Specific rewards and you never need to run it again'.

We've talked about PvP and some solutions internally. PvP Is tough from a balance of a logistics standpoint for what we're trying to do. We have an idea of a mode of PvP that we've discussed that we want to develop and that mode would hopefully address some of those issues, but the reality is, it's not currently on our list to be done for Module 23.

We're trying to figure out if and when we can do it. It's something that would take a reasonable amount of manpower to execute on the realities that PvP balance is very, very picky and it takes a lot of time. You can already see that we definitely have enough balance issues with the PvE aspect of the game that we're trying to address, so we're trying to stay somewhat focused on the PvE content right now.

I agree with you and the standpoint of that it provides sort of an interstitial wait… keeps players interested in the interim of new content releases. I've played PvP extensively in a lot of games, I'm quite a hardcore PvPer in many different genres. I played some games very competitively at very serious levels, almost a 'pro gamer' at that point - If that had existed 20 years ago I probably would have been. So I don't disagree with any of those statements but from the terms of where the team is at the moment, it's hard for us to peel off because it's something that you can't just do casually. It's something you have to take a significant investment and investiture in and right now, from a scope and manpower planning standpoint, we haven't been able to jump into it.

That being said, we do actually have a way that we want to try to address this and work with it, but it's also something that also couldn't just be done on the side. It will be less than a massive amount of work, so something that we could do, but I can't promise it here in the short run, it's definitely not something that I know is on the slate for the upcoming release, but something that we're working out.


Harper Steel: I know it takes a long time to initiate changes. Going back to our last CDP (Collaborative Development Program) forum post for the community on the Quality of Life topic back in July 2020, we can still see things from that being implemented within the systems today, however, how do you keep up with player demands from two years ago whilst still trying to keep a step ahead of what we want now? The player-bases' priorities have changed since that CDP...

Brett: It's a reality that we're trying to reassess what those priorities are, to ensure that we have an accurate backlog, portraying all of the requests that we have from external sources as well as internal requests and that we re-evaluate those periodically and stack rank them in a way that we're like, 'OK, these are the things that we can do as well, the things that we should do and that's kind of the Venn diagram overlap we look for'. We're trying to get in really good habits of making sure that we review these things multiple times during the development of each Module and well before we go into the Module… looking at what it is that we can and should do. Some of those are things, obviously, that the community has requested, others are things that internally we need to do to make ‘Dev Life’ easier… Usually, that allows us to address something that the Community wants us to look at.

The reality is, that you're correct. Sometimes, things that we did three years ago, now aren't as important to the player-base and we will try to instead pivot to something more accurate and recent. For the most part, hopefully conversations like this with the CCP members today as well as more general AMA’s, will help us engage with the Community to understand what it is that they currently think and their necessities for the game. So, before we go into the next module, we will understand how to re-stack and re-rank things priority-wise. Internally, as we develop and start looking at future modules, we generally try to do feedback sessions as well to identify what those priorities may be.


Harper Steel: Bearing all that in mind, what does Developer to Player-base communication look like to you in the future? and how does the CCP (Content Creator Program) fit into that?

Brett: I hope to have an increased level of communication, that in terms of cadence, hopefully, we will be able to put out something like a Roadmap update anywhere between two to four times a year.

It's an additional effort, because we have to make a public facing version of the Roadmap. We have an internal version of one, but it talks about a lot of things that could change, or dates that could move as well as internal development for things that we don't disclose the Community. So we would be able to put a 'public facing' version of our Roadmap with some regular cadence, probably as I said before, between two to four times a year.

I hope that we can increase general overall discussion with Community, like doing these sorts of AMAs. My hope is that we can probably do this kind of AMA with the CCPs once a month at least, but I offer that time period based on how frequently you guys in the CCP would actually like to chat about things, as well as how often we have meaningful updates to share on the different subject matters. Then, separately with individuals on the team, we're trying to carve out more time and more space to engage and do things like videos, blogs etc that will walkthrough and talk about some of these subjects.

We're trying to get some of the Developers, those that especially work on community facing features, more involved in the discussion too. You may have noticed, Robert who is currently working on the Bard class fixes, has started a thread on the Preview section of our Forums. Those changes have gone live to the Preview Server today and he's engaging directly with community on performance, about what more there is left to do, identifying critical items to address and then we're using that to influence how we prioritise on the time we have to work on the Bard fixes internally. I'd like to see that with a large number of features and Julia (Nitocris - Community Manager), for example, has been running some internal playtests, internal pseudo external playtests and closed external playtests on a number of our upcoming new pieces of content. We're getting a lot of good feedback from people in the playtesting groups for those things. We have groups that contain, not just our internal testers, but players from the community that are getting a chance to see very early versions of some of the new content. They are giving us vital feedback about balance, appropriateness, mechanics, bugs etc so that we have a more robust testing on it all and better targeting for the audiences that will eventually play this new content when it goes live.


Harper Steel: What does players future character growth look like to you? It feels like most of our gear and accessories are getting up to mythic level now… so is there anywhere else we can go? Are we boxing ourselves in?

Brett: We can always add new ranks so there's always the ability for us, if we absolutely wanted, to add in additional ranks of Enchantments, Mount Insignias, etc. But we're also looking at ways to expand current systems that don't detract from currently available items.


I'll give it a bit of a spoiler in something that's an initiative coming a little from me, but something that we are looking at, Mount Insignia Bonuses… what those are, how they help your character out and the current lack of quality Mount Insignia Bonuses and what we can do to add more unique and interesting Mount Insignia Bonuses going forward to give players targets to improve upon. Also, we've talked about having a better variety of Mount Insignias… the actual base and Insignias themselves that better target stats that players are more interested in and adding new combinations of stats etc.

So we wouldn't be, for example, removing or changing existing Insignias most likely, given that players have builds that are centred around them, but we hopefully we will be adding more and more options to the Insignias, as well as new Mount Insignia bonuses that will hopefully provide avenues for players to chase.

We always have the option. like I said before, that if we really decide that it's worthwhile doing it, of adding new ranks in the future beyond Mythic…. We could do this to gears, Insignias, Enchantments etc., but we don't want to do that until we feel that we see a certain percentage of the player-base engage and exhaust progression avenues within currently available items. If we do that… there is the possibility of going to too far. For example, we've had a lot of discussions about Mythic & Legendary Mount Collars and the grind for those being ridiculously unachievable. That's something that we wanted to have as a long tailed chase, but it's turned out to be an unrealistically long tailed (chase) in terms of how it's been implemented, so that's something we want to clamp down on and make a more approachable way of… 'so hey, this is still going to take a bit of a grind but it isn't something that you can't achieve' so we'll try to make those as a more viable progression path for all players too.


Harper Steel: I feel that during the 'dead time' grinds between the New Player to Early end Game, or End Game to Late End Game periods are definitely an Astral Diamond chase, because a lot of the resources you get are from this section of the game…. essentially, your Companions, Enchants (if you aren't buying them from the merchant), your Insignias and Mounts mainly come from the Auction House and I think one of the biggest slow downs for new players is, they can't quite get into Advanced Dungeon or Trial Queues yet and so it takes them longer to build up Astral Diamonds. So they’re slow getting to the End Game and then when eventually reaching that End Game, we have to save up a huge amount of AD to get the shards for the Collars, if you aren't getting them from dungeon chests all the time with them being a very rare drop...

Brett: We specifically looked at the Astral Diamond and Rough Astral Diamond income sources and how it's currently being handled. With the removal of Demogorgon from the Random Trial Queue, we lowered the item level requirement back down to 20,000 or so… so a much lower Item Level requirement that now again makes it more accessible to almost anybody who's completed the levelling experience.

We're not happy with the fact that Random Trial Queue was viewed as the only key source of Rough Astral Diamonds for a lot of players… we want to have multiple viable sources for that. I'll be blunt here… what the Random Dungeon Queue needs, is to give more Rough Astral Diamonds and Random Trial Queue, probably should give less Astral Diamonds given its current difficulty. That being so, things like Random Skirmish & Random Dungeon Queue need to give more. We need to ensure that we have better sources of AD/RAD and that it's not that everybody does this just one thing that they've done a million times to get the AD they need. We have a bunch of different options, but all reasonably viable for the amount of time and difficulty that a player has invested the time into and you can do a lot of different things that you can change up your play pattern more and still get the AD/RAD that you need to progress.

Moving back to what I talked about with events, I'm hoping that players will be able to engage with events to earn some of those rewards... things like Motes, Glyphs of Potency etc., you can get Glyphs of Potency directly from playing events through tokens of participation right now and Hell Pit, Harvester's and Siege of Neverwinter too and we're going to continue to look at and try to refine ways in which players can earn those core progression materials. Apart from just having to do Queues to earn Rough Astral Diamonds.


Enyo: Over the last year, there's been a big change between where End Game was at around 50 to 55k, now it's like 65 to 70 K for Late End Game, but a lot of the content, such as Tower of the Mad Mage as one example, the item level requirements are still the same right now as they were before the most recent changes to Levelling and Enchantments etc. But if you enter into this content with the minimum requirement of a 30k character, realistically, they're not going to be able get a successful completion. Are there any plans to increase the minimum item levels on some of this content including ToMM and the Master version of Zariel’s challenge?

Brett: We certainly need to increase the minimum item levels of some of that content. That's an oversight on our part. Unfortunately, as things like the changes to the enchantment systems and stuff go in, which kind of inflated a lot of people item levels, We didn't adjust the minimum item level requirements for a lot of older content in particular, to reflect those changes. The balance has now shifted quite a bit and we need to do that. So I’ll make a note for this.

For example, we know that this was part of the problem that was afflicting the Infernal Citadel and part of the low success rates for IC, Random Queues etc., is probably because the item level requirements for it were misleadingly low and it needed to be higher, but changing out certain systems unfortunately affects everything in the Queue System.

The way that the Queues work is that the minimum item level for the highest minimum IL in that category is what drives the overall level for the entire Random Queue category.

So, if we have one Random Dungeon or Trial at 70,000IL and everything else in that category is a 10,000IL rating, that Queue category then has a 70,000 item level requirement to enter it. We were trying to do a better job of understanding what we want, what the minimum level requirement for the entire queue should be and then targeting some of the content at these categories. For those here today that have seen some of the early access tests that we've been doing on new trials, you may understand that we are not targeting those to be as high a rating.


For example, the minimum level requirement for Random Trial Queue will be going up, but it will probably only be 30,000il or so as an example, which should still be very achievable for most players. Even players that come out of the levelling experience at Level 20, should be able to get to nearly to 30,000il in relatively short order with not a whole lot of worry, especially if they do any of the Adventures or just do some of the basic ways of upgrading some of their items. So we're increasing it slightly over the current 20k requirement, which is probably unrealistically low, but we will not be increasing it back up to say like 50,000il or anything like that. We will specifically target minimum item level requirements for dungeons to make sure that we're not putting people into them that shouldn't be there before they are ready to be.

Enyo: I'm sure Ennileah has heard this in the Neverwinter for Noobs group, but quite often new players try to enter content that they have item level for, but they're just not ready for and it's quite frustrating for them...

Brett: We've talked a little bit about that, more on the developer side, of what we can do to affect this. We talked a little bit earlier about problems with early level Companions, Enchantments, Mounts not having the relative power of higher Legendary & Mythic versions. Extending all the qualities of them is not really viable as the current power curve is very tail end heavy. So we'll probably want to increase the relative power values at earlier ranks of those, to make it such that it adds a little bit more reflection of the actual power. The problem is if someone gets up to say, 45,000 item level right now, but they have never upgraded any of their companions, they're probably not going to be capable of doing that particular content that they have just hit the item level for, because their percentage stats will be very low and your companions will drive a lot of your percentage stats.


Enyo: One of the guys that I've played with for many years has always wanted to ask the Development team or a Producer this question. What would be involved in adding adjustable difficulty ranges across all Dungeons, Trials, etc.? We see this in a way with Reaper's Challenge, where there are extra challenges applied to the content. The item level can drop from 50K to 30K depending on the day, so what would be the chance of adding an actual meter, as an example, that players could set themselves so the harder they set the difficulty, the better rewards and the lower difficulty setting for less rewards...

Brett: It would be a new feature, and it’s something to that vein that we have looked at and have discussed a little. We have more capabilities of doing something like that now because we can actually scale enemies more consistently. The previous reality was a lot of the enemies were in 'Critter' order. A mob that you would face in game were actually hand balanced and weren't on a dynamic system like they are now. So previously, we could add say "20% more damage” per chosen critter, but the problem was that we would scale ‘A’ stat like Damage, but then forget to scale some of the things that their powers use and wind up with another of their powers scaled incorrectly in comparison to their other powers. For example, across all of the enemies in game, we didn’t have great way of universally doing that until recently. We now have more of those abilities in the last couple of modules, so it's something that we're looking into as a way to apply it to the content, but there's also the matter of how do we handle reward scaling and what would we like to do with that so it is not an insurmountable task now… it's also not something that could be introduced easily. It would be a fairly major part of a module to pull off something like that, and we've actually talked exactly about what we could do, how we can make some scaling apply better to the content, how we could provide some of those things you mention, Sort of a lightweight stab at exactly that idea, but the full feature that you guys are talking about, a fully modular one is a bit more of a heavy lift for us, so we would have to block out a good chunk of a Modules' development to make that happen.

Even More Spoilers??...

Brett: We liked Reaper’s Challenge and are all really happy with how it's been received, so going forward, we're going to try to figure out how we want to tackle some of these things, but we all want to see how the feature to which I cannot speak that will be upcoming in the module, satisfies some of those expectations first. That'll form what we should and shouldn't do with how "scaling difficulty" should be handled with like things like 'buttons' and whatnot in the future.

Enyo: Possibly an indirect spoiler?? It sounds good, I know something with Dragons is to come and that sounds good too. I know my community would be very excited to hear that as I've definitely heard it brought up over the years. Adding selectable difficulty will mean you don't have to have standard and master versions of different content, and especially with the release of Reaper's Challenge, it ha got a lot of players excited on the idea that maybe selectable difficulty could be something to come in the future...

Brett: And again, I would not be surprised. I'm not going to commit to a time frame on it just yet, because we're still planning out things for the rest of the year. It's something based on the reception of some of our upcoming new features, so it's something that has the potential to happen, but I know it won't happen within the next three months, as it's not on our current work schedule, but it is something that could happen within the next year.


Enyo: Can we expect anything to happen with Armor & Jewel Reinforcement kits in the near future?

Brett: Yes, we've looked at it and it's not just not just a specific kit, all of the kits, Jewels & Armor Reinforcements are outdated! These kits are one of the core elements that keeps crafting and the profession systems relevant, given that as you swap out old gears for new, you need those to replace your older ones. They're also good sinks for the overall economy to have these sort of consumables that players replace and update over time. The fact that we are still operating off of kits that are quite low at this point, is one of the key things in the game that we've recently talked about with the team. We need more things like this to be available to the players… and this is a relatively simple thing we could add to as far as updates go, so we should try to get that done. I don't have an ETA for starting on it yet though as we've been looking at general Professions updates as well as the Professions Maps updates, but it's something that we would like to try to add to just for the sake of giving people something new and something more powerful to add to their characters. We're trying to get some Professions work done here in the background, but I don't want to commit to a time scale in being able to work on the kits just yet, as professions take a good amount of work to to update unfortunately.


Enyo: Something that my early access group wanted to ask about, was the potential to have a 'Pre-Early Access Program', where players could get involved earlier in the actual development process. We previously had the Collaborative Development Program (CDP) where there was extra discussion with much community input on ideas for the game. Is there anything similar to this that we could be involved in? What would be the possibilities or potential of having select groups of players, kind of an Early Access system, but in addition to just playtesting the already developed content?

Brett: It's very tricky to have a player be involved at that point, because up until fairly far in the development, there isn't much in the way of something for players to engage with that looks like a game. It's often very gross, would be one way to put it. We're talking about 'here's this equipment, on like a ‘stick figure’ character, that arm moves and then this effect happens and there's no visuals, no real audio'. There's nothing that you would describe that looks like the Neverwinter you know being functional just yet… and things will live in that state for a very long time.

Honestly, about the time that we've been doing some of the early access to test on things, like new Trials and other content, that's about the same time when things have reached a state to where someone who has played Neverwinter, but is not a video game developer, can probably look at it and understand what we're trying to do with it. That being said, when it comes to goals, defining expectations and needs for some of the things we're working on, we are certainly trying to get the Developers more involved in discussing things with the Community, in terms of expression for doing something like a compelling class, or balance fixes.

The reality is, that when we talk about the Bard as an example, we sort a lot of the initial Bard fixes and needs from a mixture of community requests as well as a combination of Community bug reports etc., and we're trying to make sure that the respective Developer, such as Robert who we mentioned earlier, is engaging closely with Community going forward with changes to the Bard before it goes live. Now he's got most of the first stage of work in on these changes, he is now working on what else the key things are that need to be addressed ASAP for that class. We hope to engage with those things going forward as we measure it, but I will, from my perspective, be blunt here in that I want to push the Neverwinter Development Team to also be more familiar with the game so that they have a better intuitive sense of how these features are built and what content and features our audiences like. We've been making some good strides towards doing that.

The biggest problem is, we have to make decisions about what content out of what has already been developed will be coming out with the new modules, sometime probably in the next several months. The plans for that Module were laid out over 4 months ago, so these things have been worked on at the development stage for a long time before they've been at any sort of a presentable stage for players to test via Early Access. We're already trying to get players involved in Early Access as soon as we can and also to encourage the Developers to engage with the community more and discuss potential features when they're still at a paper stage and before we commit a lot of resources to a feature. During the first half of development when a feature is really 'ugly', we spend a lot of time on the content already so the two best things we can do is have the developers engage with the community at early stages before we've committed all that time, and that way we have good targeting, secondly, engaging again with our players at the very end when we're getting things done and nearing completion on a piece of content, so that we are able get a better sense of balance testing and any other issues that would potentially be created out of that. I will work with Julia, as we look at upcoming lists for people responsible for those features, to encourage our Developers to engage with the community more prior to us committing a lot of time to it and make sure that our player-base have a chance to to weigh in and share their own opinions.


Enyo: When you're developing a new module such as the upcoming Module 23, is there a specific order in which Content & Features are developed, for example… First comes a system and then an environment afterwards?

NEW CONTENT: Dragonslayer Rising - More news as we get it! Currently showing on the PC Preview Server Calendar - Subject to change!

Brett: Planning and developing content varies a lot and you're cutting into sort of how video games are made. To give you a broader perspective, Module 23 has a lot of large and small features, maps and other things going into it. Most of those start development somewhat at the same and time they progress through development stages simultaneously across a lot of fronts. It's not like we work on one thing, finish that, move onto the next thing, finish that etc., we have a large number of people in the Neverwinter team and a lot of times we will have more than 10 initiatives, all concurrently in development, being worked on all at the same time. Within a rough window, we will have maybe a month long period where a lot of new initiatives, say for Module 23, all 'spin up' and then some of those initiatives will finish sooner than others… some of them will finish later and when things get to a rough ‘Alpha-ish’ state is when we start involving more people and trying to have the Community actually see them and perhaps provide some feedback on them to us. But, there's a lot of time, like I said earlier, that some of those features may take a month to get to Alpha, others may take four months to get to the same Alpha state. It depends a lot on the complexity of the features and one of the bigger features that we're working on right now, that we mentioned earlier, has been in development a while now and is getting close to that external Alpha state, but isn't quite yet there, it's been many months worth of work just to get it to that point.

We've got a lot of good stuff coming up for Module 23. Hopefully, the players will like it and we're working on trying to also improve how we approach and build things better so that we have fewer issues. For example, I'll be blunt, that we recently came out with our new lockbox and the Mount and the Companion had issues with the Reclaims Agent. So we've been looking at 'how did that happen? What happened in our testing processes?' and 'how can we cast these things better?' Unfortunately, specifically the Mount Reclaim issue was a gigantic pain in the buttocks.

We discovered an internal technical issue was causing that bug to only manifest with players that had previously reclaimed another mount through the RCA, so we weren't seeing it in internal testing, but it was definitely affecting players in the live game and that's unfortunately difficult for us to spot within internal QA systems, since the containers and characters they test with vary a lot and it was something that they missed 'cause it was working for them.


Ennileah: Just a really quick last question, Julia mentioned this to me initially and then in the last Driftwood Tavern Stream where we all got to meet you for the first time, I raised this question to you about Early Access for Consoles.

You mentioned that the topic has been discussed. I can understand there is a lot of different hoops that Cryptic would have to go through with Microsoft and Sony to get this off the ground, and I know many Console players that would love access to a similar experience that PC players have on the Preview Server over there. So, I wanted to ask if have you had any more discussions on a Console Preview Shard since the stream? Is it a feature that you want to get off the ground, and if so, what would the projected timescales be?

Brett: We're hoping that it's something that we can get done in 2022. I can't commit to a more advanced timeframe yet, but we've looked at what it would take. I mentioned the Neverwinter core team previously and we talked about these initiatives with them too. It's something that the Core team want also because it allows them to test fundamental updates to the Cryptic tools and Engine for consoles more safely, by putting it on an equivalent of the current Preview Shard. The key form that would likely take place first, is that we would hopefully be able to get a dedicated Preview Shard, like PC has right now as an example. We'd like to be able to get a Preview Shard up for consoles on both Xbox and PlayStation, where we could put early versions of upcoming builds on, much like we do on PC. Players could then go in and test the newer content out. That's our hope and goal. Having a console based Preview Shard is a more widespread Cryptic initiative than just Neverwinter though, because we've seen the issues that we can get on a technical end so it's something that we would likely wind up doing for both Star Trek Online and Neverwinter, given the population of our console audiences. Neverwinter has a much bigger console audience, so it would be the most important one for our team but because it ties into how we do Cryptic tech as well as our relationships with Sony and Microsoft on their platforms, It's not something that I can just say, 'cool, get it done this week… let's go'. It takes a little bit more planning than that, but again, especially with what we've seen before now, we see a ton of value at the core of this initiative. Internal tech teams see a ton of value too and they're going to try to make it happen, but a lot of it has to be driven by our core tech team right now.

I've done Console development for many years and the worst type of issue is where it does not reproduce on a development kit, those are not fun bugs to to find, so that's one of the the things driving this idea forward.


So there you have it. There was so much information that Brett shared with us CCP's this week that we ran out of time!

We hope that we can talk to Brett again really soon given his willingness to make these AMAs a regular occurrence. With this in mind, we would love to include some of our own communities questions next time. If there are any questions you have been wanting to ask the Neverwinter team, or any ideas you would like us to share on for you, feel free to leave those in the comments below.

We would like to give a huge thanks to both Brett and Julia for making this AMA happen!!

Also, if you would like a quick summarised guide to this AMA, check out Galactic Underwear's Video Summary below.

Happy Grinding people Ennileah

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04 abr 2022

We are collating community questions for the next time we can chat with Brett, so please leave any questions or feedback here in the comments. We sadly can't get every question answered in the time we have these sessions, but will be taking the most common queries to Brett for you all.

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07 abr 2022
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On talking with other developers in the past, we have found that this concept of end-game is one that is shared amongst the team, this is one of the reasons I asked Brett this question. I do think that their concept of this is lacking somewhat and that having these different categories of endgame is confusing when relating it back to player needs and wants.


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