With Neverwinter’s upcoming expansion, The Maze Engine, releasing on March 15 for PC, we had a chance to discuss some of the new content with producer Lindsay Haven. The Maze Engine will be continuing the storyline of Underdark, reinstating previously removed dungeons, and completely changing the way mounts work. Haven goes in-depth regarding some of these changes and why they’re being implemented this way. Furthermore, she discusses why certain features weren’t included and possibilities for future content.
What is the overarching theme for Neverwinter: The Maze Engine and what is it going to add for the players?
Our major goal was to continue the adventures in Underdark with the new campaign and continue to give players the IP characters that they were really interested in seeing. We only got a little bit of the Maze Engine in the last module because although we went to the Underdark we were sort of only in the Demogorgon area and the Mantol-Derith area.
We’ve expanded that out a little bit and wanted to show players a little more of the Underdark. We also wanted to bring them a new campaign and some solo content. We’ve been adding a lot of endgame content and focusing on the endgame player experience with Demogorgon and the other dungeons, so we wanted to give them some solo endgame content to work on.
Will there actually be a maze featured in The Maze Engine, or how was the title decided on?
The story of the module is that King Bruenor Battlehammer, which we met in module 8, discovers the source of the demonic invasion and he’s using that information to basically put a stop to Baphomet, who is one of the demon lords. Baphomet is trying to invade the Underdark and the Overworld. And Baphomet would like to use this device known as The Maze Engine to redo reality so that demons can more easily take over.
Basically the limit of its power is unknown so it can do a lot of things. In the last boss fight of the campaign you fight Bophomet and he is able to use The Maze Engine to teleport players into another reality, which in fact does contain a maze. So the players are separated from their party, they will have to make their way to rejoin the group and complete the boss fight.
Are any new NPCs from the lore going to be introduced in Neverwinter: The Maze Engine?
It continues to extend to the ones introduced in the Underdark: Drizzt, Bruenor, Regis, but it also brings in other characters that we’ve had in the game previously like Minsc, Makos, and Linu all working together to stop the demons. We’ll see a lot more interacting in one module than we have before. We’ll probably bring in new characters in the future.
When can we expect The Maze Engine to release on PC and Xbox One?
We are expected to release on March 15. The Xbox release date is still to be announced.
How are Insignias going to affect mounts in The Maze Engine?
There are three Insignia slots on each mount. They’re a lot like enchantments, except they don’t have any ranking. They’re just static and you slot them in your mount. They give you stats, but they have built-in set bonuses. There are different flavors and ranks of Insignias, and if you get the right three flavors then you get a set bonus on your mount, which can be more interesting than just stats.
There is definitely some power in there but we were moving in that direction with mounts anyway and we wanted to make it more accessible. What players are wondering mostly is how deep does that power go and how much is it going to change the game? A comparison to enchantments is a great way to look at that. If you had three enchantments on your character then you basically have those on your mount now.
Is there going to be any sort of paywall with the new mount system?
Players that had mounts previously will basically get the equivalent in the new system. So if they had a legendary mount with 140% speed, a passive and a power then they’re going to get all of that plus some Insignias that kind of equal the rank of the mount. Anyone who’s already invested in that system is going to be taken care of. If they have a white or a green mount they’ll get the equivalent of that. Then there will be ways for them to get things through natural gameplay or if they want to buy into that system that’s an option too.
Why did the development team decide to only bring back Castle Never as an epic dungeon?
We knew that players really wanted dungeons back, but module 8 was all about endgame content. We added two new skirmishes and a full Demogorgon fight with normal and epic. When we approached this module, our position was that we just did a lot of endgame content and we’d rather focus on a new campaign and solo content. We also knew we needed to bring back those dungeons.
When we looked at the dungeons, we felt Castle Never was definitely one of the ones we needed to bring back. To do it justice, and bring it up to the current storyline, we needed to give it time. We didn’t have enough time to do all of those dungeons in epic as well. So we chose to move forward with Castle Never in epic and bring it up to our current storyline. The other three non-epic dungeons we chose to do that way because we felt there were gaps in the leveling experience.
Now we can just move forward and only think about epic, the endgame and really put a lot of time there, but we want to raise the standards for what we had for epic previously and it’s taking us a lot of time. I think it’s a lot more time than what players are expecting or hoping for. We just want to make sure we hit that quality bar for epics. We don’t want to just release them and have players bummed out anyway. We are definitely going to keep pushing on the endgame content and bringing back as many dungeons as we can with the time we have.
How is Neverwinter’s power creep going to be handled in the future?
Part of what we look at with PvP is not only are they getting more gear but the class balances aren’t super spot on, to say the least. In our upcoming modules we’re going to look at class balance and try to make PvP more competitive for all the classes. In terms of challenging players, we definitely have a plan for future modules to make more challenging content.
For PvE, we are looking at item level kind of creeping up and we’re looking at how we can make more difficult content in the future. We have some plans, but I can’t talk about the specifics. We’ll be doing something along those lines in 2016.
Are there going to be any updates or bug fixes for the Foundry system?
We recently announced that we aren’t planning to add new feature to Foundry, which we had kind of been delaying to say because we know it’s not what we want to do and it’s not what the community wants, but with how much we have on our plate to hit in 2016 it’s just not something we can do.
We are, however, taking a look at some of the major Foundry bugs so that it’s at least usable so people making content can still do that. There are a few hurdles for them right now in terms of bugs and we want to get those out. We’ll also continue to look at, in-between modules and when we have time, are there any assets that we can add that we have time to put in and do justice for them.
Will there be any more changes to make content “replayable” rather than repeatable?
No, not in The Maze Engine. When we did that in Module 8 it was mostly for skirmishes. To be honest, we found it to be extremely expensive on the development side and weren’t able to really follow through how we wanted to on that. So we want to take a step back and evaluate what that really means. It’s something that we’ll be talking about internally.
We appreciate the time that Lindsay took to go over a few of the finer details involving the next expansion for Neverwinter and the thought process behind Cryptic Studios’ decisions. Hopefully, this will have cleared up some of the concerns for Neverwinter players regarding issues with upcoming epic dungeons, balance issues, and the Foundry. Be sure to stick with us for more content surrounding Neverwinter: The Maze Engine as it becomes available.
The Maze Engine is scheduled to release on March 15 for PC. The Xbox One release date is still to be determined. Read more about the launch and see the official announcement video here.Related: Cryptic Studios, Interview, MMORPG, Neverwinter, Perfect World Entertainment