In this look at Heroes of Neverwinter, we ask the developers about building your character and forming your party—two essential parts of any Dungeons & Dragons experience!
Building a Character
Wizards of the Coast: Heroes of Neverwinter allows players to select from 1 of 4 races, and 1 of 4 classes for their character. How did you settle on which races and classes you wanted to feature in the game?
Selecting the classes and races for Heroes of Neverwinter was based on several factors. We wanted to provide a diverse and distinctive core group of races and classes for players to create their own unique characters. D&D thrives on building a party and adventuring with friends, so we wanted to represent a range of party roles for players to choose from.
We wanted to introduce new players to the world of Dungeons & Dragons by giving them iconic character races such as the Halfling, while including some of the more recent races like the Dragonborn and the Eladrin.
Each race provides really unique statistical and functional bonuses that should create extremely varied characters and parties.
Wizards of the Coast: Players are able to customize their character with powers and equippable items; how close to the experience of creating a character in the pen-and-paper version of D&D did you wish to recreate? Were there particular challenges involved in implementing the 4th Edition character creation rules?
The design and production team all grew up playing and still play the pen-and-paper version of D&D, and most of us still play today. Creating a Facebook game true to the pen-and-paper experience was our goal. The great thing about 4th Edition rules is that they lend themselves very naturally to videogame design.
While some of the finer details were streamlined to keep the game accessible to the Facebook platform, the character creation process will still be immediately familiar to any character familiar with 4th Edition. For example, it should be noted that Heroes of Neverwinter provides players with tons of options to customize their characters beyond just powers and items. They will have personalization choices such as gender, race, facial type, and hair styles.
With so much excellent source material to use, the only challenge was deciding what to put in the game.
Wizards of the Coast: What powers and items did you know you wanted to be part of the game (for example, I can’t imagine a wizard without his magic missile)?
Items and powers are what make players characters and their classes stand out in battle. As you suggest, we definitely wanted to keep some of the more iconic spells from the wizard’s spell book—so magic missile, fireball, and stinking cloud will all make an appearance.
There are also literally hundreds of weapons and items in the game, and this number will continue to grow. We wanted to include a wide range of items for all classes, so there are great weapons and magic armor for fighters, offhand items for rogues, holy symbols for clerics, and powerful orbs for wizards. Basically everything you’d find in your home D&D game is here!
Wizards of the Coast: During game development, were there items or powers that turned out to be more powerful than you initially anticipated? Were any mechanical revisions needed to balance out the classes?
4th Edition is very well tuned from a game mechanics standpoint and it translated into a videogame rather easily, so tuning has not been much of an issue. The implementation of at-will, encounter, and daily powers really makes balancing an intuitive process. We had to make some decisions when selecting powers from the wide range of source books published to date, but we stuck pretty true to the more iconic powers from each class. Most of our challenges came from implementing damage, movement, and range to work for the scale of the dungeons.
Building a Party
Wizards of the Coast: Do you have any advice for players, when it comes to creating an optimal party? Is it necessary to create a party composed of fighter, wizard, cleric and rogue, or is it possible to succeed with less conventional party make-ups (say, all fighters)?
Heroes of Neverwinter is launching with over 50 dungeons, and even more to come with the Dungeon Workshop, so there is a huge range of challenges, and each has its own surprises. You might need a rogue to unlock a door or a chest. A cleric will certainly help reduce your reliance on healing potions. Wizards are great for attacking large numbers of enemies from a distance. Fighters can mow through monsters.
Party balance is important to the survival of the party. Having a fighter, wizard, cleric, and rogue give players all the options they need to make it through any adventure—but that said, there is enough diversity within each class that players can still mix up parties to try out new strategies.
Wizards of the Coast: While 1st level heroes are free and for hire at The Beached Leviathan, how did you wish to incentivize players to hire their friend’s characters into your party? Was there ever a debate that these characters—should they die on your adventure—suffer some penalty as well?
At its core, D&D is a social game played with friends. Being able to invite your friends’ characters into your party was always on the top of the feature list.
We had discussed whether there should be a penalty for allowing your friends characters to die in battle. But in keeping with the nature of casual gaming we opted to be benevolent Dungeon Masters. With the wide variety of builds, friends will get to know where the other characters in their Adventuring Band excel, and select accordingly. If I know a friend has a great “skill monkey” rogue, I will be sure to invite her along on particularly trap-riddled dungeons.
Wizards of the Coast: There’s certainly an advantage to hiring your friends’ characters who are higher in level (and thus able to help more on the adventure). Why might a player ever look to take a lower level character with them on an adventure?
If your character is level 1, hiring your friend’s level 10 character seems like a great idea, but the reality is that your level 1 character will receive a fraction of the experience they could have gained if you had recruited a party of the same level. There is an element of resource and time management in order to optimize your effectiveness and gold/xp benefit, so players will need to figure out the best party composition for their play style!