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Neverwinter: Behind the Curtain, Part 1
Dragon's-Eye View
By Jon Schindehette

I know that the vast majority of those who read my articles are fans of the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game, but for me, D&D is so much bigger than just the RPG. In fact, a lot of my day is taken up dealing with the many other formats for the brand. Lately I have spent a lot of time in conversations about one of those expressions that is looking toward its imminent release, and that is the free-to-play Dungeons & Dragons Neverwinter massively multiplayer online roleplaying game.

Dan Gelon, who is the D&D digital art director, and I have been working with our partners at Cryptic Studios and Perfect World for about two years now on the development of this game. It's been an exciting and intense development process. Luckily, we've had a great art partner in the studio: Joe Jing is the Lead Artist for the Cryptic Studios art team. I have to say, it's been a lot of fun working with Joe and his team. They are a great group of creative folk, and they are as dedicated as Dan and I are to bringing D&D to life in the game.

After the release of the Siege of Neverwinter: Part 3 trailer, I started getting lots of emails and messages from folks wanting to know more about the game. Well, you know me. I'm the art guy, so I'm not going to waste my breath trying to tell you about the game or game play. Instead I'm going to tell you about the visual side of the house. So, for the next week or two, I'll be talking about art when it comes to developing a Dungeons & Dragons video game. (For gameplay details, check out the official site It has press preview links and information about the beta test weekends that are running.) I've got a bit of experience in this facet of the brand after spending some time in Edmonton, Canada, while we were working on the Baldur's Gate game and the original Neverwinter Nights titles. It's great fun being involved in a title that really helps bring the world of D&D to life.

As we dig into this short series, I'll have a little help telling the story: Dan and Joe are going to be taking part as well, and they will share some fun behind-the-scenes stories and some art. Please join us and learn what it's like taking a 2-D world and breathing some life into it.

Before we get to that point, though, I'd like to set the stage. I often am asked this question: Exactly what role do I play in the creation of D&D video games?

Although I'm not responsible for creating models and textures for the art assets, in many ways my job starts long before those tasks have even been planned. For me, things start rolling when we have our first meetings with the digital partner. We spend a lot of time talking about what they hope to accomplish and what they need from me to achieve those goals. At the same time, I'm having conversations about those visual elements and concepts that are core to the world of D&D, and I'm going over how we might capture them in the video game.

While I'm doing these things, I also often spend a significant amount of time sharing reference material, having conversations about ideas they have for the visual direction, and working as hard as I can to make sure they "get it." A lot of the time, I don't have to work too hard for them to pick up on what I'm discussing with them. It turns out that a lot of the folks that work in video game production crews come to the job with D&D experience already. I can't tell you how many "love letters" I've gotten from production teams thanking D&D for starting them down the path they've walked. That was the case here, as well: We have plenty of D&D fans on the Cryptic production team.

Additionally, every step of the way, either Dan or I had some involvement. (Sometimes both of us did!) We took numerous trips down to Los Gatos to check out some of the latest concept art, models, vertical slices of the game, and so on.

So I think you'll find some fun and interesting tidbits in the Neverwinter features coming up here in this column. Don't worry about D&D Next, though, because we'll be getting back to the development of the visual elements of the next iteration of D&D soon enough.

So, swing back next week for some Neverwinter fun!

Jon Schindehette
Jon Schindehette joined Wizards of the Coast in 1997 as the website art director. In the intervening years he has worked as the marketing art director, novels art director, and creative manager. In January of 2009 he moved into the role of senior creative director for D&D. Jon is a long time D&D player (started in 1978), and currently plays in a Tuesday night game and DMs a random pick-up game for younger players. He can be found on Twitter (@ArtOrder) and at theartorder.com.
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