Neverwinter at E3 2011 - A Closer Look at The Foundry Toolset

Cryptic Studios is widely recognized as the industry leader in character customization. With upcoming co-op RPG Neverwinter, The Foundry could become the benchmark tool for player created content as well.
Creating your own adventures has been as integral a part of the Dungeons & Dragons experience since the very beginning. Pair that with the fact that players of the Neverwinter Nights series have generated thousands of custom adventures for their peers to enjoy, and it should go without saying that for Cryptic Studios’ first foray into the hugely popular Forgotten Realms setting, Neverwinter, there are some fairly lofty expectations in the user-generated content department.


Having built a reputation as masters of character customization over the years, Cryptic seems well suited to tackle the custom content creation side of Neverwinter. Being the type of gamer who often enjoys the tools shipped with RPGs as much or not more so than the official campaigns they’re shipped with, I was certainly excited to learn that for our E3 meeting with Cryptic we would be getting a detailed look at what makes The Foundry tick.

The two primary things that instantly stood out for me were also key design decisions made early on. The first is that The Foundary is accessible enough for first-time builders or aspiring dungeon masters to get their hands dirty without having to first earn a master’s degree in game logic and engine programming. So for anyone who found the learning curve with the tools for titles such as Dragon Age: Origins, Oblivion, or even the Unreal Editor a bit too steep as an entry point for modding, you shouldn’t have any of those same issues with the Foundry.



To me, one of the biggest pitfalls of most user-generated content tools is that they’re awesome for dedicated modding teams with a solid grasp of game design, but are rarely streamlined to the degree that you’d see in games like the first two Neverwinter Nights games, City of Heroes or even the Sims. In each of those titles even a beginner can open up the virtual toy box and make something they can not only call their own, but be proud enough to share with fellow enthusiasts.

To that end, The Foundry combines a user defined workflow with easily accessible tools and assets, and does so exceptionally well. The workflow in particular can be an important factor, because not all dungeon masters approach the creation process in a set order. Some might have an amazing story they want to tell, so prefer to nail that before tailoring the spatial specifics to suit. Likewise, you can choose to begin building out your adventure visually, tweaking it to perfection before deciding encounter placement, story, or even pacing.



The available assets may appear somewhat daunting at first, but everything is neatly categorized into various kits based on a general theme. For example, in the span of 15 minutes we were able to open The Foundry, dig into the crypt-themed kit and piece together a fully playable mini-adventure complete with progressively difficult encounters, key NPC contacts, and get a feel for how easy it is to build out naturally flowing conversations. All great stuff so far.

The second major standout element for me is the fact that, if you’re a more experienced mod maker or have worked with content creation tools in the past, there’s enough depth to the system for you to genuinely make something highly unique. I was also happy to learn that dual monitor setups will be fully supported, so that’s another giant green checkmark in The Foundry’s win column in my books.

Another mark in the win column is that you can elect to use known NPCs from the official storyline as part of your custom quests and storylines, essentially expanding on the lore established in the core game in the process. Not only that, but you’ll also be able to choose specific entry points for your adventure within the city and the surrounding areas, or even do things like hide important plot items in the potted plants throughout the city.


Certain things such as the ability to morph terrain or handpick the stats on loot in your custom maps won’t be in The Foundry, at least not at first. Cryptic is aiming to strike a perfect balance between ease of use, but with enough depth that you can truly go nuts with how much of your map you want to custom tailor to suit the kind of story you want to tell.

The build of the Foundry we were shown is still a work in progress but, taking the above into account, it’s already looking like one of the most user-friendly content creation tools out there. Yet it’s also one with enough depth to keep the serious DMs fully immersed in the joys of world building when Neverwinter releases later this year.

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